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Fact Sheet: Title IV of the Fiscal Year 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act, Matters Related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
For over two decades, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as
amended, has served as an important framework in the nation’s ability to
collect foreign intelligence information, while simultaneously protecting the
civil liberties of Americans. FISA provides the legal framework through
which the Intelligence Community lawfully collects information about those who
pose national security threats to our country. FISA helps those in the
Intelligence Community catch spies, international terrorists, and others who
seek to do harm to the United States, its citizens and its allies.
Today, following over a year of coordinated effort among the Intelligence
Community and the Department of Justice a bill is being submitted to Congress
to request long overdue changes to FISA. The proposed legislation’s core
objective is to bring FISA up to date with the revolution in
telecommunications technology that has taken place since 1978, while continuing
to protect the privacy interests of persons located in the United States.
This legislation is important to ensure that FISA continues to
serve the nation as a means to protect our country from foreign security
threats, while also continuing to protect the valued privacy interests and
civil liberties of persons located in the United States. The Director
of National Intelligence, together with the Attorney General, will work with
Congress to ensure enactment of this important proposal to keep America safe.
Key Provisions of this Bill Are:
- Updating the definition of electronic surveillance to account for the
sweeping changes in telecommunications technology that have taken place.
- The proposed legislation is technology neutral. In contrast to the
1978 statute, which contains central provisions that are tied to specific
communications technologies, this proposal is not tied to specific technology
we have today. That way, as telecommunications technology develops over time -
- which it surely will do - - FISA will not run the risk of becoming out of
- Protecting civil liberties and privacy interests and improving our
intelligence capabilities by focusing FISA on people located in the United
- Revolutions in telecommunications technology have brought within
FISA’s scope communications that Congress did not intend to be covered—and, as
a result, extensive resources are now expended obtaining court approval for
acquiring communications that do not directly or substantially involve the
privacy interests of Americans. Restoring FISA to its original focus will
enhance our intelligence capabilities while allowing the Intelligence
Community to devote more resources to protecting the privacy interests of
people in the United States.
- Improving the way the United States does business with communications
- The country’s communications providers are important partners in the
ability of the United States Government to protect our national security. The
proposed legislation includes needed authority both to protect those carriers
when they do comply with lawful requests under FISA, and to enable providers
to cooperate with authorized intelligence activities.
- Streamlining the FISA process.
- Numerous Congressional and Executive Branch reviews of the FISA
process have recommended that the FISA process be made more efficient, and the
Department of Justice has made major strides in recent years in improving its
practices and procedures. The proposal would make several changes to improve
further the efficiency of the FISA process, including extending the period of
authorization for non-United States persons, which will allow the Department
and the FISA Court to concentrate more scarce resources to the cases that
concern United States persons.
- Reflecting today’s national security threats.
- The Bill seeks to update FISA to reflect today’s national security
threats. One of those threats is the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. This legislation will allow the Intelligence Community to obtain
FISA authority to better protect the nation against proliferators.
- Adding an additional definition of an agent of a foreign power for
non-U.S. persons whom the Government believes possess significant intelligence
information, but whose relationship to a foreign power is unclear.
- This proposed change would apply only to non-United States persons
in the United States, and collection of information from such an individual
would be subject to the approval of the FISA Court.