Madelyn Kumar

Working on behalf of The New York Times, a Yale Law School clinic last Tuesday filed a motion with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court calling for the release of certain surveillance records on President Donald Trump’s former campaign advisor, Carter Page, who some say inappropriately associated with the Russian government during the runup to the presidential election.

The Times’ request comes in the wake of Trump’s decision last Friday to declassify a Republican memo confirming that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorized the surveillance of Page in Oct. 2016 — shortly after Page left the campaign and just before the presidential election took place — and approved at least three 90-day extensions of the surveillance. In response, the Times announced that it will seek the release of the court’s records of the case, which are unlikely to include the surveillance materials themselves.

The motion filed by the Yale Law School Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic argues that the records are a matter of significant public interest, but stipulates that the court may redact any information that could compromise national security.

“Speculation about the surveillance of Carter Page [has] been at the center of heated national debates over potential abuses of the government’s surveillance authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as well as the provenance and propriety of an ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the government of Russia during the 2016 Presidential Election,” the motion states.

In addition to filing the motion, The Times submitted a similar request directly to the Department of Justice, invoking the Freedom of Information Act.

The surveillance court’s secretive proceedings are highly controversial in the United States, said lawyers at the clinic interviewed by the News. Top-secret records from the court were among the materials Edward Snowden released in 2013.

“The court primarily exists to approve surveillance,” clinic head and law school lecturer David Schultz. “But it has the power to disclose information in the public interest. That power should be used here.”

It is unclear how the Justice Department will respond to the motion, explained John Langford, a lawyer at the clinic who is directly overseeing the case. The Justice Department may release the sealed documents, an unlikely course of action that would requires the court’s approval, or decide to fight the request in court, Langford said.

Both the Justice Department and representatives of Carter Page did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Christina Koningisor, a lawyer at The New York Times who is representing the organization along with the Yale clinic, said the company is seeking the records as part of its broader mission to increase government transparency.

“We filed this motion because we believe it is critically important for the public to be able to access these records,” she said in a statement to the News. “[The dispute over the surveillance of Carter Page] raises important questions about our democratic process, as well as the oversight and effectiveness of the [surveillance court].”

The New York Times was founded in 1851.

Niki Anderson | niki.anderson@yale.edu