WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in response to President Bush’s remarks on new surveillance legislation, the RESTORE Act, which is being marked up by the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees today and is expected to be on the House Floor next week:
“The President said today that any bill to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act must keep the intelligence gap closed, must give the intelligence community the tools it needs to protect the country, and must not extend protections for Americans to those overseas who seek to harm us.
“The bill put forward by Democrats this week achieves all of these goals, while ensuring that the fundamental rights of American citizens are protected. Protecting our citizens and protecting their rights are not mutually exclusive, and achieving both goals is part of what has made us the greatest democracy on earth.
“The bill that passed in August and that the President is asking us to rubberstamp unnecessarily violates several of our nation’s core principles. Among its most egregious provisions, the bill allowed for warrantless surveillance of Americans’ homes, offices, medical records, and phone records. This provision is not needed in order for the intelligence community to successfully do its job. The RESTORE Act rectifies these excesses, while addressing the intelligence gap stated by the DNI and ensuring that the intelligence community has the tools it needs to go after terrorists.
"The President also demanded retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that possibly violated privacy laws in turning over consumer information. It would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to immunize companies without knowing whether their conduct was legal or not. Congress should not blindly grant blanket immunity for such a serious matter."