NSA Court Judges Invest in Verizon While Surveillance Warps Law and Journalism

We must never be surprised when we learn once again that our lawmakers and law interpreters are in bed with the country’s largest corporations–this is how the American government now operates. A July 25 article in Vice includes documentation that shows three judges from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, the tribunal that evaluates the legality of the NSA’s practices, own stock in Verizon. Although there doesn’t seem to be a direct financial incentive for judges to allow the NSA to rifle through the data (our data) of a company in which they have invested, it does show the intimate relationship the NSA, the FISA Court and Verizon share.

Specifically, the article states: “On May 28 last year, Judge James Zagel, a FISA Court member since 2008, purchased stock in Verizon. In June of this year, Zagel signed offon a government request to the FISA Court to renew the ongoing metadata collection program.” The piece goes on to say that FISA Court Judges Susan Wright and Dennis Saylor also own shares in the company, and although Vice wasn’t able to obtain accurate numbers for the amount invested, it appears to be in the thousands of dollars.

The Vice article notes that judges are supposed to remove themselves from cases in which they might have a “financial stake in the outcome” or from any case in which they might find it difficult to be impartial. The Verge also pointed out that telecommunication companies like Verizon receive millions of dollars from the government in their “record-sharing deals.”

Cases are supposed to be reassessed when there is evidence of a conflict of interest. Perhaps it is time the government rethinks why it is allowing massive surveillance of its citizens when the majority of Americans are opposed to that practice and there appears to be a relationship between the court allowing it and the companies harvesting the information.

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