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Friday, October 21, 2016

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) believes now is the time to begin to rein in the secret government surveillance that began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Speaking at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Tuesday, the senior senator from Oregon said, “If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we are all going to live to regret it.”

The “unique moment” Wyden is referring to follows the leaks of classified documents by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year, including one that showed a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court decision authorizing mass collection of cellphone metadata from millions of Americans.

Wyden used his speech to trace how America got to this point, noting that he voted for the original PATRIOT Act in 2001 under the belief that increased governmental powers were temporarily necessary in the wake of the unprecedented terrorist attack on American soil.

He noted that the Bush administration had a “pattern of withholding information from Congress.” He joined the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2001 but didn’t learn about NSA’s warrantless wireless surveillance until he read about it in the newspaper in 2005.

Under pressure, the Bush administration submitted the program to the FISA court. But that court has led to what Wyden calls “secret laws.”

“There are effectively two PATRIOT Acts,” he said. There’s one you can read and the secret rulings that interpret the law, which are not available to the public. I can tell you that those rulings can be astoundingly broad.”

The senator stated that Americans recognize intelligence agencies sometimes need to conduct classified activities but the laws that guide them should not be secret. “That’s not the way we do it in America,” he said. “We do not keep laws secret.”

He added historical context by invoking an era when America actually faced an existential threat from a foreign enemy.

“Even at the height of the Cold War, the Congress said we’re going to make surveillance laws public.”

Wyden stated, “Secret law has no place in America” because “when Americans are in the dark they cannot make informed decisions about who they want to represent them.”

He then turned to the FISA court, which he joked that few people had heard of a few months ago but now he gets asked about at the barber shop.

The court was designed to review requests for intelligence wiretaps in the late 1970s. It was actually a governmental reform enacted in the wake of revelations of government spying on such figures as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After 9/11, the court got new powers to interpret broad laws in “startling” ways.

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  • Kurt CPI

    The laws enacted under the Bush administration are for the express purpose of giving government more control over our lives. I do a fair amount of work with law enforcement at the local level. I’m not sure whether I’m surprised or not that the sentiment within the ranks of law enforcement personnel is highly in favor of the use of any and every tool that supplements their ability to gather intelligence. Obviously from a job perspective information makes them safer and can lead to criminals being apprehended sooner. I do believe that government collecting and storing information on law-abiding citizens is unwarranted. It ought to be illegal – along with search and seizure without a warrant, long-term detainment without being charged with a crime, and other egregious rights violations provided under the “Patriot” Act. Concession of ANY of our Constitutional rights should be fought tooth and nail. The Patriot Act should be done away with and the Department of Homeland Security restricted to protecting US citizens from terrorism – not arresting peaceful protesters exercising their rights. The idea that our government needs to be protected from us is a scary ride down a slippery slope. Think about it – aren’t we supposed to be the government? The very idea that the people are separate from government and represent a potential threat to government should be clue enough that we’re in big trouble. Let’s get behind Senator Wyden in a big way and, like he says, before it’s too late.

    • whodatbob

      Well put!

    • Urbane_Gorilla

      Well stated. I’d like to add that not only should these infringements be fought tooth and nail, but those Congress-folk that voted them in, supported them and are secretly briefed on the whole process, should be investigated by Congress with an eye to prosecuting them for traitorous actions against the people of these United States. No more excuses or silly hand wringing.

    • FredAppell

      I agree with what he said but he is also part of the problem. Would he be saying this now if the NSA leak’s never happened? The Patriot Act definitely needs to go but his concern seems a bit disingenuous.

      • Kurt CPI

        I have said that almost from the Patriot Act’s beginnings. Would I be posting to that effect? Of course not! it’s the NSA leak that brought the topic to the forefront and spurred the dialog.

        • FredAppell

          It’s time to give the dialogue some fangs.

    • Fern Woodfork

      And People Should Know Corporations Are Doing Spying On The Public Also!!!

      • Kurt CPI

        Absolutely, and some of it is covert. Companies like Google offer a toolbar for your browser which also monitors your Internet activity. In Google’s case, if you read the fine print (which nobody does) they tell you that up front. To use the service you must assert that you have read the EULA and agree to it’s terms. Many other “toolbars”, along with a wealth of hidden “spyware” that most people don’t even know is on their computers, install without your consent and often without your knowledge. Remember the Sony debacle a few years ago?

        • Fern Woodfork

          Exactly My Friend!!

  • Urbane_Gorilla

    Just want to point out that surveillance was already in progress well before 9-11.. The bombing was just an excuse to jump into surveillance with both feet and attack foreign countries with impunity while crying ‘traitor’ if anyone questioned it.

    • FredAppell

      That is true, many Americans weren’t even aware of the existence of the NSA until the last handful of years.

    • Mark Forsyth

      I will testify to that.There was so much blood lust at that time and the Bush administration took full advantage of it.Anyone who pointed out the lie of the Iraqi War was castigated.

    • Fern Woodfork

      I Say Around The End Of WW2!! These Countries Have Been In The Spy Games For Decades!!

  • S.J. Jolly

    ATTENTION MODERATOR: Commercial spam !

  • john ayres

    I fear it’s too late. I’ve no doubt they could destroy anyone who moves to restrict their powers.

    • Mark Forsyth

      Consider this,Ever since the 1860’s every public figure who has held up the promise of hope and light,and improvement and the way forward for America has been killed.It is no accident.Makes one wonder if a crusader for justice such as Elizabeth Warren will be next.

      • Fern Woodfork

        You Are Right My Friend!! In JFK A Quote When Something Like This, Quoted Any Man Who Try To Bring Peace And Improve Mankind For The Good Has Been And Will Be Killed!! But I Hope No One Else Get Killed!!

        • Mark Forsyth

          Hey,My Pal Fern.Hope you’re well.Think about it Fern,starting with Lincoln J.F.K.,Martin Luther King,Bobby Kenedy.They even killed Ghandi,and of course if you go back far enough,they nailed Christ to the cross.
          Well,I guess we know what we’re up against.I too hope that no one else gets killed but I’m not holding my breath.
          Best Wishes To You.

          • Fern Woodfork

            Hello My Friend !! Exactly!! Best Wishes To You Too!! <3

  • london717

    Prism and like programs are designed to protect people from terrorism, cyber attack and organised crime. They are not designed to identify how many times per day you scratch your ass. There are many events before your 1 and 0’s become a category let alone an individual. In general no “information” as we know it is held on anybody in the first instance. No one knows anything including the computers. We are in a new technological era and old analogies do not apply. We do however need discussion, checks and balances applied to the Military/Intel Machine. Ike would be rolling over in his grave if he know how powerful and intrusive the machine has become. Without these balances of need any key words could be input to identify most anything. That is where the threat to our liberties lay.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    There’s law enforcement and then, there’s enforced law by control freaks. I live in NJ. It is now a virtual police state. Leave your home in the morning and all you see are signs commanding your every move. Add to that the phony balony attempts at invading privacy with red light cameras they claimed were for “safety” and the datamining of millions of license plates kept for more than 5 years and you see that Due Process is just two words on paper to “law enforcement.” If laws exist, why do so many men choose not to obey them? Why would a Twerp like Snowden knowingly pass along classified information online when he is such a genius and knows it all?

    There’s an old saying that is so appropriate to today’s flap mouth generation of social media, FB, GPS and cell phone fame…Never empty a full well until it runs dry. It’s useless and dangerous.

  • dpaano

    I have to agree with Eleanor and Rick above…..there has to be SOME secrets. Our government can’t fully be transparent or we will have NO security whatsoever! As both of them pointed out….if our surveillance secrets are given out to everyone; then where’s the security? We, as Americans, don’t need to know EVERYTHING our government is doing to protect us; we just have to have faith that they are doing the best they can. And, need I repeat this inane comment…..if you aren’t doing anything wrong; why are you so worried? Credit card companies, grocery store cards, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. know more about you than NSA could EVER find out! No one seems to be overly concerned with that.

  • irishtap

    So to some of us Snowden is a traitor huh? I happen to think just the opposite. Sure he outed the NSA, giving us a large black eye according to the rest of the world – which we absolutely deserve by the way. He didn’t release a single document that would put the country in jeopardy. He loves his country. He used his position to offer us a chance to say ‘this has gone way too far’. This is a highly intelligent young man with one heck of a moral conscience and possesses equal courage to make an enemy of the most powerful intelligence apparatus in the world…only to warn his fellow Americans of wrongdoing by their government. Consider, he left a very well paying job, living in a beautiful part of the world so he could become public enemy number one and exist in a Russian terminal?! It is remarkable to me so many of you seek to see this patriot arrested – charged and locked up without having the slightest curiosity for knowing what “he” knows. I suggest to those of you whom have that view – you are a coward and don’t deserve to be an American citizen. I doubt there is one of his detractors that would have the guts to leave his job over a major moral issue such as the size and scope of this. Mr. Snowden has afforded us a rare and priceless opportunity to carefully consider and examine the type of country we truly want to be: not just pretend we are, and act to turn back this enemy from within. This man has the vision of the fore fathers to understand we are headed toward a shameful demise as a representative government, if secret laws are allowed to be written in this country. My God – that should scare the living hell out of us! Just because I have no proclivities toward terrorism doesn’t make it all right for the government to watch every move I make – it is patently wrong and offensive and wholly anti-American policy to gorge on the private information of citizens. To all the Snowden naysayers: if you are really so afraid of terrorism that you are willing to abdicate your privacy – you’ve already succumbed to it. And you have desecrated every grave of any man or woman that gave their life for this great country.

  • frankelee

    I have learned from the internet that this only matters depending on who is President.