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Oregon Sen. Wyden On The NSA, "The Law Always Ought To Be Public"

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

"When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they are going to be stunned, and they are going to be angry," said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden on the Senate floor in May, 2011. He was referencing the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program.

Over the last few months it has come to light that the NSA has been collecting vast amounts of data from Americans, including phone calls, emails and even Facebook messages. Last week, Microsoft and Google announced they’ll go forward with a lawsuit against the federal government. The tech companies are hoping to publish information about the government’s requests for user data.

As news continues to break on the scope of the NSA's surveillance program, Wyden has emerged as one of its strongest critics. He talked with Marcie Sillman on The Record September 3.

On Secret Laws

"There's a difference between secret operations and secret law. For example, the details of how you would go about capturing a dangerous terrorist — that has to be kept secret. Because it involves sources and methods, and Americans can die as a result of that kind of information being made public. But secret operations are different than secret law. The law always ought to be public. That's the central underpinning of a system like ours."

On Making Changes To The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

"There needs to be an independent advocate in the FISA court because the FISA court process is so one sided. You essentially only hear one side of the discussion. Another major change would be to declassify the legal underpinnings of decisions made by the FISA court. In 2009, the Obama Administration wrote to Senator Rockefeller and myself saying that they would begin an effort to start declassifying some of those opinions — and to date, not one has been declassified."

On Data Mining Phone Records

"Going through people's phone calls today is an extraordinarily cumbersome exercise. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. The reason why meta data is so significant, is that it lends itself to computer analysis. You can see these patterns. Meta data is almost like a human relations database. You don't need to be listening to people's calls to know an awful lot about them and personal, intimate details of their lives."


Year started with KUOW: 2006