TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Signals Intelligence, ElectronicSurveillance and FISAElectronic surveillance is one of the core mechanisms the Intelligence Communityutilizes to gather information on foreign adversaries and terroristorganizations. Global electronic intercepts captured by the National SecurityAgency (NSA) through the catch-all term, signals intelligence (SIGINT),reportedly support more than 60% of the flagship intelligence product, thePresident’s Daily Brief (PDB). 67 Furthermore, electronic surveillance has beena critical component for the US in combating terror, helping US forces captureor kill multiple terrorist leaders since 9/11.The government’s use of electronic surveillance can prove to be neverthelesscontroversial. Public revelations in 2005 that President Bush authorized NSAto perform electronic surveillance with a domestic nexus without a courtissuedwarrant resulted in significant debate about the tool’s means, legalityand effectiveness. This chapter will describe electronic surveillance, the FISAprocess and the roving wiretap provisions within the USA-PATRIOT Act.Signals IntelligenceCollecting intelligence through technical means is one of the foremost mechanismsthe US uses to gain advantage over state and non-state adversaries. Asformer CIA Director George Tenet noted in Congressional testimony in 2000that this type of data, broadly termed signals intelligence (SIGINT), is “critical”for the US to monitor regional conflicts, assess foreign capabilities, protectmilitary forces, stymie terrorism and fight WMD proliferation. 68 As detailedin EO 12333, the National Security Agency (NSA) is the lead overseas SIGINTcollector, and is authorized to “collect (including through clandestine means),process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence informationBelfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School45

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