Full episode
229: Secret Government
Act Three

Secret Wiretaps From A Secret Court

For over two decades, there's been a secret court in the United States called the FISA court (short for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). Its job is to authorize wiretaps on possible foreign spies and foreign agents. In 24 years, it has never turned down a government request for a wiretap, as best as any outsider can tell—until this year. This past summer the court issued an opinion that said Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Justice Department were going way too far in their zeal for wiretaps. It cited 75 cases in which the Justice Department tried to sneak around rules to protect Americans from surveillance. Blue Chevigny reports on attempts to loosen up the rules on who the government spies on here in the U.S., and on this first-ever glimpse inside this secret court. (15 minutes)