A Push for Public Access in Surveillance Reform

Today, eighteen groups joined OpenTheGovernment.org to urge the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to add public access to a bill improving Congressional oversight of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) decisions, orders and opinions.

Representative Mike Thompson's bill, H.R. 3103, would give Congress a clearer picture of the court's implementation and interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Improving congressional oversight of surveillance programs is necessary to ensure these programs sufficiently protect the privacy civil liberties of the American public. We recommend in addition to the improvements outlined in Rep. Thompson's bill, that FISC decisions and opinions be made publicly available with redactions for appropriately classified material. If redactions are not possible, the AG should prepare and make available summaries of the opinions. The public needs to know how the FISC is interpreting the law.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said yesterday that in writing NSA reform legislation – which would preserve the bulk of the agency's surveillance powers, "[w]e went over some of these confidence-builders to rebuild trust in these programs." To truly earn the public’s trust in the government’s surveillance programs, the Committee would require "as much transparency as we can possibly get".