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NOW SHOWING: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 2008

15 July 2008
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The Key Votes Department, which provides summaries of bills passed, has the most recent legislation posted on our website. Last week, Congress acted on important issues affecting the national security. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed. The official title of the bill is called HR 6304: To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes.

This bill defines the people who may be targeted through electronic surveillance and outlines the processes that are required to conduct electronic surveillance. It also specifies the procedure on government eavesdropping, inspection of electronic mail and other forms of surveillance. Some noteworthy parts of the bill include:

  • Allowing the authorization of foreign surveillance under "emergency" or time limited circumstances without preliminary Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approval, provided that relevant applications or certifications are presented to the Court no later than seven days after the authorization of such surveillance (Sec 101)



  • Liberating electronic communication providers, i.e. Telecommunications, from liability with regards to civil action that may be brought up in any court due to assistance provided to the government in obtaining electronic surveillance.


The Senate passed the bill on July 9th by a vote of 69 to 28. It passed the House of Representatives June 20th with a vote of 239 to 129.

This bill is controversial because many believe it is a breach of the Fourth Amendment of the United States while others feel that it gives intelligence officials the tools they need to stop terrorists and protect Americans at home.

The Key Votes Department does not analyze any bills that are passed. They simply break them down into summaries and highlights to be easily digested, and simplify the codes for better navigation. The simplified version can be found at: http://www.votesmart.org/issue_keyvote_detail.php?cs_id=20044

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