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FISA Court Judges Signing Off on NSA Surveillance Programs Invest in Verizon Stock

The secretive court that rules on the legality of NSA domestic surveillance programs has members holding stakes in the telecommunications companies affected by the court’s decisions. This conflict of interest poses a serious risk to the actual and perceived impartiality of the shadowy court.

According to Vice, FISA Court Judges James Zagel, Susan Wright, and Dennis Saylor have all owned Verizon financial securities. Verizon is one of the largest cell phone service providers in the US and is an integral part of the NSA’s surveillance programs, including the collection of so-called “metadata.” Without Verizon’s participation it is unlikely a mass surveillance program could work.

The information was learned from the review of financial disclosure statements.

Do the investments constitute a conflict of interest? Federal judges are bound by an ethics law that requires them to recuse themselves from cases in which they hold a financial stake in the outcome, or in cases in which their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Last year, Gawker reported that many FISA Court judges have owned various telecommunication stocks over the years. But the ethics forms we obtained show that since the Snowden revelation, FISA Court judges have been specifically purchasing and holding stock in the company that is the only named telecom giant known for its compliance with the NSA’s bulk data orders.

State privileges being abused to make money? In Washington DC? It is almost like a lack of transparency creates opportunities for corruption.

The response from the NSA and the rest of the deep state of which FISA judges are apart has been “trust us.” Few Americans do trust them, which makes a naturally questionable practice of FISA Court judges owning telcom company stock even more inappropriate.

If any group of people should be trying with all their power to stay above reproach it should be those clandestinely deciding the fate of Americans’ privacy.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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