A Rule of Lenity for National Security Surveillance Law
32 Pages Posted: 9 May 2014 Last revised: 13 Mar 2018
Date Written: October 20, 2014
This Essay argues that Congress should adopt a rule of narrow construction of the national security surveillance statutes. Under this interpretive rule, which the Essay calls a “rule of lenity,” ambiguity in the powers granted to the executive branch in the sections of the United States Code on national security surveillance should trigger a narrow judicial interpretation in favor of the individual and against the State. A rule of lenity would push Congress to be the primary decision maker to balance privacy and security when technology changes, limiting the rulemaking power of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A rule of lenity would help restore the power over national security surveillance law to where it belongs: The People.
Keywords: surveillance, FISA, Snowden, NSA
JEL Classification: K1, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation