Obama Proposes Outside Panel for Advocacy at Surveillance Court

When President Obama announced on Friday a series of reforms to the National Security Agency’s phone record surveillance program, he also proposed a way for a public advocate to represent privacy and consumer interests in certain cases before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Obama proposed creating a panel comprised of advocates for civil liberty, technology and privacy interests, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper went on to summarize his proposal this way:

“Their job will be to represent Americans, but only when the FISA court faces ‘novel issues of law,’ according to a senior administration official. In other words, those advocates will become involved when the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court encounters a question or type of data it hasn’t dealt with before. But officials Friday weren’t clear about whether they would be called in by the court or if they could weigh in of their own volition.”

There has been debate about changing the way judges on the surveillance court are chosen. Obama passed by a recommendation that they be chosen by appeals courts judges, the New York Times said, instead of by the Chief Justice of the United States. It added, “Mr. Obama is not opposed to overhauling that process, administration officials said, but such a change would have to be authorized by Congress and he did not want to appear to be targeting the chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr.”

Obama announced that he will require U.S. intelligence agencies to get the surveillance court’s permission before they can tap into massive collections of telephone data. A Blog of Legal Times gave more detail about his statements involving the court, and a transcript of his speech is available by clicking here.


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