To Durbin's credit, he has been trying to push amendments to reform the Patriot Act:Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is using the controversy over the surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency to revive proposals he first made 10 years ago. Durbin discussed his proposal during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee with National Security Agency Director General Keith Alexander on Wednesday.
"Over the years, my most significant concern with the Patriot Act has been Section 215," Durbin said during the hearing, "which can be used to obtain sensitive personal information of innocent Americans without any connection to a suspected terrorist or spy. Last year, the government filed 212 Section 215 orders - an increase from 21 orders in 2009. I want to ensure that the government can obtain the useful information we need to stay safe, but still protect the privacy of innocent Americans."
Sen. Durbin has introduced various bills to better control the powers of the Patriot Act, some with Republican support, but to no avail. He now says the NSA surveillance revelations show the nation needs to take a hard look at protecting the rights of innocent Americans who are caught up in widespread data sweeps by the government. - My State Line, 6/13/13
Here's a little more background info:"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."
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. - Huffington Post, 6/6/13
Durbin has also been grilling National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander for wanting even more access to people's information to share with Congress:Sen. Dick Durbin blasted the overreach of the National Security Agency, which obtained secret approval from the court set up as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to seize Verizon records of all domestic calls, under a controversial provision of the Patriot Act.
From Washington, Durbin said that for more than a decade, “we’ve debated how best to protect America from terrorism while preserving the most basic constitutional rights. Today’s revelation is disturbing, but it should not be surprising.”
Durbin, the Senate’s assistant majority leader, said he’s been trying to reform the part of the Patriot Act that allows such broad and secret internal spying, “introducing legislation and offering amendments to ensure that secret demands for sensitive personal information on Americans (are) limited only to those with some connection to individuals suspected of being involved in plots against our country.”
Durbin said he warned when offering such an 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.”
Durbin also introduced bills and amendments in 2003 and 2005 that would have placed limits on the Patriot Act record trolling. They were unsuccessful. - Rockford Register Star, 6/6/13
Durbin also questioned how someone with Edward Snowden's education could be an IT guy at the NSA:Sen. Dick Durban revealed that there's been a huge spike in the amount of times U.S. government has requested authority under Section 215 of the Patriot Act to obtain phone records and possibly medical records, tax records, Internet search records and credit card records -- some 212 times last year compared to the 21 such instances in 2009.
(Section 215 allows the goverment to ask a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA court to order a business to hand over customer records to federal investigators.)
"Clearly this authority is being used for something other than phone records," said Durbin.
Alexander denied that NSA has used section 215 to collect anything but telephone data.
The Pentagon's top electronic spy also pushed back on senators' efforts to get more information as to how and when the NSA is authorized to start scooping up metadata on massive numbers of cellphone calls in the United States. - Foreign Policy, 6/12/13
I obviously agree with Senator Durbin that the Patriot Act needs to be reformed greatly so that it does not violate American citizens privacy. I would even be in favor of repealing the Patriot Act all together. I hope Durbin will follow up with his call to reform the Patriot Act, especially since he is Senate Majority Whip. Because right now, he's not optimistic that anything will be done about FISA:SEN. DICK DURBIN: He was a high school dropout. He was a community college dropout. He had a GED degree. He was injured in training for the U.S. Army and had to leave as a result of that. And he took a job as a security guard for the NSA in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, he took a job for the CIA in what is characterized as IT security in The Guardian piece that was published. At age 23, he was stationed in an undercover manner overseas for the CIA and was given clearance and access to a wide—a wide array of classified documents. At age 25, he went to work for a private contractor and most recently worked for Booz Allen, another private contractor working for our government. I’m trying to look at this résumé and background—it says he ended up earning somewhere between $122,000 and $200,000 a year. I’m trying to look at the résumé background for this individual who had access to this highly classified information at such a young age, with a limited educational and work experience, part of it as a security guard, and ask you if you’re troubled that he was given that kind of opportunity to be so close to important information that was critical to the security of our nation?
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER: I do have concerns about that, over the process, Senator. I have grave concerns over that, the access that he had, the process that we did. And those are things that I have to look into and fix from my end, and that across the intel community, Director Clapper said we’re going to look across that, as well. I think those absolutely need to be looked at. I would point out that in the IT arena, in the cyber-arena, some of these folks have tremendous skills to operate networks. That was his job, for the most part, from the 2009-'10, was as an IT, a system administrator within those networks. He had great skills in that areas. But the rest of it, you've hit on—you’ve hit on the head. We do have to go back and look at these processes, the oversight in those—we have those—where they went wrong, and how we fix those. - Truth-Out, 6/14/13
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Senator Durbin's office:Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that although he supports a new piece of legislation to declassify FISA court opinions, it will be “ill-fated” without way more support from Congress and the White House.
“I encourage this, though I think it is going to be ill-fated,” Durbin, the Senate majority whip, told the Hill. He continued that even if the bill, which has bipartisan support, makes it through Congress, he doesn’t see Obama signing it. “I think they are going to eventually turn us down,” he said, adding: ”They are [just] going to say no.”
“I have been offering these amendments for years … and losing them, regularly,” Durbin said.
The bill would require Attorney General Eric Holder to declassify opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes domestic intelligence operations, like those NSA phone surveillance programs revealed last week by the Guardian and the Washington Post, under FISA and the Patriot Act. - Salon, 6/11/13