The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - News and Resources

Document Date: April 8, 2003


ACLU Urges Congress not to Rubberstamp FISA Plan (3/4/2008)

Myths and Facts: US Government Surveillance of Americans

FISA Radio Ad Campaign (Sample Ad) (3/4/2008)

ACLU Letter to the Senate Urging No Votes On Any Bill That Would Authorize Warrantless Wiretapping or Grant Immunity to Telecoms (2/4/2008)

ACLU Fact Sheet: Amendments to Senate FISA Bill Regarding Immunity for Telecommunications Companies that Facilitated Warrantless Wiretapping (2/4/2008)

Coalition Letter to Senator Reid Regarding the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 and Telecom Immunity (1/22/2008)

Learn more about the ACLU’s opposition to FISA expansion over the years >>

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), born after the Watergate scandal, establishes how the government can secretly eavesdrop on Americans in their own country in intelligence investigations. It was originally passed to allow the government to collect foreign intelligence information involving communications with “agents of foreign powers.”

Today, however, the federal government is exploiting this once-narrow exception to make an end-run around the Constitution. The USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress in 2001 and re-authorized in 2006, expanded FISA to allow the government to obtain the personal records of ordinary Americans from libraries and Internet Service Providers, even when they have no connection to terrorism. Recent amendments in the Protect America Act now authorize the government to use FISA to get around the constitutional requirement that it show a judge that it has probable cause of involvement with a foreign country or terror group before it eavesdrops on a communication.

Although the Patriot Act was rushed into law just weeks after 9/11, a congressional investigation into the attacks did not find that FISA’s limits on government surveillance contributed to the government’s failure to prevent the attacks. Instead, the investigation pointed to fundamental organizational breakdowns in the intelligence community and the government’s failure to make effective use of the surveillance powers already at its disposal. Despite overwhelming evidence that FISA did not need to be expanded, Congress moved to broaden the reach of the law and weakened its protection of Americans’ freedom and privacy.

Even as the White House lobbied to expand the scope of FISA, we now know that President Bush disregarded the rule of law when he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on ordinary Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without the warrant FISA requires. Shockingly, Congress voted to temporarily condone this abuse of power in August 2007 with legislation sanctioning this illegal operation. This legislation, which we’ve dubbed the “Police America Act,” is only temporary and will expire in February 2008.

The ACLU is actively opposing the expansion of FISA through legislative advocacy and litigation. We oppose efforts in Congress to further broaden the government’s power to spy on innocent Americans who are not conspiring with foreign powers, and support proposals to increase judicial and congressional oversight of FISA surveillance and restore much-needed checks and balances. We hope that you will join us in that effort.

> FISA Fact Check: Setting the Record Straight on the White House (2/29/2008)
> ACLU Refutes President’s Claims on FISA, Telecom Immunity (2/28/2008)
> The Fear Factor (2/23/2008)
> ACLU, Common Cause Thank House of Representatives for Standing Up to the President (2/15/2008)
> House Stands Up to Threats from the White House on Domestic Surveillance (2/14/2008)
> Office of Legal Counsel to Defend Torture Memos and Warrantless Wiretapping of Americans (2/14/2008)
> Let The Protect America Act Expire (2/13/2008)
> Senate Poised to Approve Huge Giveaway to the Bells (2/12/2008)
> ACLU Condemns Senate FISA Vote (2/12/2008)
> Senate Spy Debate Set for Next Week (2/1/2008)
> ACLU Urges Congress to Stand for a Constitutional FISA (1/30/2008)
> ACLU Encourages Senate Rebellion on Spy Law (1/28/2008)
> ACLU Urges Senators to Stand Firm on FISA (1/25/2008)
> ACLU Condemns Senate Vote on Judiciary Amendment (1/24/2008)
> ACLU Welcomes Proposed State Secrets Fix (1/23/2008)
> ACLU Says FBI Can’t Manage Checkbook (1/10/2008)
> Myths and Facts about US Government Surveillance of Americans (2/18/2008)
> Quotes From Political Leaders on the Battle Over Domestic Surveillance and Immunity for Telecommunications Companies (2/17/2008)
> The 110th Congress So Far… (2/15/2008)
> ACLU Letter to the House Strongly Urging Members to Vote No on S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (2/14/2008)
> The President is Trying to Legalize His Illegal Spy Program: Congress Should Just Say ‘No’ (2/6/2008)
> ACLU Statement to the House Judiciary Committee on the Use of the State Secrets Privilege (1/29/2008)
> Letter to the Members of the House from House Energy and Commerice Committee Urging Rejection of Telecom Immunity (2/11/2008)
> ACLU Fact Sheet: Amendments to Senate FISA Bill Regarding Immunity for Telecommunications Companies that Facilitated Warrantless Wiretapping (2/4/2008)
> Congressional Progressive Caucus Letter to the President Rejecting Telecom Immunity (2/7/2008)
> ACLU FISA Online and Radio Ads (1/22/2008)
> Consumer Rights and Government Accountability Group Letter to the Senate Regarding the FISA Amendments Act of 2007 and Telecom Immunity (1/22/2008)
> Polling From the Mellman Group: Voters Vigorously Oppose Warrantless Wiretaps and Immunity for Telecom Companies (1/18/2008)

