Secret court rebukes Ashcroft

August 25th, 2002 – 10:41 am
Tagged as: Uncategorized

“The secretive federal court that approves spying on terror suspects in the United States has refused to give the Justice Department broad new powers, saying the government had misused the law and misled the court dozens of times, according to an extraordinary legal ruling released yesterday.

A May 17 opinion by the court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) alleges that Justice Department and FBI officials supplied erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps, including one signed by then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh.

Authorities also improperly shared intelligence information with agents and prosecutors handling criminal cases in New York on at least four occasions, the judges said.”

Basically, the decision was that it was not okay for the Justice Department to share information from intelligence investigations with criminal prosecutors on a routine basis, rather than having to go before the FISA court in each case. While this is an important decision, the most notable part of the story is that this was the first time in the FISA court’s 23-year history that the secretive court, which is often accused of just being a rubber stamp for the Justice Department, had ever approved the public release of one of its opinions. They apparently decided that this time Ashcroft needed to be publically rebuked.

Read the full story here, and a shorter BBC News piece on the same decision here.

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