June 7th, 2013
03:55 PM ET
10 years ago

Udall: 'I did everything' to alert public to gov't snooping

(CNN) – After President Barack Obama asserted Friday that lawmakers opposed to the government's phone surveillance program had a chance to raise concerns, one Democrat said he's been trying to alert the American public for years about attempts to mine their personal data.

Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who has long pushed for greater transparency in the government's counterterror efforts, told CNN he had taken exhaustive steps to unveil the reasoning behind the National Security Agency's collection of phone call information.

"I went to the floor, I offered amendments, I did everything possible short of leaking," Udall said. "And I would never leak any material. I came out with a smaller amount of votes. But I continue to push for this, I've continued to draw attention to it, I'm going to continue to do so today."

Earlier Friday Obama told reporters the phone surveillance program was "subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate."

"If there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up," Obama said. "And we're happy to have that debate."

Udall said he "did raise questions" about the program, and that he thought it amounted to an overly aggressive intrusion into people's lives.

"I think that we've overreached. I think that we ought to have this discussion and we can find the right balance," he said. "But if the people don't know, how do you have the discussion?"

In 2012, Udall and fellow Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden addressed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder pressing for greater disclosure of the phone surveillance program, writing that "most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act."

"As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows, and this makes it impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should actually say," the senators wrote. Section 215, reauthorized in 2011, is the section of the law that details parameters for how the government can compel businesses to provide data records.

Udall and Wyden also addressed a letter to FBI director James Clapper in July 2012 expressing concern at the lack of transparency in another section of the Patriot Act.

He also questioned some lawmakers – including House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers – who have asserted that government monitoring programs have prevented terrorist attacks.

"There ought to be a discussion because the effectiveness of these programs has been trumpeted. I would suggest, based on what I know, that there are a lot of other reasons that we've thwarted terrorists," Udall said.

In a joint statement with Wyden later Friday, Udall elaborated on his claim, writing of the phone surveillance, "all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods that do not violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans in the way that the Patriot Act collection does."

Filed under: Mark Udall • Terrorism
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. anonymous

    The problem isn't the law! The problem is the corrupt and criminal leftists in control of the federal government that are abusing and misusing the law. The way to fix the problem is to get rid of the corrupt and criminal leftists in the federal government starting with eric holder.

    June 7, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Malory Archer


    The problem isn't the law! The problem is the democrats have the White House & Senate and I'm terrified they might turn the tables and go after us the way the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue did to anyone who had the unmitigated gall to disagree with the little emperor or point out he had no clothes! The way to fix the problem is to rid them from government and persecute them like we used to do.


    FIFY. You're welcome.

    June 7, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    " The problem is the corrupt and criminal leftists in control of the federal government that are abusing and misusing the law."

    Nothing done was even remotely illegal or outside of the authorization/power that the Patriot Act and FISA grant. That GOP/Teatroll talking point is clearly designed to ultimately make the argument that we don't need to repeal the Patriot Act and FISA, just "tweak 'em." We warned that this would happen...it's very clear from the language in the statutes that this could be done. The GOP/Teatrolls want people to think it's not the statutes' faults for two reasons: they're the ones who pushed for them, authored them and defended Bush's use of them AND they want to save these miserable statutes from repeal.

    June 7, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Reading phone metadata is nothing. There's been a lot worse going since the Patriot Act was first passsed, thanks to people like McVeigh. Consider what he did. Now consider what you would have to know in order to stop someone from repeating that sort of attack. I'm not going to say what it is that they do because I've already signed my life away not to reveal it when I was hired for a "special project" a decade ago.

    June 7, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. hammer

    I don't have a cell phone.

    June 7, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    I agree with a democrat in this case.

    June 7, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. Jules

    Right – the same people who wanted the Patriot Act reauthorized now are complaining they didn't know about this? A lot of people in America knew that this would be an option for the government under the Patriot Act and has been going on for years and years.

    June 7, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. otlset

    Obama is a first class liar and con artist - to our country's detriment. "The most transparent administration in history", yeah right. You've all been duped by him, taken in by all his phony promises and blather like easy marks at a carnival. And now the country sinks in lie-based scandal after scandal thanks to the gullible ignorant star-struck fools who gave him their votes. Shame on you all.

