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Begich on President’s Announcement on NSA Surveillance: “Uneasy and Concerned”

U.S. Senator Mark Begich cited continuing concerns following President Obama’s announcement today that he will curb National Security Agency programs that have secretly collected Americans’ private communications and affected US relationships with allies overseas.

Begich has been a staunch advocate for greater oversight and transparency in government to protect Alaskans’ civil liberties and has called on Congress to rein in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and PATRIOT Act programs.

“I'm pleased my concerns were heard and the President is increasing transparency and oversight measures seriously but remain uneasy with aspects of the President’s announcement. Although limiting the government’s access to Americans’ records may be good news, he did not say outright that bulk collection and intelligence community queries of American records will end.

“I don’t believe innocent Alaskans’ personal records need to be collected and analyzed in bulk in an effort to help catch terrorists.  It’s a violation of our civil liberties and is heavy handed - like using a shark hook to fish for a salmon.  He also wasn’t clear who will store the records collected, for how long or how. Innocent Alaskans deserve greater assurance that their private communications aren’t being monitored by the government. 

“As the President works with Congress on these reforms I will continue to fight for the necessary measures needed to protect Alaskans from government overreach and protect their privacy - as I have since I came to the Senate.”

 Sen. Begich was one of the first senators to condemn the NSA’s broad surveillance of Americans’ communications and has consistently called for declassifying significant decisions from the FISA court and voted against extending surveillance authorities in FISA. Last summer he joined several of his colleagues in requesting more information about the number of Americans’ communications secretly collected by the government.

Sen. Begich also voted against extending the PATRIOT Act in 2011. This past August, he also called on the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), to take immediate action on this issue to protect civil liberties. Begich has written numerous letters to the President and administration about his concerns about Americans’ privacy and has co-sponsored the USA Freedom Act, a bill to end the bulk collection of Americans' communication record, and the Ending Secret Law Act.

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