July 26, 2013

Wyden and Udall: Intelligence Community's Response Leaves Important Surveillance Questions Unanswered

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., released the following statement after receiving a response from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to their June 27, 2013 letter sent along with 24 fellow senators:

“This response is appreciated, but the intelligence community still has left many of the questions most important to the American people unanswered.  Given the implications for the privacy of the millions of law-abiding Americans, intelligence leaders were specifically asked to demonstrate the unique value of the bulk phone records collection program. They did not. Instead, they persist in citing two cases where the government could have obtained a court order or emergency authorization for the information it needed.  The bottom line is we still have yet to see concrete evidence that the dragnet collection of phone records provides any unique value.

It’s also deeply troubling that while the NSA claims no current plans to turn Americans’ cell phones into tracking devices, it clearly claims the authority to do so. This response leaves our question of past plans unanswered.  Their violations of the rules for handling and accessing bulk phone information are more troubling than have been acknowledged and the American people deserve to know more details.  And we are amazed that intelligence leaders deny that the PATRIOT Act has been ‘secretly reinterpreted’ when it is obvious that most Americans and many members of Congress had no idea that this law could be used for bulk collection of millions of law-abiding Americans’ personal records.

In addition, the intelligence community’s response fails to indicate when the PATRIOT Act was first used for bulk collection, or whether this collection was underway when the law was renewed in 2006. We believe that law enforcement and intelligence agencies should have the tools needed to protect the American people, but the collection of bulk phone records needlessly invades the privacy of law-abiding Americans without visibly enhancing their safety.

The responses of the intelligence community demonstrate once again how important it is to reform our surveillance laws and practices at this unique moment in our constitutional history.”

The response can be found here: http://www.wyden.senate.gov/download/?id=285dc9e7-195a-4467-b0fe-caa857fc4e0d

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