"The bill retains three of the essential provisions of the bill passed by the House in November and in doing so, explicitly rejects again the heart of the President's warrantless surveillance program. Those provisions are:
"One, a restatement that FISA remains the exclusive -- means to authorize electronic surveillance. The President likes to think that he has the inherent authority to survey and collect on anybody and this bill restates that FISA is the exclusive authority. This was a point conceded to in 1978 when the Congress of United States established the FISA law, which was signed by the President of the United States , thereby his recognition of Congress' ability to make the courts the third branch of government the exclusive authority for the collection of intelligence in the United States .
"Second, except in emergencies, FISA court approval must take place before surveillance begins. But there are exceptions in case of emergencies.
"Third, a refusal to follow the Senate in excluding -- this is very important, because people are talking about the Senate bill as some great thing -- from the definition of electronic surveillance activities historically considered to be within the definition. In other words, if they don't want the law to apply for a particular activity, they'll just say it doesn't fall into this bill. If the Administration's change in the definition change was accepted, 'FISA-derived' information including U.S. person information could be data-mined with fewer protections than currently in place under FISA. This is very important to each and every person in America.
"The President insists that we pass the Senate bill as is. Yet even that legislation's chief author -- Chairman Rockefeller -- agrees that many of the House provisions improve the Senate bill.
"This legislation before us today will ensure that our intelligence professionals have all the tools they need to protect the American people, and the President knows it.
"This legislation will also ensure that we protect what it means to be an American -- our precious civil rights and civil liberties.
"Both goals are essential and both are achieved by this bill. I urge its passage."
SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House