Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)


"..the secret and mysterious Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which exists in a legal twilight zone with virtually no connection to the Constitution or Bill of Rights.

"Since its creation twenty-five years ago, the FISC has steadily amassed more power to instrude on people's lives than any court in our history, and it has never denied a government application for a wiretap or search in more than 14,000 requests. Last year, the seven judges on the court granted almost as many warrants as the 600 or so trial judges in the entire federal judiciary.

"...It hears only one side of every case -- the government's. No defense attorney or member of the public has ever attended on of its sessions... FISC decisions cannot be appealed by a defendant -- not even to the Supreme Court...

"The FISC's newfound power may well enable the FBI -- the agency that seeks the most FISC warrants -- to extend the scope of its dubious practices of spying on political activists... the FBI has often interpreted "support for terrorism" to include peaceful humanitarian and political activities...

"Cleverly, the FISC statute uses legal nomenclature ("probable cause") and real federal judgges to convey the look and feel of constitutional legitimacy. In fact, a devendant might have a better chance of being acquitted in China than in a US court using FISC evidence" (Donziger, Steven. "The Twilight-Zone Court." The Nation, September 22, 2003, 24).


Colby Glass, MLIS