Op-Eds

I believe that the United States government, from the Obama Administration to Congress to our courts, must strike a critical but challenging balance between respecting our cherished civil liberties and privacy while ensuring that our intelligence gathering agencies have the tools, information and resources they need to do their jobs and keep Americans safe.

My understanding when I joined a broad bipartisan majority of my colleagues in voting to reauthorize both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act, and my understanding today, is that these authorities are needed to prevent terrorist attacks but are kept in check by rigorous judicial and Congressional oversight, all within the bounds of the law. That’s why I have voted repeatedly to give both Republican and Democratic administrations the tools to conduct effective intelligence gathering while also supporting critical protections for our citizen’s privacy.

Unfortunately we know all too well that there are still those around the world who would do us harm, and I think one reason why we’ve only had one major successful terror attack in the United States since 9/11 is because our intelligence community has remained eternally vigilant and has acted on the intelligence they gathered through many of these programs. I believe that it is imperative that, while working to secure our homeland, we also take steps to protect the civil liberties of all Americans to the best of our ability. We must continue to work on this all the time; in fact, I believe we can use these recent media reports as a learning opportunity in our efforts to perfect that balance.

This responsibility to seek an appropriate balance between civil liberties and security also extends to members of the media. While I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment and the imperative oversight role of our free press, I am very troubled by the fact that reportedly classified intelligence practices were published in a manner that could jeopardize our nation’s security. As the President noted, there’s a reason why intelligence gathering practices are classified. And I believe all of us who are privy to classified information must respect that need.

My colleagues and I worked to make sure that the authorities granted in the reauthorization of FISA and the Patriot Act are not permanent so that we can continue to exercise strong oversight and determine whether further modifications to these laws are necessary in the future. My expectation is that President Obama and his administration will continue to use these intelligence gathering tools to target only those suspected of serious terrorist offenses, thereby striking a responsible balance between preserving civil liberties and protecting our citizens from those who wish to do us harm.

This op-ed ran in The News Journal (link)