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Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

From Academic Kids

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a secret U.S. court composed of eleven federal judges, established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (1978), and expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. Its jurisdiction is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal police agencies (primarily the F.B.I.) against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the U.S. The judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States for seven year terms, with one judge being appointed each year and no judge serving for more than one term. Three of these judges make up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Any appeals from the Court of Review are made directly to the Supreme Court. Like a grand jury, FISC is not an adversarial court. Due to the classified nature of its proceedings, only government attorneys are usually permitted to appear before the FISC.

Public attention was focused on the FISC in 2002, when the Court denied a government request for the first time in what was also its first public ruling. The ruling denied the F.B.I. the right to implement new rules regarding surveillance - specifically, that the F.B.I. could use evidence gathered under FISA warrants in criminal cases. Previously the Justice Department had interpreted FISA as not allowing this type of evidence to be used in criminal prosecutions. The 2002 decision also marked the first instance in which the FISC allowed an advocate group to submit an amicus curiae brief, and led to the Court of Review being called into session for the first time. In the case, a coalition of civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued against the F.B.I's new surveillance regulations, but the Court of Review ruled against them and upheld the government's position (In re: Sealed Case No. 02-001).


See Also:

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
USA PATRIOT Act


External Sites

The Court of Review's Decision, from Findlaw (http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/terrorism/fisa111802opn.pdf)

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