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Public Statements

FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5949, which would reauthorize the FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008, or FAA, as we refer to it, for 5 years.

The FAA is currently set to expire at the end of the year. If that happens, the government will lose a critical tool for protecting Americans against foreign threats, including terrorists, and, as a result, will lose significant intelligence on these foreign targets. I want to emphasize, Mr. Speaker, foreign targets.

We were all reminded yesterday, while looking back on the horrible events of 9/11, of the threat that we face from those seeking to do us harm. Let me reassure you that even though we have been able to disrupt numerous plots over the years, our enemies want to do just as much harm today as they did then, and they just want to do it as badly as they did even 11 years ago.

The original FAA that is being reauthorized was sponsored by Representative Reyes in 2008, my Democrat predecessor, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. It also reflected the work of then leader, Mr. Hoyer, to help develop the final product under the previous majority. I have been pleased to work in a collegial, bipartisan manner with my ranking member, Mr. Ruppersberger, on this clean reauthorization bill as well. In fact, the Intelligence Committee reported this bill out unanimously, which doesn't happen all that much around this place.

The administration has also indicated to us that reauthorizing the FAA is its highest national security legislation priority, and on Tuesday issued a statement strongly supporting this bill. I hope we can all recognize this is an issue that is being driven by our national security needs and not by politics.

A few key points on the FAA. First, if we let this authority expire, we will lose a critical intelligence collection tool against foreigners on foreign soil.

If that happens, we lose information on the plans and identities of terrorists, information about the functioning of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and others, information on the intentions and capabilities of weapons proliferators, information on potential cyberthreats to the United States and other critical intelligence about foreign adversaries that threaten the United States of America.

Second, it is important to remember that this authority is focused on allowing the government to conduct intelligence collection targeting foreigners located outside of the United States--I'm going to say that again, Mr. Speaker, targeting foreigners located outside of the United States--and not on Americans located in the United States or anywhere else in the world.

Third, the FAA is subject to a robust oversight structure, including Congress, and I can assure you that the Intelligence Committee takes this responsibility extremely seriously. We have had numerous hearings, Member briefings, and staff briefings since the passage of FAA in 2008. Before the government can collect any intelligence under the FISA Amendments Act, a Federal judge must approve the government's surveillance process, including the targeting and minimization procedures required under the law.

One final point, in addition to the primary authority in FAA to target foreigners located abroad, it actually enhanced the civil liberties protections for Americans by requiring a court order to target an American for collection outside of the United States. Before 2008, the government only needed the Attorney General for approval. If this law expires, so do these enhanced civil liberties protections.

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what some may say, FAA is not about domestic surveillance and it does not authorize a sweeping dragnet of collecting on American communications. This is about foreigners on foreign soil. It is about giving our intelligence professionals the tools they need to quickly and effectively intercept the communications of those outside the United States who seek to do us harm.

Let's not forget the nature of the threat that, almost 11 years ago to the day, took so many lives in such a horrific way. And the examples that we see just yesterday of the ongoing target of U.S. civilians, if they're in the United States or they're in places like Libya, continues to be a threat to the personal safety of those we ask to stand in harm's way and protect and promote the values of the United States.

This is a critical piece of legislation supported by both parties and the President of the United States. Mr. Speaker, I would urge all of our colleagues here to stand united in the defense of the United States and support H.R. 5949.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume.

It's just important to remember that the due process protections of the United States are alive and well here. This is one of those programs that has an inordinate amount of oversight to make sure that we are not targeting Americans. Not only does the committee participate, but the Department of Justice has a separate review. There are strong internal reviews.

In the odd case where an American is intercepted, there are very strict procedures on how to destroy that information and correct that problem, and it has not happened, hardly frequently at all is the good news, which is why I think there is such bipartisan and strong support of our effort again to collect on foreigners who are outside of the United States, incredibly important.

I continue to reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my ranking member, Mr. Ruppersberger, for the fine bipartisan effort on this important national security issue.

I think the people at home can rest assured that we have taken every precaution to protect our civil liberties, which we all cherish in this Nation, and still have the ability to collect on foreigners overseas seeking to harm this great country, and I want to thank you for your work and commend the President for his letter of support of our bipartisan effort on this important national security issue.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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