FISA: 215 Collection

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act amends the 1978-era Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow FBI to apply for an order to acquire “tangible things” in the service of an investigation on terrorism or counterintelligence. Although Section 215 was initially used by the FBI to acquire particular items related to an individual investigation, the Snowden revelations revealed that NSA was also using the statute to justify bulk collection of domestic metadata. Court challenges followed, with federal judges across the country deeply divided on both statutory and constitutional grounds. In 2015, these questions became largely moot when the USA Freedom Act banned bulk collection under section 215 through a requirement that any requests for phone records be based on a “specific selection term.”


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