Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Udall: Reauthorizing Patriot Act Is Mistake; NM Congressional Dems Vote No

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), took to the Senate floor last Wednesday to reaffirm his opposition to the Patriot Act, saying that the law undermines the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens (see video clip above). Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) also spoke against the rushed reauthorization. Thank goodness at least a few Senators spoke out to demand some serious debate about this controversial law and question its validity ten years since 9-11. However, not enough others in Congress seemed to be listening -- not to mention President Obama.

Udall’s remarks came as the Senate prepared to vote on a four-year reauthorization of the three controversial provisions within the law that fail to protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans and do nothing to guard against potential abuse. Those provisions are: roving wiretaps, government access to ‘any tangible items’ such as library or business records and the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

NM Congressional Dems Vote No
Unfortunately, on Thursday, the reauthorization passed the House by a margin of 250 to 153 and passed the Senate by a vote of 72 to 23. The legislation was quickly signed by the president -- via autopen from France. Not good. However, I'm very pleased to report that the entire Democratic congressional delegation from New Mexico -- Represenatives Martin Heinrich (NM-01) and Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03) and Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman -- all voted against the measure.

As Sen. Udall explained in a written statement, The Patriot Act –- which was first passed nearly a decade ago in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks –- did not receive the necessary congressional debate and scrutiny before it was passed. Only after Congress blindly expedited the passage of the far-reaching piece of legislation, was its power to undermine the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens revealed.

Ten Years Later
Udall, a member of the House of Representatives at the time, expressed deep concerns about the bill –- and was one of only 66 members to vote against its passage.

“Almost ten years later, we still haven’t had the debate that we need to have on this piece of legislation. The world’s greatest deliberative body has not weighed in with amendments. We have not moved forward in a serious way to try and tackle this piece of legislation that is so important to our country, to our freedom, to our liberty,”Udall said during his floor remarks.

Udall also voted against a procedural maneuver in the Senate that would allow quick consideration and passage of the reauthorization, and noted that he voted against final passage in part because it had not been thoroughly debated –- or had an adequate opportunity to be amended –- by the full Senate.

In 2009, Udall helped introduce the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act to address those concerns.

“To govern in a post-9/11 world, we have to strike the delicate balance of thwarting the terrorist actions of some, without infringing on the constitutional guarantees of the vast many. We are failing to strike that balance today by forcing this reauthorization of the Patriot Act without scrutinizing the long-term ramifications of the law,” Udall said. 

ACLU Files FOIA Request
Meanwhile, the ACLU today filed a new Freedom of Information request demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government's use and interpretation of Section 215, which is perhaps the most controversial of the provisions that Congress reauthorized. It allows the FBI to obtain “any tangible things” -- like business records about customers. The organization anticipates litigating the request. The battle for civil liberties in America continues unabated.

May 31, 2011 at 03:01 PM in Civil Liberties, Homeland Security, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sen. Tom Udall Calls for Thorough Review of Patriot Act, Wants Our Input

Recently, without any meaningful debate, Congress voted (House, Senate) to provide a three-month extension on several very controversial provisions of the Patriot Act -- to continue surveillance of business records, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers and roving wiretaps. In essence, they kicked the can down the road instead of engaging in a serious, indepth analysis of the provisions and the law itself.

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) voted no on the initial enactment of the Patriot Act, as well as the extensions of various provisions that have been passed since the Act's inception almost 10 years ago, including the latest one. Now Sen. Udall is calling for a thorough review of the law before anything more is done to extend any part of the post-9/11 legislation. Watch the video above to hear his views.

To give him a perspective on how New Mexicans view the Patriot Act, Senator Udall wants to hear our opinions on whether we should extend its reach going forward, and why or why not. Just go to his Facebook page and weigh in with your comments or questions.

For more information on the Patriot Act, visit these pages at the ACLU, Wikipedia, NPR and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, for starters.

February 24, 2011 at 03:17 PM in Civil Liberties, Homeland Security, National Security, Sen. Tom Udall, Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sen. Tom Udall Guest Blog: Protecting Privacy at the Airport

TomUdall This is a guest blog by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), who is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Around the holidays last year, we saw significant public concern about personal privacy at our nation's airports. At the time, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had expanded screening measures at security checkpoints in airports like the Albuquerque Sunport.

The new standard became Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) or whole body scanners, which produce highly revealing body images of the individual being screened. If you refuse an AIT scan, the alternative is a full body pat-down -- also hardly ideal for personal privacy.

I asked New Mexicans to share their thoughts with me on this issue. In more than 7,000 email responses, my constituents overwhelmingly expressed concern about these TSA screening procedures.

To address these concerns, I've put forward a practical proposal that meets current airport security standards while helping travelers maintain personal privacy.

