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Project

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance

We track and shed light on the U.S. government’s unfettered ability to spy on its own citizens and recommend concrete changes in law and policy to address this trend.

Overview

Under today’s foreign intelligence surveillance system, the government’s ability to collect information about ordinary Americans’ lives has radically expanded while oversight by the courts has nearly vanished. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created in 1978, once reviewed government applications to collect communications in specific cases; today, it issues blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

The Brennan Center was part of a successful coalition effort to reform a program run by the National Security Agency that collected information about Americans’ phone calls. We have also been at the forefront of ongoing efforts to rein in other programs by ensuring that they are focused on legitimate foreign intelligence and are subject to more robust congressional and judicial oversight.