21st Century Star Chamber

NSA court approves NSA stuff, in this (not) shocking report from the New York Times:

In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.


When the authors of our Constitution gave Congress the power to establish the lower courts, I don’t think this is what they had in mind. This FISA court, the IRS’s tax courts — they aren’t part of an independent judiciary. Instead, they are part and parcel of the executive branch, and exist to serve the needs of their respective agencies.

It’s sham justice.



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