Murkowski Votes for USA Freedom Act to End Overreaching NSA Surveillance Tactics

Senator Co-Sponsored Effort to Protect Alaskans Private Communications, Continuing Decade-Long Fight for Better Balance

Senator Lisa Murkowski today voted for the bipartisan USA Freedom Act that she co-sponsored that will restore many effective, responsible national security procedures that expired on Monday, but end the controversial bulk collection of Americans’ phone records without probable cause.  The bill also requires greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.  The bill passed the Senate 67-32, and Murkowski shared her reasoning afterwards:

“Today is a fantastic day for freedom and individual liberty and a win for those of us in Alaska who have been circumspect of the PATRIOT Act since it was enacted.  I continue to acknowledge the new reality we face against a complicated and tech-savvy terrorist network, but believe our lives and privacy rights can still be protected with some targeted improvements to surveillance.

“After years of fighting to have a serious debate about striking a better balance between privacy and safety, the Senate stopped kicking the can through extensions and crafted a more considered approach that includes intelligent reforms.  This is not a perfect bill, but is a tremendous improvement from where we were a week ago.

“I co-sponsored the bipartisan USA Freedom Act because it reins in the overreaching bulk surveillance of phone records that was ruled illegal by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals – and why I have backed similar efforts to improve this process for the last ten years.”

The USA Freedom Act passed the House of Representatives 338-88 and now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.

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 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.
  • 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 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.

The Senate version of the USA FREEDOM Act was introduced by Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and 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.).