WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the RESTORE Act, legislation that revises foreign surveillance legislation to give the Intelligence Community the tools it needs to keep our nation safe while also protecting the rights of American citizens. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Speaker, this legislation – the RESTORE Act – is nothing less than a fundamental reiteration of the most basic concepts in our constitutional form of government: that we, indeed, are a nation of laws, and that our founders deliberately designed our three branches of government to serve as a check and balance on each other.
“Every single one of us here recognizes that our highest duty is to protect the American people. Indeed, we must detect, disrupt and eliminate terrorists who have no compunction about planning and participating in the mass killing of innocent people.
“We also swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to honor the values and principles that are contained therein – including the Fourth Amendment right that Americans be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
“Our basic duties as Members of Congress – protecting the American people and protecting the values that define us as Americans – are not mutually exclusive. They can be – and they must be – mutually reinforcing.
“And, that is precisely what this RESTORE Act, introduced by Chairmen Reyes and Conyers, does.
“This legislation gives our Intelligence Community the tools it needs to listen in on those who seek to harm us, while addressing concerns that the bill passed in August could authorize warrantless surveillance of Americans.
“Among other things, this legislation modernizes the technologically out-dated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 by restoring a checks-and-balances role for the FISA Court, and addressing the intelligence gap asserted by the Director of National Intelligence.
“Let us be clear: this legislation does not require a warrant for listening in on suspected and known terrorists. In fact, it clarifies that no court order is required for surveillance of conversations where both parties are foreign citizens.
“It does not extend constitutional rights to suspected or known terrorists.
“Nor does it delay the collection of intelligence information.
“Furthermore, it grants the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence authority to apply to the FISA Court for a 'block’ order to conduct surveillance on large groups of foreign targets for up to one year – ensuring that only foreigners are targeted and Americans’ rights are preserved.
“This provision does not impede the collection of intelligence.
“In fact, in emergencies, this FISA Court review may take place after the surveillance has begun – for up to 45 days.
“Finally, this legislation is silent on the issue of retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that possibly violated privacy laws in turning over consumer information to the government.
“Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not.
“In closing, let me quote the Washington post, which stated in October: 'The measure produced by the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees would alleviate the burden of obtaining individualized warrants [for foreign targets] while still maintaining a critical oversight role for the FISA Court.'
“Mr. Speaker, we must give our Commander in Chief and the Intelligence Community the resources, authority and flexibility that is necessary to protect our people and defend our nation.
“And, we must honor the values and principles that make us Americans.
“This legislation allows us to do both.
“I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle: vote for this carefully crafted, reasonable RESTORE Act.”