Civics: How the secret spy court really works

Katie Bo Williams:

In 2016, the court reviewed 1,752 applications and certifications. In total, about 98 percent of applications were granted, either as originally requested or with modifications.

Almost 80 percent of the warrants were granted as requested. About 19 percent, 339 applications were granted with edits — like including a reporting requirement or shortening the duration of the proposed surveillance.

Twenty-six applications were denied in part and nine were denied in full.

Critics say that the FISC is a “rubber-stamp” court because so few applications are denied. Its defenders argue that the final approval rate is misleading because the vetting and editing process is so rigorous.