Rubberstamping FISA court can't be expected to actually oversee surveillance

As we wait to hear Obama's plan to reform the NSA, spare a thought for the poor rubberstamping judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, who are charged with the solemn duty of granting permission for pretty much every stupid, overreaching surveillance plan America's spooks bring before it in its secretive, unaccountable chambers. These hardworking civil servants have sounded the alarm that any burden on them to actually pay attention to whether surveillance is proportional, necessary and legal would put an undue strain on them: "Even if additional financial, personnel, and physical resources were provided, any substantial increase in workload could nonetheless prove disruptive to the Courts' ability to perform their duties." Oh, diddums.

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  1. I quite agree, fire all 11 judges and get some who understand the constitution.

  2. Look, the job those judges do IS hard! They have to put a lot of thought into what they are doing.

    Do you use a self-inking rubber stamp, or one that uses an ink pad?
    What colour ink to use?
    Do you use the 'Approved" stamp, or the 'Authourized' stamp?
    Does the rubber stamp fit the ink pad and the space on the paper?

    As you can see, it is a job that is complicated and difficult to do.

  3. Am I misunderstanding this or are they saying that asking them to do their job would make doing their job too difficult?

  4. That would appear to be the case. They seem to be saying that they were hired to appear to be working, not actually working.

  5. bwv812 says:

    People who understand the Constitution know that these federal judges, appointed under Article III of the constitution, cannot be fired.

    It might also help to note that the FISC judges have day jobs as ordinary District Court judges, and the judge who wrote the letter is a judge for the District of DC. There is no standalone FISA court with dedicated judges who do nothing but FISC work.

    It would also help to note that most of what the FISC does is grant warrants. In the normal, non-FISA context, warrants are granted under ex-parte proceedings with only the government being represented. There is no public advocate, and warrant hearings are not adversarial in nature. Almost all normal warrants are also approved, making normal courts rubber-stamps in the warrant context.

    This isn't to say there aren't problems in the system, but it is ridiculously disingenuous to present the issue the way Masnick has.

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