Democrats know that our highest duty is to defend this nation and protect our citizens. But we also know that we can keep this nation safe while ensuring that our government abides by the principles upon which it was founded, including the protection of individuals' rights.

The new FISA bill gives our intelligence community the tools it needs to listen in on those who seek to harm us, while protecting Americans' basic civil rights. It addresses concerns that the so-called “Protect America Act

The new FISA bill will modernize the original 1978 Act by addressing the intelligence gap asserted by the DNI:

  • It gives him authority to proceed without a warrant on tapping any foreign-to-foreign communications

  • It only asks that he come before the Court to show that the guidelines he is using to determine that targets are outside the U.S. are reasonable

  • In cases of emergency, it gives him even more authority – up to 45 days to listen in before acquiring court approval of his guidelines

  • It restores a real role for the FISA court:

  • Overseeing the guidelines before tapping begins (with an exception for emergency situations)

  • Ensuring that the procedures in place for removing American citizens’ conversations should they be tapped inadvertently are sound

It includes strong new audit and reporting requirements, so that Congress can stay abreast of whose conversations – including how many Americans’ – are being captured under this program. Finally, the bill will likely include a sunset, so that our next President and our next Congress can revisit this issue – which is clearly important given the significance of this program to our security, as well as its potential affect on basic civil rights.

Regarding immunity, it would be irresponsible for Congress to blindly give retroactive immunity – the President needs to provide Congress with the information we need in order to determine that immunity is appropriate.