The Conversation

The FISA Court is a Rubber Stamp

Talking points designed to respond to the scandal over the NSA's collection of metadata claim that there is appropriate judicial oversight of the requests by the FISA court. But the record indicates the FISA court is just a rubber stamp.

Over at Tech Dirt, author Mike Masnick reveals the talking points being passed around regarding the various NSA data collection scandals. The one page talking points regarding the collection of call metadata mentions the FISA court more than half a dozen times. They want to make sure people know this is not an illegal program. It's legitimate because it is overseen by a court.

But as Tech Dirt points out, the FISA court is little more than a judicial rubber stamp. The court has approved "every single request of it for the past three years." And that's not an anomaly:

It last rejected a request back in 2009, and that was only one out of 1320. In its entire history, since 1979, the court has rejected a grand total of 11 applications. 11. Out of 33,939 applications. That's 0.03%. Not 3%. 0.03% with not a single rejection in over three years. That's not careful review. That's a rubber stamp.

If the law says the government can collect any "tangible things," having a court agree that everyone's phone metadata is a tangible thing is not oversight. What's missing is any argument or effort to omit data on the vast number of Americans who never make (or receive) foreign calls. If Section 702 forbids the targeting of Americans by the NSA, then why should section 215 allow data collection on them by the same agency?

At the very least, the NSA should have to prove to Members of Congress that collecting this data has made a significant, tangible contribution to preventing terror attacks. As of now, we haven't seen a single verifiable instance where that is the case.


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