Judge orders consideration of release of FISA rulings

From the New York Times:

A judge on the nation’s intelligence court directed the government on Friday to review for possible public release the court’s classified opinions on the National Security Agency’s practice of collecting logs of Americans’ phone calls.

Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV issued the opinion in a response to a motion filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, saying such a move would add to “an informed debate” about privacy and might even improve the reputation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on which he sits.

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The ruling was the latest development to show the seismic impact of the disclosures by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, on the secrecy that has surrounded both the agency and the court. It came a day after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., said in a speech that Mr. Snowden’s leak of secret documents had set off a “needed” debate.

Judge Saylor of Boston, one of the 11 federal judges who take turns sitting on the court operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, said in his ruling that the publication in June of a court order leaked by Mr. Snowden regarding the phone logs had prompted the government to release a series of related documents and “engendered considerable public interest and debate.”

When even a secret court suggests that more disclosure is necessary and acknowledges the positive effects of Edward Snowden’s disclosures, it is likely that both more disclosure and legislative amendments to the FISA law are likely. By the way, the court’s opinion is well worth a read.