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About FISA/FISC matters

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was originally enacted in 1978.


  • Established that non-criminal electronic surveillance within the U.S. was only allowable for the intention of collecting foreign counterintelligence and foreign intelligence
  • Identified agents of foreign powers, and foreign powers themselves, as the persons and entities that could be the targets of electronic surveillance
  • Determined a standard for probable cause that had to be first met before electronic surveillance was deemed allowable
  • Established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)

What are the procedures for targeting people outside the United States?

Limitations in regards to acquisition are as follows:

 (1) may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States; (2) may not intentionally target a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States if the purpose of such acquisition is to target a particular, known person reasonably believed to be in the United States; (3) may not intentionally target a United States person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States; (4) may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of the acquisition to be located in the United States; and (5) shall be conducted in a manner consistent with the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

What is the FISC?

The FISC is a federal court created by the FISA. The FISC deals with applications made by the U.S.Government for approval of physical search, electronic surveillance, and certain other types of investigative actions for purposes of foreign intelligence.

Who are the Judges in the FISC?

The judges of the FISC are made up of 11 judges from 7 different districts, 3 of which must live within 20 miles of Washington, DC. Each judge serves a maximum of seven years and they serve on a rotational basis, one week at a time. The presiding judge is determined by the Chief Justice.

What is the authority of the Judges?

Each judge may exercise the authority given by the Act and such other authority so long as it is consistent with Article III of the Constitution and other laws and statutes of the United States, to the extent not inconsistent with the Act.

To learn more about FISA, FISC, or how we can help you, contact us today at (617) 829-9747 and schedule a free consultation with our white collar crimes lawyers in Boston.

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