Super-Secret Spy Court Raises Alarm Over Feds’ Snooping, by Alicia Howe

Here’s some information about a court that would prefer nothing at all be known about it: the FISA court, much in the news lately. From Alicia Howe at

WASHINGTON – It’s a mysterious court that hides behind a hulking vaulted door and impenetrable concrete walls – and it’s where the federal government makes some of its most secretive decisions concerning Americans’ basic liberties.

If you dare ask where the secret court is located, employees at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C. – where the court reportedly relocated in 2009 – won’t tell you.

That’s because the super-secret court is far beyond the reach of any journalist or curious American citizen.

Fortified with biometric hand scanners, wooden and metal doors and walls reinforced by concrete, it’s the room where it all happens: Eleven powerful court judges approve wiretaps, data collection and government requests to monitor suspected terrorists, spies and even American citizens. And they’re given sweeping power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

In 2013, Eric Mill – a blogger and alum of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for government transparency – documented his efforts to learn more about the nation’s most secure and secretive courtroom.

Mill presents images of the mysterious Washington institution through illustrations because, he explained, “One of the first things that happens when you walk into the Prettyman Courthouse is they take away your phone.”

Employees at the courthouse reportedly “laughed at” Mill’s endeavor and referred to the FISA courtroom as the “Room of Requirement.”

They claimed they “had no idea what floor it was even on.”

Still, Mill wandered the long hallways and located what appeared to be a door to the FISA court.

“To the right of the door, next to the intercom and the small sign saying ‘Access Restricted,’ is a biometric hand scanner,” he wrote. “It’s (probably) a Schlage HandKey II, a device that quickly snapshots the three-dimensional bone and joint structure of the hand and matches it against previously registered snapshots.”

To continue reading: Super-Secret Spy Court Raises Alarm Over Feds’ Snooping



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