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  The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISC ) is a United States federal courts.
It was established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA).
The FISC oversees requests for surveillance Warrant (law)|warrants against suspected foreign secret
agents inside the United States by federal police agencies (primarily the Federal Bureau of Investigation).
The FISA and FISC were inspired by the of the Church Committee.
Each application for one of these surveillance warrants (called a FISA warrant) is made before an individual
judge of the court. Like a grand jury, FISC is not an Adversary court: the federal government is the only
party to its proceedings. However, the court may allow third parties to submit briefs as "amicus curiae".
When the Attorney General determines that an emergency exists he may authorize the emergency employment
of electronic surveillance before obtaining the necessary authorization from the FISA court, after which the
Attorney General or his designee must notify a judge of the court not more than 72 hours after the Attorney
General authorizes such surveillance. According to the US Code Title 50 ยง 1805.
If an application is denied by one judge of the FISC, the federal government is not allowed to make
the same application to a different judge of the FISC. Instead, denials must be appealed to the United
States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Such appeals are rare: the first appeal from the
FISC to the Court of Review was made in 2002, 24 years after the founding of the FISC. It is also rare
for FISA warrant requests to be turned down by the court. Through the end of 2004, 18,761 warrants
were granted, while just five were rejected (many sources say four). Fewer than 200 requests had to
be modified before being accepted, almost all of them in 2003 and 2004. The four known rejected requests
were all from 2003, and all four were partially granted after being resubmitted for by the government.
Of the requests that had to be modified, few if any were before the year 2000. In subsequent years,
according to journalist Joshua Micah Marshall, the breakdown was as follows: Here are some more
details on the record of the FISA Court], "Talking Points Memo", December 17, 2005.
On May 17, 2002, the court rebuffed then-United States Attorney General John Ashcroft, releasing
an opinion that alleged that FBI and United States Department of Department officials had "supplied
erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps,
including one signed by then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh".
Secret Court Rebuffs Ashcroft: Justice Dept. Chided On "Washington Post", August 23, 2002 page A01 Whether this rebuke
is related to the court starting to require modification of drastically more requests in 2003 is unknown.
On December 16, 2005, the New York Times reported that the George W. Bush|Bush administration had been conducting
surveillance against U.S. citizens without the knowledge of the FISC since 2002.
The government's apparent circumvention of the FISC started prior to the increase in court-ordered modifications to warrant requests. Closed hearings and classified proceedings Because of the sensitive nature of its business, the FISC is a "secret court": its hearings are closed to the public, and, while records of the proceedings are kept, those records are also not available to the public. (Copies of those records with Classified information in the United information redacted can and have been made public.) Due to the classified nature of its proceedings, only government attorneys are usually permitted to appear before the FISC. Due to the nature of the matters heard before it, FISC hearings may need to take place at any time of day or night, weekdays or weekends; thus, at least one judge must be "on call" at all times to hear evidence and decide whether or not to issue a warrant. When the court was founded, it was composed of seven United States district court|federal district judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States, each serving a seven year term, with one judge being appointed each year. In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act expanded the court from seven to eleven judges.