The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Compared with the Law of Electronic Surveillance in Europe Academic Article uri icon


  • The purpose of this article is to compare the fundamental operative provisions of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) with the equivalent directives of European surveillance law in five representative countries. The specific provisions being compared relate to the ability to monitor the content of individual communications within the nation state or citizens outside territorial borders. The author is not greatly concerned at this point with the procedure required before interceptions of noncitizens outside the country as under U.S. law this is not limited in a manner that endangers the nation. Foreign residents outside the country are not protected by the Fourth Amendment and thus there are less obstructive regulations. Nor is there a need at this time to concentrate on metadata collection, which is simply the accumulation of data on numbers dialed, time, and duration of calls made by telephone subscribers. Metadata does not include content. Although the provisions of the USA Freedom Act will increase the burden on the government by directing that this data be stored with the separate telecommunications providers instead of NSA, the threat posed by these provisions is minor compared to the dangers created by the restraints of the FISA statute on the ability of the government to intercept citizens and communications domestically.

published proceedings

  • American Journal of Criminal Law

author list (cited authors)

  • Sievert, R.

complete list of authors

  • Sievert, Ronald

publication date

  • February 2016