NSA spying, FISA court and… the Supreme Court?

The U.S. government’s massive surveillance program called Prism is overseen by what has become known as the secretive FISA court, whose power and influence most of us are only beginning to learn about.

The court was created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to handle spy agency requests to do what they do. It consists of 11 judges the Washington Post says is appointed by John Roberts, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And Roberts can apparently appoint the judges to their seven-year terms without having to go through an annoying approval process. It’s an interesting read, especially as the picture of the scope of the NSA spying program becomes clearer.

The New York Times reports that the FISA court, whose decisions are classified, has become “almost a parallel Supreme Court.” Its rulings have broad and lasting implications on the nation’s intelligence practices. This is in contrast to earlier reports that the court had become more of an administrative body that simply rubber-stamped requests. The NYT also says ┬áthe court has also made decisions about which types of new technology can be accessed by the government, and that it has ordered the NSA to destroy evidence that phone call or online data was improperly collected.


Photo of NSA building from Associated Press archives


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