“I Cannot Express How Wrong I Was…” BY TIM SCHMIDT – USCCA FOUNDER


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A FREE REPORT FROM THE PUBLISHERS OF CONCEALED CARRY MAGAZINE
October 2017 • Issue No. 41

“I Cannot Express How Wrong I Was…”
BY TIM SCHMIDT – USCCA FOUNDER
Tim Schmidt
It’s no surprise that, in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre that occurred just two Sundays ago, things have really heated up in the ongoing gun-control debate.

I mentioned in last week’s Concealed Carry Report that the divisiveness over guns, gun laws and even the 2nd Amendment has finally seemed to reach its boiling point following the tragic events of Oct. 1.

As expected, the usual suspects wasted no time pointing fingers and assigning blame to the NRA, Republican lawmakers, responsible guns owners and pretty much anyone else who believes in and supports the God-given right to keep and bear arms.

Late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel implied that the groups of people mentioned above simply “don’t care” about what happened in Vegas, questioning why they continually “allow this to happen” and suggesting that those folks should “pray for God to forgive them.”

While his response was typical of what we’re used to hearing from anti-gunners following such a devastating event, other seemingly pro-gun folks seemed to quickly cave to the likes of Kimmel’s — and others’ — emotional pleas to “do something.”

One Phoenix gun owner, Jonathan Pring, contacted his local police department and then turned over his firearms to them, hoping that his actions would inspire others to do the same. He claimed he was “trying to be the change he wanted to see in the world.”

Caleb Keeter, the lead guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, a Texas-based collective that played at the Route 91 Harvest Festival just hours before the shooting, went so far as to renounce his support of the 2nd Amendment:

“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. Enough is enough. We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”

Of course, the most surprising reaction came from the National Rifle Association:

“In Las Vegas, reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved. Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law. The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

I have to be honest: I’m equal parts shocked and disappointed in all of these responses.

As I mentioned last week, the events in Las Vegas, as heartbreaking as they are, don’t change my stance on firearms or other firearms-related equipment, the 2nd Amendment or concealed carry. I stand by the simple truth that no piece of equipment — regulated or not — is going to have one bit of an effect on an evil man or woman hell-bent on doing harm.

Bump stocks were a relatively obscure accessory before the Las Vegas massacre. We have to stop demonizing inanimate objects.

Let’s be honest:

The anti-gunners aren’t going to be happy with only banning bump stocks.

A little bit here, a little bit there … and pretty soon we’ve lost one of the cornerstones of our freedom.

Remember: Having the right to life also guarantees the right to defend life. And nothing acts as a greater equalizer than does a firearm.

I stand proudly for the 2nd Amendment, and I always will.

I hope you’re with me.

Take Care and Stay Safe,

Tim Schmidt
Publisher – Concealed Carry Report
USCCA Founder

P.S. – Have you upgraded to the brand-new USCCA Elite Membership level yet? Act now to be covered by $2,250,000 in Self-Defense SHIELD protection, and I’ll enter you to win today’s gun: the ADCOR ELITE Gas Piston Carbine 5.56mm/.223, valued at a whopping $2,295!

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Health Ranger:EPA, FDA raising their own private armies with body armor and military weapons



EPA, FDA raising their own private armies with body armor and military weapons
http://epawatch.org/2016-01-15-epa-fda-raising-their-own-private-armies-with-body-armor-and-military-weapons.html
January 15th, 2016, by Mike Adams

Both the EPA and FDA are arming up with military-style equipment such as body armor, spending tens of millions of dollars on such gear over the last few years.
OpenTheBooks.com has been tracking this government spending on military-style equipment, revealing a frightening pattern of regulatory agencies – which should be pushing paper – now building their own PRIVATE ARMIES to be used as weapons of intimidation and coercion against the People.
The regulatory police state has arrived! When an “environmental” protection agency is building its own private army with military weapons, body armor and assault gear, you know something has gone horribly wrong with the federal government.
Now, farmers can be subjected to military-style EPA raids and intimidation tactics, almost as if the government itself is engaging in state-sponsored terror against American citizens.
As reported by alternative media outlets, the FDA, too, is building its own military-style “government militia” of armed assault teams. Is this part of the FDA’s continued mission to destroy natural products that compete with the profits of Big Pharma?

