HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s two U.S. senators are sounding cautious over work facing Congress in reforming NSA surveillance practices as proposed by President Barack Obama.
Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal both support changes, but said finding agreement on details that will preserve the effectiveness of the programs while protecting Americans’ privacy will be challenging for Congress.
In a speech Friday, Obama said he is placing new limits on the way intelligence officials access phone records from hundreds of millions of Americans and that he’s moving toward eventually stripping the massive data collection from the government’s hands.
Obama has made it nearly impossible for reluctant leaders in Congress to avoid making some changes in the U.S. phone surveillance they have supported for years. The president admitted that he has been torn between how to protect privacy rights and how to protect the U.S. from terror attacks — what officials have called the main purpose of the spy programs.
Murphy said the president’s goals are laudable, but it’s hard to figure out how that can be done while retaining the ability of law enforcement to probe and collect information when necessary for a specific case.
“The devil is certainly in the details of the implementation of these reforms, and I will be eager to hear what options are on the table and examine the possible unintended consequences of outsourcing the retention of phone and Internet records,” Murphy said.
“I am glad that the president announced a new, significantly higher bar for the surveillance of foreign leaders. We should not be spying on our friends,” Murphy said.
He said Obama made it clear that “the mistakes of the past,” such as the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, will not happen again. “The relationship with our allies is too important to be damaged by unnecessary political espionage,” the senator said.
Blumenthal said Obama’s proposals are bold and courageous, including an emphasis on reforming the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court process.
Still, the Democratic senator said Obama’s reform blueprint leaves a lot of work for Congress to provide precision and details that will enable effective intelligence but prevent government overreach in collecting telephone data or other surveillance.
Blumenthal is a member of a bipartisan group of senators who announced plans in September for a bill to overhaul the secret federal surveillance court, allow constitutional challenges and create an advocate to argue against the government.
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