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Policy: Labor

Ron Wyden, other Dem senators press Obama for further surveillance reforms

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In a statement responding to President Obama's speech Friday on national security and intelligence gathering, three Democratic senators said they were pleased by the president's tone but made clear that much further action was needed. "The fight to protect liberty and increase security is far from over," they said.

The press release was jointly issued by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a particular critic of Obama's expansions of federal surveillance powers:

After the long push to rein in overbroad surveillance powers, we are very pleased that the president announced his intent to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. Ending this dragnet collection will go a long way toward restoring Americans’ constitutional rights and rebuilding the public’s trust. Make no mistake, this is a major milestone in our longstanding efforts to reform the National Security Agency’s bulk collection program.

We also believe that additional surveillance reforms are necessary, and we will continue to push for these reforms in the coming weeks and months. In particular, we will work to close the “back-door searches” loophole and ensure that the government does not read Americans’ emails or other communications without a warrant. We will work to ensure that intelligence activities do not recklessly undermine confidence in American IT products and American IT employers. We will also continue to press for meaningful reforms of the outdated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court process. This should include the establishment of a strong, independent advocate to ensure that the court hears both sides of the argument.

We take seriously Ben Franklin’s admonition that a society that trades essential liberties for short-term security risks losing both. That’s why we have advocated for these reforms, as we believe it is possible to keep Americans safe while protecting our treasured constitutional rights and liberties. Today’s announcement does not include all the reforms we have sought. The president has listened to some of the advice of his independent panel of experts and endorsed some of the reforms we have long advocated. The fight to protect liberty and increase security is far from over.

The groundswell of public support that has built for these reforms over the past several months shows that the American public shares our view of the importance of reining in overbroad and unnecessary surveillance powers that infringe on Americans' constitutional rights. Today's announcement is vindication of that activism and we look forward to working with the president and our colleagues to push forward on these reforms in the weeks and months ahead.

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