02.04.08

S. Amdt. 3930 Offered By Senator Cardin (D-Md.)

I think we all recognize that this legislation would provide broad and untested new powers to the executive branch.  We are willing to do that in order to protect our national security.  But this surveillance does not just affect foreign targets; it also affects the privacy rights of potentially millions of American citizens.   That is why it is so important that we get this right.  And that is why I support Senator Cardin’s amendment, which would reduce the sunset provision of this bill from six years to four years.   

We are dealing with untested procedures; we have no assurance that what we are doing now will properly protect national security or the privacy rights of Americans. Many questions remain about how the new authorities that Congress is prepared to grant will be implemented, whether they will be effective, and – equally important – the extent to which they will intrude on innocent conversation of Americans.  As we understand more about these authorities – and perhaps as technology allows us to improve our approach to this important surveillance – the executive branch and the Congress should reevaluate these sensitive authorities.   

There is too much here that is new and untested to allow the authorities to go longer than even the expiration of the next President’s term before requiring a thorough review.  A four-year sunset makes sense.  It will allow the next President three years of experience under these authorities to monitor how these new powers are being carried out.  And it is an appropriate time for the Congress to evaluate whether the legislation strikes the right balance between national security needs and Americans’ civil liberties. 

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