Senate bill would create FISA privacy advocate


"The special advocate's client will be the Constitution," Blumenthal said at a Capitol Hill press conference. "As they are currently structured, FISA courts appear to be stacked against our civil liberties."

The senators noted that in the 33-year history of the FISA Court, it has only rejected 11 out of 34,000 surveillance requests. Defenders of the court argue that the judges frequently push back on surveillance requests and require changes before approving them.

Under the legislation, the presiding judge of the FISA Court would select the special advocate from a list of candidates provided by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a recently created federal agency.

The advocate would have a security clearance, and the FISA Court could appoint the advocate to participate in any proceeding. The advocate could also appeal any decision of the court.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, intelligence officials said they would be willing to consider a FISA privacy advocate.

"There's obviously issues we'll have to work through as to clearances and classifications and who would be there and what their role would be," Deputy Attorney General James Cole said. "But those are the kinds of discussions we do need to have."

Blumenthal, Wyden and Udall also introduced a second bill, the FISA Judge Selection Reform Act, to change how FISA judges are appointed. The legislation aims to ensure that that judges are geographically and ideologically diverse.

Currently, the chief justice of the Supreme Court names all of the judges to the FISA Court. 

—This article was first published at 10:22 a.m. and has been updated