"This court has evolved to serve a very different role than when it began"

This has prompted calls in Congress and elsewhere for changes in the court. Some cite a need for a better mix of judges than those currently serving, who are almost all Republican appointees. Others want to include an advocate who takes the other side and argues for privacy and civil liberties.

“This process needs an adversary,” retired Judge James Robertson, who served on the special court, told an oversight board hearing this month. “A judge needs to hear both sides of a case.”…

“I think these judges take their jobs very seriously, but we need a more effective set of checks and balances,” Schiff said. “Right now, 10 of 11 were appointed by Republican presidents.”

Schiff proposes that the judges be nominated by the president specifically for the court and confirmed by the Senate. “If they came before the Senate, we would get a better understanding of how they view the 4th Amendment” and its protection against unreasonable searches, he said.

Blumenthal has described the court as “broken. It is unaccountable, secretive and one-sided.”