The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Analysis, Pros and Cons

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The 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
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A third provision by the FISA is the "Sneak and Peak" provision provided under section 213. This provision grants the security agencies the power to enter into the office, home or premise of a suspected terrorist or spy without informing the target. In the process of such undisclosed intrusions, the agencies are allowed to take photographs, examine data in the computers as well as planting devices that monitor or mirror the operation of the suspect on the computer. These devices should also be able to monitor the internet usage and transmissions of the suspect. In suggesting this provision, the Justice Department asserted that this unexplained intrusion had been used against drug dealers. But now that terrorism was of more danger to the homeland, then there was need to take terrorists as the most dangerous persons on US soil (Larry and Godoy 2006).

A very controversial provision in the amendment to the FISA is the "Libraries Provision". This provision allows the government security agencies to access any tangible or written information regarding the suspects, be they documents, books, records or papers. The provision further does not obligate the agency to inform the suspect that it is accessing the vital information. The FBI is expected to get a court authority secretly by simply proving that the suspects could be involved in espionage or terrorism. This will

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