Congressional Record: January 24, 2007 (House)
Page H922-H923                         


  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Johnson of Georgia). Under a previous 
order of the House, the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) is 
recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, in December 2005, we learned that the Bush 
administration was using the National Security Agency, the NSA, to 
eavesdrop on Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant or judicial 
oversight, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  Over a year later, Congress has yet to address this issue, and the 
NSA's secret surveillance program has continued unabated. Just last 
week the administration continued its unilateral approach, announcing 
that notwithstanding its protestations last year, that it could not 
possibly allow the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to oversee 
the NSA program; it would now submit to the court's jurisdiction, but 
not tell the Congress how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court 
would oversee the program or why its policies have changed.
  When Members of Congress questioned the Attorney General and the 
National Intelligence Director regarding this shift in policy, both 
officials refused to provide information regarding the nature of the 
administration's new policy in this area.
  Indeed, we have no idea whether the administration is now seeking 
warrants on an individualized basis or broad programmatic approval from 
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  Congressional silence in this area and others has had other 
repercussions. Earlier this month Congress was again caught by surprise 
when we learned that the President has claimed potentially sweeping new 
powers to open Americans' mail without a court warrant.
  Again, the administration could obtain a warrant, and quickly, from a 
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge, but has chosen not to 
submit this effort to court supervision. Interestingly, the 
developments over the last year bear a striking resemblance to events 
that occurred some 30 years ago, when a series of troubling reports

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began appearing in the press concerning domestic intelligence 
activities and surveillance of political activities of U.S. citizens.
  These revelations and others revealed by the Watergate scandal 
convinced lawmakers that Congress had been too permissive and trusting, 
failing to carry out its oversight responsibilities over the executive 
  In response, a U.S. Senate committee was formed to investigate 
intelligence activities by the government. The United States Senate 
Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to 
Intelligence Activities, commonly referred to as the Church committee, 
after its Senate chairman, issued more than 50,000 pages of reports in 
what is considered the most comprehensive review of intelligence 
activities in the country.
  Ironically, the reports included sections on mail opening as well as 
the National Security Agency and fourth amendment rights. In rebuffing 
recent congressional requests for information on the current NSA 
program, the administration has made the argument that the NSA 
surveillance program is too sensitive to be shared with Congress, even 
to Members in the classified setting.
  When these same concerns were weighed by the Church committee in 
1975, the opposite result was reached, with the committee refusing to 
neglect its oversight responsibility merely because their work would be 
harder. In fact, the extensive oversight and the substantial record 
generated by the Church committee inspired the creation of the Foreign 
Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Foreign Intelligence 
Surveillance Court.
  Both have worked effectively to ensure that the President has the 
tools necessary to thwart attacks while ensuring respect for the civil 
liberties of Americans and the adherence to the rule of law. FISA, as 
it is called, has provided a measure of oversight over foreign 
intelligence activities on U.S. soil, and with it the confidence of the 
American people.
  This administration, however, has undermined that trust by 
circumventing FISA. Congress should follow the example of the Church 
committee, by vigorously examining the NSA surveillance program and 
determining what legislative action is necessary. The administration 
should cooperate and work with Congress as we engage in our oversight 
responsibilities, and make the case for statutory change if revisions 
are required to meet new challenges in the war on terror.
  If, however, the administration rejects congressional oversight in 
this area and continues to defy requests for information, Congress 
should seek other means of redress. I have introduced bipartisan 
legislation with Representative Jeff Flake that can serve as a basis 
for examining these issues and restoring the rule of law.
  The NSA Oversight Act, H.R. 11, would reiterate existing law 
requiring court approval for the surveillance of Americans on American 
soil, and would provide greater oversight of NSA's surveillance 
activity. Our legislation also makes some key changes to FISA in order 
to streamline and expedite the process in response to the 
administration's argument that the current framework was too 
  Mr. Speaker, I urge the Congress to fully examine this issue, step up 
its oversight responsibility, and take legislative action if necessary.