ACLU seeks release of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court records.

Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) in 1978. The Act created a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”) to review the government’s applications for warrants to conduct surveillance activities covered by FISA. As amended by the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, FISC is comprised of eleven active-duty federal district court judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. At least three of those judges must live within twenty miles of D.C. and at least one must be on call 24/7.

FISC itself isn’t secret. Anyone who’s been paying any attention at all during the past three decades knows it’s there, and identity of its members is a matter of public record.

What is secret is the Court’s proceedings and rulings. That’s where the ACLU comes in.

For months, Bush administration officials from Attorney General and craven liar Alberto Gonzales to National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell have been making cryptic references to a series of FISC orders supposedly issued on 1/10/07 and subsequent modifications to those orders. The pricks have consistently implied that FISC’s orders made it too difficult for the administration to gather intelligence vital to national security.

These wholly unsubstantiated and out-of-the-ass claims were the major impetus for the vomit-inducingly titled Protect America Act of 2007, which sailed through Congress at breakneck fucking speed last week. Among other things, PAA amended FISA to pretty much disembowel FISC and vest Hitleresque authority over surveillance activities in — you guessed it — the Attorney General and the NID. Bush has already announced his desire to expand PAA and make its provisions permanent.

Against that backdrop, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion with FISC requesting that the Court make the subject orders public. The ACLU asserts, quite correctly, that an informed debate over whether to make PAA permanent can’t take place unless we know the terms of the FISC orders that supposedly prompted the legislation in the first place.

The ACLU’s motion is available here (PDF, 22 pages).

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