A secret court in the United States quietly rubber-stamped thousands of government requests to spy on people in the United States last year.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved nearly 2,000 government requests to search or electronically monitor people in 2012, according to a report from the Justice Department.
From the report:
During calendar year 2012, the Government made 1,856 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the “FISC”) for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes. The 1,856 applications include applications made solely for electronic surveillance, applications made solely for physical search and combined applications requesting authority for electronic surveillance and physical search. Of these, 1,789 applications included requests for authority to conduct electronic surveillance.
Of these 1,789 applications, one was withdrawn by the Government. The FISC did not deny any applications in whole or in part. The FISC made modifications to the proposed orders in 40 applications. Thus, the FISC approved collection activity in a total of 1,788 of the applications that included requests for authority to conduct electronic surveillance.
The spy requests are justified by the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978, which was expanded under the George W. Bush Administration and then reauthorized by Congress in December of 2012. Essentially a go-ahead on warrantless wiretapping, the act authorizes the government to monitor citizens’ phone calls and emails without probable cause if the individuals are communicating with people overseas.