McConnell: “Senate Will Not Allow Vital Security Authorities To Go Dark"

‘America is facing the most dangerous combination of national security challenges since the end of the Cold War. I will not be party to any effort to make it harder to meet these challenges.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding FISA:

“In December, the director of the FBI told our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee that when he surveys threats to the homeland, he saw, quote, ‘blinking lights everywhere.’

“Iran’s efforts to kill Americans, compromise our communications and data, and collect intelligence on U.S. soil are well-known. At this point, so are the hundreds of known or suspected terrorists encountered along our borders in just the current fiscal year.

“At the end of the week, an essential authority America’s law enforcement and intelligence professionals rely on to monitor and mitigate serious threats is set to expire. A crucial window into the activities of those wish Americans harm is set to go dark.

“Of course, a few days ago, the House passed legislation that reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before it lapses.

“This authority should not be controversial. And it should not be conflated with well-known FBI abuses of FISA’s Title One. 

“Section 702 provides the authority to collect the communications of foreign nationals located overseas when they are reasonably likely to yield intelligence value. In practice, this means suspected foreign terrorists or foreign intelligence operatives – again, all of them located overseas. 

“Section 702 both gives us this critical information and places guardrails on how this collection is conducted. Importantly, it does not authorize the surveillance of Americans, for which a warrant is already required.

“Have there been problems in the FISA process from malfeasance and incompetence? Yes. That’s why this bill includes the most significant accountability reforms to the FBI in generations.

“This bill includes the most significant reforms to FISA – both Section 702 and Title One – in a generation.

“The bill the Senate will receive this week already places firm parameters on the FBI’s ability to query this database of lawfully-collected foreign intelligence for communications that might involve US persons, either as a target or an asset of a foreign terrorist or intelligence operative.

“It creates further new reporting requirements to increase accountability for abuse and misconduct in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court system, including direct reporting to Congress on adverse personnel actions and noncompliance.

“And it imposes new, serious criminal consequences for unlawful disclosures of court proceedings.

“I say all of this as context for any demands that the Senate place further limits on the use of critical FISA authorities.

“Let me be clear: the data collected under Section 702 is collected lawfully. It is entirely reasonable under the Constitution. Any incidental collection of communications by or about U.S. persons is also reasonable.

“Every court that has looked at that question has said so, and they’re right. Misguided efforts to require a criminal-law warrant to sort and organize those data on U.S. persons would end the ability of the FBI to keep America and Americans safe.

“Frankly, they would forget the lessons of 9/11. So I’ll oppose any such efforts and urge my colleagues to do the same.

“We have until Friday to avoid a dangerous lapse in a critical tool for identifying and stopping espionage and terrorism against the United States. If any of our colleagues believes that now is an appropriate moment to make this mission even more difficult, I’d be very interested to hear their rationale.

“America is facing the most dangerous combination of national security challenges since the end of the Cold War. I will not be party to any effort to make it harder to meet these challenges. And the Senate will not allow vital security authorities to go dark.”


Related Issues: National Security