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S. 1566, An Act . . . to authorize . . . electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), October 12, 1978

Based on the Church Committee’s recommendations, Congress enacted legislation to improve oversight of the intelligence community. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 established judicial review of electronic surveillance. In 1980 Congress passed the Intelligence Oversight Act requiring all U.S. intelligence activities to be reported to Congress.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

S. 1566, An Act . . . to authorize . . . electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), October 12, 1978

Foreign and Domestic Spying

Allegations of domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) surfaced in the 1970s, triggering public demand for an investigation of federal surveillance operations. In 1975 the Senate established the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, headed by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. The Church Committee’s reports exposed abuses and led to legislation governing domestic and foreign surveillance—most notably, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. House and Senate permanent select committees established at that time now oversee U.S. intelligence.

The critical question before the committee was to determine how the fundamental liberties of the people can be maintained in the course of the Government’s effort to protect their security.

Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans . . . United States Senate . . . , Final Report, April 26, 1976