DNI Urges Update of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

05.21.07 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

According to the Director of National Intelligence, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, the law that regulates domestic intelligence surveillance, desperately needs to be updated to accommodate the latest technologies.

“Technology and threats have changed, but the law remains essentially the same,” wrote DNI Mike McConnell in a Washington Post op-ed on May 21. “The failure to update this law comes at an increasingly steep price.”

But contrary to Director McConnell’s surprising claim, FISA has been repeatedly and substantively modified and updated over the years.

“Abiding by FISA does not mean clinging to [an obsolete] 1978 structure,” said Rep. Jane Harman, then-ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, last summer. “FISA has been modernized.”

“Each time the Administration has come to Congress and asked to modernize FISA, Congress has said ‘yes’,” she recalled (pdf).

The Congressional Research Service tabulated dozens of legislative changes (pdf) that were made to the FISA between 1994 and 2006.

Glenn Greenwald elaborated on some of the changes made to FISA in a vigorous rebuttal to the DNI’s op-ed. See “The administration’s FISA falsehoods continue unabated,” Salon, May 21.