The need for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Written by Mike Boutwell

August 23, 2022

Why has the number of orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) decreased by more than half in the past two years despite the fact that international terrorism is not going away? Is it possible that the pandemic caused such a substantial disruption to terrorist activity? It’s possible that the truth is a little more convoluted.

To begin here is some information provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The FISA court granted a few more than 900 requests for probable cause in 2019. The next year, there were just 524 requests, which was a significant decrease. And the following year, in 2021, that number fell even lower, to 430. According to the officials, this number can be attributed to the pandemic’s effects. Terrorists have experienced the same level of repression as other members of the movements.

In spite of this, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was subjected to a severe backlash in 2019 for their FISA warrant applications that targeted a former campaign operative for Donald Trump. The agency has now disputed that any policy changes had anything to do with the decline in FISA orders, despite their promise to implement corrective measures.

Having worked as an intelligence analyst in the past, I am well familiar with their policies. Due to the fact that I was responsible for reviewing National Security Agency (NSA) cables and FISA requests, I gained a solid understanding of the protocols and procedures that must be followed in order to initiate a FISA search. These protocols and procedures include the following: special agents must demonstrate probable cause to believe that the “target of the surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power” and that “a significant purpose” of the surveillance is to obtain “foreign intelligence information,” and that appropriate “minimization procedures” must

After the search was given the green light, the scope of the analysis was limited to that of the warrant. Because of the time constraints, analysts could not “see” anything beyond the scope of their investigational authority.

In a similar vein, the guidelines for conducting a domestic wiretap must adhere to the standard operating procedures. For a special agent to successfully identify the target’s phone, they need to provide a comprehensive description of the equipment. In addition, they are required to give a list of probable subjects, the predicate offenses committed by those subjects, and specific information regarding the investigation’s objectives.

These guidelines are of the utmost significance. They safeguard the civil liberties of both citizens of the United States and people from other countries. They also prevent the investigation from going too far in any one direction. The slow pace at which permissions are given is a clear indication that trust is lacking. It is essential for the FISA court to understand the blunders that have been made, not for micromanaging the FBI, but rather to maintain vigilance and ensure that there has been no invasion of privacy. When that occurs, when the organization regains that trust and returns to its roots, I believe that we will once again see an increase in the percentage of people who approve of what it does.

This decrease in warrant approvals allows the FBI to undertake an internal assessment of its procedures and ensure that the government is carrying out its duties in the most appropriate manner possible.

You May Also Like…