Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today criticized a secret domestic surveillance program that swept up millions of telephone records on calls by Americans who were not suspected of any wrongdoing.
A court order demanding the records be turned over was obtained under a controversial interpretation of a provision in the so-called Patriot Act, which Sanders voted against when it was first enacted in 2001 and when it was reauthorized in 2006 and 2011.
"As one of the few members of Congress who consistently voted against the Patriot Act, I expressed concern at the time of passage that it gave the government far too much power to spy on innocent United State citizens and provided for very little oversight or disclosure. Unfortunately, what I said turned out to be exactly true.
"The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people," Sanders added.
"While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans," Sanders said.
The Obama administration did not dispute a report, first published yesterday by the Guardian, that a classified court order required Verizon to turn over massive phone records to the National Security Agency.