Murkowski: No “Blank Check” for Government on Privacy, Surveillance

Senator Concerned Over Government Tracking Phone Logs, Internet Use

WASHINGTON, DC — Ten years after urging Congress to rethink federal surveillance policies and address concerns about the potential infringement of civil liberties – beginning a decade of privacy rights vigilance on behalf of Alaskans – Senator Lisa Murkowski today shared her concerns with Alaskans at the Obama administration’s far-reaching tracking of Americans phone call records and Internet data mining, saying:

“Alaskans believe the government has no business snooping around our property, our library books, our phone calls or e-mails — and that our privacy rights are guaranteed by the Constitution.  As Americans, we deserve the strongest defense possible from evolving foreign threats, but not at the cost of betraying the very freedoms and rights Americans have fought for and died defending for centuries.  Our investment in protecting American lives and liberties simultaneously is not a blank check.

“I challenged the Bush administration when I believed it crossed the lines on our privacy rights, and I remain concerned about the Obama administration’s apparent expansion of many Bush policies.  The White House’s carefully-worded, legalistic response to this revelation has a lot of qualifiers and vague language, but their message boils down to ‘trust us.’  That’s not good enough for law-abiding Alaskans who don’t want their phone logs or Internet records sitting on a DC desk being looked over by a federal bureaucrat, and I look forward to a thorough vetting of this policy.”

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, 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.
  • Most recently in December, she 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.”