Are the FISA courts even more secretive than we thought?

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In the wake of NSA scandal, government surveillance techniques have been under increased scrutiny. The main defense of NSA supporters revolves around the actions of a small and secretive court that originated from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a fascinating story that looked into the inner workings of one the nation’s most enigmatic magistrates – the FISA courts.

“Did you see in the Washington Post this weekend, this amazing story about what was built underneath the Capitol museum,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “Remember that Capitol museum cost, what, three quarters of a billion dollars to build? And I’m walking through the Capitol museum a couple of weeks ago and I’m like, that doesn’t look like a three quarter of a billion dollar building.”

The Capitol Visitor Center remodel, which was commissioned under President George W. Bush, cost a small fortune, but there was very little pushback from Republicans or Democrats. Based on the information in the Washington Post article, Glenn believes we are now beginning to figure out why.

“Nobody had a problem with the three quarters of a billion dollar Capitol Visitors Complex… Now we are beginning to figure out why,” Glenn said. “The Washington Post had an amazing story this weekend about the secret meetings that happened way below the Capitol Visitors Complex. The Visitors Complex was a ruse. They built the Visitors Complex to make us believe they were building this stupid museum. There was a lot of infrastructure that’s underneath the Visitors Complex… I’ve never believed in the Star Chamber. I’ve never believed there are secret courts going on and things like that. I know the FISA court, but not Star Chamber stuff.”

Glenn is specifically referring to the opening of the Washington Post article, in which it becomes clear there is a lot happening below the surface of the Capitol Visitors Center:

Wedged into a secure, windowless basement room deep below the Capitol Visitors Center, U.S. District Court Judge John Bates appeared before dozens of senators earlier this month for a highly unusual, top-secret briefing.

The lawmakers pressed Bates, according to people familiar with the session, to discuss the inner workings of the United States’ clandestine terrorism surveillance tribunal, which Bates oversaw from 2006 until earlier this year.

Perhaps that more alarming part of the article comes a few paragraphs later, when the decisions and actions of the court are described as Supreme Court-style:

Critics, including some with knowledge of the court’s internal operations, say the court has undergone a disturbing shift. It was created in 1978 to handle routine surveillance warrants, but these critics say it is now issuing complex, classified, Supreme Court-style rulings that are quietly expanding the government’s reach into the private lives of unwitting Americans.

(emphasis added)

“So basically who they can monitor, who they can’t, who they can kill, who they can’t. I’m not comfortable with the Star Chamber underneath the Capitol. Is anybody else,” Glenn asked.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke at the progressive Netroots Nation conference over the weekend, and she faced a less-than-friendly audience that took issue with the lack of transparency in the NSA/FISA court system:

PELOSI: [Snowden] did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents. We don’t know. I understand. I understand. I understand. But it did violate the law, and the fact is – and the fact is that, again, we have to have the balance.

“I like that ‘you suck’ in the background there,” Pat said.

“They were not only saying ‘you suck,’ they were also saying, ‘No secret courts. No secret courts,’” Glenn said.

There are a lot of things progressives and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans disagree on, but reducing the overt secretiveness of the FISA court system is something we can all agree on.

“And this is something that we can unite on,” Glenn concluded.

  • http://www.artinphoenix.com/gallery/grimm snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    Communism at its finest; if we do not dismantle this monstrosity then its game over for the nation.

  • landofaahs

    I think the surveillance is even worse than anyone can imagine.

  • landofaahs

    If people began dropping TV(they know what you’re watching too), just one computer and limit minutes on cells, we could hurt the bottom line of the companies that enable our govt. and them to spy on us.  Money speaks the loudest.

  • landofaahs

    FISA.  (Facism Inside Socialist America.)

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htXuNPBko3Q Sam Fisher

    Tell me why does Obama need secret courts it sounds like Nazism to me.

  • Anonymous

    just gotta love when the pos’s say when someone breaks the constitution but everyone of them do it and every day at that and what it is ok ??? kick alll their a@! out of our house

  • jen

    These secret courts from 1978 spans both repub and dem admin equally – there is no repub vrs dem in FISA issue or any other issue – they are one.

    This Nazism of FISA and underground meeting place that cost a fortune and yet no one reports on it and no politicians raise questions is indeed the combination of repub/dem parties/politicians.  Repub are no better than dems – same evil agenda.

    This was built up during Bush admin – so of course Obama will use it too since conservatives voted to fund it.

  • Coll

    Weather ‘Underground’ literally!

  • Anonymous

    Is everyone that surprised this is not going to get anything but much worse we as Americans just get to sit at the back of the show  666 anyone coming soon to a child near to you.

  • Anonymous

    Well ,finally we have people that have the cahonies to come forward ..but still the fear of death still haunts them,and rightfully so…look at how many mysterious death have happened every time someone brings into a new true revelation on the government.. the parisites that suck the very essence out of humanities…we are so compacent as to our own government ruling us that we havent kept an eye on any of them..we have been a trusting society .. that is until now..now finally we have courageous people , willing to sacrifice it all to wake us up, they  have come forward…we need to listen, be vigilant, ask questions..and dont just trust anymore.. we need to make the government  prove everything that they are doing .. no more just fancy speaches, no more games ( read it before you know what is in it )  no more back door antics… enough already..what is happening with the new  info on FISA  should be taken very very seriously, dont just shrug sholders and say ” well thats government ”  BULL pucky..  we need to stop all this secrecy .. we the people are being duped..  got it .. DUPED..  what is the big Plan ?  what is the end game ?  are we looking at Marshal law ?  Internment camps ? total take over so they can have total control … dont let this happen  we still have time to fight this ?  dont just say  ” we cant do anything ”   we can and we must..  bring our troops home to protect our own .. pull out of every country world wide, stop sending monies to countries that hate us..we deserve what we fight for, if we dont, we deserve what the government gives us .. I will take choice # 1

  • Anonymous

    “Dr. Strangelove” anyone??

