Murkowski Blasts “Big Brother” Surveillance of Civilians, Backs Bill to Restore Privacy Rights

Senator Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Personal Privacy While Protecting Americans

Senator Lisa Murkowski today announced her co-sponsorship of the USA FREEDOM Act, a bipartisan bill designed to restore American citizens’ privacy rights and halt the federal government’s far-reaching dragnet collection of phone records under the controversial Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  Building on a decade of resistance to government surveillance efforts in the wake of 9/11, Murkowski joined a bipartisan group of Congressmen in both chambers and called on leadership to take up this legislation before a key June 1st deadline.

The USA FREEDOM Act would end bulk collection of phone records without probable cause and requires far greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities, in order to restore both privacy rights and Americans’ faith in their liberties. Three provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including Section 215, are due to sunset on June 1.

“We already have the federal government in far too many places where it doesn’t belong; these Big Brother surveillance efforts must be done away with.  Alaskans believe the government has no business tracking who we call on our home phones or cell phones — and that our privacy rights are guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Murkowski.  “While Americans deserve the strongest defense possible from those who seek to do us serious harm, I don’t believe we should sacrifice a little liberty for a little security. Just because the government possesses the technology making such data collection possible doesn’t mean they should.”

For the past decade, Senator Murkowski has actively pursued efforts to reconsider federal surveillance policies and address concerns about the potential infringement of civil liberties.

Senator Murkowski’s track record on surveillance efforts:

  • Senator Murkowski was hailed as a “thoughtful conservative” in July of 2003, when she introduced revisions to the laws regulating electronic surveillance.  In doing so, she gained the support and praise of both the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • In 2005, she co-sponsored the Security and Freedom Enhancement Act to amend the PATRIOT Act. During debate over the PATRIOT Act reauthorization in 2006, Murkowski joined with five other Senators in a bipartisan effort to safeguard civil liberties protections.
  • In February 2011, Murkowski voted for a three-month extension of three expiring PATRIOT Act provisions in order to allow members of Congress to propose amendments and reforms, but was disappointed when the Senate did not use this added time to thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons of extending these provisions and other reforms. At the end of the three months in May 2012, a vote was held to extend the provisions for four years without having fully debated the merits or allowing amendments, at which point Murkowski voted against the extension for that long of a period.
  • In December of 2012, Murkowski was one of three Republicans to vote against a five-year extension on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Authorization bill, saying “giving up some privacy for some security has never made Alaskans comfortable.”
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski peppered the Director of National Intelligence in a June 2013 letter with questions from a bipartisan group of 25 other Senators about the bulk collection of personal information.

The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act was introduced by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and is co-sponsored by Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

It also has the support of key groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Constitution Project and the American Library Association.