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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

FISA Court Has Only Rejected 10 Of 20,909 Spying Requests: One Congressman Has A Solution

FISA Court Has Only Rejected 10 Of 20,909 Spying Requests: One Congressman Has A Solution

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency want to spy on American citizens, they go to the court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

And more than 99.9 percent of the time, the court says “yes.”

Between 2001 and 2012, the court heard 20,909 surveillance and property search warrants and rejected just 10. “Almost 1,000 of the approved requests required modification, and 26 were withdrawn by the government before a ruling,” writes Bloomberg‘s Ezra Klein. “That’s a startling win rate for the government.”

Why is this court so extraordinarily compliant with the government’s wishes? All of the judges are nominated by one man — Chief Justice John Roberts.

The effect of this is predictable, writes Klein:

The FISA court is composed of federal judges. All are appointed by the same man. All but one hail from the same political party. And unlike judges in normal courts, FISA judges don’t hear opposing testimony or feel pressure from colleagues or the public to moderate their rulings. Under these circumstances, group polarization is almost a certainty.

Since the leaks by Edward Snowden have revealed massive tracking of Americans’ data approved by the FISA court, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) — a longtime critic of secret surveillance under the PATRIOT Act — and a bipartisan group of senators have demanded clarification of possibly misleading statements made by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, along with clarification of how the government is interpreting the PATRIOT Act.

But Congress hasn’t considered any legislation that actually might improve oversight of government oversight. That may change soon.

Earlier this week, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a bill that would reform the FISA court.

The FISA Court Accountability Act would allow the Chief Justice to appoint three judges to the court along with two appointments each from the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader and Minority Leaders of the House and Senate. Congress would then select the judges for the FISA appellate court.

“These provisions would guarantee some measure of ideological diversity and would prevent one person – the Chief Justice – from having too much influence over who makes such important decisions affecting all of our lives,” said Congressman Cohen.

Decisions by the court would require 60 percent approval by the FISA panel and appellate decisions would have to be unanimous. The court’s decisions, orders and opinions would have to be provided to Congress in both classified and unclassified versions.

Does this bill have a chance in a House that has recently reaffirmed the indefinite detention of American citizens, blocked the president’s plan to close Guantánamo Bay prison and held a hearing to defend the NSA? Maybe not.

But it does give the thousands of Americans who rallied on July 4th to “Restore The Fourth” Amendment the beginnings of what reform of government surveillance might look like.

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33 responses to “FISA Court Has Only Rejected 10 Of 20,909 Spying Requests: One Congressman Has A Solution”

  1. Michael Kollmorgen says:

    Why even have a “secret court” at all?

    What is our government afraid of that they have to have a secret court? I thought our normal Judaical process worked just fine.

    The Patriot Act is pure crap. It don’t protect us in any way. In fact, for us citizens, it does more to take our freedoms and liberties away than just about any other legislation.

    The Department of Homeland Security should be dismantled and abolished.

    • Siegfried Heydrich says:

      Because you don’t want the potential terrorists you’re investigating to be aware of the fact that they’re being investigated.

    • Lorr says:

      I am not attacking, I am asking questions so I have more information from someone else’s prospective.

      Do you believe that our Country is so safe we do not need Homeland Security? Also do you feel that everything our Government does regarding Security (CIA, FBI and Military) should be transparent to all? If we made all our Military and Security issues transparent, wouldn’t that be a blueprint for our enemies?

      Hasn’t the private sector been sharing the data they collect on us for profit since the 70’s?

      I agree we need to either repeal the current Patriot Act or make changes to it that will balance our Country’s need to know to keep us safe and our respecting and allowing us our right to privacy. What ever we replace the Patriot Act of today, must have better oversight through Congress and must be a Representation of all ideologies equally: Republican, Democratic, Independent and Libertarian.

      • Michael Kollmorgen says:

        No, don’t worry about it. Not attacking at all:)

        No, the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot act is an additional layer, another agency we don’t need. Our laws that we already have are more than good enough to do any job it needs to do. Grand juries which hear most serious cases already indict people secretly. So, there is NO need for a secret court.

        What we need to do is work a lot closer with our Allies with our current CIA, FBI and our Military Forces.

        Another thing, the Department of Homeland Security is doing more to quash OUR freedoms and liberties than most people know about. I’ll give you just one example of how this organization which is supposed to protecting us is in fact quashing our liberties.

        My Mother who was 76 at the time had moved down to be with me here in Canton Ohio, from Cleveland. She wanted to start a new Checking Account at my bank, Key Bank. Remember, my mother NEVER had a Credit Card in her entire life and only a state ID. When we wanted to establish a new account, the bank refused to accept her SS Card, or her state ID as proof of who she was. We even showed the bank, bank records of her current bank account. Still NO Good.

