Sen. Menendez Applauds Changes to Controversial NSA Surveillance Program

Sen. Menendez Applauds Changes to Controversial NSA Surveillance Program

NEWARK, NJ - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today applauded President Obama's changes to the National Security Agency (NSA)'s data collection. President Obama announced a series of changes designed to better protect our nation's civil liberties, including needed changes to the current bulk metadata collection program.

Sen. Menendez issued the following statement:

"I fully support these important changes that will continue to protect us from harm, while further safeguarding our privacy. These reforms represent a needed first step in reforming our intelligence operations, and as the President indicated, I look forward to a robust debate within Congress on implementing these improvements.

"As Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I also welcome the President's commitment that, absent a compelling national security reason, the U.S. will not monitor the government communications of our close friends and allies. This only reinforces the relationship of trust and cooperation with these countries from which we all benefit.

"Our intelligence community faces a tremendous challenge. They have to be right 100 percent of the time, while those who wish us harm need to be right only once. Yet, I firmly believe that we can both protect our country and the rights we so deeply cherish.

"I will continue to support measures that maintain our nation's security, while upholding the rights we expect as Americans. I am proud to co-sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy's USA FREEDOM Act and will push for its passage and any additional necessary changes to protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens."

President Obama announced a series of changes and reviews designed to better protect individuals' privacy. The U.S. government will no longer hold the metadata database and will review how to transition to a new system. Before they can query phone record information, intelligence officials will now need FISA Court approval, and intelligence officials will have new limitations on how the data can be used. President Obama also urged Congress to create a new public panel to appear before FISA Courts. The Director of National Intelligence will conduct yearly reviews on whether to declassify certain FISA Court decisions, and National Security Letters will no longer be indefinitely secret. Finally, he announced limitations on surveillance on our nation's allies and new privacy protections for foreigner citizens.

Sen. Menendez is a cosponsor of Sen. Patrick Leahy's USA FREEDOM Act, a collection of common sense reforms to the way we collect data. The Act would ban the collection of bulk-data under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and other authorities, close loopholes such as "back door searches" and "reverse targeting," create a Special Advocate to protect privacy interests in FISA Court proceedings, and increase transparency and oversight of the process. In the debate over reauthorizing Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), he also opposed reauthorization without changes to improve how our country gathers intelligence.