The shadowy federal court overseeing American intelligence activities appointed five lawyers on Wednesday to serve as special standing advisers.
Wednesday’s appointment comes as part of a sweeping intelligence reform bill passed this summer, which also ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to shut down its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records this weekend.
Civil liberties advocates hope that the outside legal advice would help to balance the scale on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which operates in secrecy. Unlike other courts, the FISC does not operate under an adversarial process, and critics say it almost always sides with the government’s demands.The five new “friends of the court” are former acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel Jonathan Cedarbaum; criminal defense attorney John Cline; Georgetown University law professor Laura Donohue; former aide to Attorney General Eric Holder Amy Jeffress; and information security lawyer Marc Zwillinger.
The selections earned some early praise from privacy advocates.