Senators Introduce Bill to Declassify FISA Court Rulings

Senators Introduce Bill to Declassify FISA Court Rulings

Eight senators sponsored a bill on Tuesday that would declassify rulings made by courts that operate under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) were joined by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mike Lee (R-UT).

“Americans deserve to know how much information about their private communications the government believes it’s allowed to take under the law,” Merkley said, according to The Hill.

Other senators who were not co-sponsoring the bill, like Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), said they could support the measure only if there was a proper “balance” and “only if we are not tipping off the bad guys.”

Prominent Democrats, though, were not as enthusiastic. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was lukewarm at best. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, was also against the bill, replying when asked if she would support the measure, “No, because it was all classified. It was a highly classified program, and we respect that. We have to respect that.” 

As The Hill notes, “the FISA court is the main legal body responsible for authorizing intelligence operations against U.S. citizens on American soil.” Declassifying the rulings and court orders would make even the most sensitive details about the PRISM program and other phone and Internet spying programs available to public.

Photo credit: Tim Evanson/Flickr