USA: FISA Surveillance Reached All-Time High in 2002


The number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders reached an all-time high in 2002, with 1228 applications presented to, and approved by, the secret FISA Court. The calendar year of 1980 was the first full year that FISA was in effect, during which 319 FISA applications were presented. Since FISA went into effect, the Court has approved all government applications.

During 2002, 1358 total Title III (ordinary law enforcement) applications were approved and one was denied. Title III activity reached an all-time high in 2001, with 1491 total applications approved and zero denied. Since 1968, a total of 29,250 Title III applications have been presented (comprising 9,928 federal applications and 19,322 state applications) and 32 denied. (Note that not all jurisdictions have reported their wiretap usage.)

Congress passed FISA in 1978, establishing a separate legal regime for "foreign intelligence" surveillance. Title III, the "Wiretap Statute,"
outlines the strict guidelines regulating ordinary law enforcement surveillance, while FISA regulates the government's collection of "foreign intelligence" information in furtherance of U.S. counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism efforts.

FISA was initially limited to electronic eavesdropping and wire-tapping. In 1994, it was amended to permit covert physical entries in connection with "security" investigations, and in 1998, it was amended to permit pen/trap orders. FISA, under provisions not reflected in the recently reported figures, can also be used to obtain a broad range of business records.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Orders, 1979-2002
Title III Wiretap Orders, 1968-2002
EPIC's FISA Page

UK surveillance figures: 1937-2002



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