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Senator Wyden On NSA Spying: It's As Bad As Snowden Says

If we do not seize this moment in history to reform our surveillance laws, we will all live to regret it.

by Senator Ron Widen | Alternet | July 25, 2013

Editor's note: This is a transcript from a speech given on Tuesday, July 23, at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

When the Patriot Act was last reauthorized, I stood on the floor of the United States Senate and said, “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon. When the American people find out how their government has interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned and they are going to be angry.”

From my position on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I had seen government activities conducted under the umbrella of the Patriot Act that I knew would astonish most Americans. At the time, Senate rules about classified information barred me from giving any specifics of what I’d seen except to describe it as "secret law"—a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, issued by a secret court, that authorizes secret surveillance programs; programs that I and colleagues think go far beyond the intent of the statute.

If that is not enough to give you pause, then consider that not only were the existence of and the legal justification for these programs kept completely secret from the American people, senior officials from across the government were making statements to the public about domestic surveillance that were clearly misleading and at times simply false. Senator Mark Udall and I tried again and again to get the executive branch to be straight with the public, but under the classification rules observed by the Senate we are not even allowed to tap the truth out in Morse code ­ and we tried just about everything else we could think of to warn the American people. But as I’ve said before, one way or another, the truth always wins out.

Edward Snowden’s Revelations

Last month, disclosures made by an NSA contractor lit the surveillance world on fire. Several provisions of secret law were no longer secret and the American people were finally able to see some of the things I’ve been raising the alarm about for years. And when they did, boy were they stunned, and boy, are they angry.

You hear it in the lunch rooms, town hall meetings and senior citizen centers. The latest polling, the well­-respected Quinnipiac poll, found that a plurality of people said the government is overreaching and encroaching too much on Americans’ civil liberties. That’s a huge swing from what that same survey said just a couple years ago, and that number is trending upward. As more information about sweeping government surveillance of law­abiding Americans is made public and the American people can discuss its impacts, I believe more Americans will speak out. They’re going to say, in America, you don’t have to settle for one priority or the other: laws can be written to protect both privacy and security, and laws should never be secret.

After 9/11, when 3,000 Americans were murdered by terrorists, there was a consensus that our government needed to take decisive action. At a time of understandable panic, Congress gave the government new surveillance authorities, but attached an expiration date to these authorities so that they could be deliberated more carefully once the immediate emergency had passed. Yet in the decade since, that law has been extended several times with no public discussion about how the law has actually been interpreted. The result: the creation of an always expanding, omnipresent surveillance state that ­­ hour by hour ­­ chips needlessly away at the liberties and freedoms our founders established for us, without the benefit of actually making us any safer.

So, today I’m going to deliver another warning: If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it. I’ll have more to say about the consequences of the omnipresent surveillance state, but as you listen to this talk, ponder that most of us have a computer in our pocket that potentially can be used to track and monitor us 24/7. The combination of increasingly advanced technology with a breakdown in the checks and balances that limit government action could lead us to a surveillance state that cannot be reversed.


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New bill unveiled ....FISA Court Reform Act of 2013

I posted this earlier on another thread, but it seems appropriate here.
Richard Blumenthal, Ron Wyden, Tom Udall Unveil Bill To Reform FISA Court
Posted: 08/01/2013 2:43 pm EDT | Updated: 08/01/2013 7:05 pm EDT
WASHINGTON -- A group of Democratic senators introduced legislation Thursday to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court amid revelations that it secretly authorizes widespread surveillance of Americans.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), all vocal critics of the National Security Agency's dragnet data collection, announced two new bills that would change the FISA court to a more adversarial system and appoint a special advocate to protect privacy and individual rights. Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill, the three Democrats slammed the court for its lack of transparency and oversight; they also emphasized a growing desire among lawmakers to respond as more information comes out on the federal government's surveillance methods.

Nobody is watching us... Right!

This idea came from a friend of mine. How about we ALL google Backpacks and Pressure Cookers...wouldn't that just fry the brains of the Gov't Snoops!!


I can't take these Senators seriously

Sure some of them said a few things a while back, but none of them told us what Snowden did. Any one of them could've gotten on the Senate floor and been immune from prosecution for ANYTHING they say.

Udall of Colorado once claimed he told us everything he possibly could regarding the spying. But he didn't do a thing to tell us anything on the senate floor. No classified information that revealed crimes. None of the Senators have revealed crimes. They are all complicit when they remain silent, and they can't take the high ground after the fact.

"Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito."

Complicit with their silence!

I couldn't agree more.

"A vote for the lesser of two evils is a vote to keep things the same", Buckminster Fuller..
A choice for liberty is always a choice for liberty.

Propose amendment

Liberty-minded representatives and senators need to propose amendments which explicitly and concisely re-write existing law without "tightening it up" with any restrictions, and provide definitions/glossaries for what each word means such as 'collect' and 'relevant' with the original intent of Congress.

