FISA and the Fourth Amendment


What You Can Do To Help:

Letter Writing Campaigns

Who Should You Write To?

Letters of concern about the uses and abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could be addressed to:

  • U.S. Congressional Representatives
  • The Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Newspapers and magazine editors

For Congressional correspondence, address letters to individual members and committees at:

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515


U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

House committees that potentially govern FISA-related issues include:

  • House Judiciary Committee. Democrats include
    • John Conyers Jr. of Michigan
    • Barney Frank of Massachusetts
    • Howard Berman of California
    • Maxine Waters of California
  • House Appropriations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary. This subcommittee theoretically controls the DOJ and FBI purse strings. Democrats include
    • Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia
    • Julian C. Dixon of California
    • David E. Skaggs of Colorado. Note: Rep. Skaggs has been active in getting the government to declassify and release defense and intelligence information. He may be particularly open to arguments about FISA secrecy, especially long-term.

Correspondence to the Department of Justice should be addressed directly to Janet Reno, Attorney General .

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

To see sample letters click here.



 Points to Highlight

In your letter you should choose one or two themes. Points that you might make include:

  • FISA appears to have a questionable constitutional basis, especially in the way it has been applied in recent cases. Reference or quote the Wittes editorial in the Washington Post.

  • FISA warrants have apparently been on the increase, supplanting regular Title III warrants as the investigative tool of choice.

  • Any American with contacts abroad appears to be a possible target for surveillance under FISA. It is not clear that there are any controls on domestic spying under FISA. Nor is it clear, from how FISA is being used, that the government has any coherent strategy for ensuring that FISA is used only for its intended purposes.

  • A troubling secrecy surrounds FISA: secret wiretap applications, secret "judicial" reviews, secret searches, secret evidence gathered by FISA. There is no provision for potentially affected parties, whether suspects or not, to learn about FISA activities, ever. There is a resemblance here to totalitarian systems of domestic control.

  • In the United States, accused persons are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial. In cases involving FISA evidence, accused persons are effectively denied the usual right to a fair trial because FISA evidence is not released for use in important legal and factual arguments.

  • The FBI must have better things to do than investigate stale Cold War intelligence leads. What about Federal crimes that actually do domestic harms, e.g., civil rights violations, labor rights violations, environmental crimes, hate crimes?

  • Taxpayers deserve more accountability for the Federal resources spent on law enforcement. Taxpayers should not be asked to fund activities of questionable constitutionality, legality, or enforcement value. Have lawmakers taken a look at the resources being expended in vast electronic surveillance operations, including those under FISA? Is bloated law enforcement returning any value to the nation, or are the law enforcement "victories" offset by the financial costs, botched cases, and the toll that is apparently taken on the everyday security of American citizens?


OtherLetter Writing Tips

  • Keep it short, a page or page-and-a-half.
  • Personalize the letter as much as possible: express why you are outraged, puzzled or concerned in your own terms, relating your views to your own experience. For example, if you have international contacts, you may feel vulnerable to FISA snoop-jobs; if you talk a lot on the phone, you may be fed up with wiretaps and recorded conversations; if you are a civil libertarian from way back, FISA is outrageous; if you are a friend of accused spies, you may be indignant that your phone calls were taped and reviewed.
  • Attach relevant articles, news clippings, etc.
  • When writing to a Congressional or DOJ addressee, be sure to request a written response and detailed answers to your questions.
  • If you write to a Member of Congress who is not from your district, it won't hurt to send a copy of the letter to your own member, e.g., Albert Wynn, Steny Hoyer, Connie Morella, for the Maryland suburbs. This will let them know of constituent interest in this area even if they don't have direct influence through committee assignment.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, share a copy or summary of your correspondence with the Fund for the Fourth Amendment. You can do this anonymously, if you wish, by removing identifying information about yourself. The FFA may find these materials helpful for tracking letter-writing activities or as models for future letters.



Go to sample letters

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