For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 13, 2008
Fact Sheet: Protect America Alert: House Foreign Surveillance Bill Undermines Our National Security
House Leaders Move To Vote On Partisan Legislation; President Bush Will
Veto Any Bill That Fails To Provide The Intelligence Community The Tools
Needed To Protect Our Nation
"Congress should stop playing politics with the past and focus on helping us prevent terrorist attacks in the future. Members of the House should not be deceived into thinking that voting for this unacceptable legislation would somehow move the process along. Voting for this bill does not move the process along. Instead, voting for this bill would make our country less safe because it would move us further away from passing the good bipartisan Senate bill that is needed to protect America."
President George W. Bush, 3/13/08
This week, House leaders are finally bringing FISA modernization legislation to the floor but instead of holding a vote on the good bipartisan bill passed by the Senate, they introduced a partisan bill that would undermine America's security. This bill is dangerous to our national security. House leaders know that the Senate will not pass it, and the President will not sign it. The President calls on Congress to end this needless obstruction and pass the bipartisan Senate bill as soon as possible.
Yesterday, The Attorney General And The Director Of National Intelligence
Sent A Letter To The Speaker Explaining Why This Bill Is Dangerous To Our
National Security And Recommending The President Veto The Legislation:
The House bill could reopen dangerous intelligence gaps by putting in place
a cumbersome court approval process that would make it harder to collect
intelligence on foreign terrorists. Last August, Congress explicitly
rejected this approach when bipartisan majorities in both houses passed the
Protect America Act (PAA). It was rejected again last month when the
Senate passed new legislation to extend and strengthen the PAA.
The House's partisan legislation would extend protections we enjoy
as Americans to foreign terrorists overseas and could cause us to lose
vital intelligence on terrorist threats. It makes no sense to involve the
court before the Government begins surveillance of foreign targets who wish
to do us harm.
Prior court approval would require intelligence analysts and others
to prepare documents for court review, before fulfilling their core duty of
protecting our Nation. Intelligence professionals should be permitted to
obtain intelligence information that permits them to act before an
emergency situation arises - the Government should not be forced to wait
for an emergency to develop before it can take steps to gather information
needed to prevent that emergency. Many threats will not appear to be
emergencies until it is too late.
The House bill fails to provide liability protection to companies believed
to have assisted in protecting our Nation after the 9/11 attacks. Instead,
the House bill would make matters even worse by allowing the litigation to
continue for years. House leaders simply adopted the position that
class-action trial lawyers are taking in the multibillion-dollar lawsuits
they have filed.
This litigation would be unfair because any companies that assisted
us after 9/11 were assured by our government that their cooperation was
legal and necessary. It would undermine the private sector's willingness
to cooperate with the Intelligence Community - cooperation that is
essential to protecting America. Companies may also be less willing to
assist the Government in the future if they face a threat of private
lawsuits each time they are alleged to have provided assistance.
This litigation would require the disclosure of state secrets that
could lead to the public release of highly classified information that our
enemies could use against us.
Companies that may have helped us save lives should be thanked for
their patriotic service, not subjected to multibillion-dollar lawsuits that
will make them less willing to help in the future.
The House bill may be good for class action trial lawyers, but it
would be terrible for the United States.
The House bill would establish yet another commission to examine past
intelligence activities. This would be a redundant and partisan exercise
that would waste our intelligence officials' time and the taxpayers' money.
This provision is unnecessary - the Executive branch informs
appropriate Congressional committees regarding intelligence programs and
activities, and those committees exercise ongoing oversight of those
programs and activities.
Duplicating the work of the committees created by Congress to
consider such matters would divert operational personnel from their mission
to protect the country.
It seems that House leaders are more interested in investigating
our intelligence professionals than in giving them the tools they need to
protect us. Congress should stop playing politics with the past and focus
on helping us prevent terrorist attacks in the future.