Wednesday, August 8, 2007

ACLU fires first salvo over FICA expansion

It may not (yet) be a lawsuit, but a request to make public a January court order about terms of oversight of electronic surveillance is a start:

After the September 11 attacks, Bush authorized warrantless interception of communications between people in the United States and others overseas if one of the participants had suspected terrorist ties.

In January, Bush put the program under the supervision of the secretive court, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court's orders from January about the terms of its oversight of the surveillance have never been made public. The ACLU said it seeks disclosure of those orders, though that would be highly unusual. The civil rights group could cite only two other public opinions by the surveillance court.

The administration and some supporters in Congress argued the new legislation was needed in part because of restrictions recently imposed by the court on the government's ability to intercept certain communications, congressional aides said.

The ACLU said it also seeks release of that ruling.

“Publication of these secret court orders is vitally important to the ongoing debate about government surveillance,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The public has a right to first-hand information about what the court permitted and what it disallowed.”

The ACLU said the orders and opinions should be released as quickly as possible, with only those deletions essential to protect information the court determines to be properly classified.

Given this administration, even if the FISA expansion is just (for now, pending further Democrat caving?) a six-month deal, a lawsuit should be coming down the pike soon enough.

Cross posted at SocraticGadfly.