Chief Justice William Rehnquist once called the job of a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review “the easiest job you can have.” That’s because in its nearly 25 years of existence, the court has never actually reviewed anything.

Now the obscure appeals court, made up of three semi-retired federal appellate court judges, has been called to action for the first time ever in a dispute over controversial Justice Department policies adopted in the aftermath of Sept. 11.