Reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts: Procedural and Operational Changes [August 26, 2014]   [open pdf - 391KB]

"Recent disclosures concerning the size and scope of the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance activities both in the United States and abroad have prompted a flurry of congressional activity aimed at reforming the foreign intelligence gathering process. While some measures would overhaul the substantive legal rules of the USA PATRIOT Act or other provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), there are a host of bills designed to make procedural and operational changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a specialized Article III court that hears applications and grants orders approving of certain foreign intelligence gathering activities, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, a court that reviews rulings of the FISC. This report will explore a selection of these proposals and address potential legal questions such proposals may raise. […] This report begins with an overview of both the FISC and the FISA Court of Review, including the jurisdiction of these courts, how the judges are appointed, and the FISC's practices and procedures for reviewing and issuing surveillance orders. The report then discusses the scope and underlying legal principles behind congressional regulation of the procedures of the federal courts, and applies those principles with respect to the various proposals to reform the FISA judicial review process."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43362
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