WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this morning after President Bush spoke at the White House regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:
“The President’s comments this morning regarding new House legislation to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act demonstrate an almost complete misreading of this important bill. In fact, this bill is the product of weeks of negotiations – negotiations which the White House and Congressional Republicans refused to engage in – and it marries the best of the House and Senate-passed FISA bills.
“This legislation provides our intelligence professionals with all the tools they need to protect our nation, while also protecting the rights and values that make us proud to be Americans. The White House insistence that Congress provide telecommunications companies that participated in the President’s surveillance program with blanket immunity is neither justified nor in keeping with our nation’s legal tradition. In essence, the President is asking Congress to immunize companies for their conduct – despite the fact that Congress is not sure what conduct it would be immunizing, and despite the fact that serious questions have been raised about the legality of the surveillance program. Congress owes the American people more than blind obeisance to the Executive Branch.
“This House bill would allow telecommunications companies which participated in the President’s surveillance program to avail themselves of the legal defenses that currently exist, without providing blanket immunity. This approach is reasonable, thoughtful and appropriate.
“House Democrats have every intention of passing this legislation and moving the process forward.”