ENENews: Experts: Fukushima ‘ice wall’ could destroy reactor units, turn site into swamp — Risk of fractures, ground movement, building subsidence — Must be frozen for 200 years — Officials: High cliffs just behind plant may become unstable — Gov’t: “Observable heaving” and deformations possible



Experts: Fukushima ‘ice wall’ could destroy reactor units, turn site into swamp — Risk of fractures, ground movement, building subsidence — Must be frozen for 200 years — Officials: High cliffs just behind plant may become unstable — Gov’t: “Observable heaving” and deformations possible (VIDEO)
Published: May 2nd, 2016 at 9:18 pm ET
By ENENews
http://enenews.com/experts-fukushima-ice-wall-could-destroy-reactor-
buildings-turn-site-swamp-concern-fractures-ground-movement-subsidence-
around-structures-will-stay-frozen-200-year-period-govt-observable-heav?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy
+News%29


AP, Apr 29, 2016 (emphasis added): Fukushima No. 1 plant’s ice wall won’t be watertight, says chief architect… Even if the frozen barrier… works as envisioned, it will not completely block all water… because of gaps in the wall… said Yuichi Okamura, a chief architect… Tepco resorted to [this] after it became clear it had to do something drastic… [Okamura said,] “We have come up against many unexpected problems.” The water woes are just part of the many obstacles… No one has even seen the nuclear debris…


Huffington Post, Apr 1, 2016: ‘Ice Wall’ Is Japan’s Last-Ditch Effort To Contain Fukushima Radiation… [It’s] a desperate attempt to stop radiation that’s been leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for five years…

Kyodo, Mar 30, 2016: The NRA warned earlier that if the groundwater levels within the [ice] walls is reduced excessively by blocking the flow from outside, highly contaminated water within the buildings could seep out as a result.

Proposal for controlling ground water and radioactive leakage in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (by World Water and Climate Foundation): [TEPCO] has a plan to freeze soil around the plant… this idea may not be sustainable… over the 200-year period that will be required for the reactors to be decommissioned.… The problem with freezing… is that solutes may be expelled from the ice… This can result in extremely concentrated saline solutions that do not freeze even at low temperatures. It is likely that under these conditions radioactive materials could become highly concentrated in dense brines that could then flow as density currents… Also, heating and cooling during the four annual seasons in Japan may make the ground of the station site softer and wetter like a swamp, and it could create another risk to the reactors, such as building destruction… The authors would like to express sincere thanks to Dr. W.F. Vincent, Dr. I. Ostrovsky, Dr. S. Kudoh and Dr. L. Legendre for their valuable comments and suggestions for strengthening this proposal.

Los Alamos National Laboratory: Integrated model of groundwater flow and radionuclide migration at Fukushima Daiichi… we will be able to answers critical questions such as… Will the cryogenic barrier lead to salt water intrusion at the site thereby mobilizing contaminants such as Cs and Sr that are mobile under high salinity conditions?

U.S. Department of Energy, 2015: Independent Technical Support for the Frozen Soil Barrier… several references discuss soil heave in the context of artificial ground freezing… It is possible that some observable heaving will occur directly above and directly adjacent to the frozen soil barrier… Monitoring of temperatures, heave pressures, and deformations… would provide information to assist in managing impacts from soil heave…


Geological Survey of Japan, 2015: [T]he sustainability of the ice wall remains doubtful… Furthermore, the ice lenses will grow irregularly as per the distribution of chiller pipes, and the sediment desaturation might lead to the aquitards’ compaction and subsidence around the buildings. In effect, a decrease in pore water pressure could increase the effective stress of the ground and result in movements and the formation of fractures in the superficial units.

