Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to discuss the need to extend current authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
A transcript of Rubio’s full remarks is available below.U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Senate Floor Speech
May 7, 2015
Senator Marco Rubio: “Well, I think my colleagues have made an excellent point today in outlining all the details of how this program works.
“Let me just back up and point out why are we even having this debate, other than the fact that it is expiring, and it is because a perception that has been created, including by political figures that serve in this chamber, that the United States government is listening to your phone calls or going through your bills as a matter of course. That is absolutely, categorically false.
“The next time that any politician, senator, congressman, talking head, whatever it may be, stands up and says that the U.S. government is listening to your phone calls or going through your phone records, they’re lying. It just is not true. Except for some very isolated instances, in the hundreds, of individuals for whom there is reasonable suspicion that they could have links to terrorism.
“You know, those of us in this culture and in our society are often accused of having a short attention span. We forget that less than a year ago Russian separatists shot down a commercial airliner armed by the Russians, maybe even the Russians themselves did it. We forget it wasn’t long ago that Assad was using chemical weapons to slaughter people in Syria. And the world moves on.
“What we should never forget is what happened here on the 11th of September of the year 2001. There are a number of seminal moments in American history that people always remember. They remember when President Kennedy was assassinated, and everyone in this room remembers where they were and what they were doing on that morning of the 11th of September of the year 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked and the subsequent attacks that happened.
“Here’s the truth: If this program had existed before 9/11, it is quite possible that we would have known that the 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar was living in San Diego and was making phone calls to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen.
“There’s no guarantee we would have known. There is no way we can go back in time and prove it, but there is a probability that we could have, and therefore there is a probability that American lives could have been saved.
“This program works as follows: If we believe that an individual, we meaning the intelligence agencies of the United States, believes that there is an individual who involved in terrorist activity, a reasonable belief, and that individual might be communicating with people as part of a plot, they have to get an order that allows them access to their phone bill, and the phone bill basically tells you when they called, what number they called and how long the call took.
“And why does that matter? Because if I know that subject “X” is an individual that is involved in terrorism, of course you want to know who they are calling. You won’t be as interested in the calls to Pizza Hut or the local pharmacy, but you would be interested in calls overseas or calls to other people because they could be part of the plot as well. That’s why this is such a valuable tool.
“And my colleagues have already pointed out, if the IRS wants your phone bill, they just have to issue a subpoena. If virtually any agency of American government, if your local police department wants your phone bill, in fact, if you are involved in a proceeding in civil litigation and they wanted access to your phone bill because it is relevant to the case, they can just get a subpoena. It is part of the record.
“The intelligence agencies actually have to go through a number of hoops and hurdles, and that’s fine, that’s appropriate, because these are very powerful agencies.
“I would further add that the people that are raising hysteria, what is the problem we are solving here? There is not one single documented case, not one single documented case, there is not one single case that’s been brought to us as an example of how this program is being abused. Show me the story, give me the name. To the world, show us who is this individual that is going out there and seizing the phone records of Americans improperly. There isn’t one example of that, not one. And if there is, that individual should be fired, prosecuted and put in jail.
“But the solution is not to get rid of a program at a time when we know that the risk of homegrown violent extremism is the highest it’s ever been.
“We used to be worried about a foreigner coming to the United States and carrying out an attack. Then we were worried about an American traveling abroad and coming back and carrying out an attack. Now we’re worried about people that may never leave here that are radicalized online and carry out an attack.
“This is not a theoretical threat. Just last weekend two individuals, inspired by ISIS, tried to carry out an attack in the state of Texas.
“One day, I hope that I’m wrong, but one day there will be an attack that’s successful. And the first question out of everyone’s mouth is going to be, why didn’t we know about it? And the answer better not be because this Congress failed to authorize a program that might have helped us know about it.
“These people are not playing games. They don’t go on these web sites and say the things they say for purposes of aggrandizement.
“This is a serious threat, and I hope we reauthorize this bill.”