|For Immediate Release
February 14, 2011
Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951
Chairman Lamar Smith Dispels Myths on the PATRIOT Act
Statement on the House Floor
Chairman Smith: Since its enactment in 2001, the PATRIOT Act has been the object of so many false allegations and exaggerations that the myths have overshadowed the truth. It is time to dispel the myths once and for all.
Let’s begin with the myth that national security officials do not need these provisions to protect us from terrorist attacks. This is demonstrably untrue.
Numerous terrorist attempts in the last ten years have been thwarted thanks to the intelligence-gathering tools provided in the PATRIOT Act and other national security laws. And if Congress fails to extend the provisions set to expire on February 28th, it will be on our shoulders if the intelligence needed to stop the next attack is not collected.
Opponents claim that these expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act violate the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. This too is false.
Each of the provisions at issue amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Enacted in 1978, FISA sets forth specific intelligence gathering procedures that comply with constitutional protections and have been consistently upheld by the courts.
Let’s also dispel the myth that these provisions grant broad-sweeping, unchecked authority for the government to collect information on innocent Americans. Again, this is absolutely untrue.
These types of provisions have been used by domestic law enforcement agencies for years to apprehend typical criminals. Roving wiretaps are nothing new. Domestic law enforcement agencies have had roving authority for criminal investigations since 1986.
And Section 215 business records have more strict requirements than the grand jury subpoenas used in criminal investigations. It makes no sense to let law enforcement officials use a tool to investigate a drug dealer, but then deny that same authority to intelligence officials investigating terrorists.
And contrary to claims by critics, there is oversight of these provisions. Both Section 206 roving wiretaps and Section 215 business records requests must be approved by a FISA judge.
Both Section 206 roving wiretaps and Section 215 business records are subject to rigorous minimization procedures. These procedures, also approved by a FISA judge, ensure that only information that pertains to the investigation is collected.
And both Section 206 roving wiretaps and Section 215 business records prohibit the government from gathering intelligence on a U.S. citizen or legal resident based solely upon 1st Amendment protected activity.
The third provision set to expire is the so-called “lone wolf” definition. As originally enacted, FISA authorized intelligence gathering only on foreign governments, terrorist groups, or their agents. FISA did not allow the government to collect intelligence against individual terrorists.
The lone wolf provision amended the definition of “agent of a foreign power” to close this gap. An increasing number of attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. are being carried out by self-radicalized jihadists who adopt an agenda as equally hateful and destructive as a terrorist group.
The lone wolf definition simply brings our national security laws into the 21st century to allow our intelligence officials to answer the modern day terrorist threat. The lone wolf authority cannot be used against a U.S. citizen.
This temporary extension ensures that there are no gaps in our intelligence collection. Without an extension of these authorities, we will forfeit our ability to prevent terrorist attacks.
A temporary extension of these provisions is the only way to provide House Members the time to study the law, hold hearings, consider amendments, and conduct markups.
We need to approve this temporary extension today or we will make it harder to prevent terrorist attacks.