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Government Using Foreign Intelligence Powers to Circumvent Law & Spy On Citizens for Routine Criminal Investigations


A fraud defense case that is currently underway has revealed that the government is regularly using its surveillance powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to conduct ordinary domestic criminal investigations and wiretap permanent residents in the US in order to bring charges that have nothing to do with national security or foreign intelligence, which is only what FISA was designed to enable. In addition, those who are ultimately charged at the end of these investigations are unable to find out anything about the investigation that would help them challenge this controversial surveillance, which arguably violates their constitutional rights.

Background On FISA

FISA was designed to provide the government with powerful surveillance powers in order to obtain foreign intelligence information. Under the law, the government can ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval to wiretap people without first establishing probable cause – which is required to set up ordinary criminal wiretaps – because FISA surveillance is based on relaxed standards with fewer restraints, given the nature of the sensitive national security issues that it involves.

How It Is Used Today

However, the government in recent years has relied on FISA to essentially set up this intrusive surveillance and implicate the privacy rights of countless Americans who have never even been suspected of crimes to conduct basic criminal investigations, violating their Fourth Amendment rights. Many of these investigations appear to result in domestic fraud charges, which are far from the national security or espionage charges that FISA was designed to target.

Why This Is Problematic, Illegal, & Unconstitutional

Yet what might perhaps be even worse is that because FISA was designed to go after dangerous, time-sensitive foreign intelligence and/or national security crimes, those targeted have very little due process protections built into the law and prosecution processes included, which means that individuals now caught up in these FISA prosecutions (which are actually just regular criminal prosecutions) cannot review the government’s application to challenge any errors or omissions when it comes to wiretap evidence used in the criminal cases assembled against them. In fact, in the 40 years since FISA was enacted, no defendant has ever been able to review the government’s FISA application. This means that these defendants face tremendous hurdles in utilizing their due process rights and holding the government accountable for mistakes in the charges brought against them.

And these mistakes are unfortunately fairly widespread: The Department of Justice Inspector General recently put together a report on FISA abuses. Indeed, in 2000, the government admitted that at least 75 surveillance applications contained material misstatements and omissions in terms of people who had been targeted for surveillance.

If You Have Been Accused Of Fraud Here In New York, Contact Defense Attorney Mark I. Cohen

There is no question that courts must provide defendants with access to the materials used against them as part of their due process rights. If you are being prosecuted for federal fraud charges, contact highly respected and widely recognized NYC criminal attorney Mark I. Cohen today.





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