September 14, 2013
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) Judge Dennis Saylor wrote an opinion stating that the “Court should in fact make more of its rulings public in response to the public’s demand for greater transparency around foreign and domestic surveillance following the Snowden leaks.”
Saylor wrote: “[Further] publication of FISC opinions relating to this provision would contribute to an informed debate…Publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this Court’s proceedings.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was given the right by Saylor to request under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) submission to inquire about FISC documents.
A motion filled by the ACLU was “seeking the release of secret court opinions that permit the government to acquire Americans’ phone records en masse. The public has a right to know the legal justification for the government’s sweeping surveillance—but, until now, those judicial opinions have remained a heavily guarded secret.”
The publication of an order to hand over metadata from Verizon to the National Security Agency (NSA) is in question.
Saylor pointed out: “The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about section 215.”
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU commented on Saylor’s opinion: “The opinion recognizes the importance of transparency to the debate about NSA spying.”
Conversely, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence (NI) told Congress that ”it’s clear that some of the conversations [Snowden's leaks have] generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen. If there’s a good side to this, maybe that’s it.”
Clapper commented: “As loath as I am to give any credit to what’s happened here, I think it’s clear that some of the conversations this has generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen. If there’s a good side to this, maybe that’s it.”