IAEA, 2016: The IAEA group of experts reviewed the status of groundwater inflow, countermeasures and modelling… During the visit to Daiichi NPS on 18 February 2016, groundwater seepage on the slopes [i.e. cliffs over 100 feet high directly behind plant] that have been covered with facing was observed by the IAEA experts… seepage through the facing could create geotechnical instability on the slope if horizontal drains are not installed…

Watch TEPCO’s video on the ‘ice wall’ here

Published: May 2nd, 2016 at 9:18 pm ET
By ENENews
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Officials: Buildings sinking next to Fukushima reactors — Experts: We know structures decaying, getting more unstable — ‘Plant deterioration investigation’ underway — Molten fuel thought to be eating away structural materials (VIDEO) July 29, 2015
Nuclear Expert in Fukushima: People’s feet turned black for years because radiation so high — Every time I turned around I saw someone who had radiation damage — Hair falling out, caughing up blood, bodies covered with boils… Officials keeping doctors from telling truth… Public being brainwashed (VIDEO) April 11, 2016
Nuclear Expert: This is just 1st radioactive wave hitting U.S. and Canada; Fukushima pouring into ocean, unstoppable for years and years — Marine Expert: No sign it will stop anytime soon; Plant unstable, potentially worse than Chernobyl (AUDIO) January 21, 2014
Radiation levels have surged at Fukushima plant — 100,000% of previous record high — TV: “Officials say they don’t know the cause… Typhoon may be to blame” (VIDEO) October 26, 2014
TV: “Barrier is not holding” at Fukushima plant — All efforts have failed to stop very high levels of radioactive materials flowing into ocean — Officials: More water’s coming in than we were pumping out — Workers now trying to prevent overflow (VIDEO) November 19, 2014

May 2nd, 2016 | Category: Audio/Video Clips, Fukushima Daiichi, Japan (Fukushima)

ENENews: “They may have ‘lost control entirely of entire field’ involved in LA gas disaster”



(Brian Seligman holds a sign to protest a gas leak in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles before a meeting of the California air quality management district in Granada Hills on Saturday. Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Breaking: They may have “lost control entirely of entire field” involved in LA gas disaster, and it’s coming up everywhere… We learned there’s many other leaks -Attorney — Officials: Loud sound of gas escaping heard half mile away; A “mini-Chernobyl” — AP: Leak “out of control”… amount released “seriously underestimated” (VIDEO)

Published: January 28th, 2016 at 11:36 am ET
By ENENews
http://enenews.com/breaking-company-entirely-lost-control-entire-gas-field-involved-la-methane-disaster-leaking-everywhere-learned-many-other-wells-leaking-attorney-official-mini-chernobyl-ap-leak-control-tv-a?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29


Porter Ranch Town Hall Meeting, Jan 22, 2016 (emphasis added) — Patricia Oliver, attorney (at 11:30 in): “Now it’s kind of simple — if you have a well blow-out, you quit injecting [more gas] underground… No order had been issued [to stop this] though… We sent a letter [to the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)] saying, “Stop all of the injections, until you can stop the leak”… So we sent a letter on Dec. 1 asking them to stop all injections… Nine days later, they said, “Stop injecting gas”… You’d think that at least temporarily settled it — because if [SoCalGas] didn’t like that, SoCalGas could have temporarily appealed… I have no record of appeal… AQMD [Air Quality Management District] inspected the facility on Nov. 10… and they found all these wells that weren’t accessible — 16 approximately… We don’t know yet why they were inaccessible. We also learned that 15 wells were leaking. We also don’t know why that happened. I spoke at the AQMD hearing this last week and said, “I’m concerned that the fact that now you guys are looking at these injection wells — you don’t know what that means.” You see, DOGGR knows what that means — and that’s a sign that SoCalGas lost control entirely of the entire field and it’s leaking everywhere… So we were like, “We want proof. Now if it’s just coincidental, and you show us why that’s not what’s happening, that’s fine, but provide the evidence”… Families have a right to know what’s going on in that oil field.” (Audience applauds)


