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Top secret gavel
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) elevated the issue of NSA transparency Tuesday, asking the president's nominee for the FBI directorship, James Comey, whether he would support the declassification of the secret FISA court's opinions allowing for dragnet surveillance. Comey's answer was sort of a "maybe," but the encouraging thing is Schumer asked.

He's joined other Democrats in leadership positions saying that, at the least, they'd be open to considering asking for more transparency in these programs. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have legislation that would declassify key opinions so that Congress could know what in the hell the secret court is doing with their laws. A previous version of the bill, on the floor last December, got 37 votes. Now that the NSA leaks have led to the revelation that the FISA court is building up a vast new national security body of law that extends beyond what the court was created to do—oversee foreign intelligence—maybe that support would grow.

Here's more bolstering for calls for reform: a former FISA judge, who served on the court until 2005, when he resigned in protest of the Bush/Cheney warrantless wiretapping, says the court is flawed.

“Anyone who has been a judge will tell you a judge needs to hear both sides of a case,” said James Robertson, a former federal district judge based in Washington who served on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for three years between 2002 and 2005. Robertson spoke during a Tuesday hearing of a federal oversight board directed by President Barack Obama to scrutinize government spying.

Robertson questioned whether the secret FISA court should provide overall legal approval for the surveillance programs, saying the court “has turned into something like an administrative agency.”

It is more like an administrative agency than an actual court, since courts in America are created to hear both sides of a case, but it's not even like a normal agency of government because it operates entirely in secret, with no congressional oversight. And all of its decisions are classified. That's a problem in a system where rule of law is supposed to include transparency.

Calls for transparency seem to be picking up steam. So let's keep it going. Sign our petition urging Congress to declassify the FISA court’s rulings.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 01:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 01:21:32 PM PDT

  •  Congress? Warming? (7+ / 0-)

    Congress do anything reasonable or sensible...???  You're kidding..., right?

    What are you?  An optimist?

    I'll believe it if/when I see it.

    I think the idea which they would actually warm to is adding more secrets..., which would not make me happy at all.

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 01:28:43 PM PDT

  •  I believe oversight is what we should (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CwV, jeff in nyc, DownstateDemocrat

    be focusing on.  Surveillance is here to stay whether we like it ore not.  As long as we transmit data over networks we don't personally own that data will be monitored.  Strict oversight and safeguards against abuse are key.

    •  Thank you! (0+ / 0-)

      What a logical and pragmatic approach.
      The devil, of course, will be in how that oversight is done, what those safeguards consist of.

      If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

      by CwV on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 01:39:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Says who? You? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Klusterpuck, aliasalias, quill
      Surveillance is here to stay whether we like it ore not.  

      Those declarative sentences make you sound authoritative, when in fact you're just another visitor positing their opinion on a blog.

    •  Surveillance is only here to stay if (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Klusterpuck, aliasalias, quill

      those who have the greatest influence on the established mainstream culture, and their ardent supporters, allow it to be. There are many things they could choose to change but do not because the status quo is too comfortable and confrontation and real change too uncomfortable.

      The establishment defenders own the mainstream culture, which now includes surveillance. They are responsible, whether they choose to accept it or not. Just as they own the concentration of wealth, the foreclosure travesty,  climate change, drones, etc. It is their abject failure to reject these things and their supporters and instead to support those who resist and rebel that makes these things possible.

      The reason the 1% is so powerful is that 99% of the 99% has a sleeping sickness. ☮ ♥ ☺

      by Words In Action on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 02:24:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's the dilemma. This hurts the President, so (0+ / 0-)

    Republicans should be all over it.  However, if they go whole hog, it may result in the entire program being severely curtailed or eliminated.  Something they do NOT want.

    This program is in place for when THEY get back into power.

    Then no liberal non fundamentalist will be safe.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 01:38:33 PM PDT

    •  "Then no liberal non fundamentalist will be safe." (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Klusterpuck, aliasalias, quill, blueoregon


      Which is only one reason why the entire Democratic Party, not just the DFHs, should be emphatically opposed.

      This information will not be used for good purposes. And these tools will be used mostly against progressives. It has always been thus.

      Insisting that this will make us more secure is...foolhardy at best.

      The reason the 1% is so powerful is that 99% of the 99% has a sleeping sickness. ☮ ♥ ☺

      by Words In Action on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 02:27:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which is why they aren't (0+ / 0-)

      going after it.

      They love these levers of power.

      “Washington has become our Versailles. We are ruled, entertained, and informed by courtiers -- and the media has evolved into a class of courtiers." - Chris Hedges

      by Klusterpuck on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 02:51:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is low hanging fruit, if they can't agree on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jeff in nyc

    just more transparency, they can't agree on anything.

  •  The same Sen. Schumer (9+ / 0-)

    who wants to smash South American countries who dare challenge our hegemony?

    End secret courts altogether. FISA was passed as a poor and unconstitutional compromise when the "national security state" proved too powerful for the likes of Sen. Church and Rep. Pike. A secret court isn't a court, it's fiat. The Fourth Amendment has no "national security" exception.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 01:45:57 PM PDT

    •  Yes! (0+ / 0-)

      Absolutely this.  What kind of court only hears one side, with secret briefs, and then issues a secret (and unappealable) opinion?  What kind of court agrees with the government 99.99999% of the time?  That's not a court, it's a rubber stamp.

      It's also disgusting that the President, Mr. I was a Constitutional Law Professor, says "the Courts" have approved this program.  An interesting thing to say for a program that has not been challenged, and in fact may be IMPOSSIBLE to challenge in an actual, constitutional court.  I don't know what they teach up there at Harvard, or what they teach at Chicago, but you wouldn't say a court has approved of something until there's an actual opinion out there you can pull up on Lexis or Westlaw.  And, of course, there is only one Court that can issue an opinion that is binding on all other courts.  

  •  does anyone actually believe that the NSA, CIA, (5+ / 0-)

    and the rest of the alphabet soup will ever, ever, ever give up power and secrecy, and offer up transparency?

    After all, even after congress and the head of the US atty office said, "No, you can't go there,"  they still did.

    sorry, i just do not see this actually happening. Once such a power grab has been made, never is it relinquished.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 02:07:41 PM PDT

  •  Let's expose the FISA court's BS for all to see! (0+ / 0-)

    After that, let's ratchet up the movement to restore the Fourth Amendment rights of the American people!

    "It's not enough to be in the majority, you have to stand for something." -Russ Feingold

    by DownstateDemocrat on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 12:00:04 AM PDT

  •  I'm all for transparency, but please: (0+ / 0-)

    Don't tell the East Germans.


    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 04:47:58 PM PDT

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