United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISC) was established in 1978 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It is a federal court.
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 F.B.I.). 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
Vacancy warning level
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. Because of the almost perfect record of the Department of Justice in obtaining the surveillance warrants and other powers it requested from 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 periods 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 be from 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.
The court meets in Washington D.C..
- Federal Judicial History of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
- Rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
- FISA FAQ
- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Orders 1979-2007
|2.1 Active Judges|
|2.1.1 Article III judges|
|2.1.2 Pending appointments|
|2.1.3 Senior judges|
|2.1.4 Special masters|
|2.2 Past judges|
|2.2.1 Former Chief judges|
|2.2.2 Former judges|
Sitting judgesSee: Article III federal judge
The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has 11 posts. The current Chief Judge is John Bates. This is a list of the current judges on the court:
|Judge James Zagel||1941||Chicago, IL||Reagan||5/18/2008 - 5/18/2015||U. of Chicago, B.A., 1962||Harvard Law School, J.D., 1965|
|Judge Jennifer Coffman||1948||Union City, TN||Clinton||5/19/2011 - 5/18/2018||U. of Kentucky, BA, 1969||U. of Kentucky College of Law, JD, 1978|
|Judge Susan Carter||1948||Texarkana, AR||H.W. Bush||5/18/2009 - 5/18/2016||Randolph-Macon Woman`s College, B.A., 1970||U. of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law, J.D., 1975|
|Judge Dennis Saylor||1955||Royal Oak, MI||W. Bush||5/19/2011 - 5/18/2018||Northwestern U., B.S., 1977||Harvard U. Law, J.D., 1981|
|Judge Mary McLaughlin||1946||Philadelphia, PA||Clinton||5/18/2008 - 5/18/2015||Gwynedd-Mercy College, B.A., 1968||U. of Pennsylvania Law School, J.D., 1976|
|Judge Clyde Roger Vinson||1940||Cadiz, KY||Reagan||5/04/2006 - 5/18/2013||Naval Academy, B.A., 1962||Vanderbilt University Law School, J.D., 1971|
|Judge Malcolm Howard||1939||Kinston, NC||Reagan||5/19/2005 - 5/18/2012||U.S. Military Academy, West Point, B.S., 1962||Wake Forest Law, J.D., 1970|
|Judge Martin Feldman||1934||St. Louis, MO||Reagan||5/19/2010 - 5/18/2017||Tulane U., B.A., 1955||Tulane Law, J.D., 1957|
|Judge Thomas Hogan||1938||Washington, D.C.||Reagan||5/18/2009 - 5/18/2016||Georgetown '60||Goergetown Law '66|
|Judge Reggie Walton||1949||North Charleroi, PA||W. Bush||5/19/2007 - 5/18/2014||West Virginia State College '71||American U. Law '74|
There are no current pending appointments for the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Former Chief judges
There are no current judges in this category. In order to qualify for the office of Chief Judge in one of the federal courts, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as Chief Judge. A vacancy in the office of Chief Judge is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The Chief Judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position. Unlike the Chief Justice of the United States, a Chief Judge returns to active service after the expiration of his or her term and does not create a vacancy on the bench by the fact of his or her promotion. See 28 U.S.C. § 45.
These rules for Chief Judges in the federal judiciary have been in effect since October 1, 1982. The office of Chief Judge was created in 1948. Until August 6, 1959, the position was filled in each federal court by the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire on what has since 1958 been known as senior status or declined to serve as Chief Judge. From then until 1982 it was filled by the senior such judge who had not turned 70.
There are no judges listed for this court.
|Former Article III judges|
|Former Chief judges|