News Release ~ 2002-3

Courts should oversee deprivations of liberty, and oversight should be more than rubber stamp

FISA court''s concerns symptomatic of law enforcement''s ''ends justify means'' approach 

Washington, DC -- In response to concerns voiced by the court designated to hear cases under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that federal law enforcement officials misled the court on at least 75 occasions in requesting wiretaps or other electronic surveillance, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Lawrence Goldman issued the following statement:

"It is no surprise to criminal defense lawyers that warrant applications by law enforcement authorities often contain misleading and even false statements. It is particularly disturbing, and surprising, that even the director of the FBI presented false information to the FISA court.

"If the federal authorities have confessed to 75 instances of misleading this one court of limited jurisdiction, the number of times they have misled other courts must be well into the thousands.

"With this track record, it takes gumption for federal authorities to ask the courts and the American people to take their word for it when they claim that they have good reason to lock someone up and deprive him of counsel or access to the courts.

"The courts should carefully scrutinize the claims of federal authorities when they want to deprive an American, or non-American, of liberty. This latest revelation shows us that the courts cannot accept blindly the assertions of government officials." 

Goldman is a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. He can be reached at (212)997-7499.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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