Press Releases

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Washington – Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today joined 67 other Senators in voting to approve legislation to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The only Republican on both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, Hatch has delivered numerous speeches on the Senate floor in recent months, urging Congress to approve this legislation to modernize FISA.

“It is about time the opponents of this important legislation stand aside and allow the Senate to pass legislation which will protect the American people,” Hatch said. “This FISA modernization bill not only strengthens law enforcement, but it strengthens civil liberties as well. The intelligence community faces a daunting task every day to protect Americans and they deserve our support and assistance.”

Approved by a vote of 68-29, the bill will modernize FISA to account for terrorists utilizing modern technology, like cell phones and the Internet, which did not exist when the law was first written in 1978. To protect civil liberties, the bill contains numerous new oversight provisions in this bill which expand the jurisdiction of courts to approve the methods our intelligence community utilizes to ensure they are listening to terrorists, not innocent Americans.
Slowing the bill’s progress, opponents overplayed the fact that the FISA bill will provide retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies alleged to have helped government surveillance efforts. Fortunately, provisions to strip telecom immunity from the bill were soundly defeated. Telecom immunity is vital for protecting national security. Allowing frivolous lawsuits to go forward risks letting terrorists learn the methods we use to track them.

“Stripping the bill of immunity for telecom companies would have been an unacceptable risk; a risk our country couldn’t afford to take,” Hatch said. “We can’t jeopardize the safety of our families and friends in order to line the pockets of trial attorneys. Such lawsuits represent irrational fears of government conspiracy, and seek to expose classified information, regardless of who is harmed in the process.”

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for their consideration. Hatch urges all House members to act before current FISA legislation expires before the deadline of Feb. 16.