FISA Court Admits That Snowden Debate Is Helpful, And That More Rulings Should Be Declassified

from the so-why-is-he-being-accused-of-espionage dept

Following closely on the news that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has admitted that the Snowden leaks have created a public discussion that "needed to happen" (even if he did everything possible to avoid it), now the FISA Court has basically said the same thing and also admitted that more rulings should be declassified and released publicly to contribute to that debate and (of course) to attempt to rehabilitate the FISA Court's reputation. This comes in a new ruling about the ACLU's attempt to declassify some key FISC rulings regarding Section 215 of the Patriot Act (the law that has been interpreted to allow for the mass collection of metadata on phone calls).
The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215. Publication of FISC opinions relating to this provision would contribute to an informed debate. Congressional amici emphasize the value of public information and debate in representing their constituents and discharging their legislative responsibilities. Publication would also assure citizens of the integrity of this Court's proceedings.

In addition, publication with only limited redactions may now be feasible, given the extent of the government's recent public disclosures about how Section 215 is implemented. Indeed, the government advises that a declassification review process is already underway.

In view of these circumstances, and as an exercise of discretion, the Court has determined that it is appropriate to take steps toward publication of any Section 215 Opinions that are not subject to the ongoing FOIA litigation, without reaching the merits of the asserted right of public access under the First Amendment.
Basically, the court is recognizing that the Snowden leaks have resulted in a useful conversation that has actually been hindered by the status quo secrecy of the FISC itself, and is moving to reveal more. It also recognizes that its own reputation has been trashed in part because of that secrecy. Of course, it could have (and perhaps should have) recognized all of this much earlier without these leaks. But just the fact that it didn't shows how important the leaks have been for an informed discussion on the matter.

So... now that we've got both James Clapper and the FISC admitting that Snowden's leaks have led to an important and necessary debate concerning the extent of surveillance by the federal government, can we finally agree that he's a whistleblower... and also question why he's been charged with espionage?


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    Ninja (profile), Sep 13th, 2013 @ 10:59am

    So... now that we've got both James Clapper and the FISC admitting that Snowden's leaks have led to an important and necessary debate concerning the extent of surveillance by the federal government, can we finally agree that he's a whistleblower... and also question why he's been charged with espionage?

    It would require people taking back what was said, apologizing and acting to fix. Can you think of anybody that would be in that position? It may happen due to the pressure but not by their own good will. If I were Snowden and got my passport back I'd fly to Iceland as soon as possible.

     

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    Chris Brand, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    Stating the obvious

    "Publication of FISC opinions relating to this provision would contribute to an informed debate"

    Well, duh! Of course that could be re-phrased as "Keeping FISC opinions secret has prevented an informed debate", which is equally obvious but much more in-line with the principles enshrined in the US constitution.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Don't tell me debate is great, SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

    I'll go first: toss the top 100 NSA executives into jail awaiting specific charges, make public all they've been up to, give 'em a fair trial for the most obvious crimes, then hang 'em.

     

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      PRMan, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:55am

      Re: Don't tell me debate is great, SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

      Is it bad that I read this as:

      I'll go first: toss the top 100 MAFIAA executives into jail awaiting specific charges, make public all they've been up to, give 'em a fair trial for the most obvious crimes, then hang 'em.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 2:52pm

        Re: Re: Don't tell me debate is great, SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

        toss the top 100 MAFIAA executives into jail, make public all they've been up to, then hang 'em.


        FTFYYW

         

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      James Burkhardt (profile), Sep 13th, 2013 @ 12:28pm

      Re: Don't tell me debate is great, SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

      In what way does this comment discuss the FISA Court and its recent declaration?

       

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    Applesauce, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:41am

    We certainly favor debate

    A long and lengthy debate. ...Just as long as it doesn't lead to any substantive reforms.

     

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    Jerrymiah, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    So... now that we've got both James Clapper and the FISC admitting that Snowden's leaks have led to an important and necessary debate concerning the extent of surveillance by the federal government, can we finally agree that he's a whistleblower... and also question why he's been charged with espionage?

    That will be a hard pill for the American Gestapo to swallow. That will mean an extensive reduction of their powers. If that were to work, may be it will stop the establishment of a Fift Column which was, up to now, well in the process of being done, or may be they'll just find another way of doing it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Why hasn't James Clapper been arrested for contempt of congress yet exactly?

     

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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    The Red Flags

    'appropriate to take steps toward publication of any Section 215 Opinions that are not subject to the ongoing FOIA litigation'

    So, the ones in litigation are the juicy ones and 'they' cannot come to light!

     

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    Qwygybo, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 11:59am

    It's a start, but not a solution

    Declassifying existing rulings is a positive step, but it's also no substitute for real public access and accountability. If the FISA Court is serious about these things, it should actually be campaigning for its own dissolution.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Sep 13th, 2013 @ 12:10pm

    I won't be surprised if there are actual decent changes to come about because of the leaks...but Snowden will remain a fugitive simply because it would be too embarrassing for the US government to call off the dogs and admit they were wrong.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 2:14pm

      Re:

      Snowden will be co-opted by the 2-party system and one of them will use the promise of a pardon to gain votes. Wait, watch, and see.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 1:13pm

    as long as the rulings that are declassified can be chosen specifically to reveal ...nothing!

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 13th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Snowden is vindicated

    Since Snowden's stated goal of releasing the documents was to cause a real debate about these issues and what the proper role of government is, and we now have Clapper and the FISC admitting that this debate is essential and would never have happened without Snowden's actions, I think we can settle at least this much once and for all:

    Snowden's actions were both patriotic and successful.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    We shouldn't even have secret rubber stamp courts to begin with. Secret interpretations of the law, inside secret courts, has no place in a democracy. It's simply unconstitutional and ripe for corruption.

     

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    Paul, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 2:29pm

    If "THEY" are now saying a debate is good and change is necessary, I wonder what they've discovered might be the next embarrassing truths revealed??

    out_of_the_blue (as stated above) has a splendid idea on how to start the necessary changes: "toss the top 100 NSA executives into jail awaiting specific charges, make public all they've been up to, give 'em a fair trial for the most obvious crimes, then hang 'em".

    AND, I repeat a question asked above by Anonymous Coward: "Why hasn't James Clapper been arrested for contempt of congress yet exactly?"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2013 @ 8:04pm

    huh

     

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