Monday, December 19, 2005

The bad idea of the FISA court

Josh Marshall considers the number of rejections of FISA warrants and finds all of four (there were none until 2002). There has been a slight change since 2003, when the court started to (very) occasionally require modifications to the requested warrants, but the completely secret and ultra-fast court is still essentially a rubber stamp. You would think that if any good were to come out of the recent revelations it would be that Congress reject the idea that this sham court is doing anything to protect the rights of Americans. It was created to give the appearance of judicial review without actually providing any real review at all. Bush's arrogant rejection of criticisms (see here) that his Administration broke the law will no doubt fall away if Congress shows any spine on this issue, just as Cheney's indefensible defense of the right of the Administration to torture fell away when McCain refused to cave in to pressure. Bullies always back down if you have the nerve to stand up to them.

The real reason for the still unexplained failure to use the FISA Court seems to be a combination of fear of someone finding out the extent of surveillance by counting the number of warrants requested and a desire to continue to increase the kingly power of Bush by surreptitiously increasing the scope of Executive Privilege. Also note the important point made by commentator jtw to the Defensetech posting that the original story has already been spun to make it appear that the issue only involved 'international' communications, when it probably goes much further (after all, since they already hid what they were up to, who is to say how far it really goes?).