The Supreme Court declined on Monday to consider a request from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups concerning whether a special court that reviews government requests for electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes must disclose significant opinions that came after 9/11.
The request marked the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to resolve whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court must make its secret opinions public, though subject to redactions. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
“Even though the (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court often hands down significant interpretations of the government’s secret surveillance authorities, the public is usually in the dark about those interpretations,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “All that the ACLU was asking the Supreme Court was to consider whether there are any circumstances in which the public has a right to know what the FISA Court has said. By turning away its appeal, the justices have suggested, at least implicitly, that the answer is no. Whether one associates abuses of our foreign intelligence surveillance authorities with Edward Snowden or Carter Page, the bottom line is still the same: that those abuses will be harder for the public to see.”