Richard Blumenthal bleeds crimson — at least when he’s in Cambridge, Mass.
Connecticut’s senior Democratic U.S. senator returned to his alma mater of Harvard Thursday to promote legislation to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“I had the great fortune of attending Harvard as an undergraduate and then attended that other place in New Haven for law school,” Blumenthal opened what his office billed as a major policy address. “I’m told the entire Yale Law School could fit in this building.”
During Blumenthal’s time at Harvard, he competed on the swim team and served at editorial chairman of The Harvard Crimson student newspaper.
Blumenthal spoke for about 40 minutes and renewed his call for Congress to create a special advocate that could argue for privacy rights and question the cases brought by the government.
A companion bill would take away the power to appoint FISA judges from the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and give it to judges who preside over various federal circuit panels.
“I think many Americans are concerned about the extent of surveillance that is going on right now,” Blumenthal said. “This activity needs and deserves the trust and credibility of the American people. My fear is that some of those agencies and institutions are in peril of losing it.”
When Blumenthal opened up the floor to questions and comments from the audience, Harvard Law professor Charles Fried characterized privacy concerns as overblown.
“Why should I fear the fact that somebody is collecting the addresses of my emails?” Fried said. “I don’t care. What is it that people are afraid of?”
Blumenthal drew an analogy between the FISA courts and the Star Chamber, an ancient high court of England controlled by the monarch.
No word on whether Blumenthal will be reprising his policy speech at Yale, which hosts Harvard football for the 130th installment of “The Game” on Nov. 23.