Advertisement

Op-Ed: Shedding light on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

July 30, 2013|By Reps. Adam Schiff and Todd Rokita

The recent leaks of NSA programs to the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers have awakened a strong desire among many Americans to know more about how the Intelligence Community conducts its business.

Americans expect their government to do the utmost to protect our country, but that cannot mean trading our 4th Amendment right to privacy for the promise of security. Most Americans understand the need to “connect the dots” to avoid another 9/11, as long as the intelligence community has a legitimate need for the information it seeks and is no more intrusive than absolutely necessary.

Oversight is essential, and to the maximum degree possible, so is transparency.

When Congress first created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in 1978, it did so knowing that the Court would, by necessity, conduct much of its work in secret, as it was specially designed to handle highly classified requests from intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Advertisement

However, the FISC does more than simply review and approve individualized warrant requests. The Court interprets and construes the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, applying legal and constitutional principles, much like any other federal court. The difference between the FISC and every other court in the United States is that there is no opposing counsel, and their interpretation of the law is highly classified and stays that way by law for 30 years.

For individual orders that refer specifically to sources and methods of intelligence gathering, secrecy is a necessary evil that is completely understandable. We don’t want Al Qaeda to know how or when we may have access to their communications. But releasing the generalized legal reasoning of the judges and the Justice Department would do nothing to inform or aid our enemies. Instead, it would inform the American people about how the laws that their representatives have passed are being used and interpreted — and give them fuller information to debate the merits of an approach and its results.

Burbank Leader Articles Burbank Leader Articles
|
|
|