In real estate, they say, it’s location location location. Well, some are saying the same for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington that is moving from the Justice Department to new digs in the U.S. District Court down the street. Some like U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth (in photo) hope the move will erase some perceptions that the court is less than independent.
By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — First, the workers encased the room in reinforced concrete. Then came the thick wood-and-metal doors that seal into the walls. Behind those walls they labored in secret for two years, building a courtroom, judge’s chambers and clerk’s offices. The only sign that they were done came recently, when biometric hand scanners and green “Restricted Access” placards were placed at the entrances.
What workers have finally completed — or perhaps not; few really know, and none would say — is the nation’s most secure courtroom for its most secretive court. In coming days, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will move from its current base at the Justice Department and settle into a new $2 million home just off a public hallway in the District’s federal courthouse.
The relocation is a rare public action by a mysterious Washington institution that is judged by its ability to keep secrets while overseeing the government’s efforts to gather them. Its role, generally, is to determine whether the federal government can spy on U.S. citizens or foreigners in the United States in terrorism or espionage investigations.