The Joint Committee on the Judiciary handles most of the bills relating to privacy and surveillance in Massachusetts. Its most senior member is the Senate Chair. In a press release today, Senate President Therese Murray announced that Sen. Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont) would become the new Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, replacing Sen. Katherine Clark, who was elected to Congress in Massachusetts’ Fifth District. She writes:
Senator Brownsberger is a deliberative and thoughtful leader in the Senate and has a strong work ethic. I am confident that he will continue to do great work in this new position.
Having seen Sen. Brownsberger’s work as my own senator, he is indeed thoughtful, deliberative and hard-working. He is genuinely concerned about transparency, and is very willing to communicate and discuss with constituents on a wide array of topics. Sen. Brownsberger ran for Congress as well in the Fifth District, and during the race his openness and willingness to see and consider both sides of many sensitive questions made it harder for him to appeal to a highly partisan Democratic primary electorate. In the Senate Chair position, his reflective disposition may be a significant advantage. The Senate Chair is often called upon to weigh carefully the competing claims of law enforcement and civil liberties advocates, and every indication is that he will weigh them with care.
We have documented already on this blog Sen. Brownsberger’s views on national surveillance issues like the Amash Amendment, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Surveillance State Repeal Act. At the state level, he has been supportive of warrant protections for email and digital data. On the wiretapping bill, he believes that the organized crime requirement is outdated and should be dropped, but also believes that the list of designated offenses suggested by the Attorney-General is too broad. On fusion centers, his skepticism of law enforcement claims is very welcome.
We don’t expect that Sen. Brownsberger will always and unambiguously vote the way we would like on the bills before the Judiciary Committee. However, we appreciate the Senator’s intellect and sense of professionalism. We hope that as Senate Chair, very often he will side with the Constitution, and opt to protect the residents of the Commonwealth from the growing pressure to subject them at every turn to unnecessary and intrusive surveillance.