Rep. Brad Sherman, U.S. House of Representatives, Jan 21, 2016 (at 17:45): “This the largest natural gas leak in history. We were up there yesterday… what we heard was a loud sound of natural gas escaping that you could hear quite loudly from over half a mile away.”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/11/california-gas-company-socalgas-promises-action-to-capture-some-of-leaking-methane
The Guardian, Jan 11, 2016: Residents attack slow response to what official called ‘a mini-Chernobyl’… “This is a mini-Chernobyl,” Mike Antonovich, the LA county supervisor, told a public hearing at the weekend… [It] is the largest leak of… methane known to experts.

Regulators Investigate New Health Concerns Caused By Natural Gas Leak In Porter Ranch; Fears Of Blowout Reported
CBS/AP, Jan 15, 2016: A new report shows the level of toxins released… has been seriously underestimated, state regulators said… The findings were released in response to [SoCalGas’ admission that they] underestimated the number of times the cancer-causing chemical benzene has spiked.

http://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/scalefit_630_noupscale/56a259221f000050002167d8.jpeg?cache=dgeyqbion4
( Mark Boster via Getty Images Porter Ranch residents and activists protesting the gas leak in Aliso Canyon hold their signs during a meeting of the South Coast AQMD January 20, 2016.)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gas-leak-pollution-monitoring-took-months-to-put-in-place_us_56a25594e4b0d8cc1099ca2a?ir=Healthy+Living&section=us_healthy-living&utm_hp_ref=healthy-living
AP, Jan 22, 2016: AP, Jan 22, 2016: Officials Waited Months To Monitor California’s Massive Gas Leak — A massive natural gas leak… had been out of control for more than a month when the county’s acting health director said in November that long-term impacts of the cancer-causing chemical benzene should be measured. It took many more weeks to implement the testing… “We can always look back and say, ‘Why didn’t we start with an expanded monitoring program?’” said Angelo Bellomo, deputy county director for health protection… Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University, said… it had undermined the ability to measure health impacts.

See also: Wildlife “disappearing” around LA gas disaster — Residents: “It’s completely quiet”… birds, butterflies, rabbits, coyotes are missing… all fish in pond dead — “All of this is gone… Makes me wonder how bad it really is” (VIDEO)
http://enenews.com/wildlife-disappearing-around-massive-la-gas-disaster-residents-completely-quiet-birds-rabbits-coyotes-butterflies-missing-all-fish-pond-dead-all-gone-quiet-makes-bad-really-animals-worst-b

ENENews: Bizarre mutated animal found near US nuclear site



Bizarre mutated animal found near US nuclear site — CNN: “It can only be described as monstrous” — Fully-formed teeth and extra jaw growing out of head — Scientists “mystified… stunned… puzzled” by extremely rare deformity — Official: “We haven’t seen anything like this” (PHOTOS & VIDEOS)
Published: January 19th, 2016 at 6:52 pm ET
By ENENews
http://enenews.com/bizarre-mutated-animal-found-nuclear-site-fully-formed-teeth-growing-head-mountain-lion-scientists-mystified-puzzled-official-anything-like-photos-videos?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29


East Idaho News, Jan 9, 2016 (emphasis added): The following is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game… The mountain lion had an unusual deformity—fully-formed teeth and what appears to be small whiskers were growing out of hard fur-covered tissue on the left side of the animal’s forehead… It is possible that the teeth could be the remnants of a conjoined twin… It is also possible that deformity was a teratoma tumor… They are rare in humans and animals. Biologists from the southeast region of Idaho Fish and Game have never seen anything like this particular deformity before… Mountain lions have large home ranges (50 to 150 square miles).

East Idaho News, Jan 7, 2016: “We haven’t seen anything like this in our region” [said Idaho Fish and Game’s Jennifer Jackson] The young male was killed Dec. 30 in Franklin County … “we determined something really interesting was going on.”

