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

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. Gorsuch wrote that the case raises questions about public access to proceedings of “grave national importance” and the Supreme Court’s own power to supervise lower courts.

“If these matters are not worthy of our time, what is?” Gorsuch asked.

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