Senator urges NSA to adopt reforms sooner rather than later

Dec. 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A senior Democratic lawmaker said Sunday continuing to collect metadata was not the best way for the U.S. intelligence community to regain the public trust.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the National Security Agency needed to quickly adopt some meaningful reforms to their metadata programs, especially in light of a recent court ruling in Washington questioning the program's constitutionality.

"The arguments for the status quo fell apart [last] week in Washington," Udall said on ABC's "This Week."

"We have got to rebuild the American people's trust in our intelligence committee so we can meet the threats that are all over the world," said Udall. "But we don't do that by bulk data collection that violates the privacy of Americans, that's unconstitutional, and has shown to not be effective."

Udall said he was still studying 46 reforms recommended by a presidential panel studying the NSA in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks and predicted the issue would soon wind up in court. In the meantime, he said, it would be prudent to take steps to remedy parts of the metadata program that would likely be found to be unconstitutional.

Rep. Mike Roger, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said last week's court ruling was only one of several that have addressed the NSA surveillance program. "Sixteen federal judges, 36 different opinions all have had a different opinion that it is not [unconstitutional]," he said.

Rogers said the legal debate had shifted to whether the NSA should store the collected records or if the phone carriers should maintain custody of them and allow the NSA to have access to them.

Rogers maintained that phone records were legally defined as business records and not the personal property of the customers. "There have been hundreds of appellate decisions reaffirming the government's right to get business records in the course of terror investigations or in this case determining if a terrorist from overseas is calling into the United States," he said.

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