WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement tonight on the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act:
"Mr. Speaker, every single member of this body supports giving our Commander in Chief the tools necessary to track terrorists, to intercept their communications, and to disrupt their plots.
"Any suggestion otherwise – any suggestion that any member of this body somehow seeks to 'coddle' terrorists who want to attack our nation and kill our people – demeans our discourse and is beneath the dignity of this institution.
"Make no mistake: Our highest duty is to protect the American people, secure our homeland, strengthen our national security, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
"This legislation, unfortunately, is deeply flawed and would turn the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on its head.
"It fails to explicitly preserve FISA’s exclusivity. Thus, by implication, it allows the President to conduct surveillance of Americans pursuant to any inherent authority argument.
"The bill makes sweeping changes to the definition of 'electronic surveillance,' allowing the National Security Agency to listen – without warrant – to the content of any communication that is from the United States to overseas or vice-versa.
"The bill allows for warrantless surveillance after an 'armed attack' or a 'terrorist attack,' or in anticipation of an 'imminent attack.' Yet, these terms are not defined or loosely defined.
"It is truly a shame – but not surprising – that the Republican Majority refused to allow the Members of this House to consider the reasonable, bipartisan substitute offered by Congressmen Schiff, Flake, and Inglis and Congresswoman Harman.
"That carefully tailored substitute provides the President with all the tools he needs, while still requiring him to follow the rules and obey the law.
"I urge my colleagues: Vote against this deeply flawed Republican bill."