Secret Surveillance Court Judges Oppose Changes to Review Process

National security officials testify before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on potential changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

National security officials testify before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on potential changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) / AP

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Judges on the federal government’s secret surveillance court are all against changes to their review process proposed by a presidential task force, the Los Angeles Times reports.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates wrote a letter to the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees saying that all 11 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are unanimously opposed to recommendations by a presidential task force that are aimed at increasing transparency and oversight.

Most surprisingly, Bates said the judges opposed adding an independent advocate for privacy and civil liberties to the court’s classified hearings, saying the proposal was “unnecessary — and could prove counterproductive.” […]

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.

Bates is the former presiding judge of the court, which was created under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and reviews applications from intelligence and law enforcement agencies for classified surveillance warrants and programs. He now serves as liaison for the federal judiciary on FISA issues.

Bates also said the judges are opposed to making the secret judicial review more transparent, broadening the selection process of FISA court judges, and expanding their caseload in order to approve national security letters.

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