Secret court slams Ashcroft

Secret court slams Ashcroft

A secret court that “reviews government requests to spy on suspected foreign agents or terrorists” released documents to the public showing they have
serious concerns about the legality of John Ashcroft’s plans.

What’s fascinating to me is 1) these documents refer to court rulings in May, yet they are being released now, 2) this is the first time this court has ever released documents to the public.  Further proof, I believe, of the War of the Right we’ve been reporting about.

The special court was so concerned by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft’s behind-the-scenes efforts to broaden the FBI’s spying abilities after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that in May it secretly ordered Ashcroft to scale back the regulations, the documents showed.

“The attorney general seized authority that has not been granted to him by the Constitution or the Congress,” Marc Rotenberg, head of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Thursday.

The FISA court, in its May 17 ruling, appeared to agree. The justices said that the department went too far in loosening the regulations that govern intelligence-gathering, and they scaled back part of Ashcroft’s plan.

The court found that parts of Ashcroft’s plan “are NOT reasonably designed” to safeguard privacy rights.