[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 136 (Friday, October 4, 2013)]
[Pages H6229-H6230]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Texas (Mr. Poe) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, government secrecy is anathema to all 
people, and darkness by rulers can be trumped by the sunshine of a 
public and an independent judicial system. But, Mr. Speaker, secrecy by 
a judicial system is a threat to liberty of all free peoples.
  in our country we have the Constitution; and, specifically, the 
amendments to the Constitution protect us as a free people against 
government--government intrusion and government violation of our 
privacy--because government really has no right; it has power. It has 
what we give it when we give up our liberty and our rights.
  The amendments promote openness of government and protect individuals 
from government. There is the Sixth Amendment that talks about a 
public, speedy trial, where witnesses come forward and people are put 
on notice of the crime. Citizens are given a jury trial. But the most 
important part of that amendment is the right to a public trial.
  The Seventh Amendment deals with jury trials in civil cases.
  Of course, the Fifth Amendment talks about the fact that, in a trial, 
a person accused doesn't have to testify or produce any evidence 
against themselves.
  And then the Fourth Amendment talks about how government is limited 
on how it can intrude into our homes and our papers. It limits 
government surveillance. And it's an inherent right that the government 
search be reasonable and based on probable cause, and that there must 
be a warrant drafted under oath describing the place to be searched, 
the persons and objects to be seized.
  Now, this just didn't come out of our ancestors' minds because they 
thought it was a good idea. There are historical reasons for this. 
Maybe in our government public school system we ought to teach more 
about the history of liberty and why we do things the way we do under 
this Constitution. It goes all the way back to the 1500s in England 
when England invented this concept of the Star Chamber.

[[Page H6230]]

  The idea was, well, we're going to be able to prosecute and go after 
nobles, certain people who are being able to get away with violations 
of the law. But the courts were made specifically to be secret courts 
where there were no witnesses, there was no indictment, and a person 
was forced to testify against themselves. So, obviously, it was abused. 
It was abused by the Kings of England, primarily Henry VIII, when he 
went after and fought his opponents by prosecuting them in those secret 
  The United States doesn't have the Star Chamber, but we have the 
NSA--the National Spy Agency, as I call it--and the FISA courts, the 
21st century descendants of the Star Chamber. The NSA and the Foreign 
Intelligence Surveillance Act allows those courts under FISA to 
authorize searches of anyone. Those searches are not based on probable 
cause, and those areas are not specifically described to be searched. 
It is a general warrant concept that they used in England to search 
people in England that were political opponents of the government and 
of the King.
  The spy courts in the United States started under the theory that we 
need to be safe from terrorists. But the NSA and the spy courts violate 
the Constitution in the name of security. Warrants under FISA are 
general warrants where NSA can seize phone records, NSA can seize 
credit card bills and utility bills. And we are learning now that they 
seize not only phone data but that NSA seizes bank records.
  Also, the judges are far from being independent. They meet in 
secret--just like the Star Chamber did. They can't even keep the 
records of the proceeding. Those are turned back over to the 
government. There are no witnesses present--just like in the Star 
Chamber. There's no lawyers present for anybody--just like in the Star 
  These FISA courts should be protecting American citizens and should 
be following the Constitution. They are supposed to act as the 
independent power between government and the people. But they're not 
doing that.
  I call them the ``Spy, Search and Seizure Courts'' because they are 
operating in the darkness of tyranny. We don't know what they're doing. 
They allow the NSA to seize and violate the privacy of Americans in 
violation of the Constitution by seizing people's records under general 
  A general warrant is the idea that government knows there's a bad guy 
in the area, so the government wants to search the whole area of town 
for the bad guy. You can't do that. I used to be a judge. Government 
has to have probable cause. It has to give the address of the house, 
the specific area, state the probable cause. The warrant has got to be 
sworn to and be specific about the location and what government wants 
to search and what government wants to seize or it's a violation of the 
  The spy courts--the NSA courts and the Star Chamber courts--need to 
be revisited. It's time to shine sunshine on the FISA courts and the 
spying of the NSA. The NSA and the FISA courts--the Star Chamber 
courts--have shut down the Constitution. Now it's time to shut down the 
unlawful surveillance and intelligence gathering by these courts on 
American citizens.
  And that's just the way it is.