Everything you need to know about FISA wiretaps

FISA courts meet in secret -- sometimes in the middle of the night.

— -- President Trump sparked a firestorm this morning when he suggested that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had ordered wiretaps on Trump Tower prior to the November 2016 election.

The Court

The court -- made up of 11 federal judges, serving 7-year terms and selected by the chief justice of the Supreme Court -- meets in private, sometimes in the middle of the night. FISA targets are highly classified.

The Stats

More than a thousand applications for electronic surveillance, all signed by the attorney general, are submitted each year, and the vast majority are approved.

From 2009 to 2015, for example, more than 10,700 applications for electronic surveillance were submitted, and only one was denied in its entirety, according to annual reports sent to Congress. Another one was denied in part, and 17 were withdrawn by the government.

According to George Washington Law School professor and longtime FISA critic Jonathan Turley, “FISA was designed more to facilitate than to limit surveillance. It adopted a standard that was heavily weighted toward approval. You almost have to work to find a way to get turned down by a FISA court."

The Scandal

Opponents argued that the court relied on one-sided arguments, criticizing the covert nature of its "rubber stamp" rulings. But other government officials pointed out that privacy tradeoffs were necessary to maintain the security of the nation.

Other Types of Taps

ABC News' Morgan Winsor, Jack Date and Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.