Civil Liberties

Lawmakers Want Secret Surveillance Rulings Declassified

What are the snoops hiding?


A bi-partisan group of senators proposed legislation today that seeks to declassify certain rulings from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, after a leak revealed that the secretive court has been ordering phone companies to turn over calling records on millions of customers.

The FISC came to life in the wake of the Watergate scandal under the President Richard M. Nixon administration. It approved all of the 1,856 government surveillance requests last year.

Last week, the Guardian newspaper was leaked one of the FISC's secret orders, requiring Verizon Business Solutions to provide the NSA with the phone numbers of both parties involved in all calls, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number for mobile callers, calling card numbers used in the call, and the time and duration of the calls.

The legislation would require the Justice Department to declassify the court's interpretations of the law, specifically the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act. The lawmakers, however, say the sources and methods of data-collection could remain secret.