Congressman Matt Gaetz Issues Letter Urging Rep. Adam Schiff to Cosponsor Original Legislation from 2013, Authorizing President to Appoint FISA Judges
Washington, D.C. — Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) today issued the following letter to Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-28), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, urging him to cosponsor his original legislation from 2013. On Tuesday, Rep. Gaetz reintroduced Rep. Schiff’s bill, known as H.R. 5120 in the 115th Congress, which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) by granting the President the authority to pick judges for the FISA court, with the appointments subject to confirmation by the Senate. Currently, all FISA judges are picked by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with no oversight.
The full text of the letter can be found below.
The Honorable Adam Schiff
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Dear Representative Schiff,
As the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, you know that FISA surveillance has become an issue of interest to many Americans. Potential FISA abuse has dominated the news, and both the Republican and Democrat memos have given American citizens cause for concern about the possible misuse of this powerful intelligence-collection tool.
What has not been discussed as much, however, is the way in which judges are selected to serve on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). I find it deeply unsettling that judges appointed to this secretive court — a court whose purview gives its judges vast powers — are not subject to Senate confirmation, and instead are selected by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with no Congressional oversight. While Chief Justice Roberts is an extraordinarily fair jurist, this much power should not be concentrated in the hands of one person, no matter how capable that person may be. The tremendous powers of FISA surveillance are not to be taken lightly. The extraordinary demands of the FISA court require extraordinary judges, and Congress must be able to examine potential judges’ views on important issues of privacy, surveillance, and the Fourth Amendment before they are appointed. The current selection process for FISC judges weakens our system of checks and balances, and greatly inhibits transparency.
I know that these ideas are not new to you, because in 2013, you introduced H.R. 2761, the Presidential Appointment of FISA Court Judges Act. Your bill empowered the President to appoint FISA judges, subject to Senate confirmation. It was good legislation then, and had I been in Congress at that time, I would have gladly cosponsored it. It remains good legislation today, which is why I have reintroduced it as H.R. 5120. I have made no changes to your legislative text; it is kept exactly as it was in 2013.
I am reaching out to you in the spirit of bipartisan comity, in the hopes that you will cosponsor this bill. Its merits have not diminished since 2013; oversight of FISA is even more necessary today.
I look forward to working together on bringing bipartisan reform to the FISC appointment process.
Member of Congress