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Reported decrease in foreign surveillance prompted new US intelligence law: NYT

[JURIST] A few weeks before passing the Protect America Act 2007 [S 1927 materials; JURIST report], members of Congress were briefed by intelligence officials that intercepts of foreign-based communications had declined to 25 percent of previous levels due to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official backgrounder], the New York Times reported Saturday. Just days before the passage of the surveillance bill, US House Minority Leader John A Boehner (R-OH) [official website] publicly disclosed a ruling from the FISC that Boehner said restricted the ability of intelligence agencies [JURIST report] to intercept communications between suspected terrorists in foreign countries because the court required a warrant when communications passes through US-based telecommunication systems. The NYT reported that intelligence officials also told members of Congress that there was increased "chatter" between suspected terrorists.

In January, the Bush Administration announced it would begin submitting all domestic surveillance requests [letter, PDF; JURIST report] to the FISC for review and approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive]. The new law, which gives the executive branch expanded surveillance authority for a period of six months while Congress works on long-term legislation to "modernize" FISA, is already facing a legal challenge from the Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website]. CCR alleges that the law violates the Fourth Amendment [press release; JURIST report] because it removes judicial oversight for spying and "leaves it to the executive branch to monitor itself." The New York Times has more.

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