Here's a little more background info on Udall and Wyden's legislation:Sen. Mark Udall said Sunday that the balance between guarding Americans’ Constitutional privacy rights and shielding the country from another terrorist attack “doesn’t have to be all or nothing” quest, and maintained the government shouldn’t be able to collect data on millions of Americans’ phone calls.
Udall, speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, touted a bill his office says he’ll introduce tomorrow that would narrow the reach of section 215 of the Patriot Act. The federal government has interpreted this part of the law, which broadly gives authority to collect records “relevant to terrorism,” to obtain phone records — time, place, calls made — of millions of Americans.
“I am skeptical that the 215 business records program at the NSA is effective,” Udall said in the televised interview from Colorado. “I don’t think collecting millions and millions of Americans’ phone calls … is making us any safer. I think we should have this debate.”
Udall’s proposed law, which he’ll introduce with Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, would require the government to go to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and prove a link to to terrorism or espionage before obtaining the meta data from phone records. - Denver Post, 6/16/13
Some of Udall and Wyden's colleague are also introducing legislation:The bill, to be formally introduced next week, would likely curtail current federal government programs that monitor Americans' phone and e-mail communications.
The programs' existence, known by Udall for years because of his position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, were unveiled in news reports last week. The federal government has called the massive dragnet of communications and call records lawful, citing a "secret interpretation" of the Patriot Act.
Udall will co-sponsor his bill with another outspoken Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.
"The NSA's collection of millions of Americans' phone call records is the type of overreach I have warned about for years," Udall said. "This legislation strikes the right balance in protecting our homeland while also respecting our Constitution."
Whether the bill has any viability is yet to be determined, but Capitol Hill seems ripe for debate on the issue. - Denver Post, 6/13/13
Udall went on to discuss the Patriot Act's interpretation of the "secret law" with the Wall Street Journal:The bill by Wyden and Udall, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is just one of several proposals lawmakers are expected to introduce in response to the NSA’s actions.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced similar legislation that would require government agencies to obtain a warrant before searching Americans’ phone records. And Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is working on a bill that would bar government contractors from accessing or dealing with sensitive information — a plan designed to stop leakers like Edward Snowden, who gave reporters information about the NSA.
The legislation comes as the NSA is expected to release information this week about several thwarted terrorist attacks that were stopped in part by the agency’s phone- and Web-snooping programs.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) suggested Sunday that the revelations will ease the concerns of skeptical Americans.
“If you can see just the number of cases where we’ve actually stopped a plot, I think Americans will come to a different conclusion than all the misleading rhetoric I’ve heard over the last few weeks,” Rogers said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” - Washington Post, 6/17/13
To their credit, Udall and Wyden have been fighting the good fight for transparency for a while now:WSJ: You criticized the administration for making "secret law." Can you explain what the secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act was that has concerned you?
Sen. Udall: Through last week's leak and now the declassification of some details of surveillance programs, it has been revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted the PATRIOT Act to allow the collection of millions of Americans' phone records. This court has allowed this widespread and pervasive collection based on a provision of the law that allows the government to obtain "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation. I do not read that part of the law to mean millions of Americans' phone records could be collected daily. I don't believe that the U.S. government should rely on secret interpretations of surveillance authorities that differ significantly from the public's understanding of what is permitted under the law. If people don't understand what authorities the government believes it has, it's hard to have an informed public debate on the merits of the policy.
WSJ: Does bulk phone-record collection violate the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures?
Sen. Udall: More than three decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the collection of phone records—or metadata—did not constitute a violation of the "legitimate expectation of privacy." But technology has changed since 1979. Metadata today is not what it used to be, and that decision did not address the specific issue of bulk collection—the idea that someone with no connection whatsoever to terrorism might have their information swept up. But whether or not this program is constitutional, I believe it is the wrong policy for the country. We need to determine as a country where to draw the line between our national security and privacy concerns. We also need to have an honest discussion about whether this program is actually doing what it is supposed to do—protect us from terrorists.
WSJ: Should the phone-record collection program be challenged in court?
Sen. Udall: I know one group is doing just that, and I support their right to challenge the program. In addition to the privacy concerns of the bulk phone-records collection that I've already raised, it is hard to reconcile the statute as written with its interpretation by the FISA Court to allow the bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records on a daily basis.
WSJ: How do you assess Edward Snowden's decisions to leak sensitive information? Do you think the government should prosecute him?
Sen. Udall: As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I take very seriously my responsibility to protect classified information. Mr. Snowden had the same responsibility. Leaks of classified information can harm our national security and ultimately make us less safe. But I will leave questions of guilt and innocence to a federal jury and the prosecution to the U.S. Attorney General. I am focused on working with my colleagues in Congress to reopen the PATRIOT Act so we can have a full debate about government surveillance programs, Americans' privacy rights and the limits of executive power. - Wall Street Journal, 6/14/13
And the local press has praised Udall's work as a staunch defender of civil liberties:For the last two years, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have tried to describe to the American public the sweeping surveillance the National Security Agency conducts inside and outside the United States. But secrecy rules block them from airing the simplest details.
Over the last few days, President Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have both said they welcome a national debate about the surveillance programs. But the president and senator have not used their power to declassify information that would make that debate possible.
"I flew over the World Trade Center going to Senator Lautenberg's funeral," Feinstein said this Sunday on ABC's "This Week," referring to New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. "And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building hitting the canopy. Part of our obligation is keeping America safe."
