Taken together, the measures "would give the public more confidence in the work product of the court," Schiff said. He said 10 of the 11 current surveillance court judges were appointed for the federal bench by Republican presidents, as was Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Critics have derided the court as a rubber stamp of approval for the government. Last year, the government asked the court to approve 1,789 applications to spy on foreign intelligence targets, according to a Justice Department notice to Congress dated April 30. The court approved all but one — and that was withdrawn by the government.
Last week, former U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who served on the secret surveillance court between 2002 and 2005, described it as independent but flawed because only the government's side is represented effectively in its deliberations.
Schiff announced his legislation as opponents of the NSA's surveillance programs insisted they will continue to challenge it after a narrow defeat in the House.
Furious lobbying and last-minute pleas to lawmakers ensured victory for the Obama administration as the House narrowly voted Wednesday to spare the NSA program. Unbowed, the libertarian-leaning conservatives, tea partyers and liberal Democrats who led the fight said they will try to undo a program they called an unconstitutional intrusion on civil liberties.
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