Jacob Sullum of Reason writes:
The lead story in today’sNew York Times suggests that Chief Justice John Roberts has been stacking the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) with government-friendly conservatives. Charlie Savage reports that “86 percent of his choices have been Republican appointees, and 50 percent have been former executive branch officials.” The corresponding figures for Roberts’ two predecessors, William Rehnquist and Warren Burger, are 66 percent and 39 percent, respectively. “While the positions taken by individual judges on the court are classified,” Savage writes, “academic studies have shown that judges appointed by Republicans since Reagan have been more likely than their colleagues to rule in favor of the government in non-FISA cases over people claiming civil liberties violations.” He notes that critics troubled by the chief justice’s FISCal power have proposed changing the way the judges are appointed.
Although it is plausible that the shift Savage identifies has produced a court somewhat more deferential to the Justice Department’s requests, the effect may not be apparent in the day-to-day work of the court, where the government’s nearly perfect record probably is due to the weak standards created by Congress.
Read more of his opinion piece on Reason.