fter learning of the extensive government surveillance of telephone data within the United States today, Congressman José E. Serrano expressed his deep discomfort with the program.
"While our government clearly must take steps to prevent terrorism, I am worried that this program represents an overreach and an invasion of Americans' right to privacy," said Congressman Serrano. "There seems to be no constitutional basis for such broad surveillance activities. Additionally, I am particularly troubled that this program was reportedly authorized by a secret legal opinion based on a section of the Patriot Act.
"Americans rightly believe that while the government must take steps to keep them safe, it should do it within the boundaries of the Constitution and clearly established law--not by using secret opinions to interpret controversial laws.
"If the security agencies want authority to conduct this sort of widespread surveillance, they should come to Congress, explain the need and its uses, and let us pass updated legislation if we believe it to be appropriate.
"Secret legal opinions and tortured legal logic were hallmarks of the last Administration--and actions that we had hoped were left behind as our nation moved forward. We cannot have widespread phone and data surveillance without a full and frank discussion of the proper balance between safety and Americans' civil liberties.
"If we give away our rights in the pursuit of an elusive sense of safety, we have let those who would intimidate us win, because they will have changed our society from one based on openness, freedom, and rule of law to one with fewer rights and protections. We cannot let that happen."