Mark Udall on Homeland Security

Democratic Representative (CO-2)


Reform the NSA; stop gathering millions of phone records

Mark Udall feels like he finally has some vindication. After years of urging the Obama administration to get rid of its bulk-data collection and to be more transparent in how it conducts surveillance abroad and on American citizens, there are some signs the president may be leaning toward reform of the National Security Agency. Udall said. "Finally, our point of view has been affirmed."

Since his appointment in 2011 to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Udall has been sharp in his criticism of the way the federal government has spied on American citizens. For a long time, Udall wasn't able to talk about his concerns because of confidentiality restraints. But whistle-blower Edward Snowden's leaks this year to the British and American news media has blown open much of how the NSA operates. Of particular concern to Udall is the so-called 215 program, authorized under the Patriot Act, which has allowed the NSA to collect the e-mails and phone records of tens of millions of Americans.

Source: Denver Post on 2014 Colorado Senate race , Jan 1, 2014

Real reform to stop NSA overreach

Q: What about having phone records stay with private phone companies rather than having the federal government collect them?

UDALL: The arguments for the status quo fell apart this week. I get up every day, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, to do two things: Protect the American people and protect the Bill of Rights. The NSA is overreached. It's time to have real reform, not a veneer of reform. You know why? Because we have got to rebuild the American people's trust in our intelligence committee so we can be safe. But we don't do that by bulk data collection that violates the privacy of Americans, that's unconstitutional, and has shown to not be effective.

Q: 16 judges have said that the program is constitutional.

UDALL: It's hard for lots of Americans to believe that these general warrants, if you will, to collect every day, millions Americans' phone records, is somehow unconstitutional. It does not fit the standard in the Fourth Amendment of unreasonable search and seizure.

Source: ABC News This Week on 2014 Colorado Senate race , Dec 22, 2013

NSA should not collect bulk data; go through FISA court

Q: Just because the government has the ability to [spy on citizens], there's no suggestion that they are doing it, willy-nilly. There seem to be a lot of safeguards to prevent them from doing that.

UDALL: There are some safeguards. But there are not enough safeguards. Why not go to the FISA court and get a warrant to access those business records? This administration has collected people's medical records, their financial records, their credit card records..

Q: Do you have any evidence that the government has abused this?

UDALL: Right now, they're literally collecting every phone record of every American and holding that in a database. I'd much rather have that data held by the phone companies. If we need to get access to it, the FISA court can issue a warrant. That's how we've operated in America in the past. We don't need the NSA to be collecting in bulk all of these records of innocent Americans. It's not effective. I would argue that it comes close to being unconstitutional.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2013 series: 2014 Colorado Senate race , Jul 28, 2013

FactCheck: Yes, NSA can collect phone records on Americans

Sen. Udall urged his colleagues to narrow the reach of the USA Patriot Act, one of the key legal tools that allow the US to gather intelligence. He warned that the intelligence community "can collect business records on law-abiding Americans who have no connection to terrorism."

Is it true? Udall cited Section 215 of the Patriot Act as the relevant part of the law. This provision lets the government obtain "metadata"--information on phone numbers, call durations and other information short of the actual conversations--from Verizon customers. However, the government faces some limits: the FBI must demonstrate to a special FISA court that it has reasonable grounds for an investigation involving terrorism. The head of the NSA acknowledged that the NSA has collected millions of records under section 215.

Udall's claim appears accurate. Congress wrote the law & key lawmakers were kept apprised of the program; the FISA court approved it, apparently on multiple occasions. We rate the statement True.

Source: PolitiFact FactCheck on 2014 Colorado Senate debate , Jun 13, 2013

Reopen PATRIOT Act: stop gathering secret phone data

Q: You have been a member of the intelligence committee who has been worried about secret data-gathering for years. It seems as though nearly every phone used by a US. citizen has been gathered up. Is that a correct assumption?

UDALL: I come from this at the start acknowledging that terrorism is still a real threat, that we have to protect the American people. At the same time, I also believe the bill of rights is one of the most powerful weapons that we have in this fight. As you pointed out, I have called for a number of years now for the intelligence community to be more forthcoming about the amount of data they're collecting on Americans. And in particular, you talked about metadata. The fact that every call I make to my friends, to my family is noted, where I am, the length of it, the date, that concerns me, particularly, because Americans didn't know this. That's why I'm calling for a reopening of the Patriot Act. That's why I'm calling for a wholesome debate all over the country.

Source: CNN SOTU 2013 interview on 2014 Colorado Senate race , Jun 9, 2013

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