FISC's original job

This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a former senior intelligence officer at Hill Air Force Base, I was dismayed by the revelation that the U.S. Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court granted the FBI and the National Security Agency access to phone records of 100 million Americans, on an on-going basis, without discrimination as to who specifically would be subject to scrutiny.

The danger of the government possessing massive amounts of data on U.S. citizens is that it will abuse it for political purposes, as it did to suppress the civil rights movement and anti-war protests during the Vietnam era — the very reason the FISC was created in the mid-1970s.

Originally, FISC was tasked to limit domestic intelligence collection to communication between "foreign powers" and "agents of foreign powers," but after 9/11, legislation eased these limits. Domestic intelligence collection now seems to be virtually unfettered. It is time for our representatives to hold the FISC accountable for doing its original job — limiting domestic intelligence collection in order to prevent political abuse.

The government's reaction to the uproar over the spying revelations seems to be "trust us." However, if the government was trustworthy, we would not need the Bill of Rights.

Richard Bolin