The Senate today approved legislation authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to reauthorize provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law that governs the surveillance of foreign terrorists and spies. The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5949) passed the Senate by a vote of 73-23.
The FISA Amendments Act allows intelligence officials to more quickly and effectively monitor the communications of foreign terrorists and spies operating overseas. The bipartisan bill reauthorizes the FISA Amendments Act for five years.
Chairman Smith: "Our national security agencies operate around the clock to protect America from foreign terrorist groups and spies. But in order to keep America safe, we must be able to conduct surveillance of foreign terrorists and intelligence organizations.
"H.R. 5949 enables the intelligence community to gather information on foreign terrorists overseas, while still protecting the civil liberties of U.S. citizens at home and abroad. The President should sign this bipartisan bill to ensure that our intelligence capabilities are not dismantled and our nation not put in danger."
Background: In 1978, Congress enacted FISA to provide procedures for the domestic collection of foreign intelligence. But advances in technology over the last 40 years changed how overseas communications are transmitted. These technological advances also changed how FISA was interpreted to apply to the collection of intelligence against foreign targets. In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to reaffirm Congress' long-standing intent that a court order is not required when a non-U.S. person outside the U.S is targeted.