The Washington, D.C., court on Wednesday ordered the release of documents from the National Security Agency, in a bid to give Americans more insight into the government’s surveillance practices.
The order from a federal appeals court in Maryland is likely to provide fresh details about the scope of the agency’s surveillance programs, which the White House has called essential for national security.
The documents have not been made public in the U.S. because of the sensitive nature of the intelligence they contain.
A number of legal experts told the court they expected the court to rule against the NSA’s request.
The ruling by Judge Richard Leon, who is presiding over a case involving the National Military Command Center in Fort Meade, Md., comes after a two-year legal battle by the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of Americans who say they were unlawfully targeted by the NSA.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in May 2013, and a federal judge agreed with the organization and ordered the government to comply with a secret court order to release the documents.
The government appealed the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, which is also known as the appeals court of appeals.
The 9th District is composed of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Leon said he was persuaded by the ACLU’s argument that the documents should be made public.
“The government has failed to show that releasing the documents would result in any significant adverse effects on its ability to conduct its business,” Leon wrote.
“I have no doubt that the Government will show that the public benefit of releasing these documents outweighs any adverse effects.”
The documents the government sought to release include information about how many American citizens have been targeted by NSA surveillance programs.
The Justice Department has argued that the government has not revealed how many people it has targeted for surveillance, and that there is no legal basis for the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata.
The public has been informed that the NSA is collecting and storing vast quantities of Americans phone records.
The NSA is currently using the court order in the case to argue that it can keep its phone records secret for the purposes of national security, and to argue in court that its surveillance activities are constitutional.
The case is being watched closely by other privacy groups, who have called for more transparency in the government.
The U.K.-based Open Rights Group and others, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have said that the release would give Americans a more complete picture of how the NSA collects and stores Americans’ data.
In response, the U,S.
government has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that the court should not have required the government disclose how many Americans it has been targeted for intelligence collection.