Here’s Your Chance To Help Rep. Steve Cohen Change The NSA’s Secret Court

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Representative Steve Cohen wants the National Security Agency’s secret court to be composed of judges who care more about privacy, and he’s crowdsourcing expertise to help craft his bill. The FISA Court Accountability Act would mandate public disclosure of court decisions on NSA monitoring and require any judge appointed to oversee mass surveillance be approved by both the Supreme Court and Congress.

Rep. Cohen is working with us to crowdsource expertise on his bill, via our Project Madison platform, a web utility that allows citizens to make line-by-line suggestions to pending legislation. The best ideas are voted up, so that a congressman’s staff can amend the bills with the best ideas. You can contribute here.

The FISA court, which approves the NSA’s spying requests, has only rejected 0.03 percent of all government surveillance requests. Currently, FISA judges are appointed by conservative Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, which has resulted in an imbalance of 10 Republicans and one Democrat on the court.

“It makes a big difference,” Cohen tells me. “Typically Democratic appointees are more likely to give broader interpretation and concern with due process and the 4th Amendment.” Specifically, the act would require that the chief justice, Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders Senate, and the minority leader in the House get to appoint a handful of the total 11 judges.

Cohen tells me that he’d also like further changes to the bill, which would include a public advocate at the hearings. A similar suggestion was made by former FISA judge, James Carr, in an OpEd to the New York Times last week.

We’re excited to see your suggestions. Please share widely with any experts you know and also let us know if there are experts we should reach out to. The more the public is involved, the better.

Again, the link to the bill is here.