A secret federal court last year did not deny a single request to search or electronically spy on people within the United States "for foreign intelligence purposes," according to a Justice Department report this week.
The report (pdf), which was released Tuesday to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), states that during 2012, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the “FISC”) approved every single one of the 1,856 applications made by the government for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.
This past year saw 5 percent more applications than 2011, though no requests were denied in either. Besides the numbers provided, no other information regarding the court and the court's decisions are made public.
As Wired's David Kravets explains:
The secret court, which came to life in the wake of the Watergate scandal under the President Richard M. Nixon administration, now gets the bulk of its authority under the FISA Amendments Act, which Congress reauthorized for another five years days before it would have expired last year.
The act allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States.