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Senator Blumenthal in town to talk of FISA reform

Senator Richard Blumental speaks at the National Constitution Center
Senator Richard Blumental speaks at the National Constitution Center
Alex Lloyd Gross

Imagine a court in the United States that meets in secret, the judges are secret and only the government presents a case. You would think it's out of a science fiction movie but, it is a reality. FISA ( Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court) exists in Washington DC. It does meet in secret and it's rulings have a profound effect on the country.

Senator Richard Blumenthal ( Connecticut) wants to make some amendments to that. He has a lot of support. He spoke today, March 18 2014 at the National Constitution Center . "We need an advocate for the people" and that is what he is proposing. Currently, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court picks the judges and that is final. No confirmation hearing, nothing.

"Why don't we allow the Chief District Court Judge select who they would like to see as a judge and that appointment is approved by the Chief Justice"? asked the Senator.

The FISA court does not hear criminal cases and does not sentence defendants to prison or probation. What they do is hear the governments case in secret, when the government wants to to surveillance for Homeland Security cases, they approach this secret court, present their case, and the judges okay it.

Proponents of the FISA court are against any criticism calling it a rubber stamp. However, the cases are held in secret. The rulings are secret. So in short, we have judges that are appointed by the government, hear only the government's side of the facts and rule. In theory, if the FISA Court Judges go against the government's case too many times, is it possible that the government would remove that judge from the bench in favor of a more friendly judge?

During Blumenthal's talk, he reiterated that the need for security is paramount but "As an judge, you need to hear both sides of the argument. He also expressed concern that a lot of Americans are not up to date on what this court does. The masses are dumbed down and more people can tell you about Dancing With the Stars than how a ruling that allows the government to collect metadata on each of it's citizens affects them.

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