Senator Martinez’s Response
I received a follow up to the letter I sent in to Senartor Martinez about the FISA Amendments Act (HR 6304). It’s a bit canned, but I appreciate that a response was sent. Here it is in its entirety.
Dear Mr. Place:
Thank you for contacting me regarding foreign intelligence surveillance. I appreciate hearing from you and would like to respond to your concerns.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 provided the U.S. intelligence community with a framework to regulate the collection of electronic surveillance on foreign intelligence targets, while protecting the Constitutional civil liberties of U.S. citizens. FISA was written to distinguish between the collection of information on a physical wire versus collection of signals broadcast in the open air. In 1978, almost all U.S. domestic calls were on a wire and almost all international communications were transmitted via satellites through the air. Therefore, FISA required all U.S. intelligence agencies to obtain a court order to intercept a wire-to-wire communication or any communication transmitted domestically. FISA, however, did not require court orders to intercept and collect wireless communications outside the United States.
On July 9, 2008, Congress presented the President with the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 6304) which modernizes our collection of foreign intelligence. This measure clarifies that FISA’s requirement of prior court approval does not apply to surveillance that is targeted at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States in accordance with the bill’s procedures. H. R. 6304 would allow the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to jointly authorize the targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year. H.R. 6304 in addition requires prior court approval for surveillance of U.S. citizens who are overseas. H.R. 6304 will provide, upon a certification by the Attorney General, retroactive immunity to carriers that allegedly participated in the President’s Terrorist Surveillance Program. It also provides prospective immunity to participating telecommunications carriers for certain assistance.
Throughout the history of our republic, we have always been concerned about the proper balance between security and freedom. Those who are generally concerned about the power of government to trample on the rights of free citizens when necessity dictates are right to insist on maintaining the individual civil liberties afforded by our Constitution, especially in times of crisis. Keeping our homeland safe from foreign threats is my number one priority as an elected official, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides intelligence professionals with the legal authority to intercept communications from foreign terrorist to individuals within our borders. H.R. 6304 represents a balanced approach to target terrorist planning attacks while carefully respecting civil liberties. It is important to understand that the phone records are not used to spy on the lives of innocent Americans, and instead focus on tracking terrorist who want to harm the American people.
We must remember we are at war with a ruthless enemy that has no regard for human life and exploits the openness of our society to harm us at home and abroad. I am committed to defeating terrorist and their actions that would lead to harm and devastation towards our country. I believe H.R. 6304 is a necessary update to FISA in order for us to continue to protect ourselves from these threats. However, having experienced life under a totalitarian regime, I value our Constitutional civil liberties, and I will continue to protect these rights as your Senator.
Thank you very much for sharing your concerns. Do not hesitate to contact me with any additional questions or comments you may have. For more information about issues and activities important to Florida, please sign up for my weekly newsletter at http://martinez.senate.gov.
United States Senator