Murkowski Votes to End Overreaching NSA Surveillance Tactics

Senator Continues PATRIOT Act Reform Efforts, Backs Bill to Strike Balance

Senator Lisa Murkowski today voted to consider the bipartisan USA Freedom Act that she co-sponsored to end bulk collection of phone records without probable cause and require greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.  She shared her reasoning afterwards:

“The government’s surveillance efforts need to be seriously rethought.  While I understand the new reality we face against a complicated terrorist network, I believe American lives and our privacy rights can still be protected by implementing some important reforms.

“The general rule should not be for the government to track everyone we call on our home phones or cell phones; instead, we need a targeted approach that ensures we focus on those would cause us harm.  That is why I co-sponsored the bipartisan USA Freedom Act – which halts the bulk surveillance of phone records that was ruled illegal by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals two weeks ago – and why I have backed similar efforts to improve this process for the last ten years.”

The USA Freedom Act, which passed the House of Representatives 338-88, did not pass in the Senate, falling short of a 60 vote threshold.  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 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.).