U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Early this morning, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall joined a majority of senators in opposing an extension of the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, a Patriot Act program declared illegal earlier this month in a unanimous decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The program is set to expire June 1. The Senate took two procedural votes on two bills, which both failed to get the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster and resulted in deadlock. Udall joined 57 senators supporting the USA Freedom Act, which would end the dragnet government surveillance program and implement further reforms to protect Americans’ constitutional rights.
Udall then joined 54 senators in opposing a bill allowing a two-month extension for the same program without reforms. He issued the following statement:
“The Senate should have passed the USA Freedom Act last night — I wanted the bill to be stronger, but it is a good step forward that will allow greater oversight, transparency and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance. We must protect the nation from future attacks, but we can do that without giving up our civil liberties. I opposed the Patriot Act from the beginning because I feared it was too broad and would be used to undermine the privacy rights guaranteed to all Americans under the Constitution.
“And now the 2nd Circuit, oversight groups and millions of Americans agree that the government has gone too far in the name of security. We have another opportunity to reform this program when the Senate reconvenes on May 31, and I urge my colleagues to end this sad chapter in our history.”
Udall has long pushed for reforms that would balance national security with Americans’ constitutional rights, including two bills to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts. He also has led a bipartisan push to ask for an independent investigation of these programs by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and has introduced legislation to strengthen the board’s ability to conduct robust oversight of the intelligence community.