'Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I commend Chairman Reyes and Chairman Conyers for their leadership in protecting and defending the American people by putting forth the best way to collect intelligence under the law.
'Mr. Speaker, as we say over and over again here, each one of us who comes to serve in this body, indeed everyone who serves our country, takes an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. It's thrill to take that oath of office. But as we protect and defend the American people, our oath of office calls upon us to protect and defend the Constitution and our civil liberties.
'The legislation before us today does just that. It's about protecting the American people from terrorism and other national security threats. For a long time, I have observed on the Intelligence Committee, both as a ranking member and also ex-officio as Democratic Leader and now as Speaker. I believe firmly in the role that intelligence gathering plays in protecting the American people. We want to prevent war, we want to prevent harm to our forces; force protection is a high priority for us. And we must now meet this horrible challenge of fighting terrorism in the world. It has been a challenge for some time.
'We have to have the laws in place in order to collect that intelligence under the law, and that is what this legislation does. First, it helps us defend our country against terrorism and other threats. Second, it protects the privacy of the American people, which is important to them and a responsibility to us. Third, this legislation restores a system of checks and balances and how we protect and defend our country, and provides for rigorous oversight by Congress of this collection.
'In the 1970s, when the FISA law was passed, it was determined that Congress had a role in determining how the executive branch conducted the collection of intelligence. That system of checks and balances has served our country well. But with the advance of technology, additional challenges arose and this legislation meets those challenges. Any suggestions to the contrary are simply not factual. What the Director of National Intelligence has asked for in terms of collection, he has received in this legislation and he has received it under the law.
'The legislation restores checks and balances in other ways. It rejects groundless claims of 'inherent executive authority.' Under that, we might as well just crown the President king and just say he has access to any information in our country and he may collect that outside the law.
'And this legislation reiterates that the law enacted by Congress, FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Security Act, is the exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance to gather foreign intelligence. The principle of exclusivity is an important principle and it is enshrined in this legislation.
'The bill also sunsets by December 31, 2009, the same time the Patriot Act sunsets. The next Administration and another Congress can review whether the new program appropriately meets national security and civil liberty objectives.
'This bill does not provide immunity to telecommunication companies that participated in the President's warrantless surveillance program. As I have said many times, you can't even consider such relief unless we know what people are asking for immunity from. Congress is not a rubber stamp. We are a co-equal branch of government. We have a right to know what conduct the Administration wants us to immunize against.
'Working side by side, the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee have produced an excellent bill. It has been heralded so by those organizations whose organized purpose is to protect our civil liberties in light of our responsibility to our national security. It has been heralded by those who follow and hold as a value the privacy of the American people. It has been heralded by those who understand that one of our first responsibilities is to provide for the common defense.
'Our founders understood it well, the balance that needed to be struck between security and liberty. They spoke eloquently to it in their speeches and they enshrined it in the Constitution. Let us protect the American people under the law.
'Please my colleagues: support this very important legislation.'