> Pivotal Domestic Spying Debate Begins Today (12/17/2007)
> ACLU Slams Wider Spying By NSA, Demands Congress Rein in Spy Powers, Block Telecom Immunity (12/16/2007)
> Specter Substitution is Immunity by Another Name (12/13/2007)
> ACLU Asks Majority Leader Reid to Allow the Senate to Vote for Fourth Amendment Protections (12/12/2007)
> ACLU Slams Department of Justice Spy Opinions (12/7/2007)
> ACLU Says Specter Substitution Misses the Mark in FISA Debate (12/5/2007)
> ACLU Urges Vote On Senate Judiciary FISA Bill and Rejection of Telecom Immunity (12/4/2007)
> ACLU Cheers No Telecom Immunity Vote from Judiciary Committee (11/15/2007)
> ACLU Urges Judiciary Committee Not to Let the Bells Off the Hook (11/14/2007)
> Patriot Act Victim Speaks Out on Spy Bill (11/14/2007)
> ACLU Says Spy Law Still Needs Work (11/9/2007)
> ACLU, MoveOn, People For the American Way and 250,000 Americans tell Congress – “Don’t Let the Bells Off the Hook” (10/31/2007)
> ACLU Warns Congress Not to Legalize Warrantless Wiretapping (10/31/2007)
> ACLU Calls Hand Over of Spy Documents Self-Serving (10/26/2007)
> Growing List of Senators Won’t Let the Telecom’s Off the Hook (10/25/2007)
> ACLU Disappointed in Senate Intel Committee Vote on FISA (10/19/2007)
> Selective Document Release Does Not Justify Telecom Immunity, ACLU Says (10/17/2007)
> ACLU Opposes RESTORE Act, House Bill Does Not Have Sufficient Civil Liberties Protections (10/17/2007)
> ACLU Response to President Bush’s Request for Telecom Amnesty, Civil Liberties Group Lauds House Committee Vote to Reject Telecom Immunity (10/10/2007)
> ACLU Demands Fourth Amendment Protections, Says FISA Fix Must Include Individual Warrants (10/10/2007)
> ACLU Welcomes Representative Holt’s Stand on the Fourth Amendment, Says FISA Legislation Does Not Need to Ignore the Constitution (10/9/2007)
> ACLU Encouraged By Steps to Investigate Telecoms’ Role in Spying (10/3/2007)
> ACLU Urges Senate to Move Ahead With Contempt Charges, Rejects Claims of Executive Privilege (10/3/2007)
> ACLU Blueprint for FISA, ACLU Urges Congress to Restore Judicial Review (9/25/2007)
> The ACLU Urges Congress to Be Skeptical of Administration Claims on FISA (9/20/2007)
> ACLU Urges House Panel to Get Answers From Spy Chief, Says FISA Legislation Needs to Be Fixed, Not Misrepresented (9/18/2007)
> ACLU Condemns Phone Companies’Role in FBI Datamining, Reaffirms No Amnesty for Telecoms (9/9/2007)
> ACLU Urges House to Fix FISA Legislation, Warns Against Amnesty for Telecom Companies (9/5/2007)
> ACLU Condemns Bush Administration for Opposing Disclosure of FISA Court’s Legal Rulings (8/31/2007)
> ACLU Condemns Spy Chief’s Politically Motivated Disclosures About Government Surveillance, Renews Call for Release of Secret Court Orders (8/23/2007)
> ACLU Calls On Congress to Hold Administration in Contempt, Calls Latest Missed Spy Deadline Outrageous (8/20/2007)
> In Unprecedented Order, FISA Court Requires Bush Administration to Respond to ACLU’s Request That Secret Court Orders Be Released to the Public (8/17/2007)
> ACLU Asks Secret Intelligence Court to Release Orders That Led to “Emergency” Wiretapping Legislation (8/8/2007)
> Congress Legalizes Warrantless Wiretapping for Americans (8/7/2007)
> ACLU Condemns Senate for Passing Spy Law Changes (8/4/2007)
> ACLU Condemns Administration Circumvention of Spy Judge (8/2/2007)
> ACLU Warns Congress Against Rushing Spy Law Changes (7/31/2007)
> President Bush Asking for More Power to Wiretap Americans, Gutting of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (7/28/2007)
> ACLU Hears Administration’s Plan for Spying Law, Says Congress Cannot Legislate Without Investigating (6/12/2007)
> ACLU Demands Disclosure of Legal Documents on NSA Wiretapping, Cautions Senate Committee Against Telecom Inoculation for Domestic Spying (5/16/2007)
> ACLU Warns Congress Against Broadening FISA Power (5/1/2007)
> ACLU: Congress Must Reject Administration’s Call for FISA’s ‘Modernization’ (4/13/2007)
> ACLU Letter to the Senate Urging A “No” Vote on Cloture and “Yes” to Stripping Immunity During the Debate (10/12/2007)
> Section by Section of the RESTORE Act (10/17/2007)
> One Pager On S. 2248, The Rockefeller / Bush Administration FISA Bill (11/2/2007)
> Section by Section Analysis of S. 2248, Rockefeller / Bush Administration FISA bill (11/2/2007)
> National Poll Finds Voters Oppose Warrantless Wiretaps, Blanket Warrants and Telecom Amnesty (10/16/2007)
> ACLU Letter on Privacy Implications of Protect America Act (10/12/2007)
> Testimony Submitted to the House Judiciary Committee for a Hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (9/5/2007)
> Coalition Sign-On Letter to Democratic Congressional Leaders Outlining Basic Privacy Principles Needed in the Wake of Changes to FISA (9/4/2007)
> How The Protect America Act Will Affect Business (8/29/2007)
> Talking Points on Telecom Immunity (8/29/2007)
> The Realities of Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell’s Falsities (8/29/2007)
> ACLU Analysis of the Protect America Act (8/29/2007)
> ACLU Fact Sheet on the “Police America Act” (8/7/2007)
> ACLU Letter to Congressional Leadership Strongly Urging Its Resistance to FISA Changes (7/31/2007)

