It is also critical that Congress provide liability protection to electronic communication service providers in enacting a reauthorization bill. Contrary to the assertions of some, the legal protections contained in S. 2248 bill do not confer blanket immunity. Rather, protections apply in limited and appropriate circumstances, as reviewed by a court. We believe this approach represents the best way to provide retroactive immunity against these claims and urge Congress to pass legislation containing these protections.
While we appreciate the work of the House of Representatives in holding hearings and considering the challenges posed by the outdated provisions of FISA, the bill passed by the House, H.R. 3773, falls far short of providing the Intelligence Community with the tools it needs to collect foreign intelligence effectively from individuals located outside the United States . We cannot support this bill, which does not provide liability protection, would sunset in less than two years, requires prior court approval of acquisitions targeting persons outside the United States except in emergencies, and limits the type of foreign intelligence information that may be collected.
I would now like to focus on an issue that will have an impact on community safety nationwide: the Sentencing Commission's decision to apply retroactively, effective March 3, 2008 , a new -- and lower -- guideline sentencing range for crack cocaine trafficking offenses.
Unless Congress acts by the March 3 deadline, nearly 1,600 convicted crack dealers, many of them violent gang members, will be eligible for immediate release into communities nationwide.
Retroactive application of these new lower guidelines will pose significant public safety risks. Many of these offenders are among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system and their early release, without the benefit of appropriate re-entry programs, at a time when violent crime has increased in some communities will produce tragic, but predictable results. Moreover, retroactive application of these penalties will be difficult for the legal system to administer given the large number of cases eligible for resentencing, now estimated at upwards of 20,000, and uncertainties as to certain key legal issues remain unresolved.
I understand the commitment of Members of this Committee to community safety, and would appreciate the opportunity to work with this Committee and this House to address the retroactivity issue in an expedient manner, while beginning discussions on changes to the current statutory differential between crack and powder cocaine offenses.
Let me conclude with the following observation. While differences between this Committee and the Department are inevitable and are consistent with the institutional tension embedded in the Constitution, which is our Founding document, it is worthwhile to remember what unites us. We each swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the high ideals of public service to which we are entrusted. We must not lose sight of the common goals and common purpose that unify the Department of Justice and Members of the Committee who support its historic and ongoing mission.
I have submitted a more extensive statement for the hearing record and would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice