Mr. Speaker, recorded conversations, warrantless surveillance of citizens, and government invasion of privacy—it sounds like a page out of George Orwell’s novel ‘‘1984.’’ I don’t know if you read this in high school or not, but my generation did.
We never thought that this would ever take place in America. It is a book about Big Brother government.
To quote Orwell, here is what he says about government: Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed—no escape.
It talks about government eyes watching America. But it is happening here in America, Mr. Speaker, behind the closed doors of government intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Big Brother, in my opinion, is watching. How?
Through a piece of legislation called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. FISA allows our government to spy on foreign agents, including terrorists, primarily overseas.
The government collects all of this information and puts it into a database. If government wants to use or search the database, they go to a secret FISA court, and that court issues a secret warrant to search the database.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and a former judge and a prosecutor, I want government to go after terrorists overseas who seek to harm Americans; nab them, lock them up, and get rid of them. What is of disturbing concern, Mr. Speaker, is government uses these database communications, texts, and emails of Americans to gain information on them and spy on them without a real probable cause warrant.
That is one reason I did not vote to reauthorize FISA. This is a direct violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
For years, I have worked to rein in FISA’s abuse of Americans’ constitutional rights, and now we are learning more about FISA. And it is not good news.
Recently, Members of Congress were given access to a top secret memo by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The memo outlines improper conduct of government, and its contents are extremely disturbing.
The Justice Department and the FBI oppose the release of this memo without their permission. The Justice Department wants to black out, or redact, portions of it even though they haven’t even seen the memo.
They don’t want the public to know what is in it. They think that the American people ‘‘can’t handle the truth,’’ to give a quote from Jack Nicholson.
The reality is these agencies would prefer to continue operating in secret, behind the closed, locked doors of intrigue and surveillance. Mr. Speaker, this is exactly why the memo should be released.
A transparent government, Mr. Speaker, is a good thing. That revolutionary idea sounds to me like something our Founders envisioned when they drafted the Fourth Amendment.
Remember, the Bill of Rights was intended to protect us from government. Despite the protests of those who wish to offer up our privacy on the altar of national security, keeping this memo secret does not make us any safer.
It is clear, Mr. Speaker: Release the memo to the press and to the public. Let the public and the media know what is happening by our government behind the dingy, dark rooms of secrecy.
The memo is proof evident that government cannot be trusted. Ironically, the new FISA bill signed into law attempts to protect Americans from foreign terrorists but denies Americans the right to have their privacy protected in our homeland.
This is not the America our Founders envisioned. The memo speaks for itself.
Let the American people see the memo. Government has been watching America’s conduct.
Now it is time we watched the conduct of government. As George Orwell said in his book ‘‘1984,’’ in the eyes of Big Brother government, ‘‘Ignorance is strength.’’
Well, government may think so, but, Mr. Speaker, ignorance of the people is not a strength; it is a weakness. The spying eyes and improper acts of Big Brother need to be revealed.
And that is just the way it is.