As required by provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008 (FISA) and the Patriot Act (as amended in 2005), the Department of Justice revealed to Congress the end of last month the number of applications for eavesdropping received and rejected by the FISA court.
To no one’s surprise (least of all to the architects and builders of the already sprawling surveillance state), the letter addressed to Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reports that in 2012, of the 1,789 requests made by the government to monitor the electronic communications of citizens, not a single one was rejected.
That’s right. The court, established specifically to judge the merits of applications by the government to spy on citizens, gave a green light to every government request for surveillance.
Not content to be a mere formality for electronic surveillance, the FISA court (officially called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) also held the coats of the FBI while that agency carried out the searches and seizures set out in 212 applications.
Why should liberty-minded Americans be disgusted by the data reported in this letter? Commentary from Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian (U.K.) points to several good reasons. Greenwald writes:
What makes all of this worse is just how extreme the US government is "interpreting" — i.e. distorting — its eavesdropping powers under the law. Two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have been warning for years that the Obama administration is exploiting these laws in ways far beyond what the public knows or what a reasonable reading of the laws would permit. One of the nation's most knowledgeable surveillance experts, Julian Sanchez, has documented — citing the writing of a former Obama lawyer — that the law is used to target even "an American citizen located within the United States, and no court or judge is required to approve or review the choice of which individuals to tap": exactly the type of warrantless surveillance we were all told this law would prohibit. And yet, the Fisa court — even for those narrow set of cases where a warrant is required — continues as it always has: rubber-stamping virtually anything and everything the government wants to do.
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