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FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NADLER. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the FISA Amendments Act of 2012. If we had had an opportunity to evaluate this law based on experience with it, and to consider some amendments and alternatives, this opposition would not be necessary. But the Republican majority has, once again, told the Members of this House and the American people that it's ``my way or the highway.''

While it is certainly appropriate for our government to gather foreign intelligence, and while some degree of secrecy is obviously necessary, it is also vital in a free society that we limit government, protect the constitutional rights of Americans here and abroad, and limit warrantless spying to genuine foreign intelligence.

Unfortunately, we have seen repeatedly how even the very minimal restraints Congress put on FISA have been violated. We should address those abuses. Congress has an obligation to exert more control over spy agencies than simply to give them a blank check for another 5 years.

The gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) had an amendment that would have shortened the sunset by 2 years, but we won't even have a chance to consider it, perhaps because some of our Republican colleagues might also want to support such an amendment. As a result, we will not revisit the law until after the end of the next presidential term.

And if we had cut shorter this extension, we could do what we should have done but haven't: hold hearings, look into how the law is operating, and decide what amendments and protections are necessary to make sure it operates right so that we can collect the intelligence without violating the constitutional rights of Americans.

I had an amendment that would have required the Attorney General to make publicly available a summary of each decision of the FISA court and the FISA court of review that includes a significant construction of section 702, which allows warrantless surveillance, with appropriate security redactions and editing.

Many American citizens and others who have nothing to do with foreign intelligence gathering are caught up in this surveillance, and government has an obligation to protect their rights. The FISA court is supposed to do that, and we need to ensure that the law and the courts are working.

Disclosure of classified information is not needed to know whether the court performs meaningful oversight of the executive branch, applies minimization standards correctly, and whether or not we ought to amend the law.

The gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) said, ``rather than playing the numbers game, either with the actual targets or the people who are incidentally surveilled, perhaps decisions of the FISA court, particularly the review of the FISA court, appropriately redacted, would be able to give us the answer to that question. I have always been one that favored disclosure.''

The gentleman from Wisconsin is right. If the FISA court is just a rubberstamp of the executive branch, we and the public should know that. And if the court really does provide meaningful oversight and meaningful limitations on the executive branch, we and the public should know that too.

But we won't get to discover that or to debate that. Failure to do so is a dereliction of our constitutional duty to protect the constitutional rights of American citizens and the betrayal of our liberties.

I urge my colleagues to reject this legislation and demand that we properly consider this very important issue by a somewhat shorter extension and by proper hearings and examination of the limitations and the workings of this law.


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