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Begich Statement on Today’s Passage of FISA Amendments Act

Alaska Senator Decries Invasion of Alaskans’ Privacy Rights

Sen. Mark Begich today issued the following statement about the Senate’s passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act.

“The Senate's decision to extend the FISA Amendments Act today for five years presents some serious concerns about our Constitutional rights, ones that I and many Alaskans fiercely believe we must protect,” Begich said. “While it is critical for law enforcement agencies to be able to utilize surveillance tools to protect us from terrorism, a loophole remains in the FISA Act that would allow for unchecked monitoring of American's personal communications. We need a better balance between protecting our safety and our constitutional rights.”

The FISA Amendments Act (FAA) was passed in 2008 in response to the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by President George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It was set to expire on December 31 of this year.

Begich has long had concerns about government monitoring of private citizens, and voted against passage of the FAA on Friday. Before it came up for final approval, Begich voted yes on four amendments that would have improved the bill, including an amendment that would have required the government to commission a report on how the FAA has impacted Americans’ privacy rights since its passage in 2008; one that would have extended the measure for three years instead of five; an amendment requiring the government to account for how many times Americans’ communications have been intercepted; and another that would have prohibited U.S. spy agencies from reviewing the communications of Americans caught up in the program.

“Alaskans cherish our privacy rights. I have repeatedly fought against infringements on these rights. Without the transparency and reporting these amendments would have required, I could not support the final bill,” Begich said.

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