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Despite NSA Review Panel Recommendation, Public Advocate Position at FISA Court Goes Nowhere

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is supposed to stop abuses of warrantless surveillance power. But out of the thousands of requests for warrantless surveillance made this decade by the administration of President Barack Obama, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has not rejected a single request. Not one. This isn’t surprising; all of the members of the FISC have been appointed by authoritarian Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and only the government with its pro-surveillance stance has any voice before the court.

On December 12, 2013, the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies issued its final report containing 46 recommendations regarding warrantless surveillance. One of these recommendations, Recommendation 28, declares that “Congress should create the position of Public Interest Advocate to represent privacy and civil liberties interests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” H.R. 3159, introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, would do just that. But the House of Representatives has done nothing to consider the bill, not even in committee. The bill has only 2 cosponsors: Rep. Mike Quigley and Rep John Carney.

H.R. 3361, the “USA FREEDOM ACT,” originally contained a provision instituting the position of public advocate to represent privacy and civil liberties concerns. But the Obama administration acted behind the scenes to gut the bill of its more effective provisions, and so the creation of a public advocate position was cut from the final version of the bill. The final version of the USA FREEDOM ACT was so flawed that a majority of its original cosponsors voted against its passage.

Despite the recommendation of the President’s NSA Review Panel in December 2013, the Public Advocate position at the FISA Court shows no sign of actually being created. A court stacked by an authoritarian Chief Justice that only hears the government’s position and hasn’t turned down a single request of the government for electronic surveillance in this whole decade shows every sign of continuing on the same course. With less than a handful of exceptions, our representatives in Washington, DC haven’t lifted a finger to change that course.

3 thoughts on “Despite NSA Review Panel Recommendation, Public Advocate Position at FISA Court Goes Nowhere”

  1. Tom says:

    How much more evidence do you need that American democracy is dead and won’t be resuscitated? For years now we’ve been witnessing the government going rogue, paying no mind to vast protest (or even the law) and despite different parties at the helm all we ever get is the continuation of corporate policy over the health and well-being of the citizenry. All our so-called watch-dog agencies are toothless or manned by people from the same industries they’re supposed to regulate, Congress is a well paid, do-nothing organization, the President is a puppet and everyone has seen how off-the-rails the Just-Us department has gone in solidifying corporate control of the levers of power. Voting is a waste of time and money, the Constitution has been decimated and you’re surprised by the fact that our government no longer works?

    Come on Jim, you know as well as I that all we’re doing now is documenting the dismantling of the U.S. Our infrastructure is rotting away, health care has become a money sucking shuck and jive operation where they keep you alive long enough to drain your bank account and then suddenly there’s no more they can do to help you, wages have been stagnant for years and even our currency is becoming obsolete in world business. It won’t take much to tip us into the big collapse where there’s no money or energy to fix all that’s wrong.

    It looks as if the NSA and Homeland Security are running the show now.

  2. Tom says:

    Federal Employee Gets Fired After Writing An Article Criticizing Nukes

    For 17 years, James Doyle was a nuclear policy specialist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he wrote an article that made the case for getting rid of nuclear weapons. After that, his computer was seized, he was accused of releasing classified information, and then he was fired. What happened?

    The article, “Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons?,” appeared in the journal Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, which is published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the UK. It’s not exactly a household name, but the journal has been a publishing venue for prominent academics and policy wonks since it was founded in the Cold War (hence, its rather alarmist-sounding name).

    Doyle’s piece wasn’t an anti-government rant, but a lengthy argument that nuclear weapons had lost their strategic utility and value as a deterrent, that getting rid of them would enhance international security, and that this was an ideal point in time to get serious about global disarmament. In fact, Doyle praised President Obama’s vision:

    Obama said in Prague that the elimination of nuclear weapons might not be achieved in his lifetime, but 2045 – 34 years from now, when Obama will be 84 – will mark the 100th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. Three-and-a-half decades is time enough for the world to transition away from the ideology of nuclear deterrence and to dismantle the system of nuclear forces deployed in the name of national defense. Each passing year will bring the need to support Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons more sharply into focus. The international community has the opportunity to honor the memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by eliminating nuclear weapons from the arsenals of the world within a century after they were unleashed.

    This ain’t radical stuff. There are plenty of people who disagree with Doyle, but bigger names than him—including Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara and Graham Allison—have called for working towards nuclear abolition now that the Cold War is over.

    But, at the time, Doyle was working as a contractor at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which receives about $2 billion annually to support activities that include the research, design and development of nuclear weapons. Awkward.

    The events leading up to Doyle’s dismissal are chronicled in a new report by the government watchdog group, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). [there’s more]

  3. J Clifford says:

    Thanks, Jim, for documenting what has become increasingly clear: The supposed NSA reforms are a sham.

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