TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

security successes and failures could be assigned to—or blamed on—that organization.The National Security Act and subsequent amendments also provided anoversight framework for Congress. Under various provisions, most notablythe ‘Fully Informed Clause,’ the Act requires that the President notify Congressabout US intelligence activities. Amendments to the Act have furtherstrengthened Congress’ oversight role.• The amended Act restricts the usage of funds for covert action priorto production of a signed, written document called a PresidentialFinding, and mandates that the President inform Congress of any covertaction, or changes to previously approved covert actions, as soonas possible.• The President can limit reporting of covert actions under “extraordinarycircumstances;” the President must nonetheless report the findingsas soon as possible after the fact and produce a written statementindicating why this lack of reporting was warranted.Importantly, any exceptions to the President’s overall ‘duty to report’ are intendedto be limited to covert actions and are not related to traditional clandestineintelligence collection activities.The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (1978 and 2008)FISA allows the US government to electronically collect “foreign intelligenceinformation” from “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers,”—whichmay include US citizens and permanent residents—suspected of engaging inespionage and violating the law in US-controlled territory.In late 2005, the press revealed that President Bush authorized the NSA toconduct a warrantless electronic surveillance program that circumvented theFISA process. 10 In the wake of these revelations, the White House officiallyadmitted that the program allowed the NSA to target international communicationswith a US nexus of individuals connected to al Qaeda without obtainingFISA warrants. What later became popularly, if erroneously, known as‘warrantless wiretapping’ 11 served as the impetus for the passage of the FISAAmendments Act of 2008. 12Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School13

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