Speeches and Floor Statements

Sensenbrenner Speaks On Behalf of Reauthorization of PATRIOT ACT

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Washington, February 8, 2011 | Wendy Riemann ((202) 225-5101) | comments

Congressman Sensenbrenner spoke on the House floor today in support of extending the USA PATRIOT Act.

On January 26, Sensenbrenner introduced legislation calling for the reauthorization of the three key national security provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that are set to expire at the end of February.  This legislation, which Sensenbrenner spoke in support of today, would extend these provisions through December 8, 2011. 

Sensenbrenner also intends to introduce legislation that would make these provisions permanent in the near future.

The Congressman’s remarks are below.  NOTE: not a direct transcript.

Watch Congressman Sensenbrenner’s floor speech HERE.

Statement of Crime Subcommittee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. House Floor Consideration of H.R. 514, to extend the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act until December 8, 2011.

I thank the Gentleman for yielding.   

In nineteen days, three key national security laws will expire unless Congress votes to reauthorize them.  H.R. 514 temporarily extends these laws – FISA business records, roving wiretaps, and the lone wolf definition – to December 8th of this year. 

As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I oversaw the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Title II of the Act addressed enhanced foreign intelligence and law enforcement surveillance authority.  Sixteen sections of that title were originally set to expire on December 31, 2005.  
Also set to expire on that date was section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), the lone wolf definition.

In 2005, I again spearheaded the effort to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act.  Recognizing the significance of the Act to America’s counter-terrorism operations and the need for thorough oversight, the House Judiciary Committee held nine subcommittee hearings, three days of full committee hearings, and a robust full committee markup reauthorizing legislation. 

The USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 made permanent 14 of the 16 intelligence provisions.  The Act extended the sunset on Section 206 FISA roving wiretaps, Section 215 FISA business records, and the lone wolf definition to the end of 2009. 

 But the three remaining temporary provisions were not reauthorized before the 2009 deadline.  Instead, the then-Democratic Majority chose to twice extend the provisions – first for two months and then for one year, without ever bringing a reauthorization bill to the floor. 

 This Congress, things will be different.  We must approve a temporary extension today to keep these critical national security tools in place.  But this extension will afford Congress sufficient time to hold hearings and markups and adopt a permanent reauthorization of these provisions this year, which I intend to introduce soon.

 The time for multiple, temporary extensions is over.   The terrorist threat has not subsided and will not expire.  Neither should our national security laws.  

It is especially important that Congress make permanent the lone-wolf definition.  This provision closes a gap in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that, if allowed to expire, could permit an individual terrorist to slip through the cracks and carry out his plot undetected.  When FISA was originally enacted in 1978, terrorists were believed to be members of an identified group.  That is not the case today. 

Today, more than ever, we are confronted with threats from loosely organized terrorist groups or individuals who may subscribe to a movement or certain beliefs but do not belong to or identify themselves with a specific terrorist group.  Without the lone-wolf definition, our surveillance tools will be powerless against this growing threat to America’s security.

Section 206 of the USA PATRIOT Act authorizes the use of “roving” or multipoint wiretaps for national security and intelligence investigations.  This allows the government to a use a single wiretap order to cover any communications device that the target uses or may use.  Without roving wiretap authority, investigators would be forced to seek a new court order each time they need to change the location, phone, or computer that needs to be monitored.  

Section 215 of the Act allows the FISA Court to issue orders granting the government access to business records in foreign intelligence, international terrorism, and clandestine intelligence cases.  The USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 expanded the safeguards against potential abuse of Section 215 authority, including additional Congressional oversight, procedural protections, application requirements, and judicial review. 

Each of these provisions are integral to defending America’s national security and must be kept intact. 

I urge my colleagues to join me in passing H.R. 514 and I yield back the balance of my time.

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