U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed legislation to reauthorize three expired provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a critical tool our national security community uses to help keep Americans safe. Thune also reflected on the passing of his friend and former colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn.
Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:
“Mr. President, responding to the coronavirus response has been, and will continue to be, at the top of our agenda for the foreseeable future.
“But in addition to our pandemic response, the Senate is also focused on the other priorities the American people are relying on us to take care of – from funding the government to protecting our nation.
“This week, the Senate is taking up legislation to reauthorize three expired provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including the provision that allows the FBI to wiretap lone-wolf terrorists – terrorists not affiliated with a specific terrorist organization – and the “roving wiretap” provision that prevents the FBI from having to seek a new wiretap warrant each time a terrorist suspect changes his phone number.
“These provisions lapsed in March, after the House blocked a temporary extension that was passed unanimously in the Senate, leaving law enforcement and intelligence officials without key tools in their antiterrorism fight.
“I expect the Senate will pass this bill today and hope that the House will move quickly to send it to the president’s desk.
“Every day, our law enforcement and intelligence personnel are engaged in the difficult – and at times dangerous – work of tracking terrorist threats.
“We need to make sure we give them the tools they need to do their jobs and keep Americans safe.
“The bill before us today combines extensions of these key anti-terrorism tools with new accountability measures that will ensure that law enforcement is held to the highest standards when pursuing surveillance of suspected terrorists and foreign agents.
“I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
“Mr. President, I’d like to take a moment today to pay tribute to my friend – and a former member of this body – Senator Tom Coburn, who died in March.
“Tom and I first met in the House of Representatives, where we both served, and then came into the Senate at the same time, as part of the class of 2005.
“I’ve been privileged to meet many principled men and women during my time in public service.
“But Tom was one in a million.
“He was fiercely principled and uncompromising … often to the chagrin of fellow senators.
“He didn’t care if he was one against 99 … if he believed he was in the right, he stuck to his guns, come hell or high water.
“He voted against politically popular legislation and bills that no other senator would oppose.
“Yet he held the enduring respect of his constituents, and, indeed, his colleagues … proving that sometimes principle can win you more lasting friendship than compromise.
“He was here for a purpose – in particular, to protect our children and grandchildren from the burden of an ever-increasing national debt by exposing government waste and Washington’s spending habits.
“And he got into some fierce fights on the floor in the service of that mission.
“But he knew how to keep fights to the office.
“Prickly on the floor, outside of it he was warm and personable.
“And he didn’t let politics get in the way of friendships.
“As he once said himself, he disagreed with President Obama on 95 percent of the issues.
“But that didn’t stop him from developing a lasting friendship with the president … or from working with him on legislation when he was in the Senate.
“Mr. President, no discussion of Tom would be complete without mentioning his deep faith.
“He was an outspoken witness for Christ.
“If you were his friend, as I was privileged to be, he was interested not just in your present good, but in your eternal good as well.
“Mr. President, as I said earlier, Tom Coburn was one in a million.
“And it will be a long time before we see his like again.
“And Mr. President, that’s a particularly great loss, because the Senate should always have a Tom Coburn.
“A man – or woman – of uncompromising principle. Of fierce dedication to the national good.”