Comments Subscribe to Personal Liberty News Feed Subscribe to Personal Liberty
 

The FISA Court Exists To Give The Government What It Wants

June 13, 2013 by  

The FISA Court Exists To Give The Government What It Wants
PHOTOS.COM

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) was born from Watergate. It was designed to place the government’s targeted surveillance of any “U.S. person” suspected of involvement with international terror organizations under Congressional and judicial oversight.

Under FISA, there were limits on how government could deploy surveillance against suspects inside the United States. Warrantless surveillance of a suspected terrorist in the U.S. who’s not an American citizen could go on for a year before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and related watchdog agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA) and FBI were forced to obtain judicial authorization. If the suspect was an American citizen, the DOJ had to get a court order within three days after the government began spying on him.

In 1978, the court that began giving out those permission slips was consolidated into a single, purpose-made entity: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Ever since, in order for the DOJ to obtain a FISA warrant, it has to submit a request to a FISC judge. Except when a third party files an amicus curiae brief objecting to, or supporting, the DOJ’s request, the Federal government is the only party before the judge. There are 11 FISC judges, but only one presides over each individual DOJ surveillance request. The public doesn’t see what goes on in the FISC deliberations. It’s a secret court. By law, its records and opinions can be kept secret.

FISA has become a rubber stamp for secret government surveillance of regular Americans, and the FISC has become a permission-slip clearinghouse. Since Sept. 11, 2001, “judicial oversight” has really meant “judicial blessing.”

The Administration of President George W. Bush had some rocky encounters with the FISC, largely because of media reports that outed the extent of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s surveillance ambitions. But Bush’s expansion of FISA powers with the Patriot Act, which amended the FISA Act to break down the standing distinction between “terrorist” and “criminal,” as well as the Republican-backed Protect America Act of 2007, which opened overseas communications to FISA’s spy scrutiny, gave the Federal government everything it needed to get away with indiscriminate, secret surveillance of just about everyone living in the United States.

The door was standing ajar, and Bush threw it wide open. Now, his successor, President Barack Obama, has blasted through it like the Kool-Aid man smashing through a brick wall.

Oh, yeah.

Ever since FISA was passed, the Feds have made 33,900 surveillance requests. They’ve walked away with nothing 11 times. They’ve succeeded 99.97 percent of the time in getting what they wanted. Said differently, the DOJ had all its ducks in a row 33,889 times in making a case for spying on someone — or on millions of people (what’s the difference anymore?) — before it approached FISC with a surveillance plan. That represents a sterling commitment to due diligence and development of probable cause on the part of the DOJ before submitting to the keen blade of judicial oversight. Right?

So said a former security lawyer under the Bush Administration, who told The Wall Street Journal that the DOJ rigorously vets its applications (like the one that created the PRISM program and secretly plugged into nearly every major online service provider in the country) before approaching FISC, hat in hand.

“We’ve got Congressional oversight and judicial oversight,” Obama said last week. “And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

If you believe that the Obama Administration — or that of his predecessor — has consistently been making sound Constitutional arguments that, on the merits, have persuaded one FISC judge after another to authorize PRISM, or the mass mining of cellphone metadata, or the DOJ surveillance of people before it even has a suspect (or a crime), well… you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

Facebook Conversations

Join the Discussion:
View Comments to “The FISA Court Exists To Give The Government What It Wants”

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

Is there news related to personal liberty happening in your area? Contact us at newstips@personalliberty.com

  • vicki

    “Obama said
    last week. “And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but
    also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure
    that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law,
    then we’re going to have some problems here.” ”

    Well from reading the Constitution it is clear that you and they are NOT abiding by it so mr obama, Yes we’re going to have some problems here.

Bottom
close[X]

Sign Up For Personal Liberty Digest™!

PL Badge

Welcome to PersonalLiberty.com,
America's #1 Source for Libertarian News!

To join our group of freedom-loving individuals and to get alerts as well as late-breaking conservative news from Personal Liberty Digest™...

Privacy PolicyYou can opt out at any time. We protect your information like a mother hen. We will not sell or rent your email address to anyone for any reason.