DENVER – On Thursday President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate intelligence panels to address concerns over the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ telephone records.
Included in the contingent were Democratic Senators Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, both outspoken critics of the NSA collection techniques.
On Sunday Senator Udall appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” where he explained his reservations.
“The NSA is literally collecting every phone record of every American everyday” said Udall.
Disputing the approach, Udall said, “When we collect in bulk all of these records of America’s phone calls, we’re not necessarily being any more effective in protecting the country, and we’re sweeping up innocent American’s phone records.”
Those who support the NSA’s efforts claim the Patriot Act, under section 215, allows the government to collect metadata which only shows who was called but does not record actual conversations.
Udall takes a different view saying, “The content of those phone calls is not available. But I think knowing when I call somebody, where I call somebody and for how long I call somebody is a violation of your privacy.”
On Monday, Udall and Wyden co-authored an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post asking for the White House to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.
During his appearance on “Face the Nation” Udall said, “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 FISC court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) can issue a warrant. That’s how the police operate, that’s how the FBI operates, that’s how we 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, and there’s a better way to do this.”
While praising the Prism program as being successful in monitoring foreign terrorists, Udall wants to reform the bulk data collection program operated under the Patriot Act.
Speaking about legislation he wrote with Senator Wyden, Udall told viewers of “Face the Nation”, “My bill, which I’m going to push as hard as I possibly can, would limit the ways in which the intelligence community accesses average Americans, innocent Americans’ phone records.”
Udall and Wyden are sponsoring legislation which would overhaul the secret court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.