The nation's secret surveillance court has agreed to make things a little less secret.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) on Friday ordered the government to review for public release the court's opinions on the meaning and scope of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Section 215 is the legal basis for the National Security Agency program that collects phone records from telecom companies.
Friday's ruling came in response to a motion filed in June by The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Clinic. The motion was filed in response to The Guardian's first article based on material leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, on a secret FISC order compelling a Verizon subsidiary to turn over all call records on its network during a three-month period.
"We are pleased that the surveillance court has recognized the importance of transparency to the ongoing public debate about the NSA's spying," Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said in a statement. "For too long, the NSA's sweeping surveillance of Americans has been shrouded in unjustified secrecy. Today's ruling is an overdue rebuke of that practice. Secret law has no place in our democracy."
The FISC's ruling covers all of the court's opinions except those related to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU in October 2011.