The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowed a small challenge to National Security Agency surveillance programs to move forward Wednesday, according to the Atlantic Wire — but it’s a motion that predated the recent leak of information on such programs.
The Atlantic Wire first reported that the Electronic Frontier Foundation had filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the FISC’s ruling on an electronic surveillance program’s violation of the Fourth Amendment. The ruling was revealed in a July 2012 letter between the director of national intelligence and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The Department of Justice had previously blocked the EFF’s FOIA request on the grounds that the FISC ruling was confidential, and the EFF subsequently sued for appeal. The FISC broke with the DOJ Wednesday by deciding that the court’s own rules did not prohibit disclosure of the ruling.
“The victory today was a modest one,” the EFF wrote Wednesday in a statement on its website. “The Court didn’t order disclosure of its opinion; it just made clear, as EFF had argued, that the FISC’s own rules don’t serve as an obstacle to disclosure of the opinion. The FISC also clarified that the executive branch cannot rely on the judiciary to hide its surveillance: the only thing obstructing the opinion from the public’s review is the executive branch’s own claims that it can hide its unconstitutional action behind a veil of classification.”