Washington, D.C. – Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), members of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, reacted to today’s speech by President Obama outlining his directive on reforming surveillance powers. The senators have been longtime advocates for reining in over broad surveillance powers and protecting Americans’ privacy. They issued the following statement:
“After the long push to rein in over broad surveillance powers, we are very pleased that the President announced his intent to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. Ending this dragnet collection will go a long way toward restoring Americans’ constitutional rights and rebuilding the public’s trust. Make no mistake, this is a major milestone in our longstanding efforts to reform the National Security Agency’s bulk collection program.
We also believe that additional surveillance reforms are necessary, and we will continue to push for these reforms in the coming weeks and months. In particular, we will work to close the “back-door searches” loophole and ensure that the government does not read Americans’ emails or other communications without a warrant. We will work to ensure that intelligence activities do not recklessly undermine confidence in American IT products and American IT employers. We will also continue to press for meaningful reforms of the outdated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court process. This should include the establishment of a strong, independent advocate to ensure that the Court hears both sides of the argument.
We take seriously Ben Franklin’s admonition that a society that trades essential liberties for short-term security risks losing both. That’s why we have advocated for these reforms, as we believe it is possible to keep Americans safe while protecting our treasured constitutional rights and liberties. Today’s announcement does not include all the reforms we have sought. The President has listened to some of the advice of his independent panel of experts and endorsed some of the reforms we have long advocated. The fight to protect liberty and increase security is far from over.
The groundswell of public support that has built for these reforms over the past several months shows that the American public shares our view of the importance of reining in over broad and unnecessary surveillance powers that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights. Today’s announcement is vindication of that activism and we look forward to working with the President and our colleagues to push forward on these reforms in the weeks and months ahead.”
Merkley Statement on the President’s NSA Speech
“It is unacceptable that our government has indiscriminately swept up millions of cell phone records of law-abiding citizens. This is an outrageous abuse of Americans’ privacy. I’m glad the President has acknowledged the concerns with bulk collection and will explore options to remedy those concerns. It remains to be seen whether significant changes will be made, and I vow to continue to advocate for substantive reforms to protect Americans’ privacy.
“The FISA court also needs dramatic reforms. I support the President’s proposal of a public advocate in those court proceedings for the constitutional privacy rights of American citizens. I also appreciate the President’s commitment to declassify FISA court opinions, which is the principle embedded in my 2012 amendment to the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization. Secret law cannot be tolerated in a democracy.
“Our nation is stronger when our civil rights as Americans are respected. I will continue to work with the Administration, Senator Wyden, and other colleagues to ensure our constitutional rights are honored in our laws and by our government.”