WASHINGTON, June 1 – Citing privacy and civil liberties concerns, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that he intends to vote against legislation to extend a controversial domestic spying program but shift the bulk collection of phone records from the government to private telecommunications companies.
Sanders said the legislation, which the Senate is considering this week, is better than the domestic spying law it would replace but still gives the National Security Agency and law enforcement too much access to vast databases of information on millions of innocent Americans.
“We must keep our country safe and protect ourselves from terrorists,” Sanders said, “but we can do that without undermining the constitutional and privacy rights which make us a free nation.”
Sanders voted against the so-called Patriot Act when it was passed in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and when the domestic spying law was renewed in 2005 and 2011. A provision in the law that allowed for the bulk collection of phone records expired at midnight.
Sanders said his concerns about the erosion of privacy rights extend beyond the government tracking phone records and Internet traffic of innocent Americans.
“I believe we need to take a look at how the public and private sectors are gathering data on the American people and how we are moving toward an Orwellian society in which your location and movements can be tracked at any time through your smartphones and computers.”
Sanders said he plans to introduce legislation to establish a commission to study how modern technology impacts data collection and privacy.