2007 Statement on the National Security Agency’s Warrantless Electronic Surveillance Program

2007 Statement on the National Security Agency’s Warrantless Electronic Surveillance Program

American Jewish Committee has long been at the forefront of efforts to ensure our national security and combat terrorism, while emphasizing the importance of defending our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and principles of due process.

Pursuant to a presidential order signed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Administration authorized the National Security Agency (“NSA”) to monitor the international communications of people inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activities without the court-approved warrants previously required under the framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) of 1978.

FISA was established precisely to balance the essential need to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance with the fundamental obligation to protect the rights to privacy and due process inherent in the Constitution. FISA provisions require that a warrant be issued by a special FISA court prior to any wiretapping or other communications interception, but also allows for exceptions to the warrant requirement in the case of emergency and in the event of war. However, some contend that the present FISA regulations are outdated, given the current state of communication and surveillance technology and the increased level of international terrorism.

In light of these developments, AJC proposes that:

(1) all electronic surveillance in the context of national security be compliant with the FISA provisions and, specifically, that the current six-month exception from certain provisions of FISA not be renewed.

(2) the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, as well as the broader congressional leadership, should conduct regular and intensive oversight to ensure compliance with the provisions and procedures of FISA.

(3) Congress review FISA and, consistent with the foregoing principles for the protection of civil liberties and due process, amend its provisions as needed to reflect both current and likely technological advances since its enactment.

Adopted by the Board of Governors, December 10, 2007
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