United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was established in 1978 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The purpose of FISC is to oversee requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the United States by federal police agencies (primarily the FBI). The FISA and FISC were a response to a report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities (the “Church Committee”). This committee detailed allegations of executive branch abuses of its authority to conduct domestic electronic surveillance in the interest of national security.
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There are no pending nominations for the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
|Judge James Zagel||1941||Chicago, IL||Reagan||4/22/1987-Present||Frank McGarr||University of Chicago,1962||Harvard Law School, 1965|
|Senior Judge Susan Carter||1948||Texarkana, AR||H.W. Bush||1/24/1990-8/22/2013||1998-2005||Elsijane Roy||Randolph-Macon Woman`s College, 1970||University of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law, 1975|
|Judge Dennis Saylor||1955||Royal Oak, MI||W. Bush||6/2/2004-Present||Robert Keeton||Northwestern University, 1977||Harvard University Law, 1981|
|Senior Judge Raymond Dearie||1944||Rockville Center, NY||Reagan||03/19/1986-04/02/2011||2007-2011||New Seat|98 Stat. 333||Fairfield University, 1966||St. John's University School of Law, 1969|
|Senior Judge Mary McLaughlin||1946||Philadelphia, PA||Clinton||5/30/2000-11/18/2013||Marvin Katz||Gwynedd-Mercy College, 1968||University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1976|
|Judge Claire Eagan||1950||Bronx, NY||W. Bush||10/24/2001-Present||2005-2012||Thomas R. Brett||Trinity College, 1972||Fordham Law School, 1976|
|Judge Martin Feldman||1934||St. Louis, MO||Reagan||10/5/1983-Present||Jack Gordon||Tulane University, 1955||Tulane Law School, 1957|
|Judge Michael Mosman||1956||Eugene, OR||W. Bush||9/26/2003-Present||Robert E. Jones||Utah State University, 1981||Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School, 1984|
|Senior Judge Thomas Hogan||1938||Washington, D.C.||Reagan||8/20/1982-5/1/2008||2001-2008||William Bryant||Georgetown University, 1960||Georgetown Law School, 1966|
|Judge Rosemary Collyer||1945||Port Chester, MD||W. Bush||11/15/2002-Present||Thomas Jackson||Trinity College, 1968||University of Denver College of Law, 1977|
|Presiding Judge Reggie Walton||1949||North Charleroi, PA||W. Bush||9/24/2001-Present||Stanley Sporkin||West Virginia State College, 1971||American University Law, 1974|
The court possesses limited subject matter jurisdiction across the United States.
Warrant applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act are drafted by attorneys in the General Counsel’s Office at the National Security Agency at the request of an officer of one of the federal intelligence agencies. Each application must contain the Attorney General’s certification that the target of the proposed surveillance is either a "foreign power" or "the agent of a foreign power" and, in the case of a U.S. citizen or resident alien, that the target may be involved in the commission of a crime.
The judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court travel to Washington, D.C., to hear these warrant applications on a rotating basis. At least one of the judges is required to be a member of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The act of 1978 also established a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, presided over by three district or appeals court judges designated by the Chief Justice, to review, at the government’s request, the decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.The review court had no occasion to meet until 2002.
FISA originally authorized the Chief Justice of the United States to designate seven federal district court judges to review applications for warrants related to national security investigations. However, the Patriot Act of 2001 (115 Stat. 272) expanded the time period for which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can authorize surveillance and increased the number of judges serving the court from seven to eleven. The Patriot Act also requires that at least three of the judges of the court reside within twenty miles of the District of Columbia.
Judges serve for staggered, non-renewable terms of no more than seven years, and must be from different judicial circuits.
For more information about the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, see former federal judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
- Federal Judicial History of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
- ACLU.org, Rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
- The Electronic Privacy Information Center, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Orders 1979-2007
- National Journal, "Chief Justice John Roberts Appointed Every Judge on the FISA Court," August 12, 2013
- Reuters, "The judges who preside over America's secret court," June 21, 2013
- NPR, "Why the FISA court is not what it used to be," June 18, 2013
- Washington Post, "Google challenges U.S. gag order, citing First Amendment," June 18, 2013
- The Guardian, "US senators bid to force government to reveal secret surveillance rulings," June 11, 2013
- The Washington Post, "The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court: An Infographic," June 7, 2013
- The Guardian, "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily," June 5, 2013
- The Blog of Legal Times, "Civil liberties group asks secret court to release opinion," May 22, 2013
|Former Article III judges|
|Former Chief judges|