In re Opinions & Orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

A motion asserting a right of access to opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

The Knight Institute, the ACLU, and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, are arguing in two separate proceedings that the public has a right of access to significant legal opinions of law issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, hears applications from the U.S. government to conduct both targeted and sweeping forms of foreign-intelligence surveillance. Although the court issues legal opinions with far-reaching implications for the privacy of U.S. persons and of others around the world, the court operates behind closed doors and presumptively keeps its legal opinions secret. Through motions filed in 2013 and 2016, the Knight Institute and its co-counsel argue that the First Amendment requires the court to make its legal opinions public, with only those redactions necessary to serve compelling government interests.

On March 16, 2018, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review held that the movants have “standing” to seek the FISC’s opinions.

Status: On April 24, 2020, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review held that the Movants lacked jurisdiction to seek review of the FISC’s denial of the motion for access to the FISC’s opinions. Pending next steps with respect to that decision, and awaiting the FISC’s ruling on the 2016 access motion.

Case Information: In re Ops. & Orders of this Court Addressing Bulk Collection of Data Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Misc. No. 13-08 (F.I.S.C.); In re Certification of Questions of Law to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, No. 18-01 (F.I.S.C. Rev.); In re Ops. & Orders of this Court Containing Novel or Significant Interpretations of Law, Misc. No. 16-01 (F.I.S.C.). 

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