Spy Court Called Insufficient to Rein in NSA

A Washington spy court’s “secret, ex parte proceedings” do not provide the oversight required to restrain the National Security Agency’s Upstream program, a privacy group argued in a court filing Thursday.

Brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the NSA program Upstream intercepts traffic from what has been called the “Internet’s backbone,” a phrase that refers to the major foreign and domestic Internet cables and switches.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union represented nine media and human rights group – led by the Wikimedia Foundation – in challenging the program for its “suspicionless seizure and searching of Internet traffic.”

Joining the ACLU in the Maryland challenge were Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, PEN American Center, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Global Fund for Women and The Nation Magazine.

Throwing out the case that fall, however, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, a Ronald Reagan nominee, found that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would be a more appropriate forum to resolve such constitutional questions.

The FISC, as the court is known for short, operates from an undisclosed room in Washington. Only government lawyers and a judge are permitted in the hushed proceedings.


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