Now that it’s been revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on the 2010 G8 and G20 summits in Canada – giving the world even less reason to trust the U.S. than it had before – NSA spying is back in the news.
And just in time, three senators are speaking out against this invasion of Americans’ privacy. In and of itself, that’s not surprising. But the three senators are liberal Democrats, another indication that President Obama’s support among his own party is continuing to dwindle.
In an open letter published on November 25 by the New York Times, U.S. Senators Mark Udall of Colorado, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico are demanding that the government stop the NSA’s domestic dragnet.
NSA spying on Americans’ emails and phone calls was authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in a secret legal process. Instead of placing the majority of its focus on actual terrorists, the agency has wasted enormous amounts of time and money collecting the records of millions of law-abiding citizens.
The first two sentences of the Senators’ letter reads:
“The framers of the Constitution declared that government officials had no power to seize the records of individual Americans without evidence of wrongdoing, and they embedded this principle in the Fourth Amendment. The bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records – so-called metadata – by the National Security Agency is, in our view, a clear case of a general warrant that violates the spirit of the framers’ intentions.”
The letter also states:
“The usefulness of the bulk collection program has been greatly exaggerated. We have yet to see any proof that it provides real, unique value in protecting national security. In spite of our repeated requests, the N.S.A. has not provided evidence of any instance when the agency used this program to review phone records that could not have been obtained using a regular court order or emergency authorization.”
And the letter concludes with:
“Congress needs to preserve the agencies’ ability to collect information that is actually necessary to guard against threats to our security. But it also needs to preserve the right of citizens to be free from unwarranted interference in their lives, which the framers understood was vital to American liberties.”
The Obama Administration doesn’t listen when Republicans and Libertarians complain about its pattern of abusive policies. Let’s see if it will listen to Democrats.