  • Anonymous

    Nancy Pelosi’s face looks like wax. Where’s Vincent Price when we need him.

  • StealthTSX

    I guess the M.I.B. Men in Black really do exist in our country. Next we’ll see the aliens pot out of Obama, Pelosi, Reid & Feinstein!!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htXuNPBko3Q Sam Fisher

    I am sick of Washington stupidity.

  • Bonnie Somer

    u bet and if we do nothing we r as much at fault.  time to get rid of the people in govt now and start from square one.   we the people need to demand it and vote these people out.  the sadness is that i am now down to 10 of the 535 members of congress i still like that is pretty bad.   u r correct 

  • Bonnie Somer

    i say go bk to paper everything and c people in person put our docs bk on paper only and get off the net

  • Anonymous

    Hey Glenn,  Do you still think Snowden is a hero?  He stole terabytes of American security information and relies on communists to protect him.  Sure the communists will protect him because they want our information.  Snowden is a traitor and a criminal.  You’re foolish for praising such a despicable person.

  • Anonymous

    So how exactly is this news? There hae always been secret societies running America. Everyine just figured they were in remore locations. But hiding in plain sight so to speak? Positively igenious, nobody would have ever guessed. Ever since official buildings were built in Washington DC there have been rooms and passageways used for shadow government things. They have to be used for something, there is a whole bunch of room down in the basement and the corridor leading to various buildings and the congressional subway only takes up a tiny part. Wouldn’t be surprised if there was a whole city going on underground just like at Disney parks. You honestly didn’t know this?

  • Anonymous

    yes, in the modern era a true American hero is defined by obtaining a job (under false pretenses) with the (subsequently) express intention of breaking a Federal law pertaining to National Security in order to fulfill his self defined duty of guardian of the Constitution. Oh, and rather than retain an attorney who negotiates his surrender to Federal authorities so that he stand trial for his crimes and obtains all of the media coverage necessary to plead his motive, he cuts and runs. Hong Kong? Russia? Yeah, exactly what patriots of prior generations did. And his associates–he has Julian Assange on his team; another fine patriot (which country might be a good question–I guess he claims world citizenry).

    In the moral relativism that defines Glenn Beck, Snowden is a hero because he fights the dictator Obama. To Beck a hero and patriot is someone who helps to fulfill Beck’s narrative. When Glenn first made that pronouncement, I commented that there has to be a backstory–we should wait and see. The back story is not out completely yet. I am not swayed by commentaters and politicians–who cares what they think about Snowden.  If he had stayed in the states and faced the charges, he would at least be a man of principle. But in essence, he is no better than Glenn’s favorite irrelevant whipping boy, SDS leader Bill Ayers. Breaks federal and state laws as some form of political protest (c’mon now a revolution? like that had a chance of happening) and goes on the lam. I despised the guy then as much as I do now for the very same reason. Do the crime-pay the time.  

  • Anonymous

    Well said. Putting a legitimate debate about information collection aside, the bottom line for me is that Snowden jeopardized my country’s efforts to thwart terrorism, something that tax payers paid a lot of money for and soldiers paid a lot more for.

  • Anonymous

    IF this is true, IF we don’t change directions very very fast,,,,”We the People” are screwed.

  • Mike Nelson

    On principle I want to agree with you… but when a rogue president and a Legislature acting as Pilate did (“I wash my hands of this…”) are the alternative, I think we need to look closely at Snowden and find out what his true motivations really are.

    Sadly, there will be no such revelation until long after:

    1.) he is killed, or
    2.) he has “gone missing”, or
    3.) 20 years has passed and no one can get into trouble anymore

    I am certain only of one thing: the divisive culture of “change” and the selfish and willfully blind eye of the toothless media “watching dog” are the root cause of this act.

    Maybe Snowden is a modern day Audie Murphy.  Maybe he’s a Benedict Arnold.

    I reckon he thinks of himself more as an American than anything else, and he’s said all of the right things to bolster that view, imo.

    After all, would you take the word of Obama’s NSA first?  Or the guy who rebelled against it, and told everyone what they are really doing, and is now running for his life?

  • Anonymous

    One’s view on Snowden is obviously influenced by their trust in government. I know enough excellent government employees in high places (in agencies, not politicians, which I don’t trust) to believe the intent of the data collection program is to thwart terrorism. We’d love to know Snowden’s true motives and what he stole. Unfortunately, he seems more willing to show the communists than the American people. Snowden’s a Benedict Arnold for not sharing his story honorably. He would have gotten plenty of attention from right wing radio and FOX by quitting his job, and going on air or writing a book.

  • Will

     Fascist? Sure. Socialist? You’ve got to be kidding. The US is one of the least Socialist states in the Western world. It’s very much a Corporatist state. Very little is done unless it benefits corporate interests.