Opponents of updating foreign intelligence authority have done a good job of misrepresenting the issue during the current Congressional debate. Andrew M. Grossman of the Heritage Foundation brings clarity and accuracy to the discussion in a new web memo, “FISA Modernization Is Not About ‘Warrantless Wiretapping’“:
No phrase has done more to confuse the public and distort informed debate over foreign surveillance than “warrantless wiretapping.” The accusation that the federal government is listening in on Americans’ domestic telephone conversations without any legal authority or any judicial oversight has been an article of faith among those who oppose modernization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Though the government’s foreign intelligence programs are clouded in secrecy (and rightly so), publicly available information, statutory text, and recent comments by government officials provide strong indications that FISA modernization, by making permanent the authorities of the now-expired Protect America Act (PAA), has nothing at all to do with domestic wiretapping and has only an incidental relation to Americans’ communications. Now that Congress is again considering restoring FISA to its originally intended scope of coverage by extending the authorities in the PAA, it is important to understand how the government uses these authorities.
We’ve noticed the same phenomenon.
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