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S. 1566, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, October 12, 1978

Based on the Church Committee’s recommendations, Congress strengthened oversight of the intelligence community. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 established judicial review of electronic surveillance, and the Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980 required intelligence agencies to fully and routinely inform congressional intelligence oversight committees of their activities.

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

S. 1566, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, October 12, 1978

Foreign and Domestic Spying

After allegations of domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) surfaced in the 1970s, public demand grew 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 root cause of the excesses . . . has been failure to apply the wisdom of the constitutional system of checks and balances to intelligence activities. Our experience as a nation has taught us to place our trust in laws, and not solely in men.

Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations, Foreign and Military Intelligence, April 1976