WASHINGTON — Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on Sunday said his own party is close to crossing the Constitutional line when it comes to surveillance programs designed to prevent another terrorist attack.
Udall said that despite the House’s failure last week to shut down the program, a measure supported by the entire Colorado delegation, he is writing new legislation to stop the Obama administration from continuing to spy on Americans’ phone records.
“We don’t need the NSA to be collecting in bulk all of these records of innocent Americans,” Udall said Sunday appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“It’s not effective. I would argue it comes close to being unconstitutional and there’s a better way to do this,” Udall said.
“If you define (the Patriot Act) broadly, which this administration has done, you can collect people’s medical records, their financial records, their credit card records, you name it, anything is on the table,” Udall said.
Limits should be placed on how the intelligence community collects the information, Udall said. For example, the phone company should retain all of the information and allow government access to individual numbers only when a court subpoena is issued.
“That’s how the police operate, that’s how the FBI operates,” Udall said.
“That’s the way in which to protect not just our people, but the Bill of Rights,” Udall said. “The Bill of Rights is the biggest, baddest weapon we have.”
The House on Wednesday narrowly voted 217 to 205 to kill a bill authored by Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan that would have limited the NSA’s collection of phone data.
If Udall’s bill ever makes it to the Senate floor, it is unlikely the Democrat-held chamber would pass it.
Asked by CBS anchor Bob Schieffer if he had any evidence the government has abused any of the information gathered from that portion of the Patriot Act, Udall declined to answer.
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, also appeared on the Sunday program and told Schieffer the law had never been abused, but used 54 times to prevent terrorist attacks.
But Udall maintained the Obama administration has been collecting every phone record it comes across, whether or not it’s linked to terrorism.
“The NSA is literally collecting telephone records of every American, every day. It’s a violation of Americans’ privacy,” Udall said. “Let’s restrict that to terrorists or spies.”
“We don’t need to do this to fight an effective war against terrorism. It’s time to change the way in which this law is applied,” Udall said.