Inquistr, Jan 9, 2016: Mutant Mountain Lion With Horns Deformed By Idaho’s Nuclear Weapons Testing Fallout?… [It’s] head has a fairly hideous looking growth sprouting from the back of its skull… some on social media wonder if it’s possible that Idaho’s fallout from Nevada nuclear weapons testing is somehow linked to the bizarre creature… “It has all of us scratching our heads. It’s a bizarre situation and a bizarre photo,” said biologist Zach Lockyer… [S]ome on social media believe it’s possible that Idaho’s nuclear weapons testing history may be involved… [A] 2010 study by a researcher of the University of South Alabama concluded the “rates of conjoined twins and teratomas also seem to be elevated” in humans from the Chernobyl fallout… [T]hose medical conditions happen to be the two leading explanations for the deformed mountain lion…

KBOI, Jan 8, 2016: Idaho Fish and Game mystified by rare, deformed mountain lion — A mountain lion with an extremely rare deformity is a puzzling discovery for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game… [A] possibility is a teratoma tumor… and are incredibly rare…

CBS, Jan 11, 2016: State wildlife biologists have been left puzzled over a mountain lion found with teeth growing out the side of its forehead… Idaho Fish and Game biologists say they’ve never seen such a “bizarre” abnormality before.

Idaho State Journal, Jan 14, 2016: [It] has turned into a worldwide media sensation… [S]tories can be found on YouTube with commentators linking the deformity to radioactive forests and Atomic City, Idaho… “We had a three-headed calf,” [Local veterinarian Lincoln Mumford] said. “The calf had a jaw on one side of its head and one the other side, it had a jaw, teeth and whiskers.”… From Riverdale to the Utah border, there are just five adult cougars that [Boone Smith, a local big cat expert] knows of…

Idaho State Journal, Jan 6, 2016: [W]ildlife biologists were stunned by what they saw… an abnormality local Fish and Game biologists say they have never seen before.

CNN, Jan 11, 2016: It had fully-formed teeth growing out of the top of its head… The deformity could be a “monster tumor“… [It] can only be described as bizarre, even monstrous.

Watch broadcasts here: KSTU | CNN | CBS

ENENews: “It’s on the brink of pandemonium”


State of Emergency now underway for L.A. gas blowout — Oil begins raining down on homes — Official: “It’s on the brink of pandemonium” — Many worry plume will ignite, cause explosion — Concern over geysers, sinkholes being created — Company: Experts have “never seen anything like this” (VIDEO)
http://enenews.com/state-emergency-issued-la-gas-blowout-oil-begins-raining-down-homes-concern-sinkholes-geysers-being-created-official-brink-pandemonium?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
Published: January 8th, 2016 at 11:40 am ET
By ENENews

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-porter-ranch-20160105-story.html
Los Angeles Times, Jan 5, 2016 (emphasis added): Utility is installing screens to contain oily mist at leaking well near Porter Ranch… The structures under construction on the west side of the well head are designed to capture airborne droplets of a brine solution that “may have contained trace amounts of oil naturally occurring within the leaking well’s reservoir,” said Trisha Muse, a spokeswoman for SoCal Gas… Now, a mixture of brine water and oil is rising up into the gas company’s natural gas storage zone, then traveling up the well and into the air. As a result, local residents are finding droplets of dark brown residue on their homes, vehicles, fish ponds and gardens… [The company] acknowledged that some residents had asked about “dark brown spots on their property.” “We sampled it and, according to our retained toxicologist and medical expert,” the company said, “the residue contained heavier hydrocarbons (similar to motor oil) but does not pose a health risk.”… On Monday, plaintiffs’ attorneys sent a letter to state regulatory officials [and] demanded that state regulators “explain what is happening with the petroleum now surfacing.”… “There is a complete lack of information in the well files,” their letter says, “to show where the gas and petroleum migrates underground and the risk for creating sink holes and geysers.”


Los Angeles Daily News, Jan 5, 2015: [A]n oily mist… has been surfacing… The seepage is the result of changing dynamics deep underground… “They (the demister pads) are necessary because as the reservoir pressure declines, fluids (oil and water) encroach into the reservoir and are then carried to surface with the gas.
http://www.dailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20160105/oily-mist-surfaces-at-porter-ranch-gas-leak-as-well-pressure-drops

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35257861
BBC, Jan 8, 2016: Residents… point out cars, outdoor furniture and houses which have been marked with brown, oily spots… Tim O’Connor, a lawyer with the Environmental Defense Fund, has called it “an environmental and public health catastrophe,” said . “In terms of timelines this is going to surpass the gulf oil problem by a mile.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/07/us/california-governor-declares-emergency-over-los-angeles-gas-leak.html?_r=0
New York Times, Jan 6, 2016: Gov. Jerry Brown, faced with mounting public anger and no end in sight to the leak, declared a state of emergency… Mitchell Englander, the Los Angeles city councilman who represents Porter Ranch [said] “This is one of the most disruptive, catastrophic environmental events that I’ve seen. It’s a truly chaotic crisis.”… Many who have stayed have taken to wearing surgical masks when they garden to keep out the rotten-egg smell and the oily mist that sometimes leaves brown residue on their cars… Dennis Arriola, the president of Southern California Gas Company [said] that experts had “never seen anything like this.”

Newsweek, Jan 7, 2016: SoCalGas and public officials have turned [Porter Ranch’s Matt Pakucko] and his fellow residents into “guinea pigs.”… [Sally Benson, who runs an energy storage lab at Stanford University] shares a worry of many in Porter Ranch as they deal with the mundanities of the leak: that the gas plume will somehow become ignited, leading to [an] explosion… “They’re really fortunate that this one hasn’t caught fire,” Benson says… [The FAA] has imposed a no-fly zone above Porter Ranch “out of concerns that fumes from the gas leak could be ignited from the air.” Schwecke, the SoCalGas vice president, says workers near the relief well are taking every precaution, not using their cellphones and working with brass hammers, which don’t spark… [David Balen, a local businessman on the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council] showed me photographs of a white dust that had collected on concrete surfaces around his property; an expert was coming to test the substance, which Balen thought was something toxic.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35244634
BBC, Jan 7, 2016: The governor of California has declared a state of emergency in a suburb of Los Angeles over the leaking of methane gas… the company is installing large mesh screens around the leak site to try and hinder the oily mist from spraying down on the community.

http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-01-05/l-a-residents-flee-as-sempra-s-gas-leak-menaces-neighborhood
Bloomberg, Jan 5, 2016: The sulfurous scent of a natural-gas leak hangs in the air as mail carriers wearing gas masks make rounds… “This is the biggest community and environmental disaster I’ve ever seen, bar none,” said Mitchell Englander, who has represented Porter Ranch on the Los Angeles City Council since 2011. “Life there is not on hold — it’s on the edge and it’s on the brink of pandemonium.”

See also: Doctors: “Very unusual” infections being reported around massive gas blowout in LA… “If you’re able to leave do it now, I’m telling you it’s really critical” — Official: Plume is spreading far away, it’s a national disaster — TV: “We’re a living science experiment”
http://enenews.com/doctors-very-unusual-infections-being-reported-around-massive-gas-blowout-los-angeles-youre-able-leave-im-telling-really-critical-official-plume-spreading-away-national-disaster-tv-living-scienc
(VIDEO)

By Bruce Moyer: March 2015: The Most Powerful Court You Have Never Heard Of



Washington Watch | March 2015
By Bruce Moyer

Long The disclosures by Edward Snowden about the size and scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, both in the United States and abroad, has prompted a flurry of Congressional proposals aimed at reframing the foreign intelligence- gathering process. While the thrust of these proposals is aimed at the intelligence-gathering process itself, several would also alter the operations of the federal court in Washington that provides judicial oversight of intelligence gathering and, in fact, authorized the con- troversial NSA telephone metadata collection effort disclosed by Snowden.

