Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978. FISA provides a statutory framework for government agencies to obtain authorization to gather foreign intelligence by means of
(1) electronic surveillance,
(2) physical searches,
(3) pen registers and trap and trace devices (which record or decode dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information), or
(4) the production of business records and other tangible things.
Agencies typically request authorization for such activities from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a specialized court created by FISA to act as a neutral arbiter of agency requests for FISA orders.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): An Overview