Durbin Statement on NSA Phone Tracking and the Patriot Act

Durbin Raised Concerns Over Program in 2009, Offered Amendments to Prevent Abuse

Washington, D.C. - Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after it was reported that the National Security Agency secretly obtained phone records of Verizon calls made by innocent Americans in the United States.


“For over a decade, we’ve debated how best to protect America from terrorism while preserving the most basic constitutional rights,” Durbin said. “Today’s revelation is disturbing, but it should not be surprising. I have tried to reform this provision of the Patriot Act for years, introducing legislation and offering amendments to ensure that secret demands for sensitive personal information on Americans limited only to those with some connection to individuals suspected of being involved in plots against our country. As I said when I offered my amendment in 2009,  ‘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.’ Today that cloak has been lifted and this important debate must begin again.”


In 2003, Senator Durbin introduced the SAFE Act, a bipartisan bill to retain the expanded powers of the Patriot Act but place some reasonable limits on these powers to protect our constitutional rights – including a requirement of individualized suspicion for Section 215 orders.


In 2005, Senator Durbin authored language in the Senate-passed Patriot Act reauthorization to require individualized suspicion for Section 215 orders.  This provision would require that the government could only issue a Section 215 order for an American’s records if there is some connection to a suspected terrorist or spy.  This provision was removed from the final bill at the insistence of the Bush Administration.


In 2009, Senator Durbin offered the same language as an amendment during the debate over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.


A copy of Durbin's 2009 amendment is attached along with his statement from the 2009 PATRIOT Act markup.