Did you know John Roberts is also chief justice of the NSA’s surveillance state?Submitted by Ian56 on Sat, 07/06/2013 - 04:57
Chief justice of the United States is a pretty big job. You lead the Supreme Court conferences where cases are discussed and voted on. You preside over oral arguments. When in the majority, you decide who writes the opinion. You get a cool robe that you can decorate with awesome gold stripes.
Oh, and one more thing: You have exclusive, unaccountable, lifetime power to shape the surveillance state.
Chief Justice John Roberts decides who watches the spies. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
To use its surveillance powers — tapping phones or reading e-mails — the federal government must ask permission of the court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A FISA judge can deny the request or force the government to limit the scope of its investigation. It’s the only plausible check in the system. Whether it actually checks government surveillance power or acts as a rubber stamp is up to whichever FISA judge presides that day.
The 11 FISA judges, chosen from throughout the federal bench for seven-year terms, are all appointed by the chief justice. In fact, every FISA judge currently serving was appointed by Roberts, who will continue making such appointments until he retires or dies. FISA judges don’t need confirmation — by Congress or anyone else.
No other part of U.S. law works this way. The chief justice can’t choose the judges who rule on health law, or preside over labor cases, or decide software patents. But when it comes to surveillance, the composition of the bench is entirely in his hands, and, as a result, so is the extent to which the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can spy on citizens.
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