U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, who have led efforts to confront violations of Americans' privacy rights, commended U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy for his work on legislation unveiled today to rein in overly broad NSA surveillance, end the bulk collection of Americans' phone records and strengthen other privacy protections. Udall and Wyden, who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also pledged to work to further strengthen the bill's privacy protections and to close the backdoor search loophole in current law that allows the NSA and other intelligence agencies to search Americans' private electronic communications without a warrant.
"Congress must take aggressive steps to rein in excessive surveillance and end the bulk collection of law-abiding Americans' phone records. Senator Leahy's bill is a vast improvement over the U.S. House of Representatives' 'reform' bill and includes strong language aimed at ending the bulk collection of Americans' records," Wyden and Udall said. "The bill would also strengthen transparency and make important reforms to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
"While this progress is encouraging, this legislation unfortunately lacks important provisions that reformers have proposed to end the backdoor and warrantless searches of Americans' personal electronic communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress clearly intended this authority to be used to collect the communications of foreigners — not Americans — yet the Director of National Intelligence recently confirmed that the NSA, CIA and FBI conduct warrantless searches of communications of Americans that are swept up under this authority.
"Congress needs to close this loophole, and we look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and our colleagues to address this issue when the bill comes before the full U.S. Senate."