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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act

August 5, 2009
Floor Statement
Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Speaker, if there is one thing the American people know, they know that America has a Constitution that protects us from being spied on by our government. Everything about this bill makes a mockery of the Constitution of the United States of America. This administration has literally thrown the Constitution out the window.

In committee markup, the majority jammed a substitute amendment down our throats that basically undermines that part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that requires that the administration get a warrant before eavesdropping on American citizens. Now the majority is jamming another Republican substitute or comprehensive amendment down the throats of the American people by considering this bill under what is known as a closed rule, which prohibits Democrats from offering any changes or amendments.

As we grapple with the war on terrorism, the constitutional power of the President has been stretched until it cannot be stretched anymore, from the use of force executed against Iraq, to the initiation of a warrantless surveillance program that targets innocent Americans.

In April, the U.S. Attorney General told the Judiciary Committee that even if that authorization to use military force resolution were determined not to provide the legal authority for the program that the President's inherent authority to authorize foreign intelligence surveillance would permit him to authorize the terrorist surveillance program.

The imperial President can do whatever he wants. Mr. President, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Chairman, why then do we need this legislation?

The President illegally and unconstitutionally authorized the wholesale collection of domestic communications, and now the majority wants to give him legislative permission. This is not fair or honest.

This bill broadens the scope of those the President can monitor, so innocent people can be violated so long as the surveillance is directed at so-called "one permissible target." It also removes one of the central requirements for conducting warrantless surveillance, one that provides the most protection to the American people. And, as FISA has said, there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.

They shouldn't be spying on us. If what the President is doing right now is so clearly authorized and is in the best interests of our Nation's security, why was this provision so troublesome? Is it clear that the fourth amendment rights of the American people are a burden to this administration? If a case is so extreme that it would take too long to obtain a warrant, these requirements shouldn't be difficult to meet.