        The ONLY proof they would accept is a current Credit Card. I finally had to Co-sign for her getting her own Bank Account. Later on, I pressed Key Bank why all the trouble? Key Bank finally admitted that the Department of Homeland Security has set new bank rules in place that effected of all things Senior Citizens and American Citizens.

        Why? She might be aiding terrorist.

        Also be aware, you better not withdraw or deposit, in any form, over $9,999.99 out or into your bank. IF you do, the FBI is automatically notified of the transaction – another Homeland Security rule.

        Why? Again, you might be aiding terrorist.

        Your Bank won’t tell you these things either.

        So, whatever good this department is intended to do, is in reality screwing the typical american citizen to the hilt. You are becoming less free and you have less privacy as a result.

        Yep, businesses do this on a daily basis too. Get a program called Ghostery. Put it on your computer if you use Chrome. Watch and see just how many tracking services are tracking what you’re doing on the Internet. Right now, there are 16 tracking services monitoring our activity on this Blog. And, at any one time, the government can supenea their records to use against you in court. This is one of those little known facts about doing Internet Business in the US. They can use your records when they feel they need to, whether anyone likes it or not.

        By the way, it is illegal for a private citizen to encrypt anything in the US using a computer over 128 Bit encryption Code. You can go to federal prison a long time if you’re caught. Businesses and the government/military can use it freely. But, a private citizen can’t.

      • dadhoover says:

        Its not that ‘its so safe’, tts that we don’t need this new layer of watchdogs, HS has come around to making us much like a police state and there’s no reason for that. There was enough watchdogs before, just force better interaction and cooperation between them.

    • RobertCHastings says:

      What resulted from The Patriot Act and the Homeland Security department has been the development of a legally sanctioned security state with very little government oversight.

    • dadhoover says:

      I totally agree and get rid of that damn patriot act too

  2. docb says:

    Since this is a secret court so as not to alert our enemies who they are Re: Undue influence or blackmail or worse. I agree we should have it.. I am not for any appointments from either house of the Congress because they have all proven to leak.,..The Right wing more than the left wing but still… Roberts is at issue but I am prejudice about the right exactly as he has proven himself to be but at least in favor of our safety …so far!

    • Michael Kollmorgen says:

      Sieg & Docb;

      If you noticed, homeland security didn’t prevent that boston bomber, did it.

      Russia knew about the one older brother and didn’t transmit that information to us. So, what good is security if it can’t do its job. OH, but they do a good job of snooping on US private citizens though.

      It’a all Bullshit. It’s just another method of keeping our asses in control and not the terrorist.

      Whether anyone likes it or not, every time that court approves of ANY snooping on private US citizens, that court is giving your freedoms and liberties up bit by bit. And, you won’t even know it by the time they’re all gone, because your too used to being limited little by little.

      • Jim Myers says:

        Like it or not, the Boston Bombing would have occurred with or without the “help” of the Homeland Security, the CIA, FBI, The Military or any other government agency.

        It simply did not trigger the appropriate investigations.

        What we do not know is how many other clandestine operations were thwarted by these agencies.

        Their tactics may be questionable, but in large part, they are effective.

        So, what is the perfect balance of Security and Privacy?

        There is no easy answer to that question. There will always be that fine line that is easily stepped over.

        And in case anyone thinks I am some Right Wing Nut Job, just read nearly any post I have ever made on this site.

        • RobertCHastings says:

          Some of us left wing nut jobs agree with you. And so would some of the Founders. They had their own sources of intelligence, including being forewarned about the invasion force being planned for New York in 1776. And our leaders played that one like a fiddle. Had Adams (or Jefferson, or Washington) let the Continental Congress know about that, those in the Congress who still supported England would have sued for peace immediately. That, in fact, was the reason the British did NOT win, they wanted their superior military and naval forces to scare the hell out of the Resistance so they would immediately surrender. By the time the Battle for New York was joined, many Loyalists had fallen in with the rebellion.

          • ralphkr says:

            Well, Robert, there is also the fact that many Brits wanted the current government to lose to the Colonists for political reasons and that included many of their military leaders in charge of putting down the insurrection. There were many powerful Brits who hoped to topple their government if British forces failed in the Colonies and take the power into their own hands.

          • RobertCHastings says:

            The Howe brothers (one a general and the other an admiral) were charged with conducting the assault on the colonies and were told by their boss, Lord Germain , to end the war as quickly as possible. General Howe, however, desired to NOT destroy the Continental Army, but to make it obvious to the colonists that they could not win the war. Howe’s failure to crush the Continental Army in New York, in the first few weeks of the British occupation, led to the British loss in the Revolution and, when hearings were held AFTER the Revolution to determine who was responsible, the usual coverup ensued and the Howes were exonerated. Many people in England wanted George III to fail and were exulted when this actually happened.

        • Michael Kollmorgen says:

          I never considered you a right wing nutjob. I do consider you a Free Thinker, a rare bird these days:)

          No, there is NO perfect balance. But, when there is a over-whelming rate of approvals of these investigations, somethings wrong with the system especially when it concerns private US citizens.

