28 May 1999
Source: http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/1999/May/219ag.htm



    THURSDAY, MAY 27, 1999

    (202) 616-2777


    TDD (202) 514-1888


    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "The Department of Justice is charged with
    protecting the security of this Nation and the liberty of its
    people, and I take those two responsibilities very, very much to

    "To protect national security while guarding the liberty of its
    people, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
    in 1979. This Act is known as FISA and it requires that before
    the government can wiretap or conduct an electronic surveillance
    of a U.S. citizen for intelligence purposes, it must obtain
    approval from a Judge by presenting evidence sufficient to show
    probable cause to believe certain things. 

    "Those certain facts are that a particular U.S. person knowingly
    engages in clandestine intelligence gathering activities on
    behalf of a foreign power which may involve a violation of the
    criminal statutes of the United States.

    "Congress required this specific showing for a very good reason -
    it wanted to protect the rights of U.S. citizens to be free from
    unreasonable searches as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. 

    "In the investigation of espionage at the Department of Energy
    laboratories, the Department was asked whether surveillance or
    wiretaps could be authorized. Based on the facts reported to us
    in 1997, the Department determined that the evidence was
    insufficient to support a finding of probable cause. But as in
    all cases it was prepared to continue to review the matter to
    determine if there was additional evidence that could be used to
    show probable cause. Although Eric Holder and I did not
    personally review the matter at the time, I have since reviewed
    the case and I agree with the findings made by the career lawyers
    in the Department of Justice.

    "As in all cases where questions are raised concerning how we
    handled a matter, we are going to review everything that we did
    to see if there is anything that should have been done
    differently, in order to ensure our national security, and to do
    everything possible in the future.

    "When I took this job, I swore to uphold the Constitution and the
    laws of the United States. I believe that it is my sworn duty to
    ensure that only FISA cases with evidence sufficient to show the
    "probable cause" required by the statute are presented to the

    "Our efforts to fight crime and to protect the national security
    can require the government to intrude into the homes of American
    citizens or listen to their telephone conversations in certain
    instances. But the same law that allows the courts to authorize
    such intrusion, says it can only be done if the probable cause
    standards set by Congress, Courts and the Constitution are met.

    "Some have said, well, we should simply let the Court decide
    whether to authorize a FISA warrant or FISA surveillance. But
    that is not what the law says. If I do not believe that the
    probable cause standard is met, I can't present to the Court a
    FISA application. To do so would violate my oath of office, and I
    am not going to do it."