    June 7, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  9. Gurgyl

    Nothing wrong with it... Do not call SNOOPING.

    June 7, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  10. Larry L


    The problem isn't the law! The problem is the corrupt and criminal leftists in control of the federal government
    You would of course be the first to proclaim your "outrage" if an attack happened and could have been prevented. The Patriot Act was not created during a Democtat's administration and your Fox News version was distorted to enrage the fearful, bigoted right-wing. It appears to be working.

    June 7, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. Thomas

    GW Bush would have never abused the law !

    Fox news tells the truth !

    And Sarah Palin is going to play Bambi's mother in the sequel !

    June 7, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  12. it must be said

    This is what big government looks like people. The IRS, the Justice Dept., now the NSA, no limits to what they think they can do. Just keep votng for more and more of it and enjoy your serfdom America. Once all of these mechanisms are in place, do you think the government will remove them? Of course not. Your freedom and privacy is lost FOREVER. And the Democrats want a national registry for guns?! Good luck with that one. Our last line of defense will never be taken.

    And once all this is place, what would it take for one person with bad intentions to misuse it on a grand scale to grab power in this country? Big brother is here, it just took a few years longer than Orwell predicted.

    June 7, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The way I see it there is a price to be paid for being kept safe.
    Going to war against a threatening power used to be the standard bearer coin for keeping the homeland safe, or ejecting a threatening force from it.
    Troops on the ground. Combat. Death. These were the things that were sacrificed for our safety. People died protecting us.
    That is no longer the case, at least not always. Faced with the insidious threat of terrorism in all of its' forms: biochemical weapons, computer hacking of our most sensitive government materials and or banking system, nuclear weapons falling into the "wrong" hands, we have to adapt our defenses to combat the threat.
    Sending folks that we don't know off to war to die for us and keep us safe is no longer going to cut it while we sit at home with little to no inconvenience to our personal selves.
    Now we must combat the enemy via the modern technology that they will employ to take us down. And if that means that we are going to have to trade off some of our precious personal liberties to accomplish that, then that is what it means.
    We can't have it all. We expect our government to keep us safe and at the same time tie it's hands in their efforts to do so. We can no longer ask for the ulitmate sacrifice of others while we sit at home happy in the knowledge that Big Brother is not listening in to our personal conversations.
    There has always been a trade-off to be kept safe.
    Perhaps we're just too used to having others pay the price for us.
    It is to be hoped that our leaders will not abuse their power. Yet it is also true that just recently we were sent off to war where thousands of our troops died unnecessarily precisely because of an abuse of power. But NO ONE made as big a stink about that as we're making now that we are being PERSONALLY affected.
    We must all sacrifice.

    June 7, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    "And once all this is place, what would it take for one person with bad intentions to misuse it on a grand scale to grab power in this country? Big brother is here, it just took a few years longer than Orwell predicted."

    What a hoot. You can state anything, and I do mean anything, on Facebook (not to mention CNN webpages). And, guess what? Your comments, your searches, and your favorites are monitored and read by your employer, your creditors, your neighbors, your family, and commericial advertisers. And here you are all bent out of shape because you THINK "Big Brother" is snooping? You made yourself available to trace in internet eternity each time you set your fingers to a keyboard.

    June 7, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "You made yourself available to trace in internet eternity each time you set your fingers to a keyboard."

    Indeed. As the old saying goes: "The problem is between your keyboard and your chair."

    June 7, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  16. tiscali.it

    this is not news.. post 9/11 this was all OKd by congress.. but the GOP keeps throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what will stick.........

    June 7, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. Captain Awesome

    So I seem to remember that when we first found out about the Bush admin spying on SPECIFIC individuals (of whom one has to be off shore) all the leftists and the media squealed like stuck pigs. Now, president Voldemort (obama) is gathering information on EVERYONE. It seems to me like the only defense that liberals have the ole "Well Bush did it first!" line. Please. Voldemort has taken the Bush doctrine and multiplied it by ten.

    June 7, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |