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FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MERKLEY. I thank the Chair, and I thank my colleague.

My colleague did address issues regarding the Merkley-Lee amendment, which has three stages in it designed to be sensitive to national security. It says that if the Attorney General determines that an opinion is not dangerous to national security, it asks them to release it to the public. It says that if the Attorney General finds that it is sensitive to national security, to release only a summary so written as to protect national security. Then it goes even further to say that if, in the Attorney General's opinion, that is not possible, then please just give us a report on the process the executive branch has already said they are doing, which is to go through a systematic process of determining what they feel should be released independent of any advice we in the Senate might have.

So in these three stages, national security is given full consideration at each step. What it means is that in a situation where we have language such as ``the government can collect information relevant to an investigation,'' and the public wonders, well, is that investigation any investigation in the world, is it--what does ``relevant'' mean? What does ``tangible information'' mean? There are decisions that may confirm that the plain language operates in a fashion that protects the fourth amendment or those interpretations of FISA may, in fact, stand the statute on its head and open a door that was meant to be, by what we did when we passed it here, open just a slit, to be turned into a wide-open gate.

So with those provisions to carefully protect national security, as the Senator so rightly pointed out is necessary, can I perhaps win the Senator's support?

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Mr. MERKLEY. I thank my colleague for sharing his insights. And certainly national security is extremely important. I obviously reach a different conclusion.

I encourage my colleagues to support the amendment that Senator Lee and I have put forward because it appropriately balances national security concerns against issues of privacy and the fourth amendment. It says simply that where national security is not affected, the public should be able to see these interpretations of what the statutes we write in this Chamber mean so the public can weigh in on whether they feel comfortable with where the secret court has taken us and so we can weigh in, so we can have a debate on this floor not about our best guess about what possible implications might occur from some secret court opinion, but we can actually share a situation where national security is not affected. Well, here is how related to investigations it has been interpreted: Oh my goodness. What was intended to be a door open 1 inch is a door flung open like a barn gate, and the fourth amendment is in serious trouble. That should be debated here.

Certainly, the amendment Senator Lee and I have put forward is very sensitive to the concerns my colleague has presented. I do appreciate his viewpoints. But, Mr. President, through you I ask my colleagues to weigh in on the side that the American people have a right to know what the plain language of the statute actually means after being interpreted by a court.

Thank you.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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