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United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

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Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Judges: 11
Posts: 11
Vacancies: 0
Active judges
Senior Judges
Former Judges
(Numbers indicate % of seats vacant.)
More than 40%

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.[1][2]

Vacancy warning level

The United States Court of International Trade's vacancy warning level is green. The court currently has no vacancies out of eleven posts.

Pending nominations

There are no pending nominations for the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Active judges

Sitting judges

JudgeBornHomeAppointed byActiveChiefPreceededBachelorsLaw
Judge James Zagel1941Chicago, ILReagan 4/22/1987-PresentFrank McGarrUniversity of Chicago,1962Harvard Law School, 1965
Senior Judge Susan Carter1948Texarkana, ARH.W. Bush 1/24/1990-8/22/20131998-2005Elsijane RoyRandolph-Macon Woman`s College, 1970University of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law, 1975
Judge Dennis Saylor1955Royal Oak, MIW. Bush 6/2/2004-PresentRobert KeetonNorthwestern University, 1977Harvard University Law, 1981
Senior Judge Raymond Dearie1944Rockville Center, NYReagan 03/19/1986-04/02/20112007-2011New Seat|98 Stat. 333Fairfield University, 1966St. John's University School of Law, 1969
Senior Judge Mary McLaughlin1946Philadelphia, PAClinton 5/30/2000-11/18/2013Marvin KatzGwynedd-Mercy College, 1968University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1976
Judge Claire Eagan1950Bronx, NYW. Bush 10/24/2001-Present2005-2012Thomas R. BrettTrinity College, 1972Fordham Law School, 1976
Judge Martin Feldman1934St. Louis, MOReagan 10/5/1983-PresentJack GordonTulane University, 1955Tulane Law School, 1957
Judge Michael Mosman1956Eugene, ORW. Bush 9/26/2003-PresentRobert E. JonesUtah State University, 1981Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School, 1984
Senior Judge Thomas Hogan1938Washington, D.C.Reagan 8/20/1982-5/1/20082001-2008William BryantGeorgetown University, 1960Georgetown Law School, 1966
Judge Rosemary Collyer1945Port Chester, MDW. Bush 11/15/2002-PresentThomas JacksonTrinity College, 1968University of Denver College of Law, 1977
Presiding Judge Reggie Walton1949North Charleroi, PAW. Bush 9/24/2001-PresentStanley SporkinWest Virginia State College, 1971American University Law, 1974


The court possesses limited subject matter jurisdiction across the United States.

Cases heard

Warrant applications
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.


Judicial posts

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.

Former judges

For more information about the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, see former federal judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

See also

External links