August 6, 2007
Thank you for contacting me in regard to your concerns about the recent update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this important issue.
I agree with you that we must work toward a better FISA law that protects our civil
liberties and provides our intelligence community with the tools they need to protect our homeland from another terrorist attack.
While far from perfect, I believe that S-1927, the Protect America Act, is a reasonable, temporary compromise that will enable the United States to gather vital foreign intelligence while Congress continues to debate how we should best update the FISA law. While I understand that Americans will have different opinions on this issue, I believe it is especially important to be clear about what this legislation does and does not do.
The new FISA law does authorize the government to seek records from communications providers relating to communications between individuals outside of the United States. At the same time, it protects the constitutional rights of American citizens, legal residents, and visitors. It does not authorize warrantless electronic surveillance of communications between individuals within the United States.
In reaching this compromise, Democrats won two key concessions from the Administration.
First, while the President sought to make changes to the FISA law permanent, Congress, in a bipartisan way, demanded that these changes only be temporary and expire in six months. After that time, Congress will carefully review the new guidelines and determine what changes we need to make. When that review is completed, we will negotiate a better, more permanent fix.
Second, the change to FISA denies the President his request to allow Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to unilaterally authorize any new surveillance. In recent months, Gonzales has given members of Congress on both sides of the aisle reason to doubt his candor and trustworthiness on this issue. As a result, S-1927 requires not only Gonzales's approval, but the approval of the director of national intelligence.
Ideally, I would have liked a bill closer to the House version, H.R.3356. While I voted for H.R. 3356, this legislation failed to win House approval. Furthermore, with only 28 Senators having voted against S-1927, it was clear to me that we still have much work to do to build a consensus about what should be included in a final, permanent change to FISA.
These are difficult issues, and building that consensus will take time. I believe S-1927 will give us that time while also providing our intelligence community with the tools they need to keep us safe and protecting our constitutional rights.
Once again, thank you for contacting me on this important issue. If you have any other questions or concerns on this or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.
Harry E. Mitchell
Member of Congress
No editing, wiseass snarkery, or commentary besides this:
On this one, he was wayyyy wrong.