Pres. Obama Signs FISA Extension — AP

Dec 30th, 2012 Legislation

Although the White House “Signed Legislation” page is not reporting it and CNN is not reporting it, as of 22:17 on 12/30/12, the Associated Press is reporting that President Obama has signed the legislation extending those few provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that were scheduled to sunset tomorrow. It was a foregone conclusion that he would sign it. Also, I had predicted that he would do it at a time and in a manner to draw the least possible attention to his action. At the risk of going against the blogosphere, I will opine that this was a necessary and reasonable action. I would be glad to discuss why I said that.

The President’s action extends Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, <<NOTE: 50 USC 1881-1881g.>> , but that is confusing because it is codified as Subchapter VI (not “VII”) of Chapter 36 of Title 50 of the United State Code. In any event, it is the subchapter known as “ADDITIONAL PROCEDURES REGARDING CERTAIN PERSONS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES.”  The Associated Press got it dead wrong when they reported:

The law does not apply to Americans. When Americans are targeted for surveillance, the government must get a warrant from a special 11-judge court of U.S. district judges appointed by the Supreme Court.

In context, the AP made that statement about FISA in general.  Even if we apply it just to the bill that the President just signed, the statement is still wrong . Section 1881c, which was just extended, is entitled: “Other acquisitions targeting United States persons outside the United States.”  That extended provision most certainly does apply to Americans, although only if they are outside of the United States.  The core of FISA, which was not scheduled to sunset, also most certainly applies to Americans – or “United States persons” in the nomenclature of the statute – and it always has.

Here is a copy of the actual legislation that passed both houses by wide margins:

H.R.5949 — FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate] – ENR)



One Hundred Twelfth Congress
of the
United States of America


Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday,

the third day of January, two thousand and twelve

An Act

To extend the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for five years.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012′.


    (a) Extension- Section 403(b) of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-261; 122 Stat. 2474) is amended–
      (1) in paragraph (1), by striking `December 31, 2012′ and inserting `December 31, 2017′; and
      (2) in paragraph (2) in the material preceding subparagraph (A), by striking `December 31, 2012′ and inserting `December 31, 2017′.
    (b) Conforming Amendment- The heading of section 404(b)(1) of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-261; 122 Stat. 2476) is amended by striking `DECEMBER 31, 2012′ and inserting `DECEMBER 31, 2017′.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.

[Professor William Snyder]


Here is a September 12, 2012, report from the Congressional Research Service explaining the renewed provisions of FISA: Reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography