The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Analysis, Pros and Cons

Essay by eriquesigUniversity, Bachelor's November 2011

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Analysis, Pros and Cons


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is an Act of Congress passed in 1978 and signed by the then President Jimmy Carter. The Act stipulates the procedures to be followed when obtaining intelligence from foreign powers and agents of foreign powers both physically and electronically. The Act has been amended severally. In 2001, it was amended to involve groups and terrorist organizations not supported by foreign governments in an Act called the USA PATRIOT Act. A further amendment was done in 2007 to overhaul most of the provisions, in the Act called Protect America Act. A final amendment was done in 2008 called the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Boykoff 2006).

The most significant amendment to the bill was The Patriotic Act of 2001 after the country faced the biggest attack from a foreign terrorist group. The United States Department of Justice announced that it would seek legislation that would give powers to state authorities to protect the homeland from such activities and attacks in the future.

The proposed legislation was to give federal authorities the ability to monitor internet use, intercept emails and phone calls as well as wiretapping conversion between citizens and non citizens. The Act would also permit the detention of non citizens who are deemed to be dangerous to the home land (Center for American Progress 2005). This Act is by far one of the most controversial legislation in the history of the Congress. This paper looks to analyze the provisions of the Act as well as the pro and cons that came along.

Provisions of the FISA

The initial Act that was enacted in 1978 did not have many controversial aspects in it and was later blamed for not providing enough powers to aid the...