Comments by House lawmakers during debate on an amendment to a defense spending bill that would end the statutory authority under Section 215 — the business records provision — of the USA Patriot Act for the National Security Agency to collect hundreds of millions of phone records:
“The government collects the phone records, without suspicion, of every single American in the United States. My amendment makes a simple but important change. It limits the government’s collection to those records that pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation pursuant to Section 215. Opponents of this amendment will use the same tactic that every government throughout history has used to justify its violation of rights: Fear. They’ll tell you that the government must violate the rights of the American people to protect us against those who hate our freedom.” — Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
“Have 12 years gone by and our memories faded so badly we forgot what happened on Sept. 11? This (amendment) turns off a very specific program. … Passing this amendment takes us back to Sept. 10 (2001). And afterward we said, ‘Wow, there is a seam, a gap. Somebody leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, a terrorist overseas, called a terrorist living among us in the United States, and we missed it because we didn’t have this capability. What if we had caught it? But the good news is we don’t have to what if. It’s not theoretical. Fifty-four times this and the other program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe, saving real lives.” — Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
“This amendment does not stop the collection of data under Section 215 (about) the people who are subject to an investigation of an authorized terrorist plot. What it does do is prevent the collection of people who are not subject to an investigation. Relevance is required in any type of grand jury subpoena or a criminal collection of data for a criminal trial. This goes far beyond that in what the NSA is doing.” — Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
“The Amash amendment is an on/off switch for Section 215 of the Patriot Act. It will have an immediate operational impact and our country will be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. This authority has helped prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. A planned attack on the New York subway system was stopped because of Section 215. But if the Amash amendment passes, this authority will end. This amendment goes too far, too fast.” — Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.
“This amendment will not stop the proper use of the Patriot Act and (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) authorities to conduct terrorism and intelligence investigations. I’d never block that. All this amendment is intended to do is to curtail the ongoing dragnet collection and storage of the personal records of innocent Americans.” — Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.