Thursday, July 26, 2012

Udall & Bingaman Want to Know More on Domestic Spying

Both of New Mexico U.S. senators -- Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall want to know more about the numbers of Americans whose emails and other communications have been peeped at by U.S. intelligence.

Bingaman and Udall joined 10 other senators from both political parties to send a letter to James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. They requested information about Americans’ communications that have been secretly collected by the federal government under the 2008 the FISA Amendments Act.

"We are concerned that Congress and the public do not currently have a full understanding of the impact that this law has had on the privacy of law-abiding Americans,” the letter said. “We are alarmed that the intelligence community has stated that ‘it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located inside the United States whose communications may have been reviewed’ under the FISA Amendments Act."

FISA is short for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

A news release from the senators today says:

Section 702 of the FISA statute (which was created by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008) gave the government new authorities to collect the communications of foreigners located outside the U.S. The executive branch has said that it cannot estimate how many American citizens may have been swept up in section 702 collections and the current law offers no prohibition against searching that collection of communications obtained without a warrant for communications of American citizens. The Senators state that this loophole should be closed.

Besides Udall and Bingaman, the other senators signing the letter were Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mike Lee (R- Utah), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Dick Durbin (D-Il.)

It's interesting that the two Republican senators, Paul and Lee both are associated with the Tea Party, while many of the Democratic signers, including Udall, are associated with the progressive wing of their party. Concerns about privacy and government intrusion are consistent with both the philosophies of both factions.

Below is the letter:

Clapper Letter