Gavel Grab

Efforts Urged to Pry Open Some Secrets of FISA Court

A New York Times editorial called for a substantive public debate over government surveillance, and it urged Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to pry open some closely held secrets of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

She ought to demand that the Obama administration make public a document explaining strictures on a secret phone-data collection program that was the subject of a news leak in the past week, the editorial said. She had alluded to the document on a TV talk show.

In addition, perhaps a public debate would benefit from release of some of the court’s opinions that made the data-collection program possible, and Sen. Feinstein could prod the administration “to make the court even slightly more transparent,” the editorial said.

A different approach to bringing sunlight to some the secretive court’s work product was expected in the Senate. According to an article in The Guardian, a group of senators was preparing to introduce on Tuesday a bill “to force the government to disclose the opinions of a secretive surveillance court that determines the scope of the eavesdropping on Americans’ phone records and internet communications.”

Meanwhile, a New York Times news article said there are “formidable” legal and political obstacles to a vigorous public debate.

To learn more about the Washington-based court and its heightened profile in the wake of recent news disclosures, see Gavel Grab.

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