WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged President Obama to take immediate steps -- while Congress works to pass true surveillance reform -- to end the ongoing bulk collection of Americans' phone records. The senators, who all serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the president should take every step he can under current law to end bulk collection, and rely on individual requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to get any records that are needed for national security investigations.
"While we agree it is vital for Congress to enact reforms of domestic surveillance law -- something each of us is committed to seeing through -- we are not confident that the version of the USA Freedom Act that recently passed the House of Representatives would actually ban the bulk collection of Americans' records," Heinrich, Udall, and Wyden wrote. "As the Senate begins to consider the best path forward for surveillance reform, we believe that, in the meantime, the government already has sufficient authorities today to implement most, if not all, of the Section 215 reforms laid out in your proposal without delay and in a way that does not harm our national security. More comprehensive congressional action is vital, but the executive branch need not wait for Congress to end the dragnet collection of millions of Americans' phone records for a number of reasons."
The senators sent their letter on the day that the current authority for the government's Section 215 phone records collection program expires. It is expected that the government will seek another 90-day reauthorization of the existing bulk collection program. The senators sent their letter on the day that the current authority for the government's Section 215 phone records collection program expires. It is expected that the government will seek another 90-day reauthorization of the existing bulk collection program.
Heinrich, Udall, and Wyden have led efforts in Congress to pass real surveillance reform measures. They also have pressed the White House to rein in the NSA's pervasive and constitutionally flawed domestic surveillance activities and to adopt reforms that protect privacy while ensuring Americans' security.