And then they can plainly state that this amendment is NO DIFFERENT FROM the law which is already enacted, it is merely written more concisely. And if there is any resistance to the amendment it is because ILLEGAL ACTIVITY is ALREADY taking place since the amendment is NO DIFFERENT, but this amendment would smash their fictitious lawyerly arguments that their existing illegal activity is somehow legal.

Take back the GOP and Restore America Now.

Thanks Michael

Shared on Twitter.

LL on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LibertyPoet
sometimes LL can suck & sometimes LL rocks!
Love won! Deliverance from Tyranny is on the way! Col. 2:13-15

Obviously, Wyden is not saying some things

explicitly - but also he is pretty clearly stating there
is a *lot* more out there than has been revealed by Snowden
and that there is not a huge window of opportunity for
people to get off their ass and demand accountability
from their would-be overlords.

The bit about cell phone capabilities is a pretty broad hint.
Since they generally lack "hard" off switches you have no idea
when or what they are recording and reporting - in all likelihood
they are recording everything and reporting everything all the time -
the challenge now seems to be to integrate all that information.

For example, imagine a bar with a bunch of people with cell phones,
surveillance cameras linked to computers linked to the Net - all of the
above having cameras and microphones capable of being activated
remotely - combine with voice and facial recognition...

Integrate all this and an NSA operator should be able to input a
time and place and see who was present in a particular corner of the
bar at a particular time, determine exactly what was discussed & etc.

If they are not quite there yet, papers like this:

"Nowadays we are surrounded by a vast number of audio/video (AV) sensors and actuators. They are built into our cellular phones, PDAs, tablets, laptops, and surveillance systems. A natural idea that comes out of this fact is to combine multiple I/O devices into a distributed array of sensors and actuators. The paper shows the feasibility of this idea and shifts media adaptation research away from a single device/stream paradigm towards array multimedia processing. We demonstrate how to transform a network of off-the-shelf devices into a distributed I/O array by providing common time (with tens of microseconds precision) and 3D space coordinates (with a few centimetres precision)."


and conferences like this:


Where the keynote speaker "aims at defining the future works towards a complete ubiquitous and massively distributed video surveillance."

suggest where they want to go.

Of course there's the issue of cell phone towers acting as illuminators for passive
radar imaging (including the ability to see inside structures):

"The networks of cell phone base stations not only provide continuous service for mobile communications users but also offer abundant illuminator resources for passive surveillance radar systems. This extensively explores the potential applications of passive surveillance radar using cell phone base station signals for various scenarios such as ground traffic monitoring, coastal and air surveillance, and through-the-wall motion detections. These promising experimental results demonstrated that such systems can be an attractive, low-cost alternative solution for various applications and prospectively as a complement to traditional active radar systems."

Published in:
Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, IEEE (Volume:25 , Issue: 3 )

Date of Publication: March 2010


Not to mention the previously disclosed by Wikileaks Trap Wire system that is vacuuming
up all kinds of surveillance from stores, traffic cameras, etc., etc..


And who know what else. But - bottom line - there's enough that is more or less publicly available about what's already going on or contemplated to scare the crap out of anyone with half a soul and functional brain.

I'm not sure that that is all that large a percentage of the US population anymore, unfortunately.

Not good enough Wyden

"Senator Mark Udall and I tried again and again to get the executive branch to be straight with the public, but under the classification rules observed by the Senate we are not even allowed to tap the truth out in Morse code ­ and we tried just about everything else we could think of to warn the American people."

Did you take an oath to the Constitution or Not? No more chicken shits please! This is what we get from the "every loser gets a trophy" crowd. "I tried"
Well,,, piss on that.

Let's see some conviction for once.
In the words of Captain Sulu
"...fly her apart then!" That's the type of leadership we need!!!!

Shame on you! Not nearly good enough Mr. Wyden.
I think they would have still hung his sorry arse at Nuremberg with a defense like that. He and Udall and the rest of them that knew this type of information and made no effort to stop it, expose it or even resign from the f-ing committee for Christsakes! Sorry gallows for you too but,,, nice try.
Made me think of this scene from Monty Python
Cruciication? no freedom;
Hey, if you don't laugh about this you will certainly cry.

“Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him better take a closer look at the American Indian.” ― Henry Ford.

no kidding

"secret courts" ????????
"secret laws" ??????

I'm sorry, but these scumbags are all treasonous traitors to the Constitutional Republic.

Every last stinking one of them that let BUREAUCRATS dictate SECRET LAW.

They are all BOUGHT and CORRUPT LIARS.

What idiot...

in his right mind has the audacity to establish a secret court with secret law in the United States of America and feel that he is somehow justified in doing so? That is the height of insolence and disrespect to every American who has died in the interest of Liberty and Justice.

I'm in Ron Wyden's district.

Both him and DeFazio are pretty horrible, but they're still miles better than most.

Ron Wyden doesn't have a district

He is a Senator. He is one of 2 Senators shared by everyone in Oregon

LittleWing's picture


Peter DeFazio speaks upon the continuity of government plan, for which its contents are entirely classified for the Homeland Security Committee.


I have never heard any more from him on this subject.

If Wars Can Be Started by Lies, They Can Be Stopped By Truth.

thanks, sounds like the same kind of thing

everything is so secret we can't tell Congress. Give me a break. transparency, transparency, transparency

I would like to hear more from DeFazio on some of these topics. He is good when he gets going. Maybe he is just quietly voting now? He was one of the few that voted against the Patriot act initially.

I am in Ron's District also

I have been emailing and calling Wyden this past year keeping on him about drones and now this issue.

Prior to all the drone issues coming to light, Wyden was working hard to try to get the govt. contract to test drones in Eastern Oregon. I let him have it on that matter.

Not sure what has got him on the right track with these issues, but maybe he was "tricked" with the drone contract and now is in a turn around mode or "woke up".

Glad to see he is stepping up to the plate and speaking out. It does help to stay on their case by email and phone calls.

Garan's picture

What Happens when a Senator Disobeys?

What happens or is supposed to happen when a Senator disobeys directives to keep quiet?

Cyril's picture

God forbid, but among the numerous unfortunate possibilities

God forbid, but among the numerous unfortunate possibilities he be silenced, there are at least two very simple ones that come to mind, thanks to recent news:

helicopter accidents and car accidents.

If I were him, I'd be especially careful/watching out about those, from this point on...

And also especially, considering the oh so convenient shallowness of investigations that usually follows these days, as well.

God have mercy of his awakening.

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius

true, now he is getting press so he is more dangerous

Before they could just ignore him like he was crazy so he wasn't a threat. Now that people have the details confirmed (via Snowden) and the press is covering the story, he is more of a threat to the status quo.

who is

who is

Said all the right things

BUT....I lived in Oregon when he was first elected and he is not all what he says he is. www.thomas.gov will show you that if you want to inquire further.

Everyone has an awakening, but being that he was included in the meeting this afternoon with the pres. I say suspect.

Oregon is also one of the most entitled states out there.
I knew many people that were getting food stamps and health care, unemployment and no checks and balances. I also was friends with a social working that was asked in her interview,"Do you have a problem with giving financial assistance to illegal aliens".
Short story... do you want this job or not. Just shut your mouth.

Its not a hand up state, but a hand out state.

May have changed since i have left, but i doubt it.

But By all means lets make him stick to his words.
Force the change, now that his has preached it.
End the FED

Where are we?

This movement that he believes in, is yawning at his sacrifice.

What the fuck can we do to help him? Seriously. After watching his father and the fact our security was not compromised... and Greenwald explicitly returning to TV and calling out those that call him a traitor?

WTF?? What are WE doing to support this kid? Anything?

'Peace is a powerful message.' Ron Paul

robot999's picture

If we do not seize this moment in history...

to reform our surveillance laws, we will all DIE regretting it. (fixed, you're welcome)

"Government is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex". - Frank Zappa


What the hell can we do? This is the debate our Liberty movement should be challenging!!!

How the hell can we help this kid. He donated to our cause. He comes from Patriots.

What the hell are we going to do to support him?

I am absolutely convinced he meant America no harm. He saw illegal corruption, did his best to expose it..

And now he is languishing in a country with an abysmal record of human rights abuses.

What does that say about our Policy?

Thank God for him. At least he represents those that believe in the rule of law and human rights.

What the fuck does Brry have to stand on? Rhetoric?

'Peace is a powerful message.' Ron Paul

Russia is not a bad place to live if

you have some money, a job, friends and learn the language. There are lots of warm and very interesting people there--many intellectuals and people with a moral core (many also without one, like anywhere, unfortunately). It is a country which, given positive individual circumstances, is very spiritually enriching.

the America..

I grew up in is heads and shoulders above the power of the gov that is in Russia

Wake up. Please.

'Peace is a powerful message.' Ron Paul

Deep Sigh

It's a shame Snowden didn't tell Wyden in the first place.

It's very nice

that he is now speaking out, but he did nothing before Snowden courageously exposed these matters at a risk to his own life. It would be nice if Senator Wyden would have done the same..spoken out with courage and with risk to his career, life, and income. I don't accept his excuses, oh we can't talk, well neither could Snowden, but he stood up for his country and constitution anyway.

Wyden has been speaking out about this for years

Wyden has been speaking out about this for years.
It is only now people are starting to listen and only now he gets press. Did you pay attention the last time that the FISA bill came up- obviously not

Not true that he did nothing before Snowden

You can argue that he didn't do enough, but probably that could
be said about most of us...

I wish Wyden could get that Obamacare databases, National ID (immigration bill)
and gun control are civil liberties threats, too - but he and Udall have stepped up
to Obama on this surveillance state stuff to a far greater extent than nearly all the
rest of the Senate...


(March 17, 2012)