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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Analysis, Pros And Cons

1779 words - 7 pages

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Analysis, Pros and ConsIntroductionThe 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 FISAThe 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 process of collecting intelligence. Some security experts blamed the restriction in the Act for the poor intelligence leading to the September 11 2001 attacks. Drastic amendments to the Act in 2001 is what generated most of the debate.One of the most fundamental provisions of the Act was Section 203 (b) and (d) that necessitated the sharing of intelligence between security agencies (Larry and Godoy 2006). This provision was the base at which the Act seeks to eliminate the hurdles that stopped government agencies from sharing information obtained from criminal investigation and questioning. These hurdles were blamed for the poor job the security apparatus did in detaining the September 11th suspects. Investigation into the terrorist attacks indicated that different government agencies had different incoherent information, that when combined would have made meaningful intelligence. The Center for American Progess, in its report, insist while the Federal Bureau if Investigations (FBI) had a list of wanted terrorist that was accurate, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) knew of a major plot against the U.S. This information was however not shared between these organizations, leading...

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