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Public Statements

FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REED. Madam President, major terrorist threats still exist, and it is critical that we do all we can to protect Americans, not only in terms of national security, but also in terms of civil liberties. In voting today to extend the FISA Amendments Act, FAA, for 5 years, I made a difficult judgment as there are still major outstanding concerns. In trying to address these concerns, I supported three amendments that would have made important improvements.

The first was Senator Leahy's amendment, which sought to align the FAA sunset with the Patriot Act sunset so that both of these national security laws could be evaluated together prior to their expiration. Additionally, this amendment required a comprehensive review of FAA surveillance by the Inspector General of the intelligence community to address privacy concerns that have been raised.

I also supported Senator Merkley's amendment, which would have increased transparency by requiring the Attorney General, in a manner consistent with the protection of national security, to make publicly available Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions that include a significant construction or interpretation of the law.

Finally, I voted in favor of Senator Wyden's amendment, which would have required the Director of National Intelligence to submit a report to Congress and the public on the impact of FAA on the privacy of American citizens, while preserving the President's ability to make necessary redactions.

I am disappointed that these amendments, which all call for greater accountability and transparency, were unsuccessful.

In 2008, I largely objected to the FAA because I had serious concerns about granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for actions they may or may not have taken in response to administration requests that may or may not have been legal. Because these immunity provisions are not subject to a sunset, they are not at issue with today's vote.

I ultimately decided to vote in favor of extending FAA for 5 years because, as I noted earlier, major threats still exist. However, I did so reluctantly. We should have considered an FAA extension months ago without the threat of FAA expiration in mere days. Protecting Americans means that we must balance ensuring our national security with preserving our civil liberties, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that this balance is struck.


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