Thursday, May 31, 2012
The Obama administration was supposed to begin declassifying key rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) two years ago. But to date nothing has been made available.
The court is responsible for hearing requests by federal law enforcement officials to conduct surveillance of Americans or foreigners in the U.S. who are deemed a threat to national security. It is commonly known as the FISA court after the law that created it, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. During the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, their administration submitted 13, 087 applications for warrants and 13,085 were approved. All this harmony ended after George W. Bush became president. The court rejected six requests outright and modified 179 despite the fact that all eleven members of the Bush-era FISC were selected by conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Officials in the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence promised in 2010 to establish a new way for the public to access FISA opinions.
“But despite these assurances, and two years after that declassification review process began, nothing has been declassified,” wrote Steven Aftergood in his blog, Secrecy News.
Aftergood contacted the Justice Department after a Freedom of Information Act request turned up nothing in the way of declassified FISA rulings. He said he was told that the documents don’t belong to the Executive Branch, and that it was up to FISA to approve any declassification of its opinions.
Given what he was told, Aftergood concluded that it was “unclear how the factors that have prevented declassification for the last two years would change to permit disclosure in the foreseeable future.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Move to Declassify FISA Court Rulings Yields No Results (by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News)
Obama Fights to Retain Warrantless Wiretapping (by Matt Bewig and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)What is the Bush Administration Trying to Hide? (by David Wallechinsky, Huffington Post)