United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

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The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court often referred to by its acronym, FISC, was created when Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The special court's seven judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States. Judges serve for staggered, non-renewable terms of no more than seven years, and must be appointed from different judicial circuits.

The court has received approximately 19,000 requests for warrants, and has only rejected four or five of them. If the court denies a request, that decision may be reviewed by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. In 2001, the Patriot Act modified the court's composition from seven to eleven members, at least three of whom must live within twenty miles of the District of Columbia.

On December 20, 2005, Judge James Robertson resigned from the court, presumably because he objected to the Bush administration's illegal surveillance program against US citizens. In February 2006, he was replaced by Judge John D. Bates.

On January 9, 2006, the FISC Judges held a secret meeign with Justice Department lawyers, presumably to discuss revelations of the illegal surveillance program against US citizens. See Eric Lichtblau. "Judges and Justice Dept. Meet Over Eavesdropping Program." The New York Times. January 10, 2006.

On March 28, 2006, five former FISC judges, including Judge Roberston, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they supported a proposal for the court to review the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping program. ("Judges on Secretive Panel Speak Out on Spy Program ", by Eric Lightblau, New York Times, March 29, 2006)

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