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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Chair, I thank the gentleman for yielding and wish to express my appreciation to Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Young and Ranking Member Visclosky for their skillful leadership in shepherding H.R. 2397, the Defense Appropriations Act for FY2014, to the floor.

This body has no greater obligation than to ensure that our men and women in uniform, and those civilians who support them, have the resources needed to keep our country safe. I want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for crafting a bill that keeps faith with our obligation to those who risk their lives to protect our freedoms.

Madam Chair, let me also express my appreciation to my friend and colleague, Congressman Amash, and to Congressman Conyers, the gentleman from Michigan and the Ranking Member of Judiciary Committee, for their good and hard work in fashioning the bipartisan amendment before us. Their work on the Amash-Conyers amendment is an example of what can be accomplished when members put aside partisanship and work across the aisle in an effort to come up with workable solutions to serious problems.

Madam Chair, the Amash-Conyers Amendment to H.R. 2397 prohibits the use of appropriated funds execute any order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) that does not include the following sentence:

This Order limits the collection of any tangible things (including telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls) that may be authorized to be collected pursuant to this Order to those tangible things that pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation described in 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861).

The Amash-Conyers Amendment was prompted by the recent unauthorized disclosures regarding the National Security Agency's collection from Verizon of the phone records of all of its American customers, which was authorized by the FISA Court pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Public reaction to the news of this massive and secret data gathering operation was swift and negative. There was justifiable concern on the part of the public and a large percentage of the Members of this body that the extent and scale of this NSA data collection operation, which exceeded by orders of magnitude anything previously authorized or contemplated, may constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy and threat to the civil liberties of American citizens.

To quell the growing controversy, the Director of National Intelligence declassified and released limited information about this program. According to the DNI, the program does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone's phone calls. Nor does the information acquired include the content of any communications or the identity of any subscriber.

The DNI stated that ``the only type of information acquired under the Court's order is telephony metadata, such as telephone numbers dialed and length of calls.'' The DNI stated that the data collection was ``broad in scope because more narrow collection would limit our ability to screen for and identify terrorism-related communications. Acquiring this information allows us to make connections related to terrorist activities over time.''

As a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, I have long been committed to safeguarding and protecting the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Americans. Indeed, in 2001 I voted against the Patriot Act on the House floor because I was concerned that it did not contain sufficient protections to safeguard civil liberties, after it was rewritten from the bipartisan committee product that had strong civil liberties' protections.

I am also a charter member of the Homeland Security Committee, which is charged with the indispenable role of providing direction, guidance, and oversight to the Department of Homeland Security so that it fulfills its mission of keeping the homeland safe. So I am very familiar and sensitive to the inherent tensions between liberty and security.

I believe the questions raised by supporters of the Amash/Conyers Amendment about the NSA metadata program are legitimate, particularly the question whether there are sufficient protections for Americans' civil liberties. On the other hand, I am concerned that the amendment would also have the effect of precluding the use of section 501 to obtain an individual order for any business record (not just telephone data) about a person associated with someone who is the subject of an authorized investigation because of the defunding.

Madam Chair, striking the appropriate balance between the competing interests of national security and civil liberties requires thoughtful and careful deliberation. I believe that decisions of this scope and moment should be made in the regular legislative process where they are first vetted by the committees of jurisdiction which have the resources and expertise to examine the issues carefully, debate them fully, and to compile a legislative record that will enable the House to render a wise and informed judgment.

Because a funds limitation provision on an appropriations bill is poorly suited for this purpose, I do not support the Amash/Conyers Amendment. In contrast, I support and am an original co-sponsor of H.R. 2399, the ``Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act of 2013'' (``LIBERT-E'' Act''), introduced by Congressmen Conyers and Amash and look forward to working with them and Chairman GOODLATTE to ensure that this legislation is considered under regular order by the Judiciary Committee.

Similarly, I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings, markup, and report favorably to the House H.R. 2440, the ``FISA Court in the Sunshine Act of 2013,'' bipartisan legislation I introduced last month that will bring much needed transparency without compromising national security to the decisions, orders, and opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or ``FISA Court.'' Specifically, my legislation, which is the House counterpart to bipartisan companion bill introduced in the Senate:

- requires the Attorney General to disclose each decision, order, or opinion of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), allowing Americans to know how broad of a legal authority the government is claiming under the PATRIOT ACT and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct the surveillance needed to keep Americans safe;
- addresses national security concerns by providing that if a decision of the FISA Court cannot be declassified without undermining national security interest, then the Attorney General shall disclose a summary of the opinion;
- provides that if the Attorney General determines that even a summary of opinion would endanger national security interests, the Attorney General shall to provide a report to Congress describing the process to be implemented to declassify FISA Court opinions; and
- requires the Attorney General to provide an estimate of the number of opinions that will be declassified and the number that are expected to be withheld because of national security concerns.

Madam Chair, it is critically important that legislation adopted by the House strike the proper balance between national security interests and protection of civil rights and liberties and the public's right to know. My legislation H.R. 2440, the ``FISA Court in the Sunshine Act of 2013,'' strikes the proper balance.

More important, by considering this legislation in regular order instead of during the truncated and expedited proceeding that is a funding limitation amendment to an appropriations bill, the danger of making an incorrect decision can be avoided and the likelihood of reaching an informed and carefully calibrated decision that will enjoy the support of a majority of the Congress and the public will be increased substantially.

For these reasons, Madam Chair, I must reluctantly oppose the Amash-Conyers Amendment and urge my colleagues to do likewise.

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