Mr. Speaker, this legislation restores the proper role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the maintenance of our national security infrastructure. Let's get the terms of this debate clear before we begin. Anyone who can read will see that this bill does not inhibit the government's ability to spy on terrorists or on suspected terrorists or to act swiftly and effectively on the information we gather.
The American people expect that their government will keep us all safe and free. This bill does that.
The bill does not require individual warrants of foreign terrorists located outside the United States. That has been the law for three decades; that is still the law.
The bill does provide reasonable FISA Court oversight to ensure that when our government starts spying on Americans, it does so lawfully by getting a warrant from the FISA Court. It will put an end to this administration's well-worn ``trust me'' routine.
I trust our intelligence community to gather solid intelligence on threats to our Nation. But protecting constitutional rights is not their prime job. That is why we have courts.
This bill provides for Congress to receive independent reports on how the act is working and what our government is doing. This administration's penchant for secrecy and aversion to accountability will come to an end, at least in this area.
Let me say a word for demands for retroactive immunity for the telecom companies. As many of our colleagues have pointed out, any such discussion is premature. We do not even know what we are being asked to immunize or whose rights would be compromised if we did so.
More importantly, Congress should not decide legal cases between private parties; that's for the courts. If the claims are not meritorious, the courts will throw them out. But if the claims do have merit, we have no right to wipe them without even reviewing the evidence. How dare we have the presumption to decide the rights of allegedly injured parties in the blind.
Mr. Speaker, this bill meets every single principle set forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. As one of the co-chairs of the caucus' FISA Task Force, I am pleased to support this important bill. It is true to our Constitution. It is true to our values. It is true to our safety. It will keep us safe and free.
This bill gives our intelligence agencies the tools they have told us they need to make us safe, and gives the FISA Court the tools it needs to ensure that the extraordinary powers we are giving to the intelligence community are used correctly and consistently with our laws and our Constitution.
It's called the separation of powers, with each branch of the government doing what it is supposed to do and acting as a check on the others. FISA exists to ensure that the balance between the needs of intelligence gathering and the protection of the rights of all Americans are balanced.
Most importantly, it restores the role of FISA as the exclusive legal basis for foreign intelligence surveillance. No more making it up as you go along.
Did the telecoms break the law? Were they acting appropriately? Were the rights of innocent Americans violated? We don't know.
How dare we have the presumption to decide the rights of allegedly injured parties in the blind?