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POMPEO: FISA amendments should be extended

Hunting terrorists, protecting Americans

- - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When I came to Washington with 86 other freshman Republicans, I had a clear mission: Cut spending, eliminate red tape and roll back the size and scope of the federal government. Putting government back into the constitutional box our Founding Fathers created is part and parcel of that mission. Whatever other spending we cut, we must continue to ensure our country is defended from enemies, both foreign and domestic. Quickly passing the five-year extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amendments is an integral aspect of that effort.

I became acquainted with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during my time in the U.S. Army and at Harvard Law School. I quickly learned that the information gathered under FISA is essential for the security of every soldier and the American people. The 2008-passed FISA amendments, which simply reassert the intention of the original 1978 FISA law, properly empower the intelligence community to hunt foreign terrorists while protecting the civil liberties of every American.

The FISA amendments ensure that our intelligence officers don't have to gain individualized court approval -- based on showing probable cause -- to effectively and efficiently monitor foreign terrorists. Unlike the often controversial Patriot Act, the FISA amendments only pertain to intelligence efforts against foreigners in foreign lands. The civil liberties of Americans are protected in this act by requiring individualized court approval to target any Americans -- regardless of whether they are here in America or overseas.

The world has changed. Threats that once were capable only of being posed by monolithic nation-states with advanced weapons are now spread across the globe by rogue states and terror cells on a mission to harm Americans. The same technological tools Americans use to create jobs and connect with one another are used by others to do harm to this nation. Widely available technology enables terrorists to change locations and communication devices faster than paperwork can be filled out and filed with the courts. This new reality demands that our intelligence community have the flexibility it needs to protect the American people, all within the parameters of proper oversight and constitutional protections.

Requiring individualized court-approved search warrants for foreigners overseas is not only burdensome, it would hamstring our efforts. Then-Director of National Intelligence Adm. Mike McConnell stated that requiring such a warrant resulted in not collecting two-thirds of the foreign intelligence eligible for collection. Intelligence is the linchpin in protecting our military and homeland against foreign threats. Without accurate, reliable and timely intelligence, we would be less safe.

While the upcoming election casts an unfortunate partisan tint on almost every issue, I believe the House, Senate and White House can and should come together and pass a five-year extension of the FISA Amendment Act. Given support across the political spectrum, this may be one of the few opportunities for Washington to work together before November. The FISA process produces tremendous intelligence needed for our nation's security, has bipartisan support, and fulfills Congress' constitutional responsibility to protect and defend this nation. We owe it to the American people to act quickly.

Rep. Mike Pompeo is a Kansas Republican.