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Floor Statements

Floor Statement on H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

Madam Speaker, in order to uphold the principle of the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution, we must reject this bill. This bill limits the courts hearing lawsuits alleging illegal wiretapping, to considering only whether the telecom companies received a ``written request or directive indicating that the activity was authorized by the President and determined to be lawful,'' not whether that request was actually lawful or that telecom companies knew that it was unlawful.

The bill is a fig leaf granting blanket immunity to the telecom companies for possibly illegal acts without allowing the courts to consider the facts or the law. It denies people whose rights are violated their fair day in court, and it denies the American people the right to have the actions of this administration subjected to fair and independent scrutiny.

Even the court's limited review will remain secret. The lawsuits will be dismissed, but the basis for that dismissal that the defendants were innocent of misconduct or that they were guilty, but that Congress commands their immunity, must remain secret.

The constitutionality of the immunity granted by this bill is very questionable. As Judge Walker put it in the AT&T case, ``AT&T's alleged actions here violate the constitutional rights clearly established in the Keith decision. Moreover, because the very action in question has previously been held unlawful, AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.''

I would hope that the courts will find that because the constitutional rights of Americans have been violated, Congress' attempt to prevent court review is unconstitutional. I regret we may today abandon the Constitution's protections and insulate lawless behavior from legal scrutiny.

I urge a ``no'' vote on this legislation.
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