U.S. Senator Tom Udall responded yesterday to the D.C. District Court ruling regarding the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program. Udall has long pushed for reforms that would balance national security with Americans’ constitutional rights, including the USA FREEDOM Act to end the bulk collection of phone records, and two bills to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts. He has also led a bipartisan push to ask for an independent investigation of these programs by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). He issued the following statement:
“I voted against the Patriot Act in 2001 because I believed the law would undermine the constitutional rights of our citizens. I have shared the concern many New Mexicans feel that the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of telephone and email records is an indiscriminate invasion of privacy. Today’s District Court ruling affirms that the bulk collection of phone records violates Americans’ fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches.
“I have said for many years that the American people deserve an open debate in which the government must make its case for its surveillance programs, including proof that archiving the phone records of nearly all Americans is keeping us safe. Our constitution guarantees a system in which the people have the right to argue their case against the government in an open forum before an independent judiciary. But until recently, this debate has been carried out primarily in a secret court in which only one side – the government’s – is represented. With this case, Americans got their day in court.
“We can protect our national security without sacrificing our constitutional rights. And I hope today’s ruling will prove to be an important milestone on the path toward increased transparency and comprehensive reforms to our surveillance programs, including an end to bulk phone record collection and the creation of a new privacy advocate within the secretive FISA court. “