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Thu Aug 15, 2013, 06:20 PM

Rolling Stone Interviews Wyden re: Snowden/NSA: '8 Weeks Ago We Would Not Have Had A Debate' (update

Last edited Thu Aug 15, 2013, 08:57 PM - Edit history (1)

Q&A: Senator Ron Wyden on NSA Surveillance and Government Transparency
'If we don't recognize that this is a truly unique moment in America's constitutional history, our generation's going to regret it forever.'


You, though, have known for quite a while that these officials haven't been straight with us – and yet you weren't fully open until after the Snowden leak. Do you regret that you didn't say something sooner?

There are very significant limits , and they are very cumbersome and unwieldy. If you want to play a watchdog role, you try to work within the rules. This is a sensitive subject. A lot of people have just said to me, "Well, you feel so strongly about (these issues)– when you knew this, why didn't you just go to the floor of the United States Senate and just, you know, read it all ?" And, of course, anybody who does this kind of work thinks a lot about that. You think about it all the time. I can see why plenty of people would criticize me – progressives and others. I can understand why plenty of people who have views similar to mine would say they would have done it differently.


Edward Snowden has said publicly that he, too, tried to play by the rules, and made the decision to leak only after realizing the depth of that culture of misinformation you speak of. Do you think he acted correctly, or was there some other way this information could have come out?

Years ago, because I made the judgment of how important it was to try to drive these policy reforms – and because when you're on the Intelligence Committee and you get into making these comments, it just never stops – I said, "I am not going to comment when somebody in the intelligence field is part of an ongoing criminal investigation." And has, of course, been charged with espionage. So I'm just gonna stick to that one.

But do you think a charge of espionage is appropriate? Many people believe Snowden is a whistleblower.
I've made my statement about Mr. Snowden. But setting that aside, what's happened in the last eight weeks really takes your breath away. I mean, eight weeks ago, we would not have had a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives on these issues. Eight weeks ago, we would not have gotten two hundred or more votes. Eight weeks ago, we would not have the NSA taking down fact sheets after members of the United States Senate took them on. Eight weeks ago, we would not have had bills coming in from both chambers on a whole host of subjects. These issues, which were unheard of eight weeks ago, I now have people coming up to me at the barbershop, asking me about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.


What, finally, do you think is the best way to make sure we don't go backwards? Should there be prosecutions? Are there other ways to encourage more transparency?

The way we deal with this best, in my view, is to recognize this is a unique time in our constitutional history. These digital technologies have grown so rapidly, and we really can't even get our arms around it. It used to be that the limits on technologies were to a great extent a form of protection for the American people. A lot of that seems to be going to the wind. We're sitting here with computers in our pockets, smartphones, with the ability to track people 24/7. These issues are as important as it gets. And Americans have a right to real debate the way you deal with the constitutional teeter-totter of liberty and security. It's hard to think of anything more important to our country and our bedrock values. And I think what will protect people now will be the laws that we write to rein in this omnipresent, ever-expanding surveillance state. And if we don't do it now – if we don't recognize that this is a truly unique moment in America's constitutional history – our generation's going to regret it forever.




UPDATE To include this from Emptywheel re: RS Interview Of Wyden:

In an interview published yesterday, Ron Wyden (who had already been on the Senate Intelligence Committee for several years in 2006) revealed when he first learned about the phone dragnet.

You went from supporting the Patriot Act in 2001 to pushing relentlessly for its de-authorization. What was the tipping point?

My concerns obviously deepened when I first learned that the Patriot Act was being used to justify the bulk collection of Americans’ records, which was in late 2006 or early 2007.

In other words, the government didn’t get around to briefing all of the Intelligence Committee about this collection until months after it started, and possibly up to a year after they first briefed related issues to the FISC.

Here’s how the White Paper turns that unforgivable delay into a boast.

Moreover, in early 2007, the Department of Justice began providing all significant FISC pleadings and orders related to this program to the Senate and House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. By December 2008, all four committees had received the initial application and primary order authorizing the telephony metadata collection. Thereafter, all pleadings and orders reflecting significant legal developments regarding the program were produced to all four committees.

Translation: The Executive Branch stalled for an impermissibly long period of time after this dragnet started before briefing even the Intelligence Committee. And while we might blame the Bush Administration, remember that Keith Alexander was already running the dragnet by this period.

So not only didn’t the government tell Congress it was using PATRIOT to conduct dragnet collection of Internet metadata when it reauthorized it in 2006, but it didn’t even tell all members of SSCI until well after the phone dragnet moved under PATRIOT as well.

- See more at: http://www.emptywheel.net/#sthash.3zdS9IoF.dpuf

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Reply Rolling Stone Interviews Wyden re: Snowden/NSA: '8 Weