July 7, 2013 – Judge Reggie Walton rules over FISA court during Obama’s great expansion of NSA authority and the power to amass vast collections of data

In Email/Dossier Investigations by Katie Weddington

(CNN graphic)

(…) Reggie Walton is the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose 11 members are appointed directly by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Revelations of broad spying by the National Security Agency have drawn unusual attention to the Court, which The New York Times reported Sunday “has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data.”

(..) He has drawn little notice for his role in shaping the nation’s secret law — even his Wikipedia page barely mentions the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But since his appointment to the court in 2007, the FISA Court has dramatically expanded the ability of the federal government to use controversial techniques to gather intelligence on Americans both at home and abroad that have outraged civil libertarians.

Walton serves as the court’s public face to the very limited extent that it has one — typically, in low-grade sparring with Congress. Because the vast majority of the court’s rulings are sealed, it is impossible to know which rulings expanding NSA’s authority Walton has written. But it is clear that during his time on the court those powers have increased significantly.

That comfort with government power fits neatly with some elements of his career.

(…) “While I certainly have reservations about PRISM (and the FISA court in general), Judge Walton certainly does not strike me as the type who would rubber-stamp the DOJ’s requests,” Walton’s former clerk said.

As for the question of transparency and greater public scrutiny of the court’s activities, don’t look for Walton to become a champion of openness.

In a March letter to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein, Walton said that there are certain circumstances under which judges on his court can release their opinions and committed to ensuring they know of those opportunities. But Walton is clearly not going to push the boundaries of the classification process, bluntly warning that “I would not anticipate many such cases given the fact-intensive nature of [these] opinions.” (Read more: Buzzfeed, 7/07/2013)  (Archive)