Durbin Meets with Director of National Intelligence Clapper

Washington, D.C. – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, to discuss the recent revelations on the National Security Agency (NSA) data-mining programs and the budgets of our nation’s intelligence community. As Chairman of the Senate’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Durbin oversees the budgets for the majority of our nation’s intelligence gathering agencies. A photo of the meeting can be found here.

Durbin has been critical of the PATRIOT Act provision that allows the government to collect the sensitive personal information of millions of innocent Americans. Durbin said “I have tried to reform the PATRIOT Act for years, introducing legislation and offering amendments to ensure that secret demands for the sensitive personal information of innocent Americans are permitted only when there is some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy. I believe the government can obtain the information it needs to combat terrorism in a far more targeted manner, rather than casting a dragnet for information about millions of innocent Americans. In the end, Congress permitted this type of intrusion because too few demanded a balance between security and our constitutionally protected freedoms. Congress must reopen this debate.”


Durbin discussed these issues on the CBS Early Show yesterday. Video of his interview can be viewed here.

In 2003, Senator Durbin introduced the SAFE Act, bipartisan legislation to reform the Patriot Act that was cosponsored by, among others, then-Senators Barack Obama, Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry. 

In 2005, when the PATRIOT Act was up for reauthorization, Senator Durbin negotiated a new standard for Section 215 orders that would protect innocent Americans while giving the government broad authority to obtain information that is connected to a suspected terrorist or spy.  The Republican-controlled Senate approved this reform on a unanimous vote, but the Bush Administration objected and it was removed in the conference committee. 

In 2009, when the PATRIOT Act was again up for reauthorization, Senator Durbin offered as an amendment the language that the Senate had approved in 2005.  When his amendment was defeated, Senator Durbin said, “The real reason for resisting this obvious common-sense modification of Section 215 is cloaked in secrecy.  Someday the cloak will be lifted and future generations will ask whether our actions today meet the test of a democratic society – transparency, accountability and fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution.”