Pelosi Floor Remarks Ahead of the Passage of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act


Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of U.S. House of Representatives ahead of her vote in favor of the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you, very much, Mr. Speaker.  How proud I am of the House of Representatives that we have come together on the Floor of the House and in our various caucuses and conferences to discuss the important challenge that we all face: the balance that we have to protect the American people, that’s the oath we take, to protect and defend, and as we defend the Constitution, defend the privacy, and the civil liberties of the American people. It’s difficult.

Many years ago, over 20, I went onto the Intelligence Committee for the purpose of protecting civil liberties and privacy, also to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: two really important overarching issues. So I come to the Floor today as one who has worked on this for a very long time.  And I want to thank our men and women in the Intelligence Community for the work that they do.  We’re so proud of what they do.

In those days, when I went almost 25 years ago, first on the Committee, it was about force protection.  To try to have enough intelligence to avoid conflict, but if we were to engage, that we would have the intelligence to protect our forces.  It was about force protection.  In the 90’s it became more about fighting terrorism and other overarching issues as well. But we live in a dangerous world, and force protection on the ground, in theater, is still an essential part of what the Intelligent Community does.  Again, I thank the men and women in the Intelligence Community for their patriotism and courage.

The issue that relates to fighting terrorism is one that sometimes has a frightening manifestation on our own soil.  But as we protect and defend the American people and the Constitution and their rights, we have to have that balance.  Benjamin Franklin said if we don’t fight for security and freedom, we won’t have either.

I want to particularly thank our Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee [Adam Schiff].  He has made us all proud going across the country honoring our Constitution, talking about undermining our election system, talking about protecting the American people in ways that is consistent with our Constitution.  I thank you, Mr. Schiff: I support you today in your support of the bill that came from your committee.  Is it perfect?  I’ve never voted for a perfect bill in this House.

I also want to thank Mr. Nadler: a genius on all of these issues that relate to our Constitution, and the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee.

On Intelligence, you have a very few Members who are deputized by the Speaker and by the Leader, each party, to go to the Intelligence Committee to deal with issues that relate to the balance between security and privacy.  With all the respect in the world for the magnificent Members of the Judiciary Committee, all of whom I respect, it’s not right to say there is nothing in this bill that protects the privacy of the American people.

In fact, when I was supporting the Judiciary Committee bill the outside groups were complaining.  They wanted the Zoe Lofgren Amendment – they didn’t want that bill – they were complaining about it.  Now, today, they are saying that’s what they want.  I think studying the issue, one of the differences along the way is when it is appropriate in terms of warrants. That’s why I am so pleased that we would be offering a Motion to Recommit that addresses just that concern, which is what I’m hearing from folks about. The Motion to Recommit, from people on both sides of the aisle, certainly in our Democratic Caucus, which seeks to secure the highest possible protections for American civil liberties.

At the same time, it ensures that the Intelligence Community and law enforcement can continue to keep Americans safe.  This amendment would go a step further from the modified bill that’s on the Floor under consideration to ensure law enforcement secures a warrant before accessing Americans’ information.  Let me repeat that.  The amendment will go a step further than the modified bill under consideration to ensure law enforcement secures a warrant before accessing Americans’ information.

Under this amendment, the court order would be required to access Americans’ data in connection with any non-national security criminal investigation by the FBI. This amendment removes ‘predicate,’ that’s the operational word, removes predicate standards and expands the universe of investigations that would require a warrant.  A vote for this amendment, and I hope it would be bipartisan, especially for those objecting to the bill on the Floor, is a vote for privacy protections and civil liberties.

We would have preferred to have this in the original bill that’s coming to the Floor.  Couldn’t get that in committee.  Hopefully we can get it on the floor.  Voting against the Motion to Recommit is a vote [that] means fewer protections, less oversight and more risk that Americans’ rights will be violated.

In the course of this I mentioned this issue about the warrant and the rest.  I want to take the opportunity to commend the Speaker for ridding – I talked about the Judiciary bill.  At the onset of all this, the first Intelligence bill, we all opposed.  Supported the Judiciary bipartisan bill that was there.  Being criticized by some outside groups for supporting that rather than the Lofgren Amendment.  But changes were made in the Intelligence bill to this effect.  We asked the Speaker to take out the masking provisions, which had no place in this bill.

The Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. [Devin] Nunes, foolishly put that in this bill.  It made it a complete non-starter.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for removing it.

By the way, somebody should tell the President, because he thinks it’s still in the bill.  ‘With that being said, I personally directed to fix the unmasking process.’  It isn’t fixed in the bill, Mr. President.  That would be a second tweet of the day.  Confusing matters even worse unfortunately.

