The New York Times reported today that the Court that oversees the secret FISA court, upheld a 2007 ruling regarding a telecommunications company’s lawsuit over international communications. In upholding the ruling, the Court validates the Bush Administration’s claim that government has the right to monitor international communication in and out of the United States.
Released today despite ruling on 22 August of last year, the appellate bench agreed with the FISA, or Foreign Intelligence Act, that congress was right to pass the Protect America Act. The Act granted an encompassing eavesdropping power to the executive branch allowing them to listen in on international communications traffic.
The lawsuit stems from a telecommunications provider refusing an order to turn over records relating to international phone calls, faxes, and internet traffic. The provider has not been named, but the industry as a whole was against the policy.
Barack Obama, long critical of the wiretapping laws, claimed he would do away with eavesdropping courts on the campaign trail and it will be interesting to see what direction he moves in from here.
When the Democratic congress pulled the plug in 2008, then Senator Obama, threatened to filibuster it’s passage. Despite warnings it would harm National Security, the Democrats refused to renew the six month NSA program. Congress eventually came up a similar plan which gave the telecommunications industry immunity from lawsuits stemming from turning names and records over to the government. Senator Obama ultimately vote to allow wiretapping.
It is certain the law will be reviewed by the Obama administration, and changes can be expected fairly early in the Obama Administration.
This is only the second time in 30 years that the appellate branch of the FISA court has had to issue a major ruling.