Senator Wyden Warns Against the Surveillance State

By:  Bob Adelmann
Senator Wyden Warns Against the Surveillance State

On most issues, Oregon Senate Democrat Ron Wyden is predictably progressive. But not when it comes to the dangers of the surveillance state. In a remarkable speech he ripped it apart.

In a remarkable speech to the left-wing progressive Center for American Progress on July 23, hard-core liberal Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden (shown in photo) tore into the surveillance state, exposing its capabilities, its secret rules, its secret court, and its failed efforts to protect itself from exposure. Wyden also noted the barest beginnings of a congressional effort to rein in the all-seeing-eye of the National Security Agency (NSA).

On most matters liberal, Wyden is a dependable “yes” vote, supporting gun control, gay marriage, the initial Patriot Act, Bush’s prescription drug benefit and other predictable pieces of the progressive platform. (His rating in The New American's "Freedom Index" is only 17 percent.) But when it comes to the surveillance state, Wyden has become a stumbling block to the Left and to the White House. Thought he voted for the first iteration of the Patriot Act — on the condition that it include a sunset clause so that Congress could reconsider the law when the fear engendered by the 9/11 attacks had subsided and cooler heads would presumably prevail — he was one of the cooler heads who later opposed it. When the Patriot Act was up for reauthorization in 2011, he took to the floor of the Senate to say:

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.

But because of Senate rules that prohibit members of the Senate from going public with such information (Wyden is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee), Americans never learned and consequently weren't stunned or angry. In his July 23 speech to the Center for American progress, he recalled:

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.

When Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, came along, what Wyden knew, but couldn't tell, was now out in the open:

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