FISA Working Group

In collaboration with the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security, the FISA Working Group aims to make recommendations for revision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Overview: Reforming FISA

By William C. Banks, Marion E. (Spike) Bowman, & John Shenefield

It is widely understood that the dynamics that led to the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978 were unique, and that the inter-branch compromises reached then authorized the means for electronic collection of foreign intelligence that served the nation well for many years. It is also generally agreed that changes in technology, threats, and law raise questions about whether there should be significant changes in the existing framework for conducting electronic surveillance under FISA.

On the one hand, counterintelligence and terrorist targets are communicating in ways that make FISA unwieldy, with the location of the target often difficult or impossible to determine. Collection inside the United States is now often the best or only way to acquire even foreign-to-foreign communications. On the other hand, more Americans than ever are engaged in international communications and there is far greater intelligence interest in communications to and from Americans. Both circumstances increase the likelihood that the government will be intercepting communications of innocent Americans, raising questions about the adequacy of the FISA safeguards.

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Workshops: Contributions to FISA Reform

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance in an Era of Big Data
FISA Reform Roundtable
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