In the controversy over secret government interception of phone calls and e-mails, the President and his administration say.."Not to worry”, the courts check these things and would not allow any excess."
I disagree and I suspect the media have been misled here. The administration always refers here to “the courts”, plural, when I suspect the correct word is “court” singular..and by that they mean the FISA Court alone.
FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act..and is the court that oversees it. First of all, it is a secret court. It meets in secret, and while records are kept they are never made public. Second, ONLY ONE SIDE APPEARS IN COURT..the government. If the FBI sought a warrant against you, you would never be told, you would not be allowed to appear in court with your lawyer, and state your case.
Now it’s easy to argue, as the U-S does, that “we can’t let you know we are moving against you, that would alert you to stop whatever it is we suspect you’re doing.” But others will argue that by that approach all the protections of our laws built up over centuries have been thrown out..as they have.
No appeals may be taken to any other court (which doesn’t even know of the FISA Court rulings), except the FISA Review court. It took 24 years for the first decision of the FISA Court to be reviewed, and we don’t know what the decision was.
What we do know is that in the first 33 years of this court, the government won 33,800 cases it brought before the court, only 7 were turned down, although some of those government wins were “modified”..whatever that means.
Not content with losing 7 cases, Congress in its wisdom modified the Act to allow the Justice Dept to issue its own warrants without court approval, so long as it told the court about it within 72 hours. That wasn’t enough for the Bush administration which from 2002 to 2005 began secret surveillance on U-S citizens covered by the act WITHOUT going to the Court at any time. When the news media made this public (and that’s a “leak.”) one FISA judge resigned in protest. But only one.
But the record of the government before this court is even worse…in 2002 the Court broke its own silence to say that in “more than 75 cases” the administration (Bush Two again) had given the Court “erroneous information” (that’s lying folks) upon which to base the Court’s decisions.
If there ever was a “Heads I win, tails you lose” situation, this is it. The Court, the law, and the dice are loaded against the American citizen. And we have NO idea after thirty some years whether these Court decisions have worked..or not. That’s secret ,too, and if the government revealed the answers that would be breaking the law.
Citizens, be very, very skeptical when your government says.."not to worry, the courts are looking after you.”
I'm just sayin'...