          As just one example, my mothers situation, the “system” does not serve our needs and needs to be either abolished or severely re-orientated to serve our needs of security and privacy.

      • RobertCHastings says:

        As Dominick points out, the FISA court has been in existence since the Carter Administration and, as such, failed to find Timothy McVeigh prior to his bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, and they failed to stop the 9/11 terrorists. Nothing, even if it is operated under ABSOLUTE secrecy (somewhat of an oxymoron) is going to find ALL security issues in time to prevent them. Much of the success of such behavior is based upon how data is reported, shared, and interpreted, and it was not until AFTER 9/11 that most of our security and surveillance agencies were put under one roof and required to share information. Given that, the system DID fail in not preventing Boston. But let us not throw out the baby with the bath water, for many plots that twenty years ago would have gone undetected, are today being detected.

        • Michael Kollmorgen says:

          I agree, we shouldn’t throw it out completely. Yes, they have done “some” good. But overall, they are too intrusive when it concerns US Citizens.

          I’ll be dammed if I like my freedoms and liberties being investigated just because they deem my “private actions” as being a “possible” terrorist threat.

          And, I don’t like some of their rules that automatically tag you as a possible co-conspirator with my bank accounts. The example I stated and others to Lorr is exactly why I feel this way.

          They’ve carried it way too far to the extreme when it concerns private US Citizens.

          These Corporations aren’t really any better. In fact, they seem to be doing more snooping than the government.

          I think much of this crap is Unconstitutional. But, try and fight it in court. Good Luck!

          Go and install Ghostery. You’ll find out what I mean by this.

  3. Diogenes67 says:

    The warrants are approved because the government doesn’t apply for them in questionable cases.

    • dadhoover says:


      • Diogenes67 says:

        Is that the best you got?

        • dadhoover says:


  4. RobertCHastings says:

    Roberts was appointed in 2005 by George W Bush, after the death of William Rehnquist, so don’t blame all of this on Roberts alone (not that I am defending Roberts). And do bear in mind that The Patriot Act, swept through Congress by the Republicans, was different in only minor ways from a similar act proposed by Bill Clinton and soundly rejected at the time by Republicans AND Democrats.

    • Dominick Vila says:

      You are right, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC was established and authorized in 1978. I find it amusing when I read some of the recent discoveries made by people on both sides of our political spectrum, and the way they use their new findings to demonize those they hate.

      • RobertCHastings says:

        I should have researched before I spoke. I did not realize that the Court was that old, during the Carter Administration? You are absolutely right that when we make new discoveries about old programs they become a cause celebre. The power of the Presidency has been expanding greatly since Truman became the man with the football, a power that Congress did not want to wield and the President did not want to yield. Since the start of the Cold War, security has been the bugaboo upon which presidential power has grown well beyond what was intended by the Constitution.

        • Dominick Vila says:

          Sadly, more often than not, “defense” is a term used to disguise overt offense influenced by geo-political and economic goals, with lots of paranoia and intolerance in the mix…

          • dadhoover says:

            you sure got that right with all the US interventions around the world, FOR OUR INTERESTS, YOUR POINT IS EXACTLY WHAT OUR SOLDIERS HAVE DIED FOR AND ITS A SICK SETUP !!!!!!!!!

  5. Urbane_Gorilla says:

    I guess our Founders were really tuned into making our country into some deformed 1984 clone, but apparently I missed that part in high school history. Pretty sad.

    “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Benjamin Franklin

  6. Allan Richardson says:

    If you want to protect your vote from the new wave of James Crow, Esq. laws being passed in Texas and elsewhere, go to, get a signon if you do not already have one, and sign the petititon “Resume Enforcing the Voting Rights Act Section 5 Immediately.” The petition explains what I believe is a valid loophole in the recent decision striking part of the VRA, and urges the President to exploit that loophole.

  7. Dave says:

    The FISA court is similar to a magistrate hearing warrant applications in ordinary criminal cases. Ordinary magistrate warrant hearings are also entirely secret. The overwhelming majority of warrants are granted. The record is sealed.

    This numbers game about the FISA court is ludicrous. There’s no issue there because it’s acting like a magistrate. The only people who think it’s an issue are the ones not familiar with the day-to-day operations of criminal investigations and prosecutions.

  8. dadhoover says:

    Now that we know we’ve got the Fox watching the hen house and he’s choosing Wolves to help him and of course its all secret with no occasional reviews. WHO’S GOING TO look in on the wolves to see who’s rights have been eaten off of ? No wonder Bush set it up like he did with ‘his man’ Roberts solely responsible for the snooping.

  9. angelsinca says:

    “Why is this court so extraordinarily compliant with the government’s wishes? ”

    Without the political intrigue factor, it could be the requests that have been submitted were mostly compliant before reaching FISA. Conspiracies of approving ilegal requests due to poltical bias is a stretch. Even for the Nat’l Memo.

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