New software can be installed on existing scanners to replace passenger-specific pictures with a generic, non-identifiable outline of the person being screened. I have offered an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill that would require this software to be installed on existing scanners nationwide within a year.

Advanced Imaging Technology Currently In Use
The body images produced at airport checkpoints are highly revealing and many passengers are justifiably uncomfortable being screened by the technology. Today, this is the kind of image AIT screening creates:


Proposed Automatic Target Recognition Software
I propose a deadline of Jan. 1, 2012, for Automatic Target Recognition software to be installed nationwide on existing AIT machines. This software enhances privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images and instead detects potential threat items and indicates their location on a generic outline of the individual being screened, like this:


This month, the TSA is beginning to field-test the program in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C., and similar software is already being used abroad.

With existing technology, we can enforce airport security without sacrificing our personal privacy. By imposing a deadline for the transition to this software, we will ensure that the TSA and manufacturers have ample time to test and make any necessary modifications while preventing unnecessary delays for its implementation.

This is a guest blog by Sen. Tom Udall. To submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, click on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

February 15, 2011 at 02:21 PM in Civil Liberties, Homeland Security, Sen. Tom Udall, Terrorism, Transportation, Travel | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Extension of Patriot Act Surveillance Fails in US House: Heinrich, Pearce Vote Yes; Ben Ray Lujan Votes No

The Hill has the story. Vote was 277-148, but the way the vote was structured it needed 290 to pass, or two thirds. A total of 26 Republicans voted no, along with 122 Democrats.

The Republican bill would have extended elements of the Patriot Act and related legislation to continue surveillance of business records, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers and roving wiretaps until December 8, 2011. Sadly, President Obama supported the bill. Even worse, he wanted a longer, three-year extension.

I'm disappointed that Rep. Martin Heinrich (D, NM-01) voted yes, along with Republican Steve Pearce (NM-02). Bravo to Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D, NM-03), who voted no!

February 8, 2011 at 06:17 PM in Civil Liberties, Homeland Security, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Steve Pearce | |

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Check out Operation FREE's Clean Energy Jobs Video in Los Alamos, Santa Fe

From Operation FREE:
This week, Operation FREE is showing a short video on green jobs, national security and opportunities to secure America with clean energy. A short discussion will follow, and attendees can enter to win a trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway's American Heroes Night on 9/11/2010.

  • Wednesday, we'll be at the Los Alamos VFW, 1793 Deacon Street.
  • On Thursday, we will be at the Santa Fe VFW, 307 Montezuma. Green business leaders have been invited to attend.

Both showings start at 7:00 PM.

You can read more about Operation FREE at our website, www.operationfree.net. If you have questions or know someone who would like to attend, please email Chuck Taylor, New Mexico State Director, Operation FREE, at ctyler@trumanproject.org.

Operation FREE is a coalition of veterans and national security organizations dedicated to securing America with clean energy, and is an advocacy campaign of the Truman National Security Project.

April 7, 2010 at 10:14 AM in Energy, Events, Film, Green Economy, Homeland Security, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guest Blog by ACLU of NM: Real ID’s Problems Are Bigger than Airplanes

This is an op-ed by guest blogger Diane Wood, Policy Director for the ACLU of New Mexico.

Real ID is dead. Thirty-six states currently do not meet compliance standards set by federal law, 14 of which have passed binding legislation prohibiting participation in Real ID. In all, twenty-four states have enacted bills or resolutions that oppose the Real ID Act. The people have spoken. Americans have a long and proud tradition of resisting government intrusion into their private lives, and Real ID is just that: a needless, ineffective and burdensome intrusion.

Over the past weeks, much has been made of the rapidly approaching compliance deadline for Real ID. The hand wringing stems from a concern that, come January 1st, 2010, New Mexicans may have to carry their passports if they wish to board a plane or enter a federal building. While this is a frightening prospect, the deadline is almost certain to be extended. With over half the states in non-compliance, suddenly forcing Americans to use their passports for internal travel during one of the year’s busiest travel times would throw airports and airlines into a state of chaos. Is DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano so foolhardy as to risk paralyzing the nation and further wounding an already reeling American economy?

Congress passed the Real ID Act in May 2005 without a single hearing in the Senate, ostensibly to provide Americans with greater security in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Rather than make America safer, Congress created a 20 billion dollar boondoggle (the cost of which would be borne by the states and individuals) that saddles the nation with a big burden and a small security return.

ID-based security is inherently unreliable. What do Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski and Major Nidal Hasan all have in common? They all would have had zero difficulty obtaining Real ID compliant cards. Bad actors will inevitably find ways of obtaining fraudulent cards and may already be eligible to acquire them by legitimate means. The idea that imposing the United States’ first-ever national identity card system will make us safer is founded on a false premise.

