A secret court, based in a small, soundproof, and secured room in the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, D.C., meets regularly to decide on new and renew existing federal surveillance orders.
Over the course of the last month and a half, the world has begun to find out more about this shadowy court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which was set up in 1978 under its namesake law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA authorizes some of the U.S. government's most secretive programs, including wiretapping and domestic surveillance.
Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks brought to light some details, albeit not many, relating to these secretive warrants and orders handed down by the court. But little did we know of logistics; specifically, how they are handed to companies that hold data on terrorism suspects and foreign spies who are living and working in the United States. It was unclear how such orders remained secret, whose hands exchanged these secretive orders, and how complicit Internet providers and Web companies holding this data were in the collection of vast amounts of citizen data.