What’s Wrong With FISA?
Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978 in response to the unlawful surveillance of Americans by the FBI and the CIA during the Watergate era. President Richard Nixon – who famously quipped after leaving office that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal” – used the FBI and the CIA to spy on his political opponents.
The stated reason was national security. Nixon claimed that foreign agents physically present in the U.S. agitated and aggravated his political opponents to produce the great public unrest in America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and thus diminished Americans’ appetite for fighting the Vietnam War. There was, of course, no evidence to support that view, but the neocons in Congress and the military-industrial complex supported it even after Nixon left office.
This view – there are foreigners among us who wish us harm – came to fruition during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, who pushed for the enactment of FISA. FISA’s stated purpose was to limit – not expand – the government’s surveillance powers by requiring the intervention and permission of a judge.
Wait a minute. Government surveillance is a search under the Fourth Amendment, and government searches already required warrants from judges. So, what was new about FISA?
The Constitution requires probable cause of crime to be demonstrated to a judge before the judge can sign a search warrant. That was the law of the land until FISA came along. FISA set up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and it authorized the judges on that court to issue search warrants based on a lower standard
Article from LewRockwell