WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator on Sunday called for a reopening of the Patriot Act, the post-Sept. 11, 2001, law that gave intelligence agencies broader powers of data surveillance, after disclosures the government has been collecting massive amounts of data on phone and Internet activities.
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said he thought a review of the law was warranted as reports of the data collection stirred a debate over privacy rights in the United States.
“I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security (Agency) is collecting,” Udall told the ABC program “This Week.”
“We do need to remember, we’re in a war against terrorists, and terrorism remains a real threat, but I also think we have to cue to the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unlawful searches and seizures, ought to be important to us,” Udall said. “It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here.”
The Guardian reported last week that the super-secret NSA has been mining phone records from millions of American customers of a subsidiary of Verizon Communications.
The Washington Post revealed that federal authorities have been tapping into the central servers of companies including Google, Apple and Facebook to gain access to emails, photos and other files.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told “Fox News Sunday” he would consider a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the phone surveillance program.
“They are looking at a billion phone calls a day from what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy; it sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy,” Paul said.
But two senior lawmakers defended the Obama administration’s phone and Internet surveillance programs, saying they have helped to prevented attacks on the country and have been subjected to strict reviews.
“These programs are within the law,” said Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told “This Week.”
“Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe,” added Feinstein. “Human intelligence isn’t going to do it.”
Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, agreed with Feinstein that the programs were important for national security.
“One of the things that we’re charged with is keeping America safe and keeping our civil liberties and privacy intact. I think we have done both in this particular case,” he said.