POLITICS
06/06/2013 03:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2013

Dick Durbin On NSA Surveillance Controversy: I Told You So

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joins Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) today in being forced into a state of agita over the revelation that the NSA has been "collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon." In a statement, Durbin says that the disclosure is "disturbing, but it should not be surprising":

"For over a decade, we've debated how best to protect America from terrorism while preserving the most basic constitutional rights," Durbin said. "Today's revelation is disturbing, but it should not be surprising. I have tried to reform this provision of the Patriot Act for years, introducing legislation and offering amendments to ensure that secret demands for sensitive personal information on Americans is limited only to those individuals suspected of being involved in plots against our country. As I said when I offered my amendment in 2009, 'someday the cloak will be lifted and future generations will ask whether our actions today meet the test of a democratic society -- transparency, accountability and fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution.' Today that cloak has been lifted and this important debate must begin again."

Niels Lesniewski, writing for Roll Call's (absolutely awesomely named) #WGDB blog, has more from Durbin:

"I've offered several [proposals] over the years, and I'm prepared to offer them again," Durbin said. "I think there are ways to make this more specific so that any data collected is specific to a suggestion that an individual is ... engaged in conduct that endangers America."

Durbin said that it ultimately comes down to whether the current net is too wide.

"Whether we collect everything and then look for the specific offenders or we zero in on information that relates to those who've offended," Durbin said. "Some of it is technical, but some of it's pretty basic in principle."

As Lesniewski reminds, Durbin's concerns are essentially contrasted by lawmakers like Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) who think that this is all no biggie, man, chill.

While Durbin cast a "yea" vote for the 2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act, he subsequently voted against its reauthorization in 2012, as well as voting against the 2008 FISA Amendments Act that accorded retroactive immunity to telecoms that participated in such surveillance.

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