Before the US House of Representatives, Jan. 30, 2008
Madame Speaker, I rise in opposition to the extension
of the Protect America Act of 2007 because the underlying legislation violates
the US Constitution.
The misnamed Protect America Act allows the US government to monitor telephone
calls and other electronic communications of American citizens without a warrant.
This clearly violates the Fourth Amendment, which states:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,
and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,
and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things
to be seized."
The Protect America Act sidelines the FISA Court system and places authority
over foreign surveillance in the director of national intelligence and the attorney
general with little if any oversight. While proponents of this legislation have
argued that the monitoring of American citizens would still require a court-issued
warrant, the bill only requires that subjects be "reasonably believed to
be outside the United States." Further, it does not provide for the Fourth
Amendment protection of American citizens if they happen to be on the other
end of the electronic communication where the subject of surveillance is a non-citizen
We must remember that the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was
passed in 1978 as a result of the U.S. Senate investigations into the federal
government's illegal spying on American citizens. Its purpose was to prevent
the abuse of power from occurring in the future by establishing guidelines and
prescribing oversight to the process. It was designed to protect citizens, not
the government. The effect seems to have been opposite of what was intended.
These recent attempts to "upgrade" FISA do not appear to be designed
to enhance protection of our civil liberties, but to make it easier for the
government to spy on us!
The only legitimate "upgrade" to the original FISA legislation would
be to allow surveillance of conversations that begin and end outside the United
States between non-US citizens where the telephone call is routed through the
United States . Technology and the global communications market have led to
more foreign to foreign calls being routed through the United States . This
adjustment would solve the problems outlined by the administration without violating
the rights of US citizens.
While I would not oppose technical changes in FISA that the intelligence community
has indicated are necessary, Congress should not use this opportunity to chip
away at even more of our constitutional protections and civil liberties. I urge
my colleagues to oppose this and any legislation that violates the Fourth Amendment
of the Constitution.