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The Courts Privacy Politics

FISA Judges Oppose Intelligence Reform Proposals Aimed At Court 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
cold fjord writes "The LA Times reports, 'Judges on the ... surveillance court have strongly rejected any proposed changes to their review process ... In a blunt letter to the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates made it clear that the 11 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are united in opposition to key recommendations by a presidential task force last month ... their skepticism adds to a list of hurdles for those advocating significant reforms following former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's massive disclosures of domestic and foreign surveillance programs. ... Obama and some intelligence officials have publicly signaled support for creating an adversarial legal process in the court ... and aides have suggested the president will create an advocate's position or call for legislation to do so ... But Bates disagreed sharply, arguing that "the participation of an advocate would neither create a truly adversarial process nor constructively assist the courts in assessing the facts, as the advocate would be unable to communicate with the target or conduct an independent investigation." Adding an advocate to "run-of-the-mill FISA matters would substantially hamper the work of the courts without providing any countervailing benefit in terms of privacy protection," he added.' — The Hill adds that Bates, "... recommended an advocate chosen by the court, rather than an independent authority, for only a limited number of cases. " — More at Computerworld and NPR."
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FISA Judges Oppose Intelligence Reform Proposals Aimed At Court

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  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:12PM (#45969477) Homepage Journal

    You'll be crushed, either way. The ratchet turns only one way.

    • Adding an advocate to "run-of-the-mill FISA matters would substantially hamper the work of the courts

      Hey...it's a start.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:34PM (#45969679)

        Correct. These are the same corrupt judges that granted the wide open warrants. Warrants that are exactly what the bill of rights was meant to prohibit. These judges have no respect for the constitution and they haven't had for a long time.

        It's not just that their opinion doesn't count. It's that there are strong reasons to believe that their opinions are diametrically opposed to the correct ones.

        • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:05PM (#45970589)

          "Secret court wants to remain secret.". Film at 11.

          The judges were originally placed there to prevent abuse, and protect the public from abuses, and in short, to serve as an advocate for the citizens. Now, when they have been hopelessly co-opted by the intelligence community, they argue that this very role has no validity, and the vehemently object to any watch dog looking over their sholders.

          While I agree with the judges that
          " Adding an advocate to "run-of-the-mill FISA matters would substantially hamper the work of the courts without providing any countervailing benefit in terms of privacy protection," its clear that this would ONLY be true because they, and the spy agencies they serve, would see to it that it was true.

          These guys aren't interested in protecting the citizens or the constitution. They are interested in protecting their asses, because they have authorized so many illegal acts on a routine basis that they fear serious jail time.

          Start with impeaching these judges. Then work your way down.

          • Start with impeaching these judges. Then work your way down.

            Unfortunately we will have to work our way up the chain as well, not to mention horizontally... corruption of purpose appears endemic across institutions, failing in their democratic function.

          • Start with impeaching these judges. Then work your way down.

            Impeach? No, these tools should be dragged from their courts, horse whipped, and thrown in the deepest darkest prison cell we can find on charges of treason. The lack of immediate action against the NSA, the secret courts, and all the affiliated lackeys that help set up this system is shocking. And I say treason, because these people have done more to damage and weaken the United States than any soviet spy ever did. They have systematically and
        • by turp182 (1020263)

          I can't blame them for coming out against the suggestions. It's a simple situation where self-preservation/job security is at risk. Would one expect them to suggest that their jobs are not important and required (or inherently illegal being in violation to the Constitution to the United States)?

          I'm sure the legality of their actions and their interpretation of the Constitution to the United States is something they consider. At the same time they don't want to voluntarily tarnish or ruin their careers or

      • by peragrin (659227)

        So you are advocating that a bad law, a corrupt court system, and black budget surveillance of the american people that costs the US taxpayers billions of dollars annually, should be stopped by paying tens of millions of dollars for a very specialized group of lawyers, and assistants. (as proposed by the guy who wrote the patriot act and is mad it is being used beyond his limited imagination)

        Why not repeal the law, and literally save billions of dollars..

        of course that would be fiscally conservative and th

      • Stop putting your hand between the rubber stamp and the warrant!

        Really! I can only stamp so many between the hours of 9 and 12 before I leave for golf, and you are just slowing me down.

    • The whole solution is to slash the NSA budget and let them figure out where to get the most bang for their buck. They'll never tell you the truth about what they're up to and the "secret" courts are a joke. Cut their budget in half and they may have to choose between spying on their citizens and spying on foreign nationals.

      • The whole solution is to slash the NSA budget and let them figure out where to get the most bang for their buck. They'll never tell you the truth about what they're up to and the "secret" courts are a joke. Cut their budget in half and they may have to choose between spying on their citizens and spying on foreign nationals.

        Have you investigated things like "Pentagon audit" or "Black budget"?

        NSA operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and reports to the Director of National Intelligence.

        Congress will not ever touch "defense" appropriations, and were they to do so the DoD "dark matter" will just funnel here. If the agency PR is so very bad, then the real functions function will just move to different sponsorship, under DISA or something.

        You have no Republic.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      It's easier just to submit. Double plus good, it is!

  • by mbone (558574)

    And we should trust them why, exactly? Because they were on top of this stuff before? Sure doesn't seem that way to me.

  • It's rigged (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Astro Dr Dave (787433) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:14PM (#45969493)
    If they're against an adversarial process, that suggests that the FISA court is not a neutral party. While I agree that it is inadequate, a third-party advocate for civil liberties would be better than the nothing that we have at the moment.

    I'm suspicious of an advocate chosen by the court. Fox guarding the henhouse?

    Then again, I'm also suspicious of secret court proceedings.
    • Re:It's rigged (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:22PM (#45969559) Homepage Journal

      They're judges. It's not their job to make policy. If they're all united against reform, then they all need to be removed from the court. Then again, the FISA court should be disbanded anyway. I can hardly think of anything more un-American than secret courts.

      • Is someone to identify all these FISA judges and get their personal information out there. Kind of like the documentary about the people on the secret MPAA ratings board (which is a brilliant documentary).

      • by rahvin112 (446269)

        They aren't opposed to reform. They are opposed to reforms that pretend they are doing something but actually aren't. Instituting an "adversarial" process where the person opposing has no facts or information, can't speak to witness, clients or evidence isn't an adversarial process. It's a fake change to pretend it's adversarial in an attempt to claim that it's "fair" when it's anything but.

        The judges are actually defending liberty by saying in one voice that wasting everyone's time with a pretend process d

        • You're oversimplifying. Even without witness, client or evidence, an adversarial process can still oppose incorrect procedure. Basically, if the judges decide to cut corners with the law, it doesn't actually matter who is being accused or what the facts of the case are. Judges cutting corners with the law is wrong.

          The truth is that the FISA judges know they're not doing a professional job to uphold the law, and don't want someone else to point out their deliberate shortcomings.

        • by epee1221 (873140)
          I was willing to give it that interpretation too, but then I got to the part where Bates suggested that the court should choose the adversarial advocate.
    • Re:It's rigged (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:32PM (#45969653)

      If they're against an adversarial process, that suggests that the FISA court is not a neutral party.

      You didn't read the summary. They aren't against "an adversarial process", they're against a process that won't actually create the adversarial process that the proponents intend it to.

      As it says in the summary, the judges believe that adding an "advocate" won't create an adversarial process and won't add any significant amount of information to be useful in the judicial process, because the person appointed to that role won't be able to do any investigations or even contact the suspect.

      Here's a car analogy: you take your car into the shop because the brakes aren't working well. The mechanic says "your brakes aren't working well, I need to change your air filter and add a speed governor to your car so you can't go faster than 45 MPH". You say "no". What, are you against having working brakes? Of course not, you're against paying for "fixes" that don't fix the brakes.

      • I read not only the summary, but actual articles. It's still worth having a devil's advocate arguing with the evidence presented.
    • by Qzukk (229616)

      To be fair, the judge is saying that what is being recommended is not an adversarial process, and he's right.

      I don't have any better suggestions though.

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        To be fair, the judge is saying that what is being recommended is not an adversarial process, and he's right.

        I don't have any better suggestions though.

        The constitution has an answer for you: since the FISA court does not have an adversarial process, there are no controversies, so the FISA court simply should not exist.

      • by icebike (68054)

        To be fair, the judge is saying that what is being recommended is not an adversarial process, and he's right.

        I don't have any better suggestions though.

        It should't be that hard to com up with some better suggestions. In descending order of desirability

        1 Get rid of unconstitutional secret courts. Prosecute judges that volunteered to participate in this charade for having violate their oath to uphold the constitution.

        2 Require that EACH US citizen who's data was intercepted (via any means) must be be notified no later than 6 months from the first intercept date, unless an arrest warrant is issued, or investigation is continuing. but no investigation may co

    • by steelfood (895457)

      They bring up good points. But their solution, to do nothing at all, is unacceptable. Would they perhaps prefer to outright dissolve the secret nature of the court, seeing as that would be the only solution to their concerns? Perhaps they should rule that secret proceedings where the accused is unable to face his/her accusers are outright unconstitutional, that the existing warrant-granting procedure is more than sufficiently secretive in nature that the FISA courts provide no additional benefits, but incur

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        But their solution, to do nothing at all, is unacceptable.

        If you read all the way to then end of the summary, you'll notice:

        The Hill adds that Bates, "... recommended an advocate chosen by the court, rather than an independent authority, for only a limited number of cases.

        That's not "do nothing" by a long shot. It's not what you want them to do, but to call it "nothing" is dishonest.

        • by Ken D (100098)

          You're right, it's not nothing. It's a fig leaf.
          Because obviously, if they can figure out which of these limited cases are so special, they could give those cases extra thought today, without any changes.

          The FISA judges judgement is suspect. Putting anything under their discretion is NOT an improvement.

        • It's actually worse than do nothing.

          It's get policed by people we choose.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Perhaps they should rule that secret proceedings where the accused is unable to face his/her accusers are outright unconstitutional,

        The accused is OFTEN not able to face the accuser prior to warranted searches and seizures. Only when charges are brought in a court of law do you have the right to confront your accusers.

        You don't get advanced notice of a search warrant. That would be counter productive. What you do get is SERVED with the warrant at the time of the search or shortly there after.

        I could see people getting a warrant delivered some time ( weeks or perhaps a few months) after one of these warranted (of FISA letter) searches

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY (1672858)

      If they're against an adversarial process, that suggests that the FISA court is not a neutral party. While I agree that it is inadequate, a third-party advocate for civil liberties would be better than the nothing that we have at the moment.

      I'm suspicious of an advocate chosen by the court. Fox guarding the henhouse?

      Then again, I'm also suspicious of secret court proceedings.

      I think of it this way:

      The Constitution, which cannot be superseded by anything other than a Constitutional Amendment, states in her Fifth Amendment [emphasis added]:

      No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation

      As well as in the Sixth Amendment:

      In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

      Therefore, as no Constitutional Amendment has thus far been passed that would negate the Fifth and Sixth, then the FISA court and all its decisions are de facto unconstitutional.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450)

        The FISA court isn't a trial court. Nobody is being "held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime." It is letting investigators investigate by issuing warrants.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by CanHasDIY (1672858)

          The FISA court isn't a trial court. Nobody is being "held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime." It is letting investigators investigate by issuing warrants.

          Without justification based upon probable cause.

          Which is still unconstitutional, but in a different way I mentioned.

          FYI - the fact that America has a "court" that is not open to public scrutiny is blatantly unconstitutional, no matter what rationale you try to use to justify it.

          • FYI - the fact that America has a "court" that is not open to public scrutiny is blatantly unconstitutional, no matter what rationale you try to use to justify it.

            Citation required. It may not fit your patriotic--don't tread on me, wave my flag in one, Constitution in the other--definition of "American" but I certainly do not see how a closed court is unconstitutional. For that matter closed proceedings are actually quite common. For instance when was the last time you got to sit in on a case where a juvenile is the accused?

            • by dryeo (100693)

              Court cases where the accused is a juvenile are automatically closed in the States? Here they usually have a publication ban on things like the juveniles name but the court is usually open. The press reports on cases involving juveniles all the time, they just call the accused X or whatever and say how they can not report any identifying information due to publication ban or the juvenile being a juvenile.

            • FYI - the fact that America has a "court" that is not open to public scrutiny is blatantly unconstitutional, no matter what rationale you try to use to justify it.

              Citation required

              http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html [archives.gov]

              The document does not specifically give the federal government power to create secret courts. Per the 10th Amendment, any power the Constitution does not directly assign to the feds is not a power they have.

              • Actually it does. Article 1 section 8 communicates the authority to Congress the unqualified ability "To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;" As stated before, just because it does not align with your ideals, does not make it "un-Constitutional".
          • by icebike (68054)

            FYI - the fact that America has a "court" that is not open to public scrutiny is blatantly unconstitutional, no matter what rationale you try to use to justify it.

            Much as I agree with the sentiment, I can't find anything in the constitution that forbids such a court.

            You don't get to sit in while your local judge or magistrate issues search warrants either. If you could people would do it
            as a service and post it on line and advertise as warrantsRus.

            Trials yes. Warrants, Grand Jury proceedings, not so much.

            • by Muad'Dave (255648)

              You have it backwards. The Federal Government may only do what is specifically ALLOWED in the Constitution; it is not allowed to do anything not PROHIBITED by the Constitution.

        • by AHuxley (892839)
          That was to try and protect the other freedoms enjoyed in the USA Cold i.e. the activities under the First Amendment for a "U.S. person".
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Therefore, as no Constitutional Amendment has thus far been passed that would negate the Fifth and Sixth, then the FISA court and all its decisions are de facto unconstitutional.

        If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!

        The fifth and sixth are not relevant since the FISA court isn't holding anyone "to answer" or creating "double jeopardy", nor is it dealing with any criminal prosecution. Their decisions are not, thus, defacto unconstitutional based on the fifth or sixth amendments.

        What the FISA courts do is issue warrants, so if you want to argue fourth amendment issues, ok.

        As for the GP saying he's skeptical of court appointed advocates, well, the courts have a long history of

      • I may have gone off on a tangent and lost my original intent, so let me try again:

        As the Constitution does not specifically grant the federal government power to create secret courts, the existence of secret courts (and thus, all decisions handed down by them) are de facto unconstitutional, per the Tenth Amendment:

        The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people

      • You have the wrong amendments. The Fifth Amendment doesn't apply here because the surveyed targets are not yet being held to answer for any crime and are not being deprived of "liberty" in the sense that the amendment means (i.e. put in jail). The Sixth similarly doesn't apply because there is no prosecution here yet.

        The Fourth is more relevant because it governs searches, which is what FISA is all about. The Fourth requires warrants for searches and requires that they be (a) supported by probably cause

        • by ppanon (16583)
          Um, no. What needs to happen is that there needs to be an in-depth and independent review of the effectiveness of the information gathering activity after the fact by a party other than the FISA court and security establishment. If the data that you are collecting does not in fact achieve the purported aims (apparently, despite the misleading cheer-leading by the NSA director, all the NSA data collected under FISA warrants has not actually provided any information that has been key/required in helping preve
          • by Valdrax (32670)

            What needs to happen is that there needs to be an in-depth and independent review of the effectiveness of the information gathering activity after the fact by a party other than the FISA court and security establishment.

            What schema would you propose that differs from my own? You'd need someone with an understanding of probable cause (i.e. a court of some sort). You'd need someone with a reason to challenge it, so that an adversarial process is kept up, and it's not some sort of intra-government drum circle. You'd need some kind of security clearance to prevent data from leaking to the public if it turns out that it *is* good and useful (or that revealing it would put agents in harms way or undermine other good programs)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Maybe I am lacking insight because for the life of me I cannot grasp how you are being modded "insightful". You're just waving about the Constitution, pointing at unrelated articles. With respect to the FISA court and its proceedings, no person is being held for crimes, no person is being placed in double-jeopardy as by reason of the previous, no person is being compelled to confess to a crime, no person is being executed, neither constrained, nor subject to forfeiture of property. There are no criminal

    • Re:It's rigged (Score:5, Informative)

      by afidel (530433) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:40PM (#45969735)

      Considering the court rubber stamps 99+% of garbage put in front of them it's pretty obvious that their oversight is inadequate, even the most tough on crime judges in general criminal courts don't approve that high a percent of warrant requests.

      • by sqrt(2) (786011)

        It's theoretically possible that they don't bother submitting requests unless they are highly confident it will be accepted. I don't believe that, but it's at least possible. We need to know more about the process and the types of requests--unfortunately that's difficult with a secret court.

      • by MikeMo (521697)
        You know this how? Cite, please, specifically regarding the FISA court, not an episode of 24 Hours.
      • by Zeromous (668365)

        Sounds to me that judges in this case...and ergo secret courts contribute to creating and adversarial system so the whole lot should be unnecessary.

    • I'm suspicious of an advocate chosen by the court. Fox guarding the henhouse?

      I'm suspicious of an advocate chosen by anyone connected to the US Federal government. However, I agree that one chosen by the court itself would be particularly bad.

  • Shocking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by josephtd (817237) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:15PM (#45969505)
    Organization accustomed to operating in secret resists the notion of having a potential opposing viewpoint to consider. I understand that they feel this suggested reform indicated the American people have decided they do not trust in the impartial judgment of this panel. Perhaps we should just remove the defense attorney from criminal proceedings as well. That should clear out the case backlog, I mean obviously Federal judges are beyond reproach. Let's kill the appellate courts while we are at it too. That should save time and money as well.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Perhaps we should just remove the defense attorney from criminal proceedings as well. That should clear out the case backlog,

      Something like 80%~97% [nytimes.com] of ALL criminal cases are settled by plea agreement.
      (Depending on the jurisdiction and specific court)

      Traffic and misdemeanor courts have similarly high rates of plea bargains or guilty pleas.

      If there's a backlog in the court system, it's entirely because of underfunding.

    • And in other new, BP would like to keep its environmental inspectors in their backpocket and Monsanto sees no reason that FDA officials should not be allowed to own lots of stock in their company.
  • Few men in the history of the world gave up power after taking it: Cincinnatus and George Washington are the most recent examples, and they died hundreds of years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I agree with the judges, based on where they currently sit. An advocate or any type of ancillary support for this stuff will just provide the illusion of a counter-argument.

    However, I don't believe they should be sitting there in the first place. I bet if you asked their private opinions, they'd say the laws being enacted are what hampers their ability to protect freedom of speech and privacy, not the method by which they make their discussions.

    It's basically that congress is trying to blame the problem on

  • Zero sympathy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:25PM (#45969591)

    So an advocate would not benefit the process? Then the process is broken. In the interests of protecting innocents from government overreach, dissolve the FISA court.

    I'd like my rights, freedoms, and liberties back please. I don't need or want you or your 'protection.'

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      So an advocate would not benefit the process? Then the process is broken.

      As it reports in the summary, adding an advocate that cannot do more than say "you shouldn't do this" would not benefit the process. It would be like having a defense attorney that couldn't speak to the defendent and couldn't investigate the alleged crimes. All he'd have to look at is the filing from the government, and the judges can already read that.

    • So an advocate would not benefit the process? Then the process is broken. In the interests of protecting innocents from government overreach, dissolve the FISA court.

      Issuing investigative warrants generally isn't an adversarial process even in ordinary courts. An ordinary court handling the warrant requests would still apply the same standards, and would be burdened by the confidentiality requirements. Dissolving the FISA court doesn't get you anything.

  • ... When you have a box full of rubber stamps and barrels of ink?

  • Hold on there... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:31PM (#45969649)

    Everyones screaming at the Judges, but read what they're saying:
    "the participation of an advocate would neither create a truly adversarial process nor constructively assist the courts in assessing the facts, as the advocate would be unable to communicate with the target or conduct an independent investigation."

    REALLY read that. I read it as saying "You're trying to send an advocate to make this appear like it's an adversarial process. But it's not. This will still be a rubber stamping process until you send in a REAL advocate."

    i.e. If there are going to be reforms, then they need to be real. Reforms like this (that achieve nothing but make the people think somethings been done) will only increase their workload. With no added benefit to the target of the NSA.

    • Re:Hold on there... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Astro Dr Dave (787433) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:25PM (#45970209)
      The judges know that a true adversarial process is not on the table - and never will be. They aren't calling for real reform. Mostly they are worried about their workload. This is all spelled out in the actual document which you can get here [senate.gov] They don't want an advocate or adversarial process, because it wouldn't change anything.

      Here is the full quote: "The participation of a privacy advocate is unnecessary and could prove counterproductive in the vast majority of FISA matters, which involve the application of a probable cause or other factual standard to case-specific facts and typically implicate the privacy interests of few persons other than the specific target. Given the nature of FISA proceedings, the participation of an advocate would neither create a truly adversarial process nor constructively assist the Court in assessing the facts, as the advocate would be unable to communicate with the target or conduct an independent investigation. Advocate involvement in run-of-the-mill FISA matters would substantially hamper the work of the Courts without providing any commensurate benefit in terms of privacy protection or otherwise; indeed, such pervasive participation could actually undermine the Courts' ability to receive complete and accurate information on the matters before them."

      Of course, we already know the courts are not getting complete and accurate information, and they rubber-stamp orders anyway.
  • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:36PM (#45969691) Homepage Journal
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/10/nsa-mass-surveillance-powers-john-inglis-npr [theguardian.com]
    http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/19/21975158-nsa-program-stopped-no-terror-attacks-says-white-house-panel-member?lite [nbcnews.com]
    "“...there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome [of a terror investigation] would have been any different” without the program."
    Welcome to a world where a vast domestic surveillance system is rubber stamped and oversight is tame.
  • if they rejected it so strongly
  • All this FISA advocate stuff, and Obama rhetoric is a distraction, tinkering around the edges.

    There should be NO collection of phone calls, e-mails, meta data, cell phone locations of Americans without a warrant from a judge, based on evidence. The fourth amendment is very clear on how warrants are to be justified. They must be specific against a person or thing to be investigated, not general warrants that the founders fought against King George to ban.

    If these dam NSA snoopers would spend their billions

  • I have yet to hear one reasonable argument why the FISA court is needed at all. Get rid of it.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      It came out of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Committee [wikipedia.org] be the one place to ensure US "Foreign" intelligence collection would never give US political cover for a vast domestic surveillance program again.
      There was to be oversight and reviews... but that just turned into a sealed show and tell show on any politicians 'hot' topics.
      Now we have the sock puppets needing many new color of law paragraphs to try to legally fake past The Fourth Amendment:
      "The right of the people to be secure in their pers
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:48PM (#45969809) Homepage

    While the judges are clearly biased, there is value in their point:

    the participation of an advocate would neither create a truly adversarial process nor constructively assist the courts in assessing the facts

    This is true: How can you have an adversarial process when the adversary isn't allowed to know that anything is happening? But there still needs to be some adversary. The problem is bigger than this though.

    Ultimately, this court isn't even a court by any modern definition. No adversarial process. The judges are appointed without any confirmation or oversight [wikipedia.org]. There is no appeals court. [slashdot.org] The NSA lies to the judges anyway. [slashdot.org] And the department that oversees them ignores complaints by the judges. [usatoday.com]

    How is this a court at all?

    • by dkf (304284)

      How is this a court at all?

      By the power of the large, hopping marsupials imported from our good allies in Australia!

  • by bruce_the_moose (621423) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:50PM (#45969829)
    Couldn't a monkey with a rubber stamp do the same job for a whole lot less?
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      It was seven district judges from seven circuits named by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve a maximum of 7 years.
      The U.S.A. Patriot Act (section 208) changed it to eleven and added "of whom no fewer than 3 shall reside within 20 miles of the District of Columbia"
  • by Bootsy (33005) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:52PM (#45969855) Homepage

    Snowden for President!

  • Insignificant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:52PM (#45969859) Homepage Journal

    Who cares what the FISA judges think about the reforms? I mean, they're not the boss of the government.

    This notion that there is some widespread fear in the government of how agencies and entities will react to changes in he surveillance regime are starting to get a little alarming. If you look at the NYTimes story here: http://t.co/lSEb6vWXSi [t.co], you will see the phrase, "backlash from national security agencies" in regard to reforms to surveillance. Who are they that now elected officials, who are charged with oversight over these agencies, have to worry about intelligence agencies' "backlash"? There have been several other stories recently that have mentioned similar "consequences" from the agencies if the scope or powers of those agencies were to be limited in any way.

    I guess that tells us who's really in charge.

    I'm telling you, unless we can figure out a way to chop this surveillance regime down to size, and quick, there is absolutely no chance that any other national problem can ever be fixed in any significant way. Not the economy, not security, not social problems, not anything. When Americans finally internalize the fact that they are always being watched and that our own security agencies view them as a threat, there will be a sickness over the American people like none we have ever seen before.

    To this day, people from places like East Germany and other surveillance states have it in the back of their heads that there is always someone watching. As the husband of a woman from Eastern Europe, I know this to be true from my experience with family and friends. Once you have Big Brother in your head, he never goes away, maybe not for generations.

    I would absolutely rather take my chances with the terrorists than see the US go on this way much longer.

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      Who cares what the FISA judges think about the reforms? I mean, they're not the boss of the government.

      This notion that there is some widespread fear in the government of how agencies and entities will react to changes in he surveillance regime are starting to get a little alarming. If you look at the NYTimes story here: http://t.co/lSEb6vWXSi [t.co] [t.co], you will see the phrase, "backlash from national security agencies" in regard to reforms to surveillance. Who are they that now elected officials, who are charged with oversight over these agencies, have to worry about intelligence agencies' "backlash"? There have been several other stories recently that have mentioned similar "consequences" from the agencies if the scope or powers of those agencies were to be limited in any way.

      I guess that tells us who's really in charge.

      I'm telling you, unless we can figure out a way to chop this surveillance regime down to size, and quick, there is absolutely no chance that any other national problem can ever be fixed in any significant way. Not the economy, not security, not social problems, not anything. When Americans finally internalize the fact that they are always being watched and that our own security agencies view them as a threat, there will be a sickness over the American people like none we have ever seen before.

      To this day, people from places like East Germany and other surveillance states have it in the back of their heads that there is always someone watching. As the husband of a woman from Eastern Europe, I know this to be true from my experience with family and friends. Once you have Big Brother in your head, he never goes away, maybe not for generations.

      I would absolutely rather take my chances with the terrorists than see the US go on this way much longer.

      Spot on.

      You and I have had heated disagreements in the past, but on this we agree fully.

      This is not a Conservative/Liberal, Left/Right, (R)/(D) issue of a political nature at all.

      This is a matter of basic human rights, both as the rights of nature's law and the laws of man as set forth in the US Constitution. They are our most basic civil rights.

      There was a struggle in the 1960s for civil rights for minorities of US citizens against government bullying, infringements of rights & liberties, and racial d

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        This is not a Conservative/Liberal, Left/Right, (R)/(D) issue of a political nature at all.

        It's not. At all.

        Wouldn't it be funny if Barack Obama really turned out to be a "uniter" after all? He'll unite Left and Right against a common corporate/government surveillance regime. Left and Right will realize that the people in power, private and public sector alike, are a real and present danger.

        It won't be what he had in mind of course, but at this point, he'd probably take it.

        defending everybody's basic civ

  • There is no political solution for politicians. They're simply men ('men' as in men and women), and cannot be trusted to do what's right over what they wish, anymore than any other men. When the terrorists take over, they'll be dressed as nice businessmen, and will be heavily involved in the political scene. Perhaps this has already happened, as fear is the governing body's tool of the day.

    Don't be worried folks, this shit'll be over before you know it.
  • by Subm (79417) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @06:00PM (#45969975)

    They are a kangaroo rubber-stamp court objecting to doing other than what they were appointed to do, which is to unthinkingly say yes. I can't imagine anyone with any pride in their country feeling anything other than overwhelming shame and disgust for their role in this banana-republic activity. Except self-interested cronies.

    Since they could be replaced by a rubber stamp that said "Yes" with nearly no change to what the court does except to save probably tens of millions of dollars per year, they're probably concerned about losing their jobs.

    Can you imagine what Jefferson or John Adams would say about this possibly unconstitutional corruption of justice? This court could scarcely be farther from their ideals. Of course they're united in opposition. They're united because their bosses gave them all the same instructions. Why would we expect any one of them to say or act independently of anyone else?

  • Babies are united in the idea that once they get a lollypop, that lollypop should not be taken away from them. Try and there will be screaming.
    Remember: ever time a baby looses a lollypop, the terrorists win.

  • They are all picked by one man - Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts.
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/chief-justice-john-roberts-appointed-every-judge-on-the-fisa-court-20130812 [nationaljournal.com]

    This was meant to be a body of jurists to check the validity of search warrants, but it developed its own body of case law. With no check on its power. None.

    The NY Times notes "In making assignments to the court, Chief Justice Roberts, more than his predecessors, has chosen judges with conservative and executive bran

    • The FISA court judges are already judges on the Federal bench.
      Once selected to serve on the FISA court they rotate through the assignment to that court, and then return to another court.
      The FISA court is subject to both the Intelligence review court and the Supreme Court, just like any other court.
      The judges on the FISA court can be removed by Congress, just like any other judge.
      The FISA courts primary job is to approve warrants for surveillance. It doesn't conduct trials.
      If the judges assigned to FISA cou

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