Let’s say you know that a highly illegal act is about to take place. The details of the illegal act are going to be conveyed via a telephone. Good time for a wiretap? But who do you ask? Who decides when a wiretap, an obvious violation of the United States constitution, is deemed appropriate? You occasionally read about wiretaps, or other types of questionable surveillance being granted, but have you noticed that they never say who granted it? What’s the big secret anyway?
About the Court
There exists in Washington D.C. a highly secretive court called the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Responsible for deciding when a politically dangerous wiretap is appropriate, this branch of the US government is located on the 6th floor of the Justice Department building. Housed in a lead-enclosed vault (to prevent bugging), this organization is not listed as a official government sector. The Federal government will not acknowledge its existence or where it is located. Its court decisions are never published. The only public information disclosed about this organization is found in a annual 2 sentence report – the number of wiretaps requested, and the number of wiretaps granted.
The Court’s Record
During the period of 1978 (when it was formed) through 1981, it received 962 requests for wiretaps – all were granted. The most recent information indicates that in 1995 alone it received 697 requests for wiretaps. All were approved. To date this organizations approval rate remains at 100%.