USA Patriot Act

What do you know about the foreign intelligence surveillance court?

In 1978 the congress in the United States commissioned the foreign intelligence surveillance court as a special court that is presided over by seven federal district court judges who reviews applications for warrants that is related to national security investigations. These judges are taken from the different judicial circuits in the United States and they serve for no-renewable terms of no more than seven years. The formation of the court was an essential part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (92 stat. 1783). The court requires that the government obtain a judicial warrant before they can start any intelligence operation.

The act was in response to a study done by the senate select committee with regards to governmental operations in regards to their intelligence activities. There were allegations that they were abusing the executive authority in regards to how they conduct domestic electronic surveillance in the best interest of national security. Also under the Fourth Amendment some kind of judicial warrant might also be required to conduct some form of national security related investigations.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

This is a United States federal law that governs the procedures concerning physical and electronic surveillance and the gathering of foreign intelligence information amongst foreign powers and agents of foreign powers. This may include American citizens and permanent residents who have been suspected of spying or suspected acts of terrorism. This law does not have any precedents’ outside the United States and has subsequently been amended as of the September 11 attacks. In 2001 it was amended on the basis of the USA Patriot Act so that more on terrorism could be included specifically on groups that are not backed by a foreign government.

The act has certain provisions which include:

  • Electronic surveillance
  • Physical searches
  • Pen registers and trap and trace devices for foreign intelligence purposes
  • Access to some business records for foreign intelligence purpose
  • Reporting requirement.

FISA court is classified as a U.S federal court and as was mentioned before it was established to govern request for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents that is in breach of federal laws in the United States and poses a possible threat to the American people. These requests are mostly made by the National Security Agency (NSA) as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The powers of FISA have expanded and have gained much credit to the point where it is almost parallel to the Supreme Court. For more than thirty years the court was housed on the sixth floor of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building however, it has been relocated to the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington D.C.

What does the national security agency do?

The NSA is the manager of signals intelligence for the U.S. It is seen as one of the largest intelligence organization in the United States. They operate under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and they report to the Director of the National Intelligence. They are tasked with the global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation and the analysis of information for foreign intelligence purposes. They are authorized to carry out their mission via covert means which include bugging electronic systems as well as engage in sabotage through dissident software. The NSA also has a great responsibility for protecting the US government communications and information systems.

Any application that goes through the court must contain the Attorney General’s certification that targets the proposed surveillance should either state a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power. In the case of citizen of the United States the target may be involved in the commission of a crime. To ensure that the court can convene on short notice, at least one of the judges is required to be a member of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Surveillance intelligence serves as an essential part of decision making processes by agencies of the state to combat certain crimes such as terrorism. The purpose of intelligence, surveillance is to provide input for the military’s decision-making process. The ISR serves as a major part of the U.S defense initiatives; they influence security decision and provide information that the military need. They use various systems from small handheld instruments to satellites that orbit the earth gathering information which forms part of the US intelligence. Some of these tools collect analytical information, while others collect data for specific purposes. The other systems provide input to Washington-based agencies, while others collect tactical input for military use.

Since the United States has experience so many threats over the years there has been many bodies formed that has the primary responsibility to enact laws in favor of the US citizens. The formation of the court was an essential part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (92 stat. 1783). The court requires that the government obtain a judicial warrant before they can start any intelligence operation. Intelligence information that is gathered on individuals that is seen as a potential threat to the United States is used to make critical decision on how to protect the people. Before any law enforcement agency can arrest any such individual they must obtain a judicial warrant showing enough evidence that will prove that the individuals is indeed a threat to the country.

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