A spokesman for Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) told Patch that his boss is committed to protecting civil liberties amid growing concerns about privacy in the aftermath of revelations about the NSA surveillance program.
Austin Vevurka contacted Patch in response to an article about an announced protest outside Thompson's Sonoma County office in Santa Rosa.
Vevurka accurately noted that the article mischaracterized separate quotes attributed to Thompson as being different, when they were in fact the same.
Thompson came under fire after an Aug. 13 edition of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat quoted him as saying "national security and personal privacy are not 'mutually exclusive.' "
The Patch article inaccurately reported that Thompson "backpedaled" in a prepared statement he released on Aug. 16 saying “I do not believe protecting our citizens’ lives and civil liberties are mutually exclusive pursuits." He did not.
Vevurka noted in an email to Patch that both statements were made in separate contexts.
His statement in the Press Democrat followed a no vote on an amendment that would have limited the NSA surveillance program.
"The Press Democrat story focused on the NSA’s legal metadata tool and the amendment offered by Congressman (Justin) Amash that would have shut down this particular intelligence tool (after just 20 minutes of debate on the House Floor) that has prevented no less than 12 terrorist attacks targeting Americans on U.S. soil in recent years," Vevurka said.
"Mr. Thompson supports this tool. It does not allow blanket surveillance of Americans. It does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls. It does not authorize the collection of any call content, individual names, or organization names. It authorizes only barebones record collection so that the members of our Intelligence Community can identify the telephone numbers of known terrorists and stop attacks."
His subsequent statement came in response to published reports revealing that the NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times. These privacy violations are not in reference to the metadata tool.
"Mr. Thompson believes that if it is true the NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times, those actions are 'outrageous, inappropriate and must be addressed.' " Vevurka said.
"No one is more committed to protecting the privacy rights of Americans than Mr. Thompson."
Vevurka noted specific actions Thompson has taken in his legislative career to protect privacy rights:
(Source: Austin Vevurka, Communications Director for Congressman Mike Thompson)
· He worked to ensure that specific provisions in both the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) were not made permanent to allow for actual and effective oversight of these laws use, and to require the Intelligence Community to come back to Congress for frequent approval of these laws. The provision at the heart of the Amash amendment, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, was not made permanent for the very reason that if any question was raised about its use, like many have raised now, Congress could responsibly review and address that particular issue in a way that protects our civil liberties and our country’s national security. That type of thorough and thoughtful debate is exactly what Congress must engage in now.
· He offered an amendment in the House to the 2011 Patriot Act reauthorization that would have ensured that the Patriot Act could not be used in violation of a US citizen’s constitutional rights; and would have required courts to hear on an expedited basis, a citizen’s claim that their constitutional rights were violated by government spying.
· He worked to establish an independent Inspector General for the Intelligence Community to detect and deter abuse and misconduct within programs like the ones recently discussed in the media.
· He worked to establish the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent body within the Administration to oversee the impact of national security programs on Americans' privacy. The PCLOB has already stated that their first investigation will review the NSA’s collection of phone records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and the NSA’s surveillance of international communications content under the FISA Amendments Act.