The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act: Legislating a Judicial Role in National Security Surveillance

This Note evaluates the constitutionality of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Section I summarizes the legal history of national security surveillance from 1940 until the passage of the FISA, and briefly discusses the three major circuit court rulings on warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance. Section II describes the provisions of the Act. Section III examines the Act’s constitutionality, first considering the scope of congressional authority to regulate the conduct of foreign affairs, then considering whether the political question doctrine prevents judicial scrutiny of executive decisions to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance. The Note concludes that the FISA is an appropriate and constitutional exercise of congressional authority to accommodate presidential power and fourth amendment rights, and that the political question doctrine does not bar judicial review of executive foreign intelligence surveillance requests.