Feinstein is right, but our obsession with preventing terrorist attacks is warping our political debate and threatening basic rights. Edward Snowden's release of classified documents has exposed two destructive post-2001 dynamics: the rise of secrecy and contractors.
First, secrecy. In the initial years after September 11, the focus on thwarting another major domestic terrorist attack was understandable. Twelve years later, there have been only two major al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attacks inside the United States: the 2009 killing of 13 soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, and the April Boston marathon bombing that killed three. No evidence has emerged of terrorist groups infiltrating American executive, intelligence or defense agencies.
Yet documents released by Snowden show that the amount of surveillance information that the government collects is ballooning. The American public has no clear sense of how the metadata is used by the government, how long it is held and which agencies have access to it.
The culture of secrecy that pervades Washington borders on the absurd. American officials say they cannot discuss "classified" U.S. counter-terrorism tactics that are well-known worldwide - from water-boarding to drone strikes to data mining. - The Atlantic, 6/17/13
Udall has also been making strong counter arguments to those who claim the NSA surveillance program is necessary in keeping Americans safe:In the din over the recent National Security Agency leaks, Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado has emerged as one of the leading voices against government surveillance.
Udall will sit down to talk about the NSA scandal today on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Last week, the first-term Senate Democrat made the media rounds on political talk shows, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley and ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
Udall has been consistent in his position on security, but in this case, his stance could pit him against the Obama administration. Some political analysts believe that his re-election in 2014 might depend on distancing himself from Obama.
But Udall has long held concerns about the NSA’s metadata program and privacy issues within the Patriot Act. In October 2001, as a U.S. House representative, Udall voted against the Patriot Act. The vote in the House was largely split along party lines, with 62 Democrats and three Republicans voting against it.
Udall was the only Colorado representative to vote against the bill, although he agreed with some clauses, such as the wiretapping clause. The bill had allowed for expanded email and Internet monitoring of suspected terrorists, according to a 2001 article in the Colorado Daily.
Two years ago on the Senate floor, Udall again spoke out against government overreach.
“The intelligence community can target individuals who have no connection to terrorist organizations, they can collect business records of people who have no connections to terrorists,” Udall said. - The Durango herald, 6/15/13
Udall recently sent out a petition asking for Americans to put the pressure on congress to reform the Patriot Act:Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former NSA director, said on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" that what the agency collects are "essentially billing records" that detail the time, duration and phone numbers involved in a call.
The records are added to a database that agents can query in cases involving a terror investigation overseas, and agents can't eavesdrop on Americans' calls without an order from a secret court that handles intelligence matters, he said.
If a phone number related to an investigation has links to a domestic phone number, "We've got to go back to the court," he said.However, critics such as Sen. Mark Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had raised questions about the scale of the program even before Snowden's leak. Udall said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he doesn't believe the program is making Americans any safer, "and I think it's ultimately, perhaps, a violation of the Fourth Amendment."
"I think we owe it to the American people to have a fulsome debate in the open about the extent of these programs," said Udall, a Colorado Democrat. "You have a law that's been interpreted secretly by a secret court that then issues secret orders to generate a secret program. I just don't think this is an American approach to a world in which we have great threats." - CNN, 6/17/13
You can sign Udall's petition here:Finally, the national conversation can begin, with Americans knowing the facts.
Several days ago, a series of news reports disclosed for the first time the breadth of the U.S. government's surveillance of American citizens in the fight against terrorism. These reports have riveted the nation. The most troubling reports describe how the federal government collects information about millions of telephone calls made by Americans, including who they call and when they call.
As a member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, I know how damaging leaks of classified information can be to our national security. I wish the information about our government's telephone records surveillance program had come directly from the Administration itself. But now the American people are more empowered to judge the secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act — and to see how those interpretations have been used to expand collection of Americans' telephone records.
I'm pleased that President Obama said that we should have a national dialogue — with more facts on the table — about the scope of our intelligence community's surveillance authority. And I believe that national conversation must lead to responsible reforms.
Will you join me and call on Congress to re-open debate of the PATRIOT Act and reform our laws to ensure that wide-scale collection of Americans' phone records is not done without their knowledge?When I learned two years ago, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, about the National Security Agency’s invasive collection of records, I knew many Americans would be as shocked as I was. I also am not convinced, based on my knowledge of the facts, that this bulk collection of Americans' private information has provided any uniquely valuable intelligence that has disrupted terrorist plots.
Make no mistake: protecting American soil in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks is my highest priority. But when our government conducts counter-terrorism activities that threaten our privacy, I believe our government has the responsibility to be straight with the American people about how far such efforts reach.
Before the NSA’s phone records collection program was exposed, I worked non-stop to encourage the Administration to be more transparent. While I would never reveal classified information, I did everything within my power to appropriately raise red flags — and often was criticized for doing so.
I supported amendments to responsibly reform the PATRIOT Act, spoke many times on the Senate floor, and urged the Administration to tell the American people about how the surveillance laws were being used. I even voted against the long-term reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act because it didn't strike the right balance between privacy and security.
Let's now lead a national discussion about how far the government should go in circumscribing our constitutional rights while fighting terrorism. Let's call on Congress to debate and reform the PATRIOT Act and do a better job in balancing national security and personal privacy:
Together, we can make sure that our government is more accountable in respecting the rights of law-abiding Americans.
Thanks for your support on this very important issue,