Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved legislation to reauthorize provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a law that governs the surveillance of foreign terrorists and spies. The FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 5949) passed the Committee by a vote of 23-11. The bipartisan bill reauthorizes the FISA Amendments Act for five years.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who sponsored the bill, praised the Committee vote.

Chairman Smith: “Foreign terrorists continue to search for new ways to attack America. They are committed to the destruction of our country and their methods of communication constantly evolve. We have a duty to ensure that the intelligence community can gather the information they need to protect our country. 

“H.R. 5949 protects our ability to defend ourselves and still guarantees the civil liberties of the American people.  The Act permits intelligence agencies to target foreign persons reasonably believed to be located outside of the U.S. and requires prior FISA-court approval of all government surveillance that uses these powers. 

“This bipartisan bill ensures that our country will be able to monitor threats to our safety and way of life, without sacrificing the civil liberties of American citizens.”

Background:  In 1978, Congress enacted FISA to provide procedures for the domesticcollection of foreign intelligence. But advances in technology over the last 40 years changed how overseas communications are transmitted.  These technological advances also changed how FISA was interpreted to apply to the collection of intelligence against foreign targets.  In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to reaffirm Congress’ long-standing intent that a court order is not required when a non-U.S. person outside the U.S is targeted. This law will expire at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes it. Information regarding today’s markup can be found here.