A judge for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official website] on Friday ordered [opinion, PDF] the review of FISC opinions to identify which are subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [ACLU backgrounder] disclosure. The order comes in response to a motion [text, PDF] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] directly to FISC requesting the publication of its opinions dealing with the constitutionality of the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] phone record collections. The court has required the government to create a list of which opinions are subject to the ACLU's FOIA litigation by October 4, 2013. The government must also propose a timetable to complete a declassification review and submit to the court its proposed redactions for each opinion. After the government's review and submission, the authors of each opinion will decide whether to propose their opinion's publication.
The revelations surrounding the NSA surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder] have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. Last week, a report [JURIST report] released by the Washington Post revealed that the Obama administration won permission from the FISC in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the NSA's use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails. Earlier this month, The Guardian [official website] obtained files showing [JURIST report] that the NSA and its UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) [official website], compromised the guarantees that Internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications are encrypted. The files, published [NYT report] in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica [official websites], reveal a 10-year NSA decryption program, making data through Internet cable taps exploitable. Although the president and top officials have defended the surveillance as a lawful counterterrorism measure, several US lawmakers have called for a review [JURIST report] of the government's surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring.