The bad joke called ‘the FISA court’ shows how a ‘drone court’ would work

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In the mid-1970s, an investigation by the US Senate, conducted by the Church Committee, uncovered decades of serious, systemic abuse by the US government of its eavesdropping powers: listening in on the telephone calls of civil rights leaders, reading the mail of political opponents, spying on anti-war groups. The supposed lesson learned from this was that political leaders will inevitably abuse their surveillance powers if they are permitted to exercise them in the dark and without meaningful oversight. The “solution” was the enactment of a law – the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) – that made it a criminal offense for government officials to eavesdrop on the electronic communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from the newly created Fisa court.

From the start, the Fisa court was a radical perversion of the judicial process. It convened in total secrecy and its rulings were classified. The standard the government had to meet was not the traditional “probable cause” burden imposed by the Fourth Amendment but a significantly diluted standard. There was nothing adversarial about the proceeding: only the Justice Department (DOJ) was permitted to be present, but not any lawyers for the targets of the eavesdropping request, who were not notified. Reflecting its utter lack of real independence, the court itself was housed in the DOJ.

Read the full article here.

Vince Perfetto

Vince adds diverse experience to the Foundation with a background in broadcasting, accounting, and telecommunications. He loves living in the freest state in America, New Hampshire. With a “Live Free or Die” attitude and a strong independent streak, Vince feels right at home among his fellow N.H. citizens. He was raised to respect others and to work hard to achieve his goals, and thus takes pride in saying he has “the best parents, ever.” When Vince isn’t working on the Foundation, he enjoys hiking, reading, and relaxing with a great New England micro brew.

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