[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 05/03/12
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from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 42
May 3, 2012
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE UNDER FISA GREW IN 2011
** ADMIN PRESSES FOR RENEWAL OF FISA SURVEILLANCE AUTHORITY
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE UNDER FISA GREW IN 2011
In 2011, the US Government submitted 1,745 applications to the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court for authorization to conduct electronic
surveillance or physical searches under the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA), according to a new annual report to Congress. Of
these, 1,676 included requests for authority for perform electronic
surveillance, the report said.
That compares to 1,579 such applications in 2010 (including 1,511 for
As is usually the case, the FIS Court did not deny any electronic
surveillance applications in whole or in part last year, though it made
modifications to 30 of them.
The new report says that the government filed 205 applications for
business records (including "tangible things") for foreign intelligence
purposes last year, compared to 96 in the previous year.
But the number of "national security letters" (a type of administrative
subpoena) declined last year. In 2011, the FBI requested 16,511 national
security letters pertaining to 7,201 U.S. persons, the new report said,
compared to the 2010 total of 24,287 letter requests concerning 14,212 U.S.
ADMIN PRESSES FOR RENEWAL OF FISA SURVEILLANCE AUTHORITY
The Obama Administration is urging Congress to renew provisions of the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act that are set to
expire at the end of this year.
"Reauthorizing this authority is the top legislative priority of the
Intelligence Community," wrote Director of National Intelligence James
Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder in a February 8 letter to
One of the key provisions, they explained, would permit the electronic
surveillance of entire categories of non-U.S. persons who are located
abroad "without the need for a court order for each individual target."
Under this provision, "instead of issuing individual court orders, the
FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] approves annual
certifications submitted by the Attorney General and the DNI that identify
categories of foreign intelligence targets."
"The provision contains a number of important protections for U.S. persons
and others in the United States," according to a background paper attached
to the February 8 letter, including limitations on targeting, minimization
procedures to exclude information about U.S. persons, and other guidelines
"Failure to reauthorize [this section] would result in a loss of
significant intelligence and impede the ability of the Intelligence
Community to respond quickly to new threats and intelligence
opportunities," the background paper stated.
Proposed legislative language to enact an extension of Title VII of the
FISA Amendments Act was transmitted to Congress by the DNI in a March 26
The American Civil Liberties Union disputes the adequacy of the FISA
Amendment Act's protections for U.S. persons and is challenging the
constitutionality of the Act in a lawsuit that is pending before the U.S.
Supreme Court. The ACLU is also asking Congress to "Fix FISA by
prohibiting dragnet surveillance, mandating more transparency about the
government's surveillance activities, and strengthening safeguards for
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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