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FISA court rejects ACLU request for transparency
Published: Friday August 29, 2008

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A court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act denied an ACLU motion Thursday that would have increased public scrutiny of how the Bush administration's new spying law is reviewed, according to a statement released Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the motion 10 hours after President Bush signed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) into law July 10, requesting that any further proceedings that might question the law's constitutionality be revealed to the public, according to an ACLU press release.

The organization also asked to participate in the hearings and submit briefs to court, which was denied as well.

"It's disappointing that the intelligence court intends to adjudicate these important legal issues in complete secrecy," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "The new surveillance law affects all of us because it allows the executive branch virtually unfettered access to the international telephone and email communications of U.S. citizens and residents."

President Bush's administration urged the FISA court to reject the group's request in late July.

The Justice Department issued a plea to the court arguing that no third party has any right to participate in the court proceedings and that it is "precluded from doing so here by statute, court rule, and mandated security measures."

Although the FISA court has allowed the ACLU access to previous rulings, it has refused it before as well.

The court withheld decisions from the civil liberties group regarding the NSA surveillance program on the grounds that no classified information could be released to them, and without that information, the group would not be able to "present any meaningful argument on the questions posed."

A recent post on the blog Reason: Free Minds and Free Markets details how the FISA act creates "fertile ground" for those looking for a convenient excuse for surveillance.