> The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Myths & Facts (7/31/2007)
> ACLU Teleconference on FISA and the Protect America Act (8/29/2007)

> FISA Must Not Be Gutted Under Pretext of “Modernization” (7/26/2006)
> ACLU Raises Spying Issue at BellSouth Meeting on AT&T Merger (7/21/2006)
> ACLU Slams Bush’s Block of Inquiry on NSA Spying (7/19/2006)
> Lawmakers Confirm NSA Spying Program (6/30/2006)
> House Judiciary Committee Adopts Request for Illegal NSA Spying Documents (6/21/2006)
> ACLU Letter Opposing National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 (7/26/2006)
> ACLU Letter on the “Modernization of FISA” (7/17/2006)
> ACLU Letter to Rep. Jane Harman Supporting H.R. 5371 and H.R. 5371 (5/17/2006)
> ACLU Letter Requesting Investigation Into the NSA’s Domestic Spying Program (5/15/2006)
> ACLU Letter Urging a “No” Vote on Reauthorizing the USA PATRIOT Act (2/15/2006)

> After Supreme Court Denies Appeal on Ashcroft Spy Powers, ACLU Urges Oversight (3/24/2003)
> ACLU Applauds Bipartisan Support for FISA Oversight Bill (2/25/2003)
> Groups Urge High Court to Review Ruling on Government Spying (2/18/2003)
> Sign-on Letter to Senators Urging Support for FISA of 2003 (2/25/2003)
> Sign-on Letter to the Judiciary Committee Urging Rejection to Expanding FISA Surveillance (2/12/2003)
> Petition of Certiorari Filed With Supreme Court (2/18/2003)
> Motion to Intervene in Re: Sealed Case of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (2/18/2003)

> Secret Appeals Court Allows Expanded Spying on U.S. Citizens (11/18/2002)
> Rights Groups Urge Court to Reject Ashcroft’s Bid to Spy on U.S. Citizens (9/20/2002)
> ACLU Condemns Secret Review of Wiretap Court’s Ruling on Surveillance Powers (9/9/2002)
> Secret Wiretap Court Exposes Ashcroft Plans to Circumvent Constitution (8/23/2002)
> Letter Urging Rejection of the Kyl Amendment to the FISA (10/29/2002)
> Testimony From Senate Hearing on FISA (9/10/2002)
> Transcript of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on FISA (9/10/2002)
> Right-Left Comes Together Over Privacy, Civil Liberties Post-9/11 (4/10/2002)
> Letter to Senate Urging Opposition to Expansion of Wiretapping (4/9/2002)
> Amicus Brief Submitted to FISA Appeals Court (9/19/2002)
> Appendix to FISA Brief: Chart Comparing Criminal and FISA Surveillance (9/19/2002)
> Motion for Leave to File Amicus Brief (9/19/2002)

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