Bellows Calls for NSA Reform
Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | Press Release
U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows today called upon members of the U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence to end their complacency and enact meaningful reform to rein in out-of-control activities of the National Security Agency.
“Vast NSA spying undermines our democratic freedoms and threatens international relations,” said Bellows, the former head of the ACLU of Maine. “It is unacceptable for Congress to scold the White House in public but codify NSA spying in secret. As a Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Susan Collins has an opportunity to correct her past support of the Patriot Act and NSA spying and to begin to restore constitutional freedoms.”
Media reports suggest that the Intelligence Committee is scheduled to have a secret mark up of NSA legislation today in a closed door session.,, In addition to Collins, U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent, also sits on the Intelligence Committee. Competing bills in Congress adopt different approaches to the NSA spying program to either codify or curb NSA authority.
“The Senate should open its work to the public and enact meaningful NSA reforms,” Bellows said. “Mainers rejected government overreach into their private lives, and it’s time that the U.S. Senate do the same.”
This year, Bellows organized a bipartisan coalition to pass two groundbreaking privacy laws that require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing cellphone communications including location data, text messages and voice mails. Maine was one of only two states in the country to protect against cell phone tracking. The law also survived a veto by Gov. Paul LePage on a rare veto override vote.
“Our work in Maine with Republicans and Democrats alike to advance strong privacy principles should serve as a model for the nation,” Bellows said. “We demonstrated that it’s not necessary to compromise our core principles to advance meaningful reform. A shared commitment to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights transcends partisan politics.”
As head of the ACLU of Maine, Bellows also led a 2008 campaign in Maine to investigate telecommunications companies’ complicity in federal surveillance of Mainers’ telephone calls. Unfortunately, Congress responded by passing the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which included immunity for the telecommunications companies and prohibited state-level investigations from moving forward.
“This isn’t the first time we have been down this road of tough rhetoric and weak action,” Bellows said. “Members of Congress are responsible for laws like the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that have enabled abuse of power by the NSA and other federal spy agencies. We need a special Congressional investigation into the nature and extent of spying in America, and we need a dramatic overhaul of our nation’s privacy laws to restore our constitutional freedoms and public trust.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) introduced legislation today that would prohibit the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone data and open up some of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court proceedings. According to the New York Times, the Obama administration is considering an executive order to limit the spying on allied leaders. Unfortunately, a secret bill put forward by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would reportedly allow the NSA to continue to collect data on millions of Americans.
“We need to stop listening in on the phone calls of allies like Angela Merkel and we need to stop spying on millions of Americans,” said Bellows. “Minor changes to the law, passed behind closed doors, will not go far enough to restore our checks and balances.”
For more information on the Bellows’ campaign or launch events, visit: www.bellowsforsenate.com. You can follow Bellows on Twitter @Bellows4Senate and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BellowsForSenate.