Law and Disorder Radio – Secret FISA Court Advocates for the National Security State – Ron Reosti Speech at Left Forum 2013 – Hosts: Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

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Secret Federal FISA Court Advocates for the National Security State

Here on Law and Disorder we’ve discussed the process of the US government expanding its power to get wiretapping permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or FISA court. This is under a provision called Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was originally set to expire in 2009. It did not. We discussed how the FISA court will be accessed by what’s called Lone Wolf Authority or National Security Letter Authority, whereby the FBI can write a letter to the court without suspicion of terrorism and get bank, telephone and internet records.

The 11-member FISA Court has been central to allowing a massive surveillance state to exist by granting US agencies such as the NSA access to private telecommunication data. Today, the FISA court essentially operates as an advocate for the national security state. Its judicial oversight now parallels the Supreme Court. But more troubling, these FISA court judges operate in complete secrecy and base their decisions on hearing only one side the argument, the US government’s.

Scott Horton:

The Nixon Administration attempted to use “intelligence gathering” as a justification. Congress reacted to that by saying we’re not going to agree that the government has the right to wiretap people in the United States on the grounds of intelligence gathering. We’re going to require this judicial check, so Congress created this special court, the FISA court.

The court has been around for a long time, but it’s become a far more significant entity, doing much more work after 9/11.

It has 11 judges. The judges are selected by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.

The judges are picked from courts all around the country.

It’s not a secret court in that we know that it exists. It is a secret court in that it operates in secret.

Literally, the public doesn’t know what papers are filed with it and doesn’t know about its decision.

That’s a highly controversial matter because decisions by federal courts constitute law.

This means that this court is manufacturing secret laws that the people don’t know about.

We don’t know the jurisprudence of this court, we don’t know its decisions, we don’t know the full rationale for all its decisions because most of them have been secret.

It is very aggressively expanding the power and authority of the NSA in surveillance areas.

  • This is a court picked by Roberts who share his attitude. Out of 11 judges we have 10 Republican appointees. It’s very well known that Roberts looks very closely to select only judges who reflect his attitudes about the national security state.
  • It is a cherry-picked court. A conservative perspective which is quite hostile to civil liberties.
  • The court has become an advocate for national intelligence services.
  • It really puts the whole institution of the court under a cloud right now.
  • If you want to disperse that cloud you would make sure those judges are representatives of the country.
  • The legal reasoning and interpretation of statutes that should be there for people to see and know and understand and criticize.
  • Telecoms: Here they are service providers dealing with consumers, lying to their clients and allowing the government free access to all this information.
  • That is a criminal act under various statutes of states including New Jersey and Maine. That have rules that say they may not allow governments, investigators access to this information other than pursuant to a government subpoena or court order.
  • This court is sweeping away core rights and making a joke out of the 4th Amendment.
  • Whistleblower damage control strategy: A program to deflect attention from the disclosures themselves.
  • There is a move afoot to take this out on the American service providers who cooperate with the NSA, Verizon, AT&T, Google and so forth.

Guest – Scott Horton, human rights lawyer and contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. He attended Texas Law School in Austin and was a partner in a large New York law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.

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Left Forum 2013: Ron Reosti

Capitalists are not necessary to run firms, nor to run macro-economies and investment, says Ron Reosti in his presentation at the Left Forum Panel titled “Imagine Living in a Socialist USA, Part 2: Making the American Socialist Revolution.”

Speaker – Ron Reosti. His Italian parents imparted to him a working-class identity, a sense of social justice, a belief in the possibility of social change, a commitment to democracy, and a hatred of the undemocratic ruling class. He embraced socialism in his early teens, during the McCarthy era, and has remained committed to that vision. He practices law and is part of the radical community in Detroit.