The FISC, which was created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, reviews national security-related surveillance applications under FISA, the 2008 FISA Amendments Act (FAA) and the Patriot Act. It also resolves challenges brought by companies from which the government has demanded access to customers’ private communications and records. The court operates in almost complete secrecy and its rulings, including rulings on important legal questions, are automatically withheld from the public.
In the comments submitted today, the ACLU called on the court to amend its proposed rules to ensure the release of certain significant legal rulings, including those that deal with the scope, meaning and constitutionality of the FAA. The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of the FAA, which gave the National Security Agency virtually limitless power to conduct dragnet, warrantless monitoring of Americans’ international communications. The ACLU is awaiting a ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in that case. The FAA will expire in 2012 unless Congress extends it or makes it permanent.