The court we’re talking about is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC. Described by CNN as “the most power- ful court you have never heard of,” the panel plays a significant role in the sensitive balance of foreign intelligence-gathering and civil liberties. Established in 1978 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the FISC hears applications from the government and decides whether to issue orders approving certain electronic surveil- lance activities for foreign intelligence purposes. Another Article III tribunal co-located in Washington, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR), reviews the rulings of the FISA court. Collectively these are referred to as the FISA courts.

Unique Among Federal Courts
The FISC is unique among federal courts in its narrow jurisdiction, the selection of its judges, and the secret conduct of its day-to-day operations. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court plays an especially engaged role in the affairs of the court. The FISC’s 11 district court judges and review court’s judges are “designated” by the Chief Justice, foregoing the usual process of presidential appoint- ment and Senate confirmation. Similarly, the Chief Justice designates the chief judge of the FISC and the FISCR. The judges of both courts serve one term of seven years and are not eligible for a second term. Because of the sensitive nature of its docket, the FISC and the Review Court operate largely in secret and in a nonadversarial fash- ion. Since its creation in 1978, the FISC has operated primarily in an ex parte manner with the government as the only party presenting arguments to the court and seeking warrants approving of electronic surveillance, physical searches, the use of a pen register or a trap- and-trace device, or the access to business ecords for foreign intelligence and international terrorism investigations.

The FISC operates out of a secure location in the federal court- house in Washington, D.C. Each week, one of the eleven district court judges that comprise the FISC is on duty in Washington. Most of the FISC’s work is handled by the duty judge with the assistance of a small group of attorneys and clerk’s office personnel who staff the court. On occasion, judges outside of the duty-week rotation handle more complex or time-consuming matters, at the direction of the Presiding Judge.

The secret and nonadversarial nature of the FISC’s proceedings and the revelation of the court’s approval of the NSA telephone meta- data collection effort have spurred several Congressional proposals that would change some of the underlying practices of the FISA courts. The most controversial proposal involves the court’s appoint- ment of a special advocate when the court is considering a novel or significant interpretation of law. Other proposals would establish en banc panels of the FISC and would alter the voting rules of the FISC in an attempt to create a higher bar for the approval of government surveillance activities.

A Special Advocate Before the FISA Courts?
The appointment of a special advocate within the FISA courts has stirred the greatest controversy. The House last year passed legislation (H.R. 3361) giving the FISA courts substantial discretion to determine when to appoint an advocate, as well as decide the nature and scope of the assistance to be provided by the advocate. A broader Senate measure (S. 2685) last year would have more rigidly mandated the appointment of an advocate to make specific argu- ments involving privacy and civil liberties. The Senate bill stalled at the end of 2014, carrying the debate into 2015 with some urgency. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes electronic foreign intelligence surveillance activities, expires on June 1.

Proponents of the appointment of a special advocate argue that the nature of a non-adversarial process prevents the FISA courts from hearing opposing viewpoints on difficult legal issues, especially ones involving privacy and civil liberty interests. The Federal Judiciary is not so sure. In a letter to Congress last year, Judge John Bates, then director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (and a for- mer FISC judge) embraced the House legislation’s approach, which imparts to the FISA court the discretionary authority to appoint an advocate, a power the court already inherently maintains. Bates criticized the Senate’s approach, which directs the FISC to appoint an advocate in certain kinds of cases. “… [W]e are concerned that insert- ing into FISA court proceedings an advocate with a statutory mandate to make specific arguments would raise substantial legal questions and impede the courts’ work without furthering the interests of privacy or civil liberties,” Bates wrote. Those questions involve separation of powers and judicial independence considerations.

FBA Panel Session on the FISA Courts
These concerns and the broader challenge of balancing national security, privacy, and civil liberties will be spotlighted at the FBA Mid-year Meeting on Saturday morning, March 28, in Arlington, Virginia, when an esteemed panel of judges, lawyers, and academics will debate the pros and cons of altering the FISA courts and their operations. Consult the FBA website for further details.

Bruce Moyer is government relations counsel for the FBA. © 2015 Bruce Moyer. All rights reserved.