05.11.07

House Passes Schiff/Flake Amendment to Prevent Warrantless Eavesdropping on Americans

Washington, DC – Early this morning, the House passed a bipartisan amendment authored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the House Judiciary Committee and House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, and Rep. Jeff Flake that reiterates that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) continues to be the exclusive means by which domestic electronic surveillance for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence information may be conducted.  The amendment also makes clear that only an explicit change in the law can provide an exception to FISA.  The amendment was included as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082), which later passed the House with bipartisan support.

“Electronic surveillance of those seeking to harm our country must be targeted and aggressive. It must also be constitutional and respect the privacy of law-abiding Americans,” Schiff said.  “When Congress said the Administration must get court approval for domestic surveillance, we meant it. Today, Congress reaffirmed that basic protection.” 

“Many of us in Congress have tried to update and improve FISA,” said Flake.  “However, until we codify those changes into law, FISA must be respected.”

Reps. Schiff and Flake have teamed up on numerous legislative efforts addressing FISA since the President’s Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) was revealed in late 2005.  On the first day of the 110th Congress, they reintroduced the NSA Oversight Act (H.R.11), which would modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to respond to changes in technology and new threats, but would retain court supervision over domestic electronic surveillance.  They also offered several measures dealing with domestic surveillance last year including one that would have cut funding to any program that conducted domestic surveillance outside of FISA.  However, the amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill was defeated in a close vote, with 23 Republicans supporting the measure.  In 2005, Reps. Schiff and Flake worked together to secure passage of an amendment to the Patriot Act to provide additional safeguards for library and bookstore records.