Rep. Nadler is chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

On Friday, the House passed H.R. 3733, the FISA Amendments Act, a carefully crafted bill which ensures that our intelligence services have the tools they need to combat terrorism while upholding Constitutional safeguards on the rights of American citizens.  On this point we must be perfectly clear: this bill does not hinder the ability of our intelligence services to protect Americans from harm.  Instead, it provides intelligence agencies with broad powers to surveil suspected terrorists while outlining procedures for protecting the rights of our citizens.

This bill is able to balance the need to protect civil liberties with the realities of international intelligence gathering, at no cost to either.  For example, as some foreign surveillance may intercept conversations with Americans, the bill requires the Government to apply to a FISA court before undertaking surveillance of a foreign group or entity.  However, the bill guarantees that in an emergency the surveillance can begin immediately, and the court can consider the surveillance procedures at a later date, protecting both our civil liberties and our safety.

The bill also does not provide retroactive immunity for the telecommunications firms that may have broken the law when they participated in the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.  Rather, it allows the telecoms to assert their immunity and to present the relevant evidence to the court in a secret session that will protect any valid “state secrets.