8 votes

Vital Excerpts from Sen. Wyden Speech, If We Do Not Stop NSA Now, "We Will All Live to Regret it"

Just too important to not treat thoroughly. The entire speech is quite long, so here are condensed vital excerpts to share. Given by Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Tuesday, July 23, at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/sen-ron-wyden-nsa-sp...

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...

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When Oregonians hear the words "secret law," they have come up to me and asked, “Ron, how can the law be secret? When you guys pass laws that’s a public deal. I’m going to look them up online.” In response, I tell Oregonians that there are effectively two Patriot Acts ­­the first is the one that they can read on their laptop in Medford or Portland, analyze and understand. Then there’s the real Patriot Act—the secret interpretation of the law that the government is actually relying upon....

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If you know who someone called, when they called, where they called from, and how long they talked, you lay bare the personal lives of law­abiding Americans to the scrutiny of government bureaucrats and outside contractors. This is particularly true if you’re vacuuming up cell phone location data, essentially turning every American’s cell phone into a tracking device. We are told this is not happening today, but intelligence officials have told the press that they currently have the legal authority to collect Americans’ location information in bulk.

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Especially troubling is the fact that there is nothing in the Patriot Act that limits this sweeping bulk collection to phone records. The government can use the Patriot Act’s business records authority to collect, collate and retain all sorts of sensitive information, including medical records, financial records, or credit card purchases. They could use this authority to develop a database of gun owners or readers of books and magazines deemed subversive. This means that the government’s authority to collect information on law­abiding American citizens is essentially limitless. If it is a record held by a business, membership organization, doctor, or school, or any other third party, it could be subject to bulk collection under the Patriot Act.

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Authorities this broad give the national security bureaucracy the power to scrutinize the personal lives of every law­-abiding American. Allowing that to continue is a grave error that demonstrates a willful ignorance of human nature. Moreover, it demonstrates a complete disregard for the responsibilities entrusted to us by the founding fathers to maintain robust checks and balances on the power of any arm of the government. That obviously raises some very serious questions. What happens to our government, our civil liberties and our basic democracy if the surveillance state is allowed to grow unchecked? As we have seen in recent days, the intelligence leadership is determined to hold on to this authority.

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For those who believe executive branch officials will voluntarily interpret their surveillance authorities with restraint, I believe it is more likely that I will achieve my life­long dream of playing in the NBA.

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And let’s be clear: the public was not just kept in the dark about the Patriot Act and other secret authorities. The public was actively misled.

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A few weeks ago more than a quarter of the U.S. Senate wrote to the director of National Intelligence demanding public answers to additional questions about the use of the government’s surveillance authorities. It’s been two months since the disclosures by Mr. Snowden, and the signers of this letter—including key members of the senate leadership and committee chairs with decades of experience—have made it clear they are not going to accept more stonewalling or misleading statements. Patriot Act reform legislation has also been introduced. The centerpiece of this effort would require that the government show a demonstrated link to terrorism or espionage before collecting Americans’ personal information.

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my colleagues and I were finally able to get the official Justice Department opinions laying out what the government believes the rules are for the targeted killings of Americans. You probably know this as the drones issue. These documents on killing Americans weren’t even being shared with members of Congress on a classified basis, let alone with the American people. You may have heard me say this before, but I believe every American has the right to know when their government thinks it is allowed to kill them.