PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — A Southland lawmaker wants to improve oversight of a secretive court panel after revelations of extensive government monitoring of Americans’ phone calls and emails.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) will introduce legislation this week which would require that the 11 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The bill would maintain the current seven-year term of service on the FISC.
The FISC, a special U.S. federal court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, is tasked with reviewing and authorizing requests for surveillance authorities for national security purposes.
Schiff told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO that because of the sensitive nature of these requests, the FISC is a “secret court” and FISC rulings, orders, and other deliberations are highly classified.
“Giving Senate confirmation will let the American people through that confirmation process vet just who these judges are, what they’re views are on the Fourth Amendment, how they balance privacy and security issues,” Schiff said.
The FISC was originally composed of seven district judges, from seven different circuits throughout the country, appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve for a maximum of seven years.
In 2001, the Patriot Act increased the number of judges on the court from seven to eleven, with three required to live within 20 miles of the District of Columbia. The Chief Justice appoints a Presiding Judge for the court from amongst these eleven judges, and also appoints three judges to serve on the Court of Review, the venue for government appeals of FISC rulings.
As a result of the current selection process, 10 of the 11 judges currently serving on the FISC were appointed to the federal bench by presidents from the Republican Party — a pattern that the Democratic Schiff said needs to be broken.
“It’s not a very diverse court in the sense of what President appointed the judge,” he added.
Schiff, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, added he expects bipartisan support for the legislation once it is introduced either Thursday or Friday.