Today cautiously I joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives in support of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008. This was a very difficult vote for me. I have opposed previous measures to reauthorize the legislation but felt this legislation represented the best compromise possible. The legislation was approved by a vote of 293-129 after months of bipartisan negotiations led by my friend and colleague
Most importantly the bill: .
- Prevents any President from using executive power to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance and clarifies that to conduct surveillance of a person in the United States, the government must first obtain an individual warrant from the
based on probable cause.
- Requires prior review and approval by the FISA Court of the targeting and minimization procedures to ensure that U.S. citizens are not targeted and that any inadvertently intercepted communications are not disseminated.
The legislation passed today replaces the controversial and hastily prepared Protect America Act and ensures there is no gap in intelligence collection against terrorists, while strengthening our by preventing the government from surveilling citizens without a lawful warrant.
Previously I had voted against measures that included blanket immunity to telecom companies who participated in illegal activities at the request of the Administration. This legislation rejects blanket immunity for telecommunications companies and instead allows federal district courts to determine whether substantial evidence supports civil liability protection for companies which assisted in post-9/11 activities. Additionally, the bill does not provide immunity to any government official who may have violated the law.
This is not a perfect solution, but without this compromise there would be no guarantee that the Administration would not continue pursuing wiretaps on citizens without a warrant. I believe this bill makes it clear to the judiciary, law enforcement and private telephone companies that we are a nation of laws and those laws cannot be ignored.
Despite some disappointment, without 60 votes in the Senate this compromise is the best we are going to get. The reality is there are legitimate security reasons for surveillance, and now the independent FISA court is once again solely responsible for reviewing and authorizing domestic wiretaps.
This legislation sunsets at the end of 2012, and it is imperative that we scrutinize its implementation over the next four years, and make any necessary changes.
We'll see. It's not like Bush obeys the law as it stands anyway, you know.