WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Today the House is voting on a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act.
“Before we do that, I want to remind my colleagues that this body has already passed legislation to reauthorize FISA.
“On November 15 of last year, this body passed the RESTORE Act, a bill that modernizes the technologically outdated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, gives the intelligence community the authority to intercept critical foreign communications, and protects our fundamental constitutional rights.
“The bill was skillfully assembled by two of our best Chairmen – John Conyers and Silver Reyes.
“These Chairmen join me today in support of this short-term extension for several reasons.
“First, despite this body’s efforts over one and one-half months ago, the Senate has yet to complete work on its own FISA legislation. We eagerly await the Senate bill and look forward to an undoubtedly challenging but productive conference. This will take some time.
“Second, on the issue of immunity, which the President has so highly touted: our committees have been asking for eight months to see the legal documents pertaining to the President’s terrorist surveillance program. And we have received eight straight months of denials. The White House only offered us this access last Friday.
“This afternoon, our Judiciary Members will be read-in to the program, and only next week will they begin to digest the hefty stack of documents that, in turn, will help them make a judgment on what, if any, immunity is merited.
“Again, we need time for this important review, and this extension gives
us that time.
“Finally, let me say that even if we were unable to do this extension, and February 1 were to come and go without any new FISA legislation, no one should fall victim to those fear mongers who suggest that our intelligence community could ‘go dark.’ That is simply not the case.
“The authorizations issued under the Protect America Act are in effect for up to one full year. This means that all of the surveillance in effect today will remain in effect for at least six more months.
“Even the Administration’s own Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Kenneth Wainstein, acknowledged this, saying that if the PAA were allowed to expire, intelligence officials would still be able to continue eavesdropping on already approved targets for another year.
“For those new threats that develop after February 1, let us not forget that the underlying statute still gives the Administration 3-days worth of emergency authority to immediately begin surveillance without going to the court – a court that no longer has a backlog.
“I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this short-term extension.”