The prosecution of Michael Sussmann’s indictment may seem unconnected to the precipitous drop in the volume of the intelligence community’s use of complex investigative techniques. The two are, in fact, closely connected.
First passed in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) still guides the physical and electronic surveillance of foreign powers and agents. Congress has repeatedly amended the law, however, seeking to calibrate the government’s surveillance to accord with the level of threat and seeking to keep authorities current as technology develops at breakneck speed. Nevertheless, even authorized activities affirmatively permitted by statute have come under fire as a torrent of leaks have revealed government surveillance programs under the statute.