Origins and Impact of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Provisions That Expired on March 15, 2020 [Updated March 31, 2021]   [open pdf - 1MB]

From the Overview: "The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) provides a statutory framework by which government agencies may, when gathering foreign intelligence for an investigation, obtain authorization to conduct electronic surveillance or physical searches, use pen registers and trap and trace devices, or access specified business records and other tangible things. Authorization for such activities is typically obtained through a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a specialized court created to hear the government's requests to use FISA authorities. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress enacted the USA PATRIOT Act, in part, to 'provid[e] enhanced investigative tools' to 'assist in the prevention of future terrorist activities and the preliminary acts and crimes which further such activities.' The Patriot Act and subsequent measures amended FISA to enable the government to obtain information in a wider range of circumstances. At the time of enactment, these expanded authorities prompted concerns regarding the appropriate balance between national security interests and civil liberties. Perhaps in response to such concerns, Congress established sunset provisions that apply to three of the most controversial amendments to FISA[.] [...] Congress originally set these provisions to expire on December 31, 2005, but extended the expiration dates multiple times through June 1, 2015. [...] The controversy surrounding Section 215 complicated efforts to reauthorize all three of the expiring provisions, and they eventually expired on June 1, 2015. [...] In December 2019, Congress extended the three provisions, as amended by the USA FREEDOM Act, until March 15, 2020. The provisions have not been reauthorized since they expired on March 15, 2020."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40138
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/
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