Weekly Address: Pass the USA Freedom Act


The President:
Hi, everybody. As President and Commander
in Chief, my greatest responsibility is the safety
of the American people. And in our fight against
terrorists, we need to use every effective tool at our
disposal — both to defend our security and to protect
the freedoms and civil liberties enshrined
in our Constitution. But tomorrow — Sunday, at
midnight — some important tools we use against
terrorists will expire. That’s because Congress
has not renewed them, and because legislation that
would — the USA Freedom Act — is stuck in the Senate. I want to be very clear
about what this means. Today, when investigating
terrorist networks, our national security
professionals can seek a court order to obtain
certain business records. Our law enforcement
professionals can seek a roving wiretap to keep up
with terrorists when they switch cell phones. We can seek a wiretap on
so-called lone wolves — suspected terrorists who may
not be directly tied to a terrorist group. These tools are
not controversial. Since 9/11, they have been
renewed numerous times. FBI Director James Comey
says they are “essential” and that losing them would
“severely” impact terrorism investigations. But if Congress doesn’t act
by tomorrow at midnight, these tools go away as well. The USA Freedom Act also
accomplishes something I called for a year and a
half ago: it ends the bulk metadata program — the bulk
collection of phone records — as it currently exists
and puts in place new reforms. The government will no
longer hold these records; telephone providers will. The Act also includes other
changes to our surveillance laws — including more
transparency — to help build confidence among the
American people that your privacy and civil liberties
are being protected. But if Congress doesn’t act
by midnight tomorrow, these reforms will be
in jeopardy, too. It doesn’t have
to be this way. The USA Freedom Act
reflects ideas from privacy advocates, our private
sector partners and our national security experts. It already passed the House
of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan
support — Republicans and Democrats. A majority of the Senate —
Republicans and Democrats — have voted to
move it forward. So what’s the problem? A small group of senators
is standing in the way. And, unfortunately, some
folks are trying to use this debate to score
political points. But this shouldn’t and
can’t be about politics. This is a matter of
national security. Terrorists like al Qaeda and
ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against
us at midnight tomorrow. And we shouldn’t surrender
the tools that help keep us safe. It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless. And we shouldn’t
allow it to happen. So today, I’m calling on
Americans to join me in speaking with one
voice to the Senate. Put the politics aside. Put our national
security first. Pass the USA
Freedom Act — now. And let’s protect the
security and civil liberties of every American. Thanks very much.

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