Last week, Congress once again left town without providing our intelligence professionals the tools they need to keep our Nation safe. President Bush strongly supports Congress' efforts to make necessary updates to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The House passed a strong bipartisan bill, and the Senate needs to act as soon as it returns from its recess.
This Bipartisan House Legislation:
Provides our intelligence professionals the tools they need to quickly and effectively monitor the plans of terrorists abroad.As terrorists change their tactics to avoid our surveillance, the Intelligence Community may not have the tools needed to continue tracking them and may lose a vital lead that could prevent an attack on America. This bill ensures that our Intelligence Community has the ability to quickly learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they're saying, and what they're planning.
Preserves the strong protections for the liberties of Americans.The bipartisan House legislation leaves unchanged the strong protections FISA provides to Americans in the United States and extends protections to Americans overseas, requiring a court order to target Americans for surveillance no matter where they are. It also requires court review of the procedures used to protect information about Americans.
Provides critical liability protection for companies whose assistance we need to protect the Nation from another catastrophic attack. We need to be able to monitor communications of terrorists quickly and effectively, and we cannot do this without the cooperation of private companies. The Senate Intelligence Committee already determined that any telecommunications companies that assisted the Government after 9/11 did so in good faith.
This Bipartisan House Bill Does Not:
Undermine private-sector telecommunications companies' willingness to provide essential help to our Intelligence Community. The assistance of private-sector telecommunications companies is vital to protecting the Nation from attack. Most of the communications infrastructure the Intelligence Community relies on is owned and operated by the private sector, meaning private-sector assistance is essential to gaining intelligence on the plans of those who wish to attack us.
Risk the disclosure of highly sensitive classified information concerning intelligence sources and methods by allowing lawsuits to proceed.Such litigation likely would lead to the disclosure of highly sensitive national security information and would be contrary to the well established state secrets privilege doctrine, which protects classified information from disclosure in civil suits.
Infringe the liberties of Americans.The bipartisan and carefully constructed House bill gives the Intelligence Community the tools it needs to protect the Nation from foreign terrorists without compromising the liberties of Americans.