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The Hill - Bill Would Require Senate Confirmation for Surveillance Judges

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By Brendan Sasso

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday that he will introduce legislation that would require that the president nominate and the Senate confirm all judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court.

Currently, the chief justice of the United States names the eleven FISA Court judges, who all also serve on other federal courts. As a result of this selection process, 10 of the 11 FISA judges were originally appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president.

The FISA Court has broad authority to shape the government's surveillance programs, but its opinions are classified. It approves techniques, programs and specific searches to gather national intelligence.

"In order to ensure that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court remains a truly independent check on the executive branch, these important judges should be confirmed by the Senate," Schiff said in a statement.

He argued that his bill would result in a more diverse set of judges and strengthen the checks and balances that Congress intended on the court.

"In light of the significance of the FISA Court opinions, their classified nature and their virtual unreviewability, the American people -- through the Senate -- should have the opportunity to probe nominees on their Fourth Amendment views and other key matters," Schiff said.

His bill would maintain the seven-year terms for FISA Court judges.

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