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FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. TESTER. I would like to talk about the FISA Amendments Act. I thank Senator Wyden for his leadership on this issue and for offering an amendment to this act that I have cosponsored and will speak on in just a minute.

On our vote tomorrow, I will say that I will reluctantly plan to oppose the vote on the FISA Amendments Act when we get to final passage. There are many reasons for that. I am not naive. I do understand there are people out there who want to do harm to our Nation. I very much appreciate the folks in the intelligence community who do difficult behind-the-scenes work to keep us all safe. But at the same time, I believe our civil liberties and our right to privacy need to be protected. I do not believe they are sufficiently protected under the current law. So simply extending current law for 5 more years is irresponsible, and it is not a reflection of our values.

There are a few ways this bill falls short. I am especially concerned about the practice of reverse-targeting. The deputy majority leader talked about it about an hour ago.

The intelligence community does not need a warrant to conduct surveillance on someone located overseas. I think we can all agree there is no problem there. The problem comes when the intelligence community conducts surveillance on someone overseas where the real purpose is to gain information about someone right here in America. That can happen without a warrant, and we should not let that happen without a warrant.

Our national security is not threatened if we require this information to be tagged and sequestered and subject to judicial review. It would merely ensure that the information intercepted overseas in the form of communications to or from an American citizen would have to be overseen by the courts. Current law is supposed to prohibit this practice, but there really is no way to enforce the prohibition. That leaves the door open for abuse. That is simply unacceptable.

Unfortunately, neither Senator Wyden nor I are able to offer our amendments that would address this hole in our privacy rights.

We can do better. We can also do better when it comes to transparency. The simplest amendment the Senate can approve today is the one I am proud to consponor. It is the Wyden amendment to require the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on the impact of FISA amendments on the privacy of American citizens. It is a commonsense amendment.

The report could be classified but would no longer allow the intelligence community to ignore requests for information from Congress. Why in the world do we not require the intelligence community to be accountable to us for its actions? It is our responsibility in Congress to hold the entire executive branch accountable. If we do not ask these questions, we are simply not doing our job. That is true whether it is President Obama, President Bush, or some other President.

I hope we can adopt the Wyden amendment to improve the reporting requirements of FISA. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment.

I yield the floor.


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