Press Releases

Sen. Warner Doubles Down on Warrantless Surveillance

Warner’s Actions Fuels Trump’s Undermining of Democratic Norms

CONTACT: Daniel Schuman, policy director, 240-237-3930, [email protected]

Washington, D.C.In a closed vote on a secret surveillance bill, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) on Tuesday advanced Sen. Burr’s (R-NC) dangerous FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a full-throated assault on privacy and democratic accountability. Most stunning is Vice Chairman Warner’s (D-VA) vociferous support for the measure — incorrectly labeling it “a good compromise bill that addresses privacy and civil liberties concerns” when it does nothing of the sort.

Sen. Warner’s support for warrantless surveillance is inexcusable and his vote for Sen. Burr’s FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act unconscionable,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress Action. “Sen. Warner has aligned himself with President Trump’s destruction of democratic norms and assault on our system of checks and balances. Wittingly or not, Sen. Warner is undermining Americans’ security by placing the keys to the world’s most powerful surveillance apparatus in Pres. Trump’s hands and putting the pedal to the metal.”

By comparison, that same day 15 senators—including 10 Democrats—led by Sen. Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) and including Sens. Warren (D-MA) and Sanders (D-VT), co-sponsored the USA RIGHTS Act, S. 1997, a real surveillance reform bill. 42 civil rights, civil liberty, and transparency organizations from across the political spectrum, ranging from the ACLU, Democracy For America, Indivisible, NAACP, and Demand Progress Action to, Campaign for Liberty, and FreedomWorks, endorsed USA RIGHTS, calling it “the only legislation on the table that reigns in the government’s surveillance abuses.”

In addition, the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Warner serves as Vice Chair, violated democratic norms about public debate as well as Senate Rules that require bill markups to start in public before holding a public vote to close the proceeding. 22 civil liberties and transparency organizations, led by Demand Progress Action, urged the committee to hold this hearing in the public and reminded it of its obligation under Senate rules. So too did Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden. Instead, Warner proceeded to deprive the American people of the ability to know the arguments being made on important legislation, the text of the amendments, and the opportunity to see where their representatives stand — and even a public vote on whether to close the proceedings.

Senator Warner has set out a dangerous pattern during his inaugural year as Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee. In January, he voted to confirm CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has argued for domestic surveillance on a wide scale, insisted that waterboarding was not torture, and that Hillary Clinton covered up the Benghazi attacks. Sen. Warner has placed himself significantly out of the mainstream of his party and at odds with the needs of his constituents.

About Demand Progress Action
Demand Progress Action is a national grassroots group with more than two million affiliated activists who fight for basic rights and freedoms needed for a modern democracy.