In Rare Public Opinion, US Spy Court Keeps Prior Rulings Secret
Posted Dec 11, 2007 6:09 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
In its third public ruling in its 29-year history, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said today that it will not make public secret rulings striking down portions of a controversial warrantless wiretapping program by the American government.
Citing national security concerns, the ultra-secret court denied in its opinion (PDF) an American Civil Liberties Union request to review the classified status of its prior rulings on the program and related briefs, and at least potentially make some of these materials public, according to the Associated Press and an online article in Wired magazine.
As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post that provides additional details, the ACLU asked the court in August to consider releasing portions of its prior secret surveillance rulings.
However, there is no First Amendment right to view the requested materials, the court held in its unusual public decision today, and, although it implied that it may have discretionary power to make its rulings public, it declined to exercise that power.
Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU attorney, says the decision today shows a "dangerous" deference to the executive branch, reports Wired. "A federal court interpretation of a federal law should not be kept secret," he says. "If courts abdicate their role to oversee the classification decisions of the executive branch, it extends their unchecked power even more."
The Hill: "Only Few Saw the Key FISA Court Rulings"