Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

The memo drafted by Rep. Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Why it matters: There are a lot of myths about FISA, its associated courts, and the approval process the DOJ must go through to get a warrant to conduct surveillance. And questions remain about the application regarding the FBI's decision to surveil Carter Page following the memo's release.

Here's what you need to know about what FISA is and how the application process works.

What is FISA?
  • Signed into law in 1978, FISA requires the government to obtain permission from a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in order to surveil communications on domestic soil for national security reasons.
  • The FISC, also established in 1978, along with judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, makes decisions as to whether to approve wiretaps, data collection, and government requests regarding monitoring suspected terrorists and spies. Eleven federal district judges sit on the court on a rotating basis.
How does the FISA application work?
  • In criminal investigations, the FBI can seek a warrant under Title III of the U.S. criminal code by showing a federal court that there is probable cause to believe the target has engaged, or is engaging in, criminal activity.
  • For electronic surveillance, the government has to show that the target might be spying for a foreign government or organization.
How do FISA applications get approved?
  • FISA warrant investigations can’t be opened “solely on the basis of First Amendment activities." In other words, affiliation with questionable parties isn't enough to warrant a FISA case.
  • Evidence the FBI can use to support the claim that the U.S. target is knowingly working on behalf of a foreign entity can include information gathered from human sources, physical surveillance, bank transactions, or even documents found in the target’s trash.
  • Once evidence has been accumulated, the information must be outlined in an affidavit and application stating the grounds for the FISA warrant.
  • The completed FISA application goes through the FBI chain of command, before making its way to FBI Headquarters to receive approval and sign off by the Special Agent in charge of the field office before making it to the Justice Department where attorneys from the National Security Division vet the application to verify all the assertions made in it.
  • The FISC then reviews the application in secret, and decides whether to approve the warrant.
Myths

It’s easy to get a FISA warrant. Although it’s true that statistics show judges rarely deny applications for FISA warrants or criminal wiretaps, the government rarely submits applications that aren’t approved because there are are several rounds of conversations the Department of Justice must go through in order to obtain warrants, per the NYT.

  • The FISC received 1,752 applications in 2016, granted 1,378 orders, modified 339, denied in part 26 orders, and denied in full 9 applications, according to FISC disclosures.
Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

At least 125 dead in western India after landslides, monsoon flooding

Vehicles driving through a flooded street in Mumbai on July 19. Photo: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

At least 125 people are dead after monsoon rains triggered landslides in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said on Saturday, according to Reuters.

State of play: Downpours lasting several days have impacted hundreds of thousands of people, as major rivers are in danger of breaking through their banks.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🚨: China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

📺: The Olympic events to watch today

🎾: Athlete spotlight - Naomi Osaka looks to snag gold on home soil

👻: How the no-spectator Olympics could affect the athletes

🇺🇸: "What an honor it is to watch you soar," first lady tells U.S. Olympians

🥇: The six new sports at Tokyo 2020

💉 About 100 U.S. Olympic athletes are unvaccinated

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

3 hours ago - Sports

China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

Silver medalist Anastasiia Galashina of Russia, gold medalist Yang Qian of China and bronze medalist Nina Christen of Switzerland celebrate on the podium after the 10m air rifle women's final. Photo:

China's Yang Qian won the first gold of the Tokyo Olympics, narrowly beating Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee in the women's 10-meter air rifle final.

Why it matters: The first medal ceremony of the Games took on extra meaning after a year-long delay and other hurdles brought on by the pandemic. Athletes are required to hang medals around their own necks in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.