Thursday, July 4, 2013

Is the FISA Court a Rubber Stamp

The FISA court is just a rubber stamp”, I keep hearing this from those that think the government is seeking to spy on and control the American people. Critics point to the extremely high approval rate for government requests for warrants which they say indicates that the court is just a rubber stamp. But there are two possibilities for the high approval rate, either the court is a rubber stamp and approves all requests just because the government is asking OR the requests the court receives are in fact valid with due cause so the court has no reason to turn them down.
There is another piece of data that can help us determine which of the two above possibilities is more likely and that is the number of requests for warrants. If the court was just a rubber stamp, you would expect to see a large number of requests; if warrants were automatic, the government would abuse the process and would be requesting warrants to look into dealings of all kinds, legitimate and illegitimate resulting in a large number of warrant requests. If, on the other hand, the court was actually judging warrant requests professionally in a case by case manner, you would expect to see a relatively small number of warrants requested. In that case the government would only request warrants in a few instances where they are justified and would not abuse the system knowing that to do so would result in a high turn down rate. The fact that there are only a small number of warrant requests and a very high approval rate would tend to support the likelihood that the court is not simply a rubber stamp and that the government is not requesting warrants except where they are justified. 

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