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July 26, 2013

Pelosi, 153 House Democrats tell Obama of "lingering questions and concerns" about NSA programs

House of Representatives Democrats Friday night sent a letter to President Barack Obama raising questions about National Security Agency data gathering programs.

"Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program," said the letter signed by 153 Democrats and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The letter follows Wednesday's House vote to put new restrictions on the programs. The effort failed by a narrow margin, but did win bipartisan backing.

As a result, Pelosi began circulating the letter, which was sent Friday.

 "Congress must examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law.  We have been assured that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has embarked on a review of the collection programs done pursuant to FISA and the Patriot Act, and has agreed to review various legislative proposals." 

The letter's text:

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your leadership in honoring our responsibility to protect and defend the American people.  As you know, our challenge as elected officials is to preserve Americans’ liberties while protecting our national security. 

This week, the House of Representatives considered an amendment offered by Representatives Amash and Conyers to H.R. 2397, the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations bill.  The Amash-Conyers amendment would have limited NSA's ability to collect bulk telecommunications records pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act as codified in Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  Although the amendment was defeated 205-217, it is clear that concerns remain about the continued implementation of the program in its current form.

Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program.  These include:

  • ·         Whether the bulk metadata telecommunications collection program sufficiently protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. 
  • ·         Whether the program could be tailored more narrowly to better ensure the protection of privacy and civil liberties.
  • ·         Whether the law is being implemented in a manner consistent with Congressional intent.
  • ·         How we can ensure greater transparency regarding FISA court operations, decision making, and issuance of orders. 
  • ·         Whether changes to the current FISA Court structure are needed.

Congress must examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law.  We have been assured that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has embarked on a review of the collection programs done pursuant to FISA and the Patriot Act, and has agreed to review various legislative proposals. 

We look forward to working with you and Administration officials to address the concerns outlined above and to explore options which will preserve Americans' privacy and civil liberties while protecting our national security.

Thank you for your leadership and your attention to these concerns."

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