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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.


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. 

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