Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: An Overview of the Statutory Framework and Recent Judicial Decisions [Updated September 22, 2004]   [open pdf - 388KB]

"The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq., (FISA) as passed in 1978, provided a statutory framework for the use of electronic surveillance in the context of foreign intelligence gathering. In so doing, the Congress sought to strike a delicate balance between national security interests and personal privacy rights. Subsequent legislation expanded federal laws dealing with foreign intelligence gathering to address physical searches, pen registers and trap and trace devices, and access to certain business records. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001, P.L. 107-56, made significant changes to some of these provisions. Further amendments were included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, P.L. 107-108, and the Homeland Security Act of 2002, P.L. 107-296. In addressing international terrorism or espionage, the same factual situation may be the focus of both criminal investigations and foreign intelligence collection efforts. The changes in FISA under these public laws facilitate information sharing between law enforcement and intelligence elements. In its Final Report, the 9/11 Commission noted that the removal of the pre-9/11 'wall' between intelligence and law enforcement 'has opened up new opportunities for cooperative action within the FBI.'... This report will examine the detailed statutory structure provided by FISA and related provisions of E.O. 12333. In addition, it will discuss the decisions of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Bills from the 108th Congress relating to FISA are addressed in CRS Report RL32608, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Selected Legislation from the 108th Congress."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL30465
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