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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

By Kelli Arena
CNN Justice Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is a secret court that oversees spying in the United States. It was set up to oversee implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Judges on that court ruled that the Justice Department is misinterpreting its new powers under the U.S.A. Patriot Act that Congress passed last October. The court said the Justice Department's plan to allow prosecutors to become involved in intelligence investigations goes too far.

The court also mandated that whenever an intelligence official wants to talk with a prosecutor, a Justice Department lawyer must participate to ensure nothing improper is said.


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The Justice Department has appealed the decision, saying the U.S.A. Patriot Act allows for a freer flow of communication between the intelligence side and the law enforcement/prosecution side.

This is the first time the court has released a ruling that became public. It is also the first time the Justice Department has appealed a ruling.

The appeal was made to the Court of Review, which is a three-member panel formed specifically to hear appeals from the special surveillance court.

In addition, the court retraced years of problems between the court and the Justice Department, referring to errors made on FISA applications, and the wrongful sharing of information between intelligence and law enforcement before the Patriot Act was implemented.




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