Secret Court Ruled in 2011 That NSA Surveillance Is Unconstitutional

By:  Raven Clabough
08/22/2013
       
Secret Court Ruled in 2011 That NSA Surveillance Is Unconstitutional

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been fighting the federal government in court to release to the public an 86-page opinion of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), issued in 2011. 

According to that opinion, the surveillance conducted by the National Security Administration is unconstitutional under the FISA Amendments Act.

On August 21, the government was ordered by the court to release the opinion, one year after the EFF announced that it would be filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department in pursuit of “any written opinions or orders from the FISC discussing illegal government surveillance, as well as any briefings to Congress about those violations.”

Responding to the court papers, the Department of Justice stated it would provide the EFF with a “redacted [partially blacked out] version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion” as well as a “redacted version of the one responsive paragraph in the classified white paper to Congress also previously withheld” as per FOIA exemptions.

The pressure to release the opinion increased significantly following the revelations of whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden's leaks helped drive a national debate on security versus privacy protections and increased government overreach.

“It’s unfortunate it took a year of litigation and the most significant leak in American history to finally get them to release this opinion,” said foundation staff attorney Mark Rumold, “but I’m happy that the administration is beginning to take this debate seriously.”

The 2011 court opinion that is being unveiled addresses a data collection method referred to as an “upstream” program, which took data from fiber-optic networks that funneled a significant portion of Internet and phone data, and not the surveillance programs that have drawn recent attention, such as PRISM, which collect over 250 million Internet communications a year, according to the opinion.

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