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Government Surveillance

What Members of Congress Are Saying About NSA Spying

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Press Release, September 18th

Over the past few months, the House Judiciary Committee has conducted vigorous oversight of our nation’s foreign surveillance programs, including today’s classified hearing. I appreciate the witnesses’ testimony today further detailing these programs and the current practices employed by the agencies to protect U.S. citizens’ civil liberties. However, I am convinced that further protections are necessary. I am committed to working with members of the House Judiciary Committee, House leaders, and other members of Congress to ensure our nation’s intelligence collection programs include robust oversight, additional transparency, and protections for Americans’ civil liberties while maintaining a workable legal framework for national security officials to keep our country safe from foreign enemies.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), NPR Interview, September 3rd

Secret operations are different than secret law. The law always ought to be public. That’s the central underpinning of a system like ours … There needs to be an independent advocate in the FISA court because the FISA court process is so one sided. You essentially only hear one side of the discussion. Another major change would be to declassify the legal underpinnings of decisions made by the FISA court. In 2009, the Obama Administration wrote to Senator Rockefeller and myself saying that they would begin an effort to start declassifying some of those opinions — and to date, not one has been declassified … the reason why metadata is so significant, is that it lends itself to computer analysis. You can see these patterns. Metadata is almost like a human relations database. You don’t need to be listening to people’s calls to know an awful lot about them and personal, intimate details of their lives.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Public Statement, August 25th

This is not a partisan issue, there are Democrats and Republicans on both sides of this. I’m very proud of the Colorado delegation. All seven members of Congress from Colorado voted for the amendment to restrict the NSA.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Press Release, August 21st

The American people deserve to know when and why a court has declared government surveillance activities unconstitutional, particularly when they involve the warrantless collection of emails. Today’s release of documents by the Director of National Intelligence begins to appropriately draw back the curtain on the secret law of government surveillance, and they also underscore the need for increased oversight and stronger protections for Americans’ privacy. This will be the subject of another Judiciary Committee hearing in the coming weeks.

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Public Statement, August 20th

[The NSA Accountability Act] tells the NSA that if they unlawfully spy on Americans again, Congress will take away their funding. The bill also makes it clear that the NSA can only track Americans where strong evidence suggests they are doing wrong. Our worst fears are starting to be realized and I feel that more may be learned in the coming months. The American people deserve to know all of the facts and I urge the President to lead on this issue.

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Public Statement, August 19th

Federal law enforcement deserves all the tools it needs to keep Americans safe at home, keep Americans safe abroad, but we cannot sacrifice personal liberty for the illusion of security. I need to have an answer for my neighbors who have asked me during this August work period what I am doing to stand up against massive government overreach.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Public Statement, August 19th

Congress must redouble its oversight efforts to better protect the privacy of those we represent while also maintaining intelligence operations that are critical to national security.

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Public Statement, August 16th

The [Senate Intelligence] committee can and should do more to independently verify that the NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate. This should include more routine trips to NSA by committee staff and committee hearings at which all compliance issues can be fully discussed.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Public Statement, August 16th

I wonder how many of my colleagues in Congress were briefed that there were thousands of errors made with respect to this program because I have a sneaking suspicion the number is zero. That’s how many of my colleagues were told ahead of time before we had to learn from a leaker to a newspaper that there were thousands of violations … I had a town hall last night, and if I had to tell you the dominant theme, is people are scared and they are distrustful. And that is across party lines. It’s across ideological lines. They just don’t trust government, and we’re not going to make it if we don’t get that fixed.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Public Statement, August 16th

Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of noncompliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Press Release, August 16th

The American people rely on the intelligence community to provide forthright and complete information so that Congress and the courts can properly conduct oversight. I remain concerned that we are still not getting straightforward answers from the NSA. I plan to hold another hearing on these matters in the Judiciary Committee and will continue to demand honest and forthright answers from the intelligence community. Using advanced surveillance technologies in secret demands close oversight and appropriate checks and balances, and the American people deserve no less than that.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Editorial in Politico, July 22nd 

It appears the president now believes we are all connected to terrorists. It’s as if he’s playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with our civil liberties.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO), Public Statement, July 3rd

Intelligence officials have noted that the bulk email records program was discussed with both Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  In our judgment it is also important to note that intelligence agencies made statements to both Congress and the Court that significantly exaggerated this program’s effectiveness.  This experience demonstrates to us that intelligence agencies’ assessments of the usefulness of particular collection programs – even significant ones – are not always accurate.  This experience has also led us to be skeptical of claims about the value of the bulk phone records collection program in particular.

26 Democratic and Republican Senators,Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R- NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT)Letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, June 28th

We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), House Intelligence Committee Hearing, June 18th

I think this is historically unprecedented in the extent of the data that is being collected potentially on all American citizens.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Press Release, June 18th

The recent revelations of the NSA’s data-mining program is just another example of the federal government’s continued abuse of the overly broad powers provided under the Patriot Act.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Public Statement, June 12th

I think Congress has really found itself a little bit asleep at the wheel.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-NC), Press Release, June 7th

We must have a thorough and public debate on how our government can balance the need for national security while protecting the basic liberties of its citizens. Americans have a right to know the power that they are granting their government.

21 Republican and Democratic Representatives,Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI), Paul Broun (R-GA), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Steve Pearce (R-NM), Walter Jones (R-NC), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Todd Rokita (R-IN)Letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, June 6th

We are concerned that the FBI and the NSA are using a statute written primarily to target foreign intelligence to sweep up volumes of data about Americans’ everyday telephone calls […] Such an intentionally general and suspicionless collection of citizens’ private data is troubling, to say the least.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Letter to the President, June 6th

On its face, if true, the collection of this massive amount of detailed information about the communications American citizens raises extremely serious concerns about why such a broad collection is necessary and how this information is used.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Press Release, June 6th

This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT),  Press Release, June 6th

I am deeply disturbed by reports that the FISA Court issued an extremely broad order requiring Verizon turn over to the National Security Agency on a daily basis the company’s metadata on its customers’ calls. Under this secret court order, millions of innocent Americans have been subject to government surveillance.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Press Release, June 6th

The powerful law enforcement tools authorized by the USA PATRIOT Act require careful monitoring and close oversight.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT),  Public Statement, June 6th

The United States government should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what freedom is about. That is not what our Constitution is about.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Press Release, June 6th

The National Security Agency’s seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon’s phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution.

Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) Joint Statement, June 6th

We cannot defeat terrorism by compromising our commitment to our civil rights and liberties.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Press Release, June 6th

I am very concerned that the Department of Justice may have abused the intent of the law and we will investigate that and whether the law needs to be changed as a result.