WASHINGTON , Monday's Supreme Court decision was not to hear an appeal regarding whether the public should be able to access the opinions of the secretive court reviewing bulk email collection, warrantless searches on the internet and other government surveillance programs.
The appeal by media rights and civil liberties groups was rejected by the justices. They argued that the public has the constitutional right to view significant opinions of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They also claimed that it was the federal courts that should decide whether opinions could potentially impact the privacy of millions of Americans.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that they would have heard it. Gorsuch stated that the case raises questions about the rights of the public to access... judicial proceedings of grave nation importance.
He wrote that "if these matters aren't worthy of our attention," "what is?"
In 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was created to receive FBI applications to eavesdrop upon people it suspects are agents of a foreign country. This includes potential spy or terrorists. The court was expanded by Congress to include broad surveillance programs after the September 11th 2001 attacks.
Recent decisions by judges held that the opinions of the groups could not be made public even in censored forms and that the judges didn't have the authority to release the opinions.
2015 legislation included a provision that required the government to look into releasing important FISA court opinions. However, the law does not apply to any opinions that were written before the law was passed. The executive can review the entire process.
Theodore Olson of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the appeal. The Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic also filed the appeal. Olson, who is a member of the Knight Institute's board, was also the top Supreme Court lawyer for the Bush administration after the expansion of the FISA court's roles following the September 11 terrorist attacks.