WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the FISA Amendments Act, a bill which will strengthen our national security while protecting the civil liberties of Americans. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, today, we conclude one step in a long, continuing process.
“Just under a year ago, the House came under great pressure from the Administration and the Senate to pass the Protect America Act – a bill I could not support and spoke out against for its lack of civil liberties protections.
“Since then, there have been other attempts to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – first, the RESTORE Act passed by the House last November; followed by the Senate bill, which passed with 68 votes in February; and, most recently, the FISA Amendments Act passed by the House in March.
“I was proud to support the two House bills, which I believe struck the right balance between giving our intelligence community the tools to go after those who seek to harm us and protecting the Constitutional rights of American citizens.
“Today, I stand in support of a different kind of bill – a compromise.
“To be clear, this is not the bill I would have written in an ideal world.
“However, in our legislative process, no one gets everything he or she wants. Different parties – often with deeply competing interests – come together here to produce a consensus product, where each side
gives and takes.
“Over the past few months, I have been involved in almost daily discussions with the stakeholders on this important issue – members in both chambers and both parties, as well as outside organizations and experts.
“I have worked closely with Speaker Pelosi and enjoyed the valuable counsel of the distinguished Chairmen of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
“Together, we have worked to develop a bill that strikes a sound balance.
“This measure provides the intelligence community with strong authority to surveil foreign terrorists who seek to harm this country and our people.
“It provides for enhanced civil liberties protections for Americans, and insists on meaningful judicial scrutiny.
“And, it includes critical new oversight and accountability requirements that both address the President’s warrantless surveillance program and ensure that any surveillance going forward comports with the Fourth Amendment and will be closely monitored by the Congress.
“Of vital importance, this legislation makes clear that FISA is the exclusive means by which the government may conduct surveillance – an issue of great importance to the Speaker, herself a former member of the Intelligence Committee, and many others.
“Notably, this bill does not address or excuse any actions by the government or government officials related to the President’s warrantless surveillance program. Nor does it include any statement by the Congress on the legality of that program.
“Indeed, it mandates, for the first time ever, a robust accounting by the Inspectors General on the warrantless surveillance program, which Congress will receive and act on.
“In closing, let me say again, this bill is not perfect. It is a compromise.
“And, the conclusions drawn by editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post over the last two days reflect this.
“Today, for example, the Washington Post recognized that this is a reasonable effort to strike a compromise, stating: ‘Striking the balance between liberties and security is never easy, and the new FISA bill is not perfect. But it is a vast improvement over the original law and over the earlier, rushed attempts to revise that law.’
“As I said at the beginning, this bill is one step in a long, continuing process of updating this critical legislation – ensuring that our national security and our civil liberties are both protected.
“This legislation sunsets at the end of 2012, and it is imperative that we scrutinize its implementation over the next four years, and make any necessary changes.
“I believe we have the best bill before us that we could possibly get in the current environment.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the years ahead to ensure that both our national security and our civil liberties are protected.”