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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2008
Fact Sheet: The House Must Act Quickly to Pass Bipartisan Senate FISA Modernization Bill
House Must Act Now To Ensure Our Intelligence Officials Have The Tools
They Need To Monitor The Communications Of Terrorists Overseas Quickly
And Effectively And To Provide Liability Protection To Those Who
Assisted The Government After The 9/11 Attacks
The House of Representatives must act now to pass a bipartisan Senate bill that will ensure our intelligence professionals continue to have the critical tools they need to protect the Nation. On Tuesday, the Senate cast a strong bipartisan vote in support of this legislation, which will ensure our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to make us safer and will also provide fair and just liability protection for companies that did the right thing and assisted in defending America after the 9/11 attacks.
The Senate Bill, Passed By A Strong Bipartisan Majority, Is An Important Piece Of Legislation That Provides Our Intelligence Professionals The Tools They Need To Protect The Country
The Senate bill gives the Intelligence Community the tools it needs to keep the Nation safe. It allows the Government to continue collecting foreign intelligence information against foreign terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States without obtaining prior court approval. This ensures we will not reopen the dangerous intelligence gaps that existed before the passage of the PAA, which the Director of National Intelligence said meant our intelligence professionals were "missing a significant amount of foreign intelligence that we should be collecting to protect our country."
The Senate bill would provide liability protection for those companies being sued for billions of dollars only because they are believed to have assisted the Government in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. This provision is critical to ensuring the future cooperation of electronic communication service providers – without that cooperation, the Intelligence Community cannot obtain the intelligence it needs to protect the Nation. It is also critical to protecting highly classified information regarding intelligence sources and methods.
The Senate bill is a carefully crafted, bipartisan bill and is the result of months of consideration and negotiation in the Senate. Four months ago, after thorough analysis, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported out a strong, bipartisan bill on a nearly unanimous 13-2 vote – this bill was the core of the bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate last night. As the Senate considered legislation, officials from the Intelligence Community have testified repeatedly, in open and closed hearings, to explain how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's (FISA) outdated provisions hampered our ability to protect the Nation from terrorists and other threats to the national security and to explain the implementation of the Protect America Act. The Administration has also provided numerous unclassified and classified briefings to Members and staff.
The Senate bill preserves the strong protections for the liberties of Americans. It leaves unchanged the strong protections FISA provides to Americans in the United States, requiring a court order to target people located in the United States for surveillance.
The Senate Bill Contains Important New Protections For The Liberties Of Americans
The Senate bill provides a new role for the FISA Court in approving surveillance targeted at Americans abroad. In order to provide additional protections to Americans, the bill requires for the first time that a court order be obtained to conduct intelligence surveillance of a United States person abroad. This is a significant increase in the involvement of the FISA Court in these surveillance activities.
The Senate bill substantially increases the role of the FISA Court in overseeing acquisitions of foreign intelligence under the bill – even though the acquisitions are targeted at foreign targets overseas. The Court will review: certifications authorizing intelligence collection that are submitted by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence, the targeting procedures used by the Government to conduct acquisitions under the Act, and the minimization procedures used by the Government for information concerning U.S. persons. The Government must also submit to the FISA Court semiannual assessments by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence and annual reviews by the head of any agency conducting operations under the authorities in the bill.
The Senate bill substantially increases Congressional oversight. This oversight includes the provision of written reports to the Congressional intelligence committees, including semiannual assessments by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence, assessments by each relevant agency's Inspector General, and annual reviews by the head of any agency conducting operations under the authorities in the bill. The bill increases the FISA-related court documents that must be submitted by the Government to the Congressional intelligence and judiciary committees and requires the Government to submit any such documents from the last five years.
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