What Real ID would do is open the door to greater intrusions on individuals’ privacy and widespread identity theft. These de facto national identity cards could ultimately result in a situation where citizens’ movements inside their own country are monitored and recorded through these “internal passports.” Invasions of privacy will only increase as the purview of Real ID expands over time to encompass other activities necessary to participate in society. Simply look to how the role of drivers’ licenses has expanded beyond merely authorizing one to operate a motor vehicle.

Furthermore, Real ID and its slightly watered-down successor, PASS ID, call for an unprecedented amount of personal information to be collected, stored and consolidated in a system of interlinked databases. This amounts to a one-stop-shop for individuals’ personal information that will prove to be an irresistible lure to determined identity thieves, further exacerbating the fraud epidemic that already costs Americans billions every year.

Leaving aside the logistical nightmare, financial strain and security concerns they create, the bottom line is that Real ID and PASS ID limit the freedom of Americans. They place needless burdens on the constitutionally protected right to travel and various First Amendment guarantees by restricting access to federal buildings. These are all essential liberties we should never give up willingly. And certainly never for the sake of a law that provides so little benefit and creates the potential for so much harm.

This is an op-ed by guest blogger Diane Wood, Policy Director for the ACLU of New Mexico. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page. To see a collection of guest blogs, visit our archive.

December 10, 2009 at 12:17 PM in Civil Liberties, Guest Blogger, Homeland Security | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

DHS Sec. Napolitano Announces Almost $4 Million Operation Stonegarden Grant for NM

Portrait_Napolitano_smU.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced FY 2009 Operation Stonegarden grants -- totaling $60 million -- for 13 border states and the Territory of Puerto Rico. The funds will pay for enhancing the capabilities of federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to jointly secure U.S. borders and territories. New Mexico will receive $3,981,414 from the Stonegarden program in FY 2009.

“Operation Stonegarden grants direct critical funding to state, local and tribal law enforcement operations across the country,” said Secretary Napolitano in a statement released today. “I am proud to announce that the 2009 funding provides additional flexibility to ensure that our first responders are equipped with the resources they need to confront the complex and dynamic challenges that exist along our borders.”

According to the DHS, the 2009 allocations reflect President Obama’s increased emphasis on the Southwest border in response to the threats from cartel violence in Mexico. Based on greater risk, heavy cross-border traffic and border-related threat intelligence, nearly 76 percent of Operation Stonegarden funds will go to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas -- up from 59 percent in fiscal year 2008.

Fiscal year 2009 Operation Stonegarden funds will be used for additional law enforcement personnel, overtime, travel and other related costs in order to further increase DHS’ presence along the borders. This risk-based allocation of resources complements ongoing DHS efforts -- including the Southwest Border Initiative, deployment of surveillance technology along the Northern and Southwest borders, and increased U.S. Border Patrol personnel along the Northern border. By the end of fiscal year 2010, DHS plans to add nearly 700 U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Canada border.

This year, eligibility for Operation Stonegarden awards was expanded to include 39 applicants -- 24 more than fiscal year 2008—encompassing states with international land and coastal borders.

Secretary Napolitano made the announcement as part of a two-day visit to the Southwest border, during which she joined U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske to unveil the 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy; announced the formation of the Homeland Security Advisory Council Southwest Border Task Force; and met with state and local law enforcement and first responders to discuss issues affecting Southwest border states. Napolitano is in Arizona today and will appear in Albuquerque at the Student Union at the University of New Mexico on Friday.

Operation Stonegarden is appropriated by the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009. For more information on Operation Stonegarden, visit www.dhs.gov and at www.fema.gov/grants.

June 4, 2009 at 12:29 PM in Border Issues, Homeland Security, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

(Updated) Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, Gil Kerlikowske to Unveil SW Border Counternarcotics Strategy in Albuquerque Friday

Update: The DHS has released more info on the Albuquerque visit. At 10:15 AM Secretary Napolitano will swear in members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. At 11:00 AM Secretary Napolitano will join U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske to announce President Obama’s National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. Both events will take place at the Student Union at the University of New Mexico.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary (and Albuquerque native) Janet Napolitano will travel to Albuquerque NM on Friday, June 5 according to a DHS press release. Secretary Napolitano will be joined by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske to unveil President Obama’s 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. Secretary Napolitano will also swear in new members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). Comprised of national security experts from state, local and tribal governments, first responder communities, academia and the private sector, HSAC provides advice and recommendations directly to Secretary Napolitano on homeland security issues.

In addition, Secretary Napolitano will travel to Tucson on Thursday to announce Operation Stonegarden grant awards, which consist of $60 million to enhance law enforcement preparedness and operational readiness along the border through improved cooperation and coordination between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

June 2, 2009 at 01:51 PM in Border Issues, Crime, Drugs, Alcohol, Events, Homeland Security, Obama Administration | Permalink | Comments (0)