Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

Stopping Surveillance of Innocent Americans

If you are innocent of wrongdoing, the United States government should not spy on your phone calls and e-mails. This is a simple belief, rooted in the clear language of the Fourth Amendment:  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

Yet through the misguided PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments Act, the NSA has reportedly been gathering the phone records of millions of innocent Americans – including deeply private details such as what numbers you dialed, where you were when you placed a call, and more.  This is wrong-headed and unconstitutional, and it wastes resources spying on innocent Americans rather than pursuing the guilty.  

As former chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, I know that these surveillance programs have compromised Americans’ rights while providing only the illusion of security.  As a scientist who understands how these massive databases can be used and abused, I am frightened by what this near-universal surveillance suggests for the future of our democracy.

I will lead the fight in the Senate to repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act and to end these abuses.

Ending Warrantless Spying on Religious Communities

The evidence is clear.  For years, the NYPD spied on communities of American citizens – including those gathered for dinner, for worship, and for recreation – without a warrant and without any suspicion of wrongdoing.  The NYPD targeted these places for surveillance simply because some of the people in attendance were, or were believed to be, Muslim.

This behavior is repugnant to American values.  Just as importantly, law enforcement officers waste their limit resources when they spy on the innocent multitudes rather than focusing on the guilty few.

If law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that someone is guilty of a crime, then they should, of course, monitor that person – regardless of his or her religion.  But if law enforcement has no reason whatsoever to suspect someone, then it is unlawful, ineffective, and un-American to subject that person to surveillance simply because of his or her religious affiliation.

I will fight to ban any federal funds from being used for ethnic or religious profiling.