FISA Court Puts Government On Timeline To Declassify Past NSA Spy Authorizations


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) – the secretive court whose purpose is to hear one-sided requests from Federal law enforcement to conduct undisclosed spy operations against Americans and foreigners – ordered the government Friday to make a case for why its cloak-and-dagger operations shouldn’t be declassified.

Giving the government until Oct. 4 to pick and choose examples of past FISC cases that demonstrate why Section 215 of the Patriot Act forms a Constitutional basis to keep dragnet surveillance on citizens a secret, the court essentially placed the burden of proof back on the government – something the court has rarely done in all its years of rubber-stamping the Feds’ warrant requests.

The ruling comes on a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Access Information Clinic. Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible things” to aid in counterintelligence operations and terror investigations. It’s the part of the Patriot Act most frequently invoked by the Department of Justice in requesting broad and secret search warrants on behalf of the FBI, NSA and other Federal enforcement offices.

“We are pleased that the surveillance court has recognized the importance of transparency to the ongoing public debate about the NSA’s spying,” said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “For too long, the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of Americans has been shrouded in unjustified secrecy. Today’s ruling is an overdue rebuke of that practice. Secret law has no place in our democracy.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

  • David George


  • Marvin

    It is time for the government to stop with all the secretive ways they keep tabs on us. The Patriot Act has gone way beyond it boundaries and has endangered our freedoms as our forefathers envisioned. Our Congress has gone so far out of bounds they do not have a clue how to serve not only their country but the very people that have voted them into office. This country is shameful and in the case fo Snowden, they are now pissed off because they got caught by a real patriot. I believe Mr. Snowden had no recourse but to bring this to the attention of the world because he would not have been heard of ever again if he turned himself into our government. It is a shame that our government is so corrupt and have lost their way because of a handful of bad apples.

    • ed

      a handfull????????? are bad apples? guess again.

  • wandamurline

    The Patriot Act is where we got Homeland Security (a department that we don’t need) and TSA at the airports and overt spying on everyone….the Patriot Act comes up for renewal in 2015 and we need people in place in Washington that will not extend this piece of crap legislation….the Patriot Act is totally unconstitutional as is the NSA, Homeland Security, TSA and the “secret court”. All of them need to go, so when you go to the polls to vote in 2014, remind yourself that the Democraps and the RINOS put these laws into place….let’s remove all of them and the Unconstitutional laws along with the people.

  • Robert Messmer

    The FISA Court would not have drawn this red line in the sand if not for the world pressure brought about by Eric Snowden.