The agency has been the center of controversy since Edward Snowden leaked documents to the press.
It was a packed house at the Montpelier City Hall Saturday as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders held a town meeting about constitutional rights and privacy. Sanders focused his talk on the NSA’s surveillance of telephone and email records.
“If the United States government or corporate America knows about every call that you're making, every purchase that you're making, maybe your medical records, maybe your banking records, who your friends are, is that really what a free society is about?,” asked Senator Sanders.
Sanders was joined by Representative Peter Welch, a Georgetown law professor, and the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild.
For about an hour all four speakers addressed the issue and offered up a solution in the form of legislation - one example was an act proposed by Senator Patrick Leahy.
“He's introduced the USA Freedom Act, which would have significant FISA reforms and data mining along with the legislation that Bernie introduced,” said Representative Welch.
After their speeches wrapped up the group took questions and comments from the audience for more than an hour.
“I think this is probably one of the most important but understated issue nationally that we could be dealing with,” said Dan Jones, who lives in Montpelier.
“Why should I be worried, I’m not the one they are looking for - well then my question for them is why are they looking at you, why are they looking at everything you do and everything you speak about,” said Jacob Oblak, who lives in Essex Junction, VT.
“It’s a violation of our privacy- it’s a violation of our constitution,” said Wendy Rieger, who lives in Barre Town, VT.
In the end those at the helm encouraged people to get involved and support legislation to restrict the NSA's access to information.
“Are we there to where we need legislation- yes,” said Oblak.
“We need to come together and we need to do it now,” said Rieger.
While we were there no one at the meeting spoke out to defend the NSA’s actions. Senator Sanders says the U.S must be diligent in protecting Americans from terrorists but he says that can be done without undermining our constitutional rights. He also says he plans to continue to support legislation that will do just that.
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