Reforms Recommended for Secretive Surveillance Court

In order to better guard privacy and civil liberties, an Obama administration review group has recommended reforms involving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has been in the media spotlight this year.

 A Blog of Legal Times article said the group recommended in its 303-page report the following changes:

  • SELECTION: No longer would the United States Chief Justice have sole authority to appoint jurists to the secretive court. That authority would be divided up among all justices, who would be able to name one or two FISC judges from within the circuits each justice oversees.
  • PUBLIC ADVOCATE: The reviewers recommended that FISC hear arguments not only from the Justice Department but also from a to-be created Public Advocate, whose job “would be to represent the interests of those whose rights of privacy or civil liberties might be at stake.”
  • DISCLOSURE: The reviewers recommended greater transparency, saying “[I]n order to further the rule of law, FISC opinions or, when appropriate, redacted versions of FISC opinions, should be made public in a timely manner, unless secrecy of the opinion is essential to the effectiveness of a properly classified program.”
Members of the review group were Richard Clarke, Michael Morrell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire. A USA Today article about the overall report was headlined, “Intel panel recommends sweeping changes on surveillance.”

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