Secret Court: Government Can Spy Indiscriminately
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created in 1978 to protect the American people from being electronically eavesdropped on by the government, might actually be making it easier to spy on us.
According to a new Justice Department report, the FISC approved all 1,856 government surveillance requests submitted last year. Since 1978, they have only rejected 11 applications and accepted over 20,000. That means that either we have a very trustworthy government or the FISC is nothing but a “yes man” of a court system.
After the US Senate discovered that the government had been abusing its power by spying on civilians, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was implemented. As part of FISA, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was created to make sure that government officials got criminal punishment for spying on Americans without a warrant.
To no one’s surprise, the Bush administration simply changed that law to allow his cronies to get away with warrantless spying after he got caught doing just that.
Since 2008, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has existed to approve warrants asked for by the government “for foreign intelligence purposes.” Because of President Bush ― and later Obama, who extended the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for five years ― the U.S. can now “conduct surveillance of foreign nationals inside the U.S and overseas who are believed to pose a security risk to the country.” As long as a warrant by the FISC is given. Lucky, for the U.S., the FISC doesn’t have any qualms handing them out like hotcakes.
Supporters of the amended FISA Act, like W., believe it’s necessary in a world plagued by terrorism. As he put it:
“One of the important lessons learned after 9/11 was that America’s intelligence professionals lacked some of the tools they needed to monitor the communications of terrorists abroad. It is essential that our intelligence community know who our enemies are talking to, what they’re saying, and what they’re planning.”
The power to indiscriminately monitor people is so essential in the fight against terrorism, that the FISC’s hearings and proceedings are closed to the public. Therefore, it’s not possible to hear any opinions on the matter from the practicing court judges. All of whose names can be found here.
The current administration agrees that under no circumstances should the opinions of the secret court should be declassified. Disclosure of any information relating to the FISC and how it handles itself “implicates classified intelligence sources and methods.”
So asking the FISC to comment on a matter could be seen as a danger to those protected intelligence sources and methods. America the Beautiful, everyone.
Photo by Quevaal
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