Federal Judge Orders Justice Dept. to Turn over Secret FISA Court Documents

Sunday, June 15, 2014
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers

The veil of secrecy around cases taken before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court may be lifted a bit after a federal judge on Friday ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to turn over some of the court’s opinions for review and possible release to the public.


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the DOJ to learn how the government uses the Patriot Act to gather the communications records of millions of Americans. U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered the release of five documents sought by EFF. In her opinion, she questioned the government’s practice of withholding documents that have subsequently been found to be suitable for at least partial release. “The evidence in the record shows that some documents, previously withheld in the course of this litigation and now declassified, had been withheld in their entirety when a disclosure of reasonably segregable portions of those documents would have been required,” Gonzalez Rogers wrote.


Previous document releases have shown that the National Security Agency has abused its power under the Patriot Act and violated privacy protections. Now Gonzalez Rogers will review more documents with an eye toward releasing them to the public.


“The scope and legality of the government’s current surveillance practices of broad swaths of its citizenry is a topic of intense public interest and concern. ‘The Freedom of Information Act was aimed at ending secret law and insuring that this country have “an informed, intelligent electorate.” ’  … In light of this public interest, in camera review to assure that the agency is complying with its obligations to disclose non-exempt material is certainly merited,” she wrote.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Citing “Intense Public Interest and Concern” Over Mass Surveillance, Judge Orders DOJ to Turn Over Secret Legal Opinions for Court to Review (by Dave Maass, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

For the First Time, Judge Allows Lawyer for Terror Suspect to See FISA Court Evidence (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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