On March 18, TCP and the National Constitution Center hosted a panel discussion, “Lifting the Veil on the FISA Court,” in Philadelphia, PA. Keynote speaker Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) discussed his recently proposed bills to move the one-sided, secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) towards greater accountability, and to ensure that the intelligence community operates within the rule of law. Drawing on his experience as a prosecutor, Senator Blumenthal explained the essential role of adversarial process in judicial decision-making and provided details of his proposals to appoint a special advocate to represent the public interest.
Following Senator Blumenthal’s remarks, a panel of experts—M.E. “Spike” Bowman, former Deputy General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy for the Project on Government Oversight; Alexander Joel, Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and Judge James Robertson, a former FISA Court judge and member of The Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee–discussed ways to reform the FISC to make it more transparent and accountable. The National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen moderated the discussion.
A number of solutions to the problem of the secret FISA Court have been proposed—by legislators, Intelligence Community officials, sitting and former judges, and privacy advocates alike. Most recently, the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board have suggested reforms. While responding to these proposals, the panelists brought a wide range of opinions to the table, but all agreed that adding more adversarial process would be a critical step towards ensuring greater transparency and accountability in FISA Court decision-making. The Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee will be analyzing the various proposals, framing the constitutional questions, and providing recommendations in its forthcoming study, “The Case for a FISA Special Advocate.”
Full video from the event can be viewed here.
Photos from the event can be viewed here.