This will make you feel better about NSA getting warrants from the FISA court to spy on Americans
Gee...for a moment there I was worried. But then, we were reminded that the NSA internet surveillance program PRISM only targets foreigners and the spooks need a warrant from a secret FISA court judge to do otherwise.
It's nice to know our constitutional checks and balances are working - even in secret, right?
You see, the FISA court is a joke. And by joke, I mean a gold-plated, rip-roarious, 50 carat knee slapper of a joke.
After last week's revelations extensive National Security Agency surveillance of phone and internet communications, President Barack Obama made it a point to assure Americans that, not to worry, there is plenty of oversight of his administration's snooping programs. "We've got congressional oversight and judicial oversight," he said Friday, referring in part to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which was created in 1979 to oversee Department of Justice requests for surveillance warrants against foreign agents suspected of espionage or terrorism in the United States. But the FISC has declined just 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance requests made by the government in 33 years, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. That's a rate of .03 percent, which raises questions about just how much judicial oversight is actually being provided.
"The FISA system is broken," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the Journal. "At the point that a FISA judge can compel the disclosure of millions of phone records of US citizens engaged in only domestic communications, unrelated to the collection of foreign intelligence...there is no longer meaningful judicial review."
Eleven? Just 11 requests for warrants out of nearly 34,000 since 1979 have been declined? That's not a rubber stamp. It's a high speed copying machine.
And obviously, it's not just one judge. And that means the system is to blame. The spooks are writing warrants to pass muster with the FISA court, not necessarily to give the judge all the information he might need. They're doing a damn fine job of it. But are they telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the FISA judge?
I can't imagine they are. Obviously, this is a problem irrespective of party or ideology - except perhaps the ideology of Big Government.