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House Judiciary Committee Hearing
[June 20, 2012]

House Judiciary Committee Hearing

Jun 20, 2012 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- Chairman Smith: America and its allies face continuous national security threats from foreign nations and terrorist organizations.

Foreign agents from other nations continue to spy on the United States. Recent news reports indicate that China engages in ongoing efforts to probe our software defenses and steal valuable intellectual property worth billions of dollars.

And al Qaeda recently attempted to design clothing with explosives that would by-pass our detectors at airports.

Our national security agencies must be able to conduct surveillance of foreign terrorists and others so we can stop them before they disable our defenses or kill innocent Americans.

We need to ensure that the Intelligence Community can gather all the information they need to protect our property and our lives.

In 1978, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to provide procedures for the domestic collection of foreign intelligence.

But advances in technology over the last 40 years changed how overseas communications are transmitted. These technological advances also changed how FISA was interpreted to apply to the collection of intelligence against foreign targets.

In 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act to reaffirm Congress' long-standing intent that a court order is not required when a non-U.S. person outside the U.S is targeted.

This bi-partisan law protects our ability to defend ourselves and still guarantees the civil liberties of the American people. The Act permits our agencies to target foreign persons reasonably believed to be located outside of the U.S. The Act requires prior FISA-court approval of all government surveillance that uses these powers, including court approval of the government's targeting and minimization procedures.

Under the FISA Amendments Act: The Government cannot conduct any surveillance overseas without authorization; The Government cannot target individuals unless there is a reasonable belief they are not in the United States; The Government cannot intentionally acquire communications when the sender and recipient are both in the United States; The Government cannot reverse-target individuals overseas in order to monitor those in the United States; And, for the first time in U.S. history, the Government must obtain a court order from the FISA Court to target Americans outside the United States. Previously, the Government could target an American outside the United States based on a certification by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12333.

This law will expire at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The Obama administration has identified reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act as the top legislative priority of the Intelligence Community and requests Congress to extend the law for five years.

H.R. 5949 is bipartisan legislation to do just that - extend the FISA Amendments Act to December 31, 2017.

Foreign terrorists continue to search for new ways to attack America. Other nations seek strategic advantage and attempt to steal sensitive information from our military and private sector industries. They are committed to the destruction of our country and their methods of communication constantly evolve.

We have a duty to ensure that the Intelligence Community can gather the information they need to protect our country.

This bipartisan bill ensures that our country will be able to monitor threats to our safety and way of life, without sacrificing the civil liberties of American citizens. I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this bill.

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