Jul 082013
 

In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, it has become increasingly clear, that the institution designed by the law to inject oversight into the process, the FISA Court, has repeatedly ignored both the intent of the law and the protections provided Americans by the Constitution.  FISA has been a blank check for national security and law enforcement, providing no oversight whatsoever.  Today I learned something that shocked me, and explains why we have such a sad state of affairs.

8RobertsChief justice of the U.S. is a pretty big job. You lead the Supreme Court conferences where cases are discussed and voted on. You preside over oral arguments. When in the majority, you decide who writes the opinion. You get a cool robe that you can decorate with gold stripes.

Oh, and one more thing: You have exclusive, unaccountable, lifetime power to shape the surveillance state.

To use its surveillance powers — tapping phones or reading e-mails — the federal government must ask permission of the court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A FISA judge can deny the request or force the government to limit the scope of its investigation. It’s the only plausible check in the system. Whether it actually checks government surveillance power or acts as a rubber stamp is up to whichever FISA judge presides that day.

The 11 FISA judges, chosen from throughout the federal bench for seven-year terms, are all appointed by the chief justice. In fact, every FISA judge currently serving was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts, who will continue making such appointments until he retires or dies. FISA judges don’t need confirmation — by Congress or anyone else.

No other part of U.S. law works this way. The chief justice can’t choose the judges who rule on health law, or preside over labor cases, or decide software patents. But when it comes to surveillance, the composition of the bench is entirely in his hands and so, as a result, is the extent to which the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can spy on citizens.

“It really is up to these FISA judges to decide what the law means and what the NSA and FBI gets to do,” said Julian Sanchez, a privacy scholar at the Cato Institute. “So Roberts is single handedly choosing the people who get to decide how much surveillance we’re subject to.” … [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Bloomberg>

While I am not happy with Obama’s performance in this area, I also feel sorry for him.  He has so much on his plate, that he does not have the time to micromanage any one area, so he leaves it to professionals.  He is almost forced to use the tools given him, because the consequences of failure are so great, given the Republican proclivity to impose blame and generate fear.  For example, the Obama administration has taken far more heat over four American deaths at Benghazi, after Republicans had refused to allow spending adequate for embassy security, than the Bush administration endured over their total incompetence in allowing thousands of American deaths on September 11, 2001.

The only way to change this is to change the law, and to make that happen, Democrats will need complete control of both houses of Congress.

Share

  16 Responses to “Why FISA Has Become So Extreme”

  1. I'm all for Democratic rule in both Houses AND the White House.

  2. From your Bloomberg link: "Only one of the 11 members is a Democrat."

    Concentrating the power of appointment to such a ominous court in the hands of only one man is not only irresponsible, it is NOT how a republic works.  Congress desperately needs to establish some type of oversight on Roberts.

     

  3. I would love to see the "smirk" wiped off his (John Roberts') face by any means possible… FISA judges should be appointed by the President and  Congress. Roberts has shown and proven that he is a fascist.

     

    After what happened in Benghazi, the g o p pukes should shoulder and take the entire blame, responsibility for Benghazi after it had refused to allow adequate spending for embassy security.

     

    Love the picture of Roberts sporting the emblem. It is appropriate and fitting.

  4. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket!  And to boot, the basket has one humungeous hole in it!

    This fool has more power than the POTUS.  I rather doubt that Congress will do anything at this point to ameliorate the situation because in essence they control Roberts.  So the country is changing its name — the Robertsonian States of America.  No more 'united' because with this political and judicial whore in charge, that won't be.

    2014 lead the change to Democratic rule!

  5. In fact, every FISA judge currently serving was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts, who will continue making such appointments until he retires or dies.

    It seems almost another supreme court all appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts and 10 of the eleven are Republican pursuation…. This makes me very angry…. :mrgreen:

  6. Thanks, TC, I was not aware that only one person appointed these Fisa judges.  That pretty much makes him supreme ruler, doesn't it?  Law on this desparately needs to be changed.

  7. No other part of U.S. law works this way. The chief justice can’t choose the judges who rule on health law, or preside over labor cases, or decide software patents. But when it comes to surveillance, the composition of the bench is entirely in his hands and so, as a result, is the extent to which the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can spy on citizens.