Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Before and After the USA PATRIOT Act   [open pdf - 204KB]

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, left an indelible mark upon America and an overshadowing feeling of vulnerability. They also created a determination to respond to the new national security threats they represented. Congress reacted to these threats by passing laws providing new tools to fight terrorism. Perhaps, the most controversial recent act of Congress is the United and Strengthening of America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 20011 (USA PATRIOT Act) and its impact upon the use of electronic surveillance and physical searches authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA)2 to combat foreign threats. Some Americans fear the actions taken by Congress may infringe upon basic American liberties. Benjamin Franklin warned that " those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."3 The government must use its new tools in a way that preserves the rights and freedoms guaranteed by America's democracy, but, at the same time, ensure that the fight against terrorism is vigorous and effective. No American should be forced to seek safety over liberty. This article briefly examines FISA and the impact of the USA PATRIOT Act upon it.

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FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, v.72, no.6, June 2003, pp.25-32
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