Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), former member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and past chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, today issued the following statement on the most recent revelations of the executive branch's domestic surveillance activities, which the ACLU filed suit over this afternoon:
"If you sent a message to a mental health provider in recent years, then the government can know it. If you called your parents while they were vacationing overseas, the government knows it. If you called your House or Senate members, the intelligence agencies know it. You are guilty of nothing, but the government treats you with a presumption of suspicion that flips the presumption of innocence on its head.
"The U.S. government has used the fear following the attacks on the World Trade Center to greatly expand the collection of personal information about Americans on a huge scale and without good oversight from Congress or anyone else. This changes the very character of American society and what it means to be an American. It is also a very wasteful, inefficient way to try to protect the safety of Americans.
"I repeatedly and vigorously opposed extensions or expansions of these laws during my time on the House Intelligence Committee, despite the approval of two presidents and their advisors. We must replace the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act with laws that both provide better protection and preserve the constitutional rights of Americans. Americans should be protected from needless--and ineffective--government surveillance.
"And we must provide whistleblowers with legal, secure ways to come forward in good faith to reveal abuses of government power. While I can never condone the release of information that is properly classified, I will also never condone efforts to use the classification system to hide unconstitutional behavior. If we had laws protecting national security whistleblowers, and if Congress took their allegations seriously, these kinds of leaks would not happen."