ACLU Condemns Bush Administration for Opposing Disclosure of FISA Court's Legal Rulings

August 31, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In legal papers filed today, the Bush Administration urged the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to refuse the American Civil Liberties Union’s request that the court make public legal rulings that have been at the center of public and congressional debate over the last eight months.

The ACLU filed a motion on August 8 requesting that the FISC release the rulings with only those redactions essential to protect information that is properly classified. The brief filed by the government today contends that the FISC does not have jurisdiction to consider the ACLU’s request at all and that the FISC should defer to the government’s determination that the rulings must be kept secret in their entirety.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project:

“The government’s contention that the court’s legal rulings must be kept secret and that the court should essentially rubber-stamp the administration’s classification decisions should be deeply offensive to anyone committed to basic democratic principles. We are in the midst of a critically important debate about the proper scope of the government’s surveillance authority. This debate should not take place in a vacuum. The public has a right to know, at least in general terms, what kinds of surveillance the court authorized and what kinds of surveillance it disallowed. If the legal rulings contain properly classified information, that information can be redacted, but there is no good reason why these legal rulings should be withheld from the public in their entirety. If administration officials can reference, characterize, and describe the court’s rulings – as they have done repeatedly – the public should be able to examine the rulings firsthand.”

Under a scheduling order issued by the FISC, the ACLU will file a reply to the government’s brief on September 14.

A copy of the FISA court order, the ACLU’s motion to the FISC, the government’s response, as well as information about the ACLU’s lawsuit against the NSA and other related materials are available online at:

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