How NSA and the Secret FISA Court Work? (infographic)

You’re not alone if you never realized there is a secret court operating with practically no checks and balances and outside the purview of the U.S. legislative, judicial and executive branches for the most part. Hearings and rulings are either secret or heavily redacted, especially those involving the NSA. What is going on? This infographic is the money. — If you’re like so many of our readers and commentators, folks like our John C. Dvorak, Ted Rall, Tom Ewing, David Michaelis and Gina Smith (me), you might have a voice in your head screaming.

It’s wailing out, “What? How? When?”

Good grief. It is nothing short of existential absurdity. Sartre would smile bitterly and light another cigarette. The Founding Fathers? They’re spinning in their respective graves to the tune of Gangnam Style.

And unless you were glued to C-SPAN or lived inside the Beltway of Washington, D.C., odds are this was news to you when NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden brought the NSA’s tech-world tactics and maneuvers to light. Now the EFF, the ACLU working with the NRA, and others are suing to stop the collection of Americans’ phone records.

FISA has only made one document public, and it operates outside the balance between the executive, judicial and legislative power structure. When did the U.S. give this secret court so much authority? Answer — late 2007, early 2008, when then U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law an act that made it so. Suddenly the FISA secret court and the NSA could demand data, as it did immediately from AT&T and Verizon, on everyone and anyone.

The infographic at the bottom of the page is from the ACLU, which has filed suit against the NSA, and it tells the whole story.

Gina Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s memoir, ” iWOZ: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It”. (W.W. Norton, 2005/2007/2012). With John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle, she is editorial director at Email her at, check out her Google + stream here or follow her @ginasmith888.



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