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Besides President Obama handing John McCain and Sarah Palin a huge kick in the ass in 2008, another great thing to come from the 2008 election were the incoming freshmen Senators that rode the Democratic wave into office.  In 2008, we elected great Democrats like Jeff Merkley (D. OR), Tom Udall (D. NM), Al Franken (D. MN), Mark Begich (D. AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D. NH) and we easily won the Virginia Senate race with popular ex-Governor Mark Warner (D. VA) and we pulled off a huge upset victory in North Carolina with Kay Hagan (D. NC).  But the one Democrat I am very happy that won in 2008 was Mark Udall (D. CO).  Udall's victory was essential not just for Democrats but for civil liberties advocates around the country.

A lot of people might know Mark Udall as one of the greenest members of the Senate for his continuing efforts to push for green energy technology not only in our military but also in the private sector.  He has long been a supporter of the Wind Production Energy Tax Credit and his undying efforts to battle climate change.  You may also know Udall as a new voice in the fight for marriage equality in 2011.  But what I think Udall should be best known for is his uncompromising stance on civil liberties.  

Since being elected to Congress in 1998 to Colorado's 2nd District, Udall has long been an advocate for protecting and preserving our constitutional rights to privacy and justice.  He has continuously voted against amendments or laws that ban flag burning, which teeter along the lines of violating Freedom of Speech.  You can get a look at his voting record on civil liberties here:

http://votesmart.org/...

Udall has been against the Patriot Act since it was first introduced to Congress in 2001 while a member of the House.  He has constantly voted against the Patriot's Act renewal both as a Congressman and as a U.S. Senator:

http://www.denverpost.com/...

WASHINGTON — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall voted Thursday against extending several provisions of the Patriot Act, citing a "potential for abuse" and chiding fellow Democrats for not allowing more debate.

"The process . . . has been rushed, and I believe we've done a disservice to the American people by not having a fuller and more open debate about these provisions," Udall said on the Senate floor.

The provisions approved for a four-year extension give the government power to conduct roving wiretaps and to search business records to investigate terrorism. Another allows for tracking people without known ties to terrorist groups. - The Denver Post, 5/27/11

Udall has long advocated for checks to the executive branch's authority under the law.  Udall has argued for amending rules on roving wiretaps and fixing provisions that allow the federal government to demand all records from any business even if there's no evidence linking these businesses to terrorist activity:  
Udall said the provisions were "ripe for abuse and threaten Americans' constitutional freedoms." - The Denver Post, 5/27/11
Udall also made headlines amongst the civil liberties activists as the leading voice in calling for the repeal of the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act finding himself at odds with the Obama Administration:

http://www.rawstory.com/...

“Our Constitution is in many ways the most powerful weapon we have against those who mean us harm,” he said.

“While this administration has said it won’t hold American citizens or lawful permanent residents in military custody, that is the interpretation of only one president,” said Udall, who sits the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. - Raw Story, 3/8/12

You can watch Udall's statement regarding his concerns to the indefinite detention provisions in the NDAA:

Now here's the part that really sticks out in Udall's statement:

“That policy won’t tie the hands of future administrations,” he noted. “The indefinite detention provisions threaten to undo much of the progress the FBI and law enforcement have made to stop terrorists plotting in the United States and overseas, and it seems to make it more difficult to collaboratively gather intelligence on domestic terror cells at all. The last thing we should be doing is preventing local, state and federal authorities from investigating and acting on threats to our safety.” - U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D. CO), 3/8/12
To combat these indefinite provisions, Udall was a co-sponsor of Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D. CA) Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/...

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today introduced the Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011, legislation that states American citizens apprehended inside the United States cannot be indefinitely detained by the military.

The Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011 amends the Non-Detention Act of 1971 by providing that a Congressional authorization for the use of military force does not authorize the indefinite detention—without charge or trial—of U.S. citizens who are apprehended domestically.

The Feinstein bill also codifies a “clear-statement rule” that requires Congress to expressly authorize detention authority when it comes to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The protections for citizens and lawful permanent residents is limited to those “apprehended in the United States” and excludes citizens who take up arms against the United States on a foreign battlefield, such as Afghanistan. - Democratic Underground

Along with Udall, 30 Senators from both parties, especially ones that hail from libertarian-leaning states, were all co-sponsors of Feinstein's bill.  The bill was introduced on December 14th, 2011.  So far there has been no recent update or action on Feinstein's bill.

Udall has also been concerned about how many U.S. citizens have been under surveillance without their acknowledgment under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  Udall has been working diligently with Senator Ron Wyden (D. OR) to find answers and debate the effects FISA has had in the War On Terror:

http://www.denverpost.com/...

Nobody outside closed federal circles knows how often the government eavesdrops on Americans' phone calls and e-mail in the name of fighting enemies abroad.

Congress grappled with these secret spy powers Thursday — driven by Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and others demanding greater transparency.
If the government won't disclose how many Americans it spies on, Democratic lawmakers contend, the law that allows warrantless surveillance should expire as scheduled Monday.

When Udall and Senate Intelligence Committee colleagues asked intelligence chiefs to reveal the scope of the spying, they didn't give even a rough estimate, Udall told fellow senators.

"This is disconcerting," Udall said.

