WASHINGTON—Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered remarks ahead of a House vote on S. 139, the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017. Following are the speaker's remarks as delivered:
“First, I just want to say to all my colleagues: I respect the passionate views that are on display here.
“I think this has been a very passionate and interesting debate. What I would like to do is bring a little clarity to this debate.
“I want to thank the minority leader for coming up and speaking against the Amash amendment, and in favor of the underlying, bipartisan amendment.
“We’ve been working with—we, on a bipartisan basis—been working with the Senate and the White House to get this right. To add even more privacy protections to the law, even more than the status quo. To add the warrant requirement that this underlying bill has.
“Let me try and clear up some of the confusion. There’s been wide reporting and discussion here in the House about parts of the FISA statute that affects citizens. It’s a big law. It’s a big statute with lots of pieces.
“Title 1 of the FISA law is what you see in the news that applies to U.S. citizens. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
“This is Title 7, Section 702. This is about foreign terrorists on foreign soil. That’s what this is about.
“So let’s clear up some of the confusion here. Let me give you two examples. Two examples of what this program has done to keep our people safe. Two declassified examples.
“Number one, this program in March of 2016 gave us the intelligence we needed to go after and kill ISIS’s finance minister. Because of the intelligence collected under this program, a foreign terrorist on foreign soil, the number two man at ISIS, who was in line to become the next leader. This program helped us get the information to stop him.
“I came here before 9/11. I remember hearing upon hearing in the 9/11 commission about the old firewall. We were seeing what was going on overseas, terrorists like Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan were doing all these things, and we couldn’t pass that information on to our authorities over here in America. We had this firewall that prevented us from connecting the dots. That was the big phrase we used back then in the early 2000s.
“You pass the Amash amendment, you bring that firewall right back up. You pass the Amash amendment and defeat this underlying bill, we go back to those days where we are flying blind on protecting our country from terrorism.
“Let me give you an example. This program has not only stopped many attacks, let me tell you about one: A plot in 2009 to blow up New York’s subway system. This was used to understand what people were planning overseas and what they were trying to do here in America, so that we could connect the dots and stop that particular terrorist attack.
“That is why this has to be renewed. That is why, among many other reasons, why 702, a program designed to go after foreign terrorists on foreign soil, is so essential.
“If this Amash amendment passes, it kills the program. If this underlying bill fails, there’s one of two things that will happen. The status quo will be continued, meaning no additional privacy protections, no warrant requirement, status quo. That doesn’t do anything to advance the concerns that have been voiced on the floor.
“Or, even worse, we go dark. 702 goes down. We don’t know what the terrorists are up to. We can’t send that information to our authorities to prevent terrorist attacks. The consequences are really high.
“One of the most important things we are placed in charge to do is to make decisions not based on TV, not based on Internet, based on facts, based on reality. And we’re supposed to make those decisions to keep our country safe.
“This strikes the balance that we must have, between honoring and protecting privacy rights of U.S. citizens, honoring civil liberties, and making sure that we have the tools we need in this day and age of 21st century terrorism to keep our people safe.
“That’s what this does. That is why I ask everyone on a bipartisan basis to vote no on the Amash amendment and vote yes on the underlying bill.”