Because the Administration, although they would probably like an extension of the status quo, understands we have to do more than that.

The other provision that was in the bill was an expansion of agents of foreign  governments.  Agents of foreign governments opened up more people who would be subjected to surveillance.  We said, ‘that doesn’t fly.  That has to be closed.’  The Speaker did that.

And then on the [about] language, I think most people who understand that issue – it’s a complicated issue – understand that it’s really not a factor in this discussion.  People don’t want it mentioned.  But the fact that it had to be addressed.  And it is being used.  It’s unconstitutional.  And until it can be proven to be constitutional, they can’t be used.  When it is used, they have to go to the FISA court and get permission, come to Congress for ratification of that.  There are many protections there.

So it’s hard.  I know.  It’s hard.  I had a hard time when I was Speaker and we passed a bill to address the gross violations of Dick Cheney, Vice President Cheney doing the Bush-Cheney surveillance, it was appalling in my view.  I’ve considered it unconstitutional, others did not and we put in many, many protections when there were none and then renewed and improved the bill subsequently in its re-authorization.

This isn’t about the other side of the aisle [saying] ‘you don’t care about privacy if you support this bill.’  It isn’t about that.  It’s about where you strike the balance, when you weigh the equities.  And we have to come down in favor of honoring the constitution and our civil liberties, but we cannot do that completely at the expense of security.  I believe that Mr. Nadler understands that full well and I commend him for his deep understanding of the vital national security issues and the invaluable work that your committee has done to strike a balance between security and privacy and has made a difference.

But the choice we have today is to pass something — defeat this bill. Ok.  Do that if you want to do that.  Pass an amendment that won’t go anyplace.  You can do that.  And we will be left with an extension of the status quo – the current law.  As one who participated in writing it years ago, I understand its merits.  I understand changes in technology, of tactics, of the terrorists who are out there and that we have to improve the bill.

I don’t consider it a reform, it’s not that vast.  It’s some improvements in how we can collect, protect, keep the American people safe as well as protect their civil liberties.  Just a couple things about it – since this legislation was designed to address concerns related to the use of information collected under FISA, section 702, an important foreign intelligence collection authority, we have to keep that emphasis on an important foreign intelligence authority.

So my colleagues, to that end, this modification requires a court order based on probable cause for FBI criminal investigators to view Americans’ communications in the Section 702 database and mandates an inspector general study of 702 data.  So let’s keep the vigilance on, even as we go forward, it contains refined language about collection, requires the Executive Branch to require explicit approval from the FISA court for collection.  It further subjects collection to the 30-day congressional review process.

I know Mr. [Jim] Sensenbrenner said nobody can do anything in 30 days, but I think we can.  And the bill strengthens the privacy and civil liberties oversight board. That’s something I was instrumental in establishing when I was on the Intelligence Committee.  I know its importance but I also know it has to be strengthened and it has to be respected as a watchdog.

So, I mean, the list goes on.  Requiring public reporting on the use of 702 data.  Just saying to the intelligence community, ‘don’t try to minimize any violations that may have occurred.’  We want the facts, we want the truth.  And that’s why I am so glad it extended whistleblower protections and briefings to the Oversight Committee which we have required.

Unlike the original House Intelligence Bill, which I opposed, this bill does not include language that would have likely expanded the universe of FISA targets were – as I mentioned before – arguments of – somebody tell the President and – excuse me – gives me great pride in our caucus if could you have heard the beautiful debate between Mr. [Jerrold] Nadler and Mr. [Adam] Schiff on this subject.  We are not that far apart.  I think that the Motion to Recommit addresses most of the current concerns we have been getting from the outside groups and communities who are dedicated — whose organized purpose is to protect the civil liberties of the American people.

But, again, with great respect for everyone’s opinions and whatever they have put forth, again, saluting our men and women in the Intelligence Community for the work that they do, we want to be sure we strengthen their hand in terms of protecting the national security of our country, which is our first responsibility.  Keep the American people safe.  And as we do so to honor our oath of office to the Constitution, to honor the principles of the Constitution.

Our founders knew full well the challenge between security and civil liberties.  They he lived in a world when they were under attack.  The War of 1812 came very soon after the establishment of our country.  So this is not a foreign idea to them and the Constitution give to us the responsibility– bequeathed to us the responsibility to protect, defend, protect our civil liberties.

Respectful of debate on this issue, I myself will be voting to support my Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee, Mr. [Adam] Schiff, our Ranking Member, and Members who will follow their conscious on this.  I just want you to know from my experience, weighing the equities involved, that’s the path I will take.  With that I yield back the balance of my time.  Thank you.

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