Udall: Quit collecting Americans’ phone records
National security officials should immediately halt the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Tuesday.
Udall called on President Barack Obama and Congress to narrow the reach of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been used to allow federal agencies to collect phone records.
“I believe it is time to end the bulk collection program as we know it,” Udall said on the floor of the Senate.
Rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court allowing the bulk collection of domestic phone records “is at odds with the plain meaning of the law,” Udall said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has worked with Udall to raise questions about the conduct of the bulk-collection program, said the debate on the reach of the program “should have been started by elected officials and not a government contractor.”
Wyden was referring to Edward Snowden, a contractor with the National Security Agency, who leaked documents about the reach of the program before fleeing first to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, where he has applied for asylum.
Udall invoked the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure as “the biggest, baddest weapon we have,” to prevent inappropriate and unnecessary intrusions into Americans’ privacy.
He also questioned, as he has before, the value of the program, saying that intelligence officials’ claims about the contributions of the program are “misleading.”
“There is no evidence that bulk phone records alone played a meaningful, if any, role” in disrupting 54 terror plots, Udall said.
It is possible to give security officials the ability to find information critical to national security without compromising individuals’ privacy, he said.
“It’s possible to have privacy and security,” Udall said, “and we aren’t getting enough of either.”