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FISA Court Judge to Speak at Washington Office Update

At the Washington Office Update Session on June 23, during ALA’s 2007 Annual Conference, Royce Lamberth – former chief judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court – will be speaking about how the highly secretive court works, and how it has changed since the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.

This issue has been heating up recently, as Director of National Intelligence Michael McDonnell recently called on Congress to update FISA in order to make it easier to eavesdrop on non-U.S. citizens. Soon after, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2082, which states that FISA is the “exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted.”

Those interested in this topic might also like to know that tomorrow, May 15, there will be a report on PBS about recent intelligence activities, including those conducted by the FISA Court. Frontline: Spying on the Home Front will investigate how the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program works and will examine clashing viewpoints on whether the president has violated FISA.

Judge Lamberth will discuss issues surrounding the FISA Court’s methods and will take questions from the audience.

The FISA Court was created in 1978, and proceedings therein are not open to the public. The court oversees requests, primarily from the FBI, on suspected intelligence agents and as of today there is no legal precedent for the public to see information on those hearings.

This is of particular interest to ALA Conference-goers, since libraries have a big stake in PATRIOT Act issues; we believe libraries have frequently been the targets of those subpoenas. There is also an appeals process for the FISA Court, but – like the court itself – that process is shrouded in a veil of secrecy. Judge Lamberth will give Washington Office Update attendees a rare glimpse inside!

The Washington Office Update Session will be held from 8:00 – 10:30 a.m., in Room 143-B of the Convention Center.

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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