Overview of Constitutional Challenges to NSA Collection Activities and Recent Developments [April 1, 2014]   [open pdf - 306KB]

"Beginning in the summer of 2013, media reports of foreign intelligence activities conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) have been widely published. The reports have focused on two main NSA collection activities approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The first is the bulk collection of telephony metadata for domestic and international telephone calls. The second involves the interception of Internet-based communications and is targeted at foreigners who are not within the United States, but may also inadvertently acquire the communications of U.S. persons. As public awareness of these programs grew, questions about the constitutionality of these programs were increasingly raised by Members of Congress and others. This report provides a brief overview of these two programs and the various constitutional challenges that have arisen in judicial forums with respect to each. A handful of federal courts have addressed the Fourth Amendment issues raised by the NSA telephony metadata program. FISC opinions declassified in the wake of the public's awareness of the NSA telephony metadata program have found that the program does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Similarly, in 'ACLU v. Clapper', the federal District Court for the Southern District of New York held that a constitutional challenge to the telephony metadata program was not likely to be successful on the merits. However, in 'Klayman v. Obama', the federal District Court for the District of the District of Columbia disagreed and held that there is a significant likelihood that a challenge to the constitutionality of the NSA telephony metadata program would be successful."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43459
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Listed on April 16, 2014 [Critical Releases]