Watson Institute for International Studies

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Bruce M. Selya ─ The View from Inside the FISA Courts

Monday, February 10, 2014

5 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

Reception to follow.

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Bruce M. Selya is a senior federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and former chief judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. 

In 2005, Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed Selya to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, and in 2008 Selya was appointed by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts to the chief judgeship of the Court of Review.

Congress in 1978 established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and authorized the Chief Justice of the United States to designate seven federal district court judges to review applications for warrants related to national security investigations. The provisions for the court were part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which required the government, before it commenced certain kinds of intelligence gathering operations within the United States, to obtain a judicial warrant similar to that required in criminal investigations. The legislation was a response to a report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, which detailed allegations of executive branch abuses of its authority to conduct domestic electronic surveillance in the interest of national security. Congress also was responding to the Supreme Court’s suggestion in a 1972 case that under the Fourth Amendment some kind of judicial warrant might be required to conduct national security related investigations.

The act of 1978 also established a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, presided over by three district or appeals court judges designated by the Chief Justice, to review, at the government’s request, the decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Security Seminar Series

Judge Selya was appointed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in October 1986 and assumed senior status on December 31, 2006. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1955 and his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1958. He served as law clerk to Judge Edward W. Day of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island from 1958 to 1960. He worked in private practice in Providence, Rhode Island from 1960 to 1982, and served as a Judge on the Lincoln, Rhode Island Probate Court from 1965 to 1972. In 1982, Judge Selya was appointed U.S. District Judge for the District of Rhode Island, where he served until his appointment to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in 1986.