In Its First Opinion Revealed to the Public since Its Debut in 1979, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, a Secret Tribunal in Charge of Issuing Warrants for Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence Investigations, Rejected the Justice Department's Plan to Give Criminal Prosecutors Greater Access to Information on U.S. Persons Suspected of Espionage and Terrorist Activities. (Dateline Washington)
Condon, Erin C., Consumers' Research Magazine
In its first opinion revealed to the public since its debut in 1979, the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, a secret tribunal in charge of issuing warrants for intelligence and counter-intelligence investigations, rejected the Justice Department's plan to give criminal prosecutors greater access to information on U.S. persons suspected of espionage and terrorist activities. Currently, criminal prosecutors gain access to intelligence information with the permission of the FISA court--provided that they prove probable cause that the suspect is an agent of a foreign government or terrorist group.
The court ruled, however, that information-sharing with the FBI's criminal investigation unit would not "ensure that the intrusiveness of foreign intelligence surveillances and searches on the privacy of a U.S. person is `consistent' with the need of the United States to collect foreign intelligence information from foreign powers and their agents." Procedures for obtaining a warrant for intelligence investigations are much more lenient than those for criminal investigations; one must prove only that a search is "for the purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence information. …