POLITICAL: “Balance” means no change?

April 20, 2015
Mr. Ferdinand Reinke
1641 International Dr Unit 414
McLean, VA 22102-4831

Dear Mr. Reinke:

Thank you for contacting me about the National Security Administration (NSA) and the PATRIOT Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

In June 2013 details of two NSA programs were published in the media as a result of leaked confidential documents. News articles indicated that since 2007, under provisions within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the PATRIOT Act, the NSA has monitored private communications in an effort to increase national security.

The primary mission of the U.S. intelligence community is to detect and prevent the very real threat of terrorism on our homeland. According to General Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA, and Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the intelligence community has successfully used these programs to identify and thwart dozens of terrorist plots at home and abroad. Additionally, leaders from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have defended these programs stating that they are transparent, lawful, and have been instrumental in defending our homeland.

Many have expressed legitimate concerns about the privacy implications of this policy. I believe we must balance the need for privacy with the need to maintain national security. I also believe there needs to be an open discussion about the limits of surveillance and the need for transparency.

In December 2013 the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies issued a report on “Liberty and Security in a Changing World.” The report recommended forty-six changes to our national surveillance programs, some executive and some legislative. In response to the report, in January 2014 President Obama announced a series of executive reforms, including the development of a blueprint for consumer privacy in the digital age, a commitment to declassify certain court opinions, and changes in the bulk collection of phone data.

On July 29th, 2014 Senator Patrick Leahy reintroduced legislation, the USA FREEDOM Act, to end bulk collection of the telephone records of Americans, to reform the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and to improve transparency. On November 18th, 2014 a vote to begin debate on this measure failed to receive the 60 votes required to cut off a filibuster; the vote was 58-42. The updated legislation would have required the government to narrowly limit and define surveillance targets, enhanced transparency and reported how many individuals – including U.S. citizens – have had their information collected. On March 19th, 2015 Representative Mark Pocan introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act, also designed to improve transparency and reform the targeting and surveillance of individuals.

I will continue to closely monitor future proposals and will work to ensure that efforts to improve our national security also protect constitutional rights in a balanced way. Thank you once again for contacting me about this important matter.

Sincerely,

Signature

Tim Kaine

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argh!

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