So last week, we reported that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D–Hawaii, was really steamed about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of Americans’ phone records (which was also recently declared to be “illegal” in an Appeals Court ruling). In a May 7 statement, Gabbard said that she’d “authored and cosponsored several measures to overhaul U.S. surveillance law.” She also said the “USA Freedom Act”–a measure that would overturn aspects of the so-called Patriot Act, which expires next month–would “take further steps toward real reform that protects our civil liberties and increases transparency.”
That sounds like Gabbard–at least on May 7–supported the USA Freedom Act. Which is why I was somewhat surprised to get a follow-up news release from her office six days later saying she’d voted against the bill.
She wasn’t alone, but it didn’t matter. On Wednesday, May 13, the House voted 338-88 in favor of the bill. Forty or so Democrats, including Gabbard, voted against the bill. Here’s her reasoning, as laid out in that May 13 news release from her office:
“There are two main things that are of great and equal importance to the American people: our safety and security, and our freedom and civil liberties. One is just as important as the other. There’s no use being safe if we’re not free, and being free but not safe is unacceptable. I reject the idea that the American people must choose to either be safe or free. The problem with Section 215 as well as other provisions of the PATRIOT Act is that they undermine both our national security and our civil liberties. These measures have proven to be ineffective and a waste of resources that should be used to target our enemies rather than to collect data and information on Americans.
“This bill does not go far enough to reform the PATRIOT Act and the overreaching surveillance activities that are currently being conducted. Congress should not set precedence by codifying these surveillance programs that the Federal Courts have ruled are illegal. Congress should let these controversial provisions expire and instead work toward comprehensive reform of the PATRIOT Act that will truly keep the American people safe and free.”
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, according to this May 13 New York Times story.
Official portrait of Tulsi Gabbard: Wikimedia Commons