The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications. Dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the FISA Court since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.
Under today’s foreign intelligence surveillance system, the government’s ability to collect information about ordinary Americans’ lives has increased exponentially while judicial oversight has been reduced to near-nothingness. This report concludes that the role of today’s FISA Court no longer comports with constitutional requirements, including the strictures of Article III and the Fourth Amendment. The report lays out several steps Congress should take to help restore the FISA Court’s legitimacy.