WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reacted Friday to President Obama’s policy directive on signals intelligence activities.

“Delawareans deserve a full and informed debate about our nation’s intelligence-gathering procedures and their intrusion on our privacy rights,” Senator Coons said. “They also deserve a Congress that insists on keeping our nation safe and respects our most cherished privacy protections. While surveillance procedures certainly have a role to play in keeping our nation safe, the last several months have shown that their extent and depth far exceed Americans’ awareness and cross what I believe are a number of innate privacy boundaries.” 

“The changes to the National Security Agency’s data-collection programs announced by President Obama today are a welcome first step, but they fall short of restoring the privacy safeguards that Americans deserve,” the Senator continued. “I appreciate the President’s support for the inclusion of a public advocate role in the FISA court, as would be accomplished by legislation I cosponsored last summer, but remain concerned about the fundamental suspicion-less collection of Americans’ data, regardless of whether it is the government or a private contractor that stores that data. In fact, this shift raises as many new concerns as it addresses. Finally, I am disappointed that today’s announcement only scratches the surface of the surveillance program’s greater transparency problems. An annual review of FISA court decisions for potential declassification is insufficient for Congress to perform the oversight it must.” 

“The President’s policy directive today is progress, but needs to be the start of a conversation with Congress, not the end,” Senator Coons concluded. “I look forward to hearing more details about how the intelligence community will implement the changes proposed today. I remain convinced that the choice between liberty and safety is not a choice between one or the other – we expect both — and I believe both are possible with thoughtful public scrutiny and meaningful Congressional oversight.”

In the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Senator Coons questioned members of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. To view his questioning, click here: http://youtu.be/SXY4eA_NjGA

In September, Senator Coons and eight colleagues on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the inspector general of the intelligence community calling for a full-scale review of the use of surveillance authorities and to make public the findings. http://1.usa.gov/Lq92ni

In August, Senator Coons cosponsored the FISA Court Reform Act of 2013, which would create an Office of the Special Advocate tasked with advocating in the FISA courts’ closed proceedings for legal interpretations that minimize the scope of intrusion into our privacy. He also cosponsored the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 to require the government to be more transparent in how it publicly reports on its surveillance activities. http://1.usa.gov/1j8UJ1L

In June, Senator Coons and 26 other senators sent a letter asking Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to publicly provide information about the duration and scope of the program and provide examples of its effectiveness in delivering unique intelligence, if such examples exist. http://1.usa.gov/Lq92ni

Ahead of his vote against the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act in December 2012, Senator Coons spoke on the Senate floor in support of the legislative predecessors to both of these bills. His speech can be viewed and read here: http://1.usa.gov/ZEli97