Constitutional & Legal Issues

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

2009 - 2015

Materials presented in chronological order.

Aftergood, Steven. "Two New Judges Appointed to Intelligence Court." Secrecy News, 27 May 2011. [http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy]

The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has named two federal district court judges, Jennifer B. Coffman (Eastern District of Kentucky) and F. Dennis Saylor (District of Massachusetts), to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). They will serve seven-year terms effective 19 May 2011. They replace judges Dee Benson and Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. whose terms on the FISC ended 18 May 2011.

Aftergood, Steven. "Judge Collyer Named to Intelligence Surveillance Court." Secrecy News, 15 Mar. 2013. [http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy]

"Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the D.C. District Court was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to a seven year term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.... Collyer’s term on the FIS Court began on March 8, 2013 and will conclude on March 7, 2020.  She replaces Judge John D. Bates, whose term ended on February 21."

Aftergood, Steven. "Judge Mosman Named to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court." Secrecy News, 9 May 2013. [http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy]

"Chief Justice John Roberts has appointed Judge Michael W. Mosman of the District of Oregon to serve as a judge" on the FISC. "The appointment was effective May 4, 2013, and will extend through May 3, 2020.... Mosman replaces Judge Roger Vinson, whose term on the surveillance court expired on May 3, 2013."

Leonnig, Carol D., Ellen Nakashima, and Barton Gellman. "Secret-Court Judges Upset at Portrayal of 'Collaboration' with Government." Washington Post, 29 Jun. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

Members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) "are chafing at the suggestion that they were collaborating with the executive branch." U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, former FISC chief judge from 2002 to 2006, "took the highly unusual step [on 28 June 2013] of voicing open frustration at the account" in the classified 2009 draft report by NSA's inspector general and the "court's inability to explain its decisions."

Jakes, Lara. "Secret Court Approves New US Order for Collecting Verizon Phone Records in Surveillance Sweep." Associated Press, 19 Jul. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has renewed an order "to continue forcing Verizon Communications to turn over hundreds of millions of telephone records to the government each day in its search for foreign terror or espionage suspects." The order's "renewal shows that the Obama administration and the court of 11 federal judges stand behind its legality." The office of DNI James Clapper "said it was confirming the Verizon renewal as part of an ongoing effort to make more information about the recently declassified programs as public as possible."

Savage, Charlie, and Scott Shane. "Secret Court Rebuked N.S.A. on Surveillance." New York Times, 21 Aug. 2013. [http://www.nytimes.com]

According to a secret ruling made public on 21 August 2013, Judge John D. Bates, then serving as chief judge on the FISC, "sharply rebuked" NSA in 2011 "for repeatedly misleading the court" about a "program that systematically searches the contents of Americans' international Internet communications, without a warrant, in a hunt for discussions about foreigners who have been targeted for surveillance."

Shane, Scott. "Court Upbraided N.S.A. on Its Use of Call-Log Data." New York Times, 10 Sep. 2013. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"Intelligence officials released secret documents on [10 September 2013] showing that a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] judge reprimanded the National Security Agency in 2009 for violating its own procedures and misleading the nation's intelligence court about how it used the telephone call logs it gathers in the hunt for terrorists."

Savage, Charlie. "Extended Ruling by Secret Court Backs Collection of Phone Data." New York Times, 17 Sep. 2013. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 17 September 2013, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released a previously classified opinion" in which it said that the government's keeping of "records of all Americans’ phone calls ... was constitutional and did not violate Americans' privacy rights." Judge Claire V. Eagan's opinion "also noted that no telecommunications company had invoked its legal right to object to turning over its customers’ calling records to the government."

Savage, Charlie, and Laura Poitras. "How a Court Secretly Evolved, Extending U.S. Spies' Reach." New York Times, 12 Mar. 2014, A1. [http://www.nytimes.com]

Documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden "help explain how the court evolved from its original task -- approving wiretap requests -- to engaging in complex analysis of the law to justify activities like the bulk collection of data about Americans' emails and phone calls."

Hattem, Julian. "Two New Judges Added to Spy Court." The Hill, 6 Apr. 2015. [http://thehill.com]

"Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts [has] announced that Judge James Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and Judge Thomas Russell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky will take seats on the 11-member panel Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) next month.... Jones and Russell will replaces Judges Mary McLaughlin and James Zagel, whose terms expire on May 18."

Steinhauer, Jennifer, and Jonathan Weisman. "U.S. Surveillance in Place Since 9/11 Is Sharply Limited." New York Times, 2 Jun. 2015. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 2 June 2015, the U.S. Senate approved the USA Freedom Act "curtailing the federal government's sweeping surveillance of American phone records, and President Obama signed the measure hours later." The storage of bulk collection of phone records "now shifts to the phone companies, and the government must petition" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) "for permission to search them." See also, Mike DeBonis, "Congress Turns Away from Post-9/11 Law, Retooling U.S. Surveillance Powers," Washington Post, 2 Jun. 2015.

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