U.S. Supreme Court declines to weigh public access to surveillance court rulings

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider whether the public has a right to see significant decisions issued by a secretive court that approves government surveillance requests including some that are highly contentious.

The justices turned away an American Civil Liberties Union bid to gain access to U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions made before 2015 involving what former President George W. Bush’s administration called the “global war on terrorism” after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The ACLU had appealed a decision by a specialized appellate court on surveillance matters denying it such access.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said they would have taken up the case.

The ACLU has said the public has a right to know notable decisions made by the court, sometimes called the FISA court after the law under which it was created, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The ACLU said the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees free speech and freedom of the press, provides a limited right of public access to the FISA court’s most significant decisions.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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