WASHINGTON, June 11 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today called for changes in a law that the National Security Agency used to obtain hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records and tap into Internet companies to gather searches, emails, audio, video and photographs.
The massive surveillance programs divulged by The Guardian and The Washington Post relied on the so-called USA Patriot Act to justify what had been secret court orders authorizing wholesale surveillance of telephone and Internet records
Sanders said he voted against the law because he believes that “we can effectively combat terrorism without sacrificing the civil liberties and constitutional protections which make us a free nation.”
“We have learned that it is likely that virtually every phone call made by every American is being collected and stored by the United States government: the time that you made that phone call, where you made that phone call, how long you were on the phone, and to whom you made that phone call is now part of the record of the United States government.
“Every husband calling a wife, every businessman making a deal, every elected official talking to a constituent, every candidate talking to a campaign manager, every doctor talking to a patient, every lawyer talking to a client, every journalist tracking a story – all of that information and more – is on file with the United States government. What is even more alarming is that it is not just the government which has access to that information. It is private contractors like Booze Allen.
“Furthermore, we have also recently learned that the government has the capability to monitor every website that we visit, every video that we see, and every item that we search for online.”
Sanders stressed that “terrorism is a serious issue” and that intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities need strong and effective tools to combat it. “But it is my very strong opinion that we can do that without living in an Orwellian world where the government and private corporations know every telephone call that we make, every website we visit, everyplace we go. Is that really the country we want to be?