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FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the extension of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

I would just have to say this is critical to the protection of the American people. With the events over the last couple of days, we need not be reminded of this solemn responsibility 1 day after the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

If you will recall, one of the main points made by the 9/11 Commission in
their after-action report was that we, as a Nation, had not done enough--that is, the Government of the United States had not done enough--to connect the dots to warn us sufficiently to protect against the attack which caused the death of over 3,000 on our homeland. In order to connect the dots--that is, the items of information, the intelligence--you have to have the dots, you have to have the intelligence. That's precisely what the extension of these amendments will allow us to do.

But initially, it's important to understand from the outset of this debate what this legislation would do as well as what it does not do.

We are seeking to address the essential need for us to be able to monitor communications by terrorists and other foreign adversaries located outside the United States. We're not debating the PATRIOT Act here. We're not talking about national security letters. We're not talking about those things that are directed at Americans.

The annual certification procedures provided under the FISA Amendments Act do not allow the targeting of Americans outside the United States. Thus, if an American is targeted anywhere in the world, or if a person is targeted within the United States, an individualized court order is required.

In cases involving a foreign terrorist outside the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approves annual certifications submitted by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. This is a court made up of article III judges, judges with lifetime appointments, with the independence that was accorded them under the Constitution.

And I would remind my colleagues that the appellate review, the appellate division of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, is also comprised of article III judges.

It is important to note we're not providing for warrantless surveillance here. In fact, the FISA Amendments Act has enhanced the statutory protections afforded to U.S. persons under the law. Because it was the first time, under these amendments that we wish to extend, we required an individual FISA court order to conduct overseas intelligence collections on U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Even if they're overseas, we now require that. It was not required by statute before that.

Before that, the Attorney General approved such collections against U.S. persons outside the U.S., pursuant to an executive order of the President. We all know that executive orders of the President can be changed by a President while in office, or a succeeding President.

I would submit that if you are concerned about civil liberties, and I assume everybody in this debate is, returning to the good old days prior to the enactment of the FISA Amendments Act is not a step forward for civil liberties.

It should also be understood that we're not seeking to extend the underlying Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in its entirety. Today we're attempting to achieve the rather modest purpose of the 2008 amendments. Again, court approval of annual certification by the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Attorney General, identifying categories of foreign intelligence agents outside the United States is required. An individualized court order is required in other cases.

The legislative history of FISA is instructive. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report that accompanied FISA in the initial act in 1978 clearly expressed Congress' intent to exclude overseas intelligence activities from the reach of FISA. These were the words of that report:

The committee has explored the feasibility of broadening this legislation to apply overseas, but has concluded that certain problems and unique characteristics involved in overseas surveillance preclude the simple extension of this bill to overseas surveillance.

In other words, overseas surveillance was never the focus of the 1978 act. Rather, it focused on domestic surveillance of persons located within the United States to ensure that there were protections in that regard.


Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. The FISA Amendments Act under consideration here today requires an individualized court order in cases where an American is the target, no matter where they may be located.

Here's the reason why this is important. It is the change in communications, the nature of communications that required us to do the amendments. If we fail to pass this, we will, as former DNI Director McConnell stated, we will lose two-thirds of those dots, those bits of information, the intelligence that we need to connect to protect us. We will put in very much manner the country at risk.

If you look at a simple risk analysis, you have to do threat, you have to do vulnerability, you have to do consequence. We can figure out what the vulnerability is by our inspection of our own resources and infrastructure. We can figure out what the consequences are.

What we have to have, in order to figure out the

threat, is a means of collecting intelligence. We have to pass this law, a bipartisan law.

I recall being here and having the former Speaker of the House spend, I think, 7 minutes arguing on behalf of this, and the gentleman who is Number two on the Democratic side as well.

It has never been partisan. Hopefully, we can have bipartisan support expressed in the vote for these amendments.


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