Pelosi: FISA Bill Protects Our National Security and Our Civil Liberties

Nov 16, 2007
Press Release

Pelosi: FISA Bill Protects Our National Security and Our Civil Liberties

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Contact: Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. â€" Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor tonight in support of H.R. 3773, the RESTORE Act, which updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to provide flexible surveillance tools for the intelligence community while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans. The bill passed by a vote of 227 to 189. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

“Mr. Speaker, as one who has long served on the Intelligence Committee, I understand full well the threats to our national security. I understand full well the need for us to have legislation that strikes the proper balance between liberty and security. I think this legislation does just that, and I commend Chairman Conyers, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Chairman Reyes, for their important work and their leadership in presenting this legislation to the floor for consideration.

“The bill is important - it accomplishes the goal of striking the balance between security and liberty in the following ways: it defends Americans against terrorism and other threats; it protects Americans’ civil liberties; and it restores checks and balances.

“The bill protects Americans by providing the Director of National Intelligence with the flexibility he has requested of Congress to conduct electronic surveillance of persons outside the United States. No warrants are required whenever foreign to foreign communications are captured, regardless of the point of collection anywhere in the world.

“It protects our civil liberties in a number of ways. The DNI has agreed that when Americans are targeted for surveillance, a warrant is required. We have now included certain criteria that the government must take into account in considering whether a warrant is required. This will help prevent inappropriate warrantless surveillance and ‘reverse targeting’ of Americans under the guise of foreign intelligence.

“The bill restores checks and balances. This is very important, because that is our oath of office, to protect the Constitution of the United States. The bill rejects groundless claims of ‘inherent executive authority.’ There are those who claim that the President has inherent authority from the Constitution to do whatever he wishes. Long ago, our Founders rejected that concept in founding our country; we must do that as well.

“The legislation also makes clear that FISA makes the principle of exclusivity the principle that determines the collection of intelligence. It makes clear that FISA is the exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance to gather foreign intelligence. The government must seek approval from a FISA court. So we’re talking about the Congress of United States passing legislation as it did in the late 1970s, passing this legislation today, which is in light of the new technologies and new realities in the world, and recognizing the authority of the third branch of government, the courts.

“This legislation includes extensive reporting to Congress with respect to the interception and dissemination of communications among Americans and from Americans. This is very important because we want to minimize the use of that information and keep it for the purpose in which it is collected.

“Most significantly, the bill does not provide immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the President’s warrantless surveillance program. We cannot even consider providing immunity unless we know exactly what we are providing immunity from. And even then we have to proceed with great caution.

“It is important to note that the bill sunsets on December 31, 2009, the date the Patriot Act sunsets. So the next Administration and the next Congress can review and reassess the program.

“This legislation is supported by organizations dedicated to protecting our national security and in light of protecting our civil liberties, including the Center for National Security Studies, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and many other groups that work to protect privacy rights. The bill both protects national security and civil liberties, reaffirms our Constitutional system of checks and balances, and deserves the support of this House.

“Mr. Speaker, all of us want our President to have the best possible intelligence, our President and our policy makers. So they can do the best possible job to protect the American people. But no President, Democrat or Republican, should have the authority to have inherent authority to collect surveillance on Americans without doing so under the law.

“This legislation establishes that principle, and establishes it in a very focused way in keeping with a need for flexibility for the Director of National Intelligence, in keeping with honoring our oath of office to the Constitution.

“I urge our colleagues to support this important legislation. I for one am very proud of the work of Mr. Conyers and Mr. Reyes, and thank them for their leadership.”