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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Comments on “FISA Court Admits That Snowden Debate Is Helpful, And That More Rulings Should Be Declassified”

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20 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

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.

Jerrymiah (profile) says:

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.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

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.

Paul says:

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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