May 07, 2015

Wyden, Heinrich: Second Circuit Court of Appeals Rules NSA Dragnet Is Illegal – One More Reason to End the Dragnet

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., today called on the White House to finally end the mass surveillance of Americans, following a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the National Security Agency is violating the law by collecting millions of Americans’ phone records.

“This is a huge step for individual Americans’ rights,” Wyden said.  “This dragnet surveillance program violates the law and tramples on Americans’ privacy rights without making our country any safer. It is long past time for it to end. Now that this program is finally being examined in the sunlight, the Executive Branch’s claims about its legality and effectiveness are crumbling. The President should end mass surveillance immediately. If not, Congress needs to finish the job and finally end this dragnet.”

"This ruling affirms that the government does not have the authority to collect and retain the private telephone activity of innocent, law-abiding Americans," Heinrich said. "It should also give the president the confidence to finally end this overly broad program using his existing authority. The NSA’s bulk phone records program is a major invasion of Americans privacy and has done little if anything to further the fight against terrorism. We can and must balance the government's need to keep our nation safe with protecting our constitutional rights."

Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires on June 1. Right now, Republican Senate leaders are trying to extend the current surveillance program for five years. Wyden, Heinrich and a bipartisan coalition in Congress will fight to block any extension of this bill that does not include major reforms and end bulk collection.

Wyden, Heinrich and former Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado last year filed a brief in support of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the Second Circuit case, arguing that the NSA relied on an overbroad reading of the Patriot Act and secret law as the basis for its mass surveillance program. Bulk collection of U.S. records, the senators wrote, does not make our country safer, and violates the privacy of millions of Americans.