"If no one has even estimated how many Americans have had their communications collected ... it is possible that this number could be quite large," he said. "The American people deserve to know." - Denver Post, 12/28/12

Unfortunately, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was extended for another five years before the beginning of this new year.  The FISA Amendment Act gives the government sweeping authority to eavesdrop without a warrant on emails and phone calls involving non-U.S. citizens in foreign countries.  It leaves U.S. and foreign citizens in the dark about their knowledge of being under surveillance:

http://www.canoncitydailyrecord.com/...

WASHINGTON, DC- Nov 17: Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., questions Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, during the Senate Finance hearing on CMS efforts to carry out provisions under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), the health care overhaul. It was his first appearance at a congressional panel since President Obama appointed him during a congressional recess, circumventing a full-Senate confirmation vote. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly) (Newscom TagID: cqphotos040716.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
One of the law's most vocal critics, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, was quoted by HuffPost Live as saying, "When the public finds out that these secret interpretations are so dramatically different than what the public law says, I think there's going to be extraordinary anger in the country."

Another senator who opposed the law was Colorado's own Mark Udall.

"I am concerned that Congress has chosen not to tighten privacy protections in this program now, while the FISA Amendments Act was up for reconsideration," he said. "A smart but tough approach to our national security does not require the government to snoop around in Americans' emails and phone calls without a warrant." - Longmont Times-Call, 1/7/13  
You can watch Udall's statement on FISA on the Senate floor here:

Udall and Wyden have made transparency their mission to get the facts and numbers on how many citizens have been under surveillance and for what reasons.  That includes having to put the pressure on the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI):

http://www.aclu.org/...

Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) wrote to NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, asking him to clarify his recent public statements on FISA that “the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is absolutely false.”  Alexander refused to answer whether or how he could be “certain that the number of American communications collected is not ‘millions or hundreds of millions’” when the administration’s official position is that no one knows how many of us have information sitting in NSA files.  Instead, he claimed that his statement “did not refer to or address whether it is possible to identify the number of [Americans’] communications that may be lawfully” collected under FISA.  He even refused to define his use of the term “dossier.”
Wyden and three other senators also wrote to the DNI, requesting that their questions about the use of American information be answered fully and in unclassified format.  The senators want, and believe that Americans have the right, to know:  How many Americans’ communications have been collected under FISA – 100, or 100,000, or 100 million?  Can or have any entities tried to estimate this number?  Have any wholly domestic communications been collected?  And has the government used a loophole in the law to conduct warrantless “back-door searches” on Americans’ communications? - ACLU, 12/12/12
Udall and Wyden have repeatedly been pushing the Obama Administration not only transparency but legislation action to amend provisions in both FISA and the Patriot Act known as the Wyden/Udall Amendment and to come clean with the American people.  You can read about it here:  

http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/...

This section in particular calls for complete transparency from the justice department:

6) United States Government officials should not secretly reinterpret public laws and statutes in a manner that is inconsistent with the public’s understanding of these laws, and should not describe the execution of these laws in a way that misinforms or misleads the public;

(7) On February 2, 2011, the congressional intelligence committees received a secret report from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence that has been publicly described as pertaining to intelligence collection authorities that are subject to expiration under section 224 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Public Law 107–56; 115 Stat. 295); and

(8) while it is entirely appropriate for particular intelligence collection techniques to be kept secret, the laws that authorize such techniques, and the United States Government’s official interpretation of these laws, should not be kept secret but should instead be transparent to the public, so that these laws can be the subject of informed public debate and consideration.

(b) REPORT.—Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall publish in the Federal Register a report—

(1) that details the legal basis for the intelligence collection activities described in the February 2, 2011, report to the congressional intelligence committees; and

(2) that does not describe specific intelligence collection programs or activities, but that fully describes the legal interpretations and analysis necessary to understand the United States Government’s official interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.).

It's important that Udall is re-elected in 2014 because he is a true defender of civil liberties and will debate and battle anyone from any party in protecting U.S. citizens from being secretly spied on and arrested without substantial evidence or due process.  We also need him in the Senate because he has always been reliable in making the public aware of how the Patriot Act and FISA has and can hurt or rights:
“Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law was being carried out.”

“The so-called ‘business records’ provision, currently allows records to be collected on law-abiding Americans, without any connection to terrorism or espionage,” said Udall. ” If we cannot even limit investigations to terrorism or other nefarious activities, where do they end?”

“Coloradans are demanding that in addition to the review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, we place common-sense limits on government investigations and link data collection to terrorist- or espionage-related activities.” - Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/27/12

Udall's amendments may have been voted down but his efforts to unite members of both parties to amend these laws has grown and his influence needs to continue to grow.  That can only happen if he is re-elected.  There is no doubt that organizations from big oil to anti-gay organizations to industries that work for the military industrial complex will be gunning for his seat in 2014.  One thing that Udall has going for him is that his colleague, Senator Michael Bennet (D. CO), has been named the new chairman of the DSCC so I expect to see Bennet raising a lot of money for Udall.  But as way of saying thanks for all his work and efforts to protect our privacy and rights, how about giving Udall an early start for his 2014 campaign?  Link below:
https://secure.actblue.com/...

Originally posted to pdc on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 01:12 PM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and Colorado COmmunity.

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