Extending the RESTORE Act on FISA

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Madam Speaker, last year the President and the Director of National Intelligence pushed for legislation that would make it easier for the NSA to collect intelligence on Americans and groups abroad. Among other things, the administration's legislation would allow warrantless eavesdropping of virtually all communications of Americans with anyone outside the U.S., so long as the government declared that the surveillance was directed at people reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.  

I opposed the bill when it was considered by the House and instead joined with Chairman Conyers and Chairman Reyes in support of a responsible alternative that would have met the needs of the Director of National Intelligence without compromising the privacy of law-abiding Americans in ways that don't improve our security. The proposal included robust oversight and audit provisions designed to determine the impact of these changes on Americans. Unfortunately, Congress was forced hastily to pass the administration's version before adjourning in August. Nonetheless, Congress provided the law would sunset in 6 months to ensure that modifications were quickly made.  

Over 2 months ago the House returned to this debate by passing the RESTORE Act, legislation that updated FISA, provided these effective surveillance tools while ensuring robust oversight. Importantly, the RESTORE Act also provided protections to ensure that communications of U.S. persons were not acquired without some court involvement or supervision, provisions that were left out of the proposal passed in August.  

The other body has also drafted legislation aimed at modifying the bill that passed out of the House in August to provide oversight and additional protections. Unfortunately, they haven't completed their work. Some very thoughtful proposals like that by Senator Dianne Feinstein offer fresh ways to break the impasse over some very difficult issues. The proposals that they are debating and attempting to finalize have a number of notable departures from the House-passed version. With the August bill set to expire in 3 days, it's necessary for us to seek a temporary extension in order to ensure this House has a role in crafting its revision. The impending deadlines necessitate an extension, and I'm proud to support that very modest extension.