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FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. RUPPERSBERGER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in favor of the FISA Amendments Act, which is due to expire at the end of this year.

When Chairman Rogers and I took over the leadership of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, we made a commitment to work together to ensure the intelligence community has the authorities it needs to effectively protect our country while also protecting the privacy of Americans. I believe we must reauthorize this critical piece of legislation to keep America and her citizens safe. The FISA Amendments Act allows the government to gain important intelligence about terrorists, cyberthreats, weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear weapons that threaten Americans and U.S. interests.

There is a misconception out there that this act permits the surveillance of Americans without a court order. The bill prohibits the targeting of American citizens without a court order, no matter where they're located in the world.

The FISA Amendments Act gives the U.S. Government the authority to collect intelligence information about foreigners located outside of the United States. The FISA Amendments Act is subject to aggressive oversight by Congress and the executive branch.

There was an issue in the hearing before the Judiciary Committee about the issue of oversight. In this Congress alone, the House Intelligence Committee has held multiple hearings, briefings, and more than a dozen meetings concerning FISA. In addition, every 60 days the Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence conduct detailed onsite reviews to ensure compliance with the provisions of the act.

This is a bipartisan bill that passed out of the House Intelligence Committee by a unanimous vote of 17-0. I understand some Democrats would like a 3-year extension of the FISA Amendments Act, some Republicans requested a 9-year extension. The administration asked for a 5-year extension to take Presidential-year politics out of the process while providing consistency to the intelligence community. I support the President's request for a 5-year extension.

Without reauthorization, this critical tool would be lost, putting our Nation at severe risk. We would not be able to obtain the foreign intelligence necessary to prevent terrorist plots and financial support. I believe the act is critical to protecting our Nation while protecting our Americans' constitutional rights and privacy. I urge my colleagues to support this measure.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. RUPPERSBERGER. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, there's been talk about the FISA Amendments Act as a backdoor collection on Americans and does not sufficiently protect civil liberties. This is not the case. We are all Americans. We are Members of Congress. We care about our country. We care about our Constitution, and we care about our privacy and our civil liberties.

Now, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 actually expands the protections of Americans' civil liberties and privacy interests. Before the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, which became law then, the government needed only the Attorney General's authorization to target an American. Because of the FISA Amendments Act, if the government allows for surveillance of an American, that American must be overseas and the government must have a FISA court order if they do target an American anywhere in the world. The civil liberties of Americans are better protected than before this act became law in 2008.

Also, as far as oversight, and there have been allegations of not proper oversight. I understand the argument, and I don't disagree with the argument about sunsets. Sunsets are good because they hold us accountable. We can see if there are any abuses, and we can deal with them when we have sunsets.

However, the Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence file semi-annual reports with Congress as it relates to the FISA Act. These reports include information about compliance, targeting, and minimization on collections involving the parties that we're focused on.

The Intelligence Committee staff has conducted dozens of meetings about the authorities under the FISA amendments. These meetings have addressed compliance, procedures, authorities, and specific collection.

On the Intelligence Committee, we review, investigate, and debate the FISA Amendments Act. We maintain an ongoing dialogue with the intelligence community to ensure the law is being implemented in how it was intended.

We, as Americans, need to know more about the threats that are out there. Our threats for cyberattacks are occurring as we speak right now. It's very dangerous. These attacks can affect our national security, our grid systems, our banking systems, our air traffic control systems. This bill, this amendment, is part of our protection in dealing with those major issues.

I advise my colleague that I am ready to close, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. I reserve with the right to close.

Mr. RUPPERSBERGER. Mr. Speaker, I yield, again, myself such time as I might consume.

The FISA Amendments Act is the result of decades of work to modify a law so we can adapt with changing technology and evolving national security threats. The bill demonstrates what Democrats and Republicans can do when we work together in a bipartisan way. It is uniquely important to put partisanship aside when America's national security is at stake.

We all have the same goal of keeping America safe from terrorist threats, whether on land or sea, in the air or with cyberspace. We also believe strongly, and this is very important, in the Constitution and the protections granted by our Founding Fathers.

The FISA Amendments Act is an important tool that has successfully prevented terrorist attacks on American soil. I know it is critical to our intelligence community.

I commend everyone who participated in this effort, especially the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Rogers and the other members of the Intelligence Committee on both sides of the aisle. I support this straight reauthorization which President Obama, our Commander in Chief, has said is ``vital to protect our Nation.''

I will vote for the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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