By now you’ve heard that the rules say that once a year the DOJ discloses to Congress the number of FISA eavesdropping applications it files and the numbers both approved and rejected by the Court, and that Senator Harry Reid was given the report for 2012 last week.
Glenn Greenwald explained the history of the original 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act recently, and said it was purported to have been the ‘remedy’ to past rampant federal government abuses of its eavesdropping powers that were discovered by the Church Committee Senate hearings. He called the law’s provisions ‘a radical perversion of the judicial process’, in that the FISA court convened in secret, its rulings were classified, the standards of ‘probable cause’ were seriously diluted, and grotesquely, no adversaries to the government ‘evidence’ against a target were permitted in the room. Adding to the irony, the Court itself was housed in the Justice building.
When the New York Times broke the story in 2005 about Bush’s minions breaking the law and listening to phone calls, reading emails, etc. of Americans without obtaining warrants (just too much of a burden, you see), Congress, rather than punishing said officials, passed a new law to legalize it all. We can’t be too secure, you know; nor can Congress-critters asses ever be too secure.
Thus was the FISA Amendments Act of 2008’ created. Ars Technica’s opinion of it can be read here; it’s subtitled ‘Telco immunity is the icing, not the cake’ (that’s a hint).