Senators Wyden And Udall: US Gov't Still Not Being Honest About NSA Surveillance
from the but-of-course dept
Wyden told Politco that "U.S. intelligence agencies’ violations of court orders on surveillance of Americans is worse than the government is letting on." Julian Sanchez, over at Cato, notes that Wyden seems to be all but screaming about how the feds have also collected location data, despite carefully worded denials. As Sanchez notes, Wyden keeps going back to questions concerning location tracking via mobile phones -- and it would seem odd to do that if he didn't know something. After all, the revealed info so far hasn't included location data:
Wyden’s constant references to location tracking in this context would be nothing short of bizarre unless he had reason to believe that the governments assurances on this score are misleading, and that there either is or has been some program involving bulk collection of phone records. Wyden, of course, would know full well whether there is or is not any such program via his role on the Intelligence Committee—and his focus on location tracking over the activities we know NSA is engaged in, such as monitroing of Internet communications and bulk collection of phone records, would be an inexplicable obsession if he knew that no such program existed.From what Wyden said today, it sounds like the NSA potentially did collect location data, but may not be doing so currently "under these programs."
Both Udall and Wyden took to the Senate floor this evening to argue further that the government is not being fully honest in what it does, and that it's a violation of our privacy. They're now introducing legislation to limit these government surveillance programs (from the Patriot Act Section 215 and the FISA Amendments Act Section 702). Specifically, the proposal is for the government to be able to request that the telcos do a search if they can show a good reason for a search -- rather than collecting all data and searching them later.
Udall pointed out that defenders of these programs are carefully choosing their words and conflating various programs, picking and choosing to mislead the American public. For example, he points out that the claims that the bulk phone records program was instrumental in stopping 54 "terrorism" cases are not accurate, and that, as an Intelligence Committee member, he's yet to see any evidence that the bulk collection of phone records has been necessary to stop any terrorism event. Rather he hints strongly that defenders of the program are using other programs and using misleading statements to pretend the bulk records were necessary. As he points out, the bulk records may have made things more convenient, but that's no excuse for violating the privacy of millions (or hundreds of millions) of innocent Americans.
Wyden's speech goes into similar territory about the complete lack of evidence that the bulk data collection was necessary in any terrorist cases, but then goes further, saying that the "classified" documents that James Clapper sent last week show that the NSA's admitted violations of the Patriot Act show that their actions are significantly worse than has already been disclosed. He urged other Senators to go read the classified documents that Clapper sent, noting that when they read them, they'll realize just how badly the intelligence community has violated the law. He says that he's going to push to have more info about those abuses disclosed and declassified. Later, he points out that the rules of the Intelligence Committee mean he's not allowed to "tap out warnings in Morse code" and that limits his ability to play the watchdog role he's supposed to play on that Committee. He also said that their public statements "significantly exaggerated" the importance of bulk data programs -- and uses the example of the bulk data collection of emails, which was shut down in 2011 after the surveillance community failed to prove to the Intelligence Committee that the program was actually useful. He notes that if the government can't show that the program increases either security or liberty, it seems like it should be ended. Instead, he notes that we can make changes to the intelligence community that let us have security and liberty without compromising either.