In the wake of President Barack Obama’s newly announced National Security Agency reforms, Democrat Shenna Bellows, the Senate candidate challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins in the 2014 election, hopes to win points with libertarians and other Mainers wary of government overreach. She took the president to task for not going far enough to curb perceived abuses, as highlighted by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Bellows, in her former role as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, has long been outspoken on privacy issues.
“Whether it’s in the hands of the NSA or a third-party group, the mass surveillance of American citizens undermines our democratic freedoms,” said Bellows in a release. “The president’s speech falls short of real reform. The minor adjustments to the program will not go far enough to restore our checks and balances.”
Obama announced Friday he’s tasked Attorney General Eric Holder with reviewing and overhauling currently policies and ask Congress to push through reforms, but he also praised the NSA for their work and condemned the leaking by Snowden.
Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former chairman and long-time member of the Senate Homeland Security committee, sought to highlight efforts she has made to provide more “transparency, accountability and oversight” of the NSA.
“Similar in some respects to one of the reforms the president proposed today, I have voted for legislative reforms to ensure that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has access to analysis about the privacy implications of its orders through consultation with outside experts on privacy and civil liberties,” she said in a release.
Collins also took Snowden to task for his leaks, arguing his act may have put Americans at risk, but accused Obama of not going far enough in his criticism.
“I also remain deeply concerned that we are at much greater risk of failing to connect the dots to detect and disrupt future plots as a result of Edward Snowden’s disclosures because our adversaries now can easily access public information about our capabilities and are likely changing their tactics to conceal their plots to kill Americans,” she said. “Snowden may have walked off with more than a million secret documents that have nothing to do with telephone records, and yet the president devoted just a few sentences to the enormous damage caused by Snowden when he violated his promise to protect classified information.”
Bellows hopes to paint Collins as a defender of the status quo on what she sees as invasive government spying policies.
“I’m running for United States Senate to stand up against the Washington pattern of sacrificing our liberties for a false sense of security,” she said. “We need to stop dragnet surveillance and restore our constitutional freedoms to protect individual liberties and restore trust in our government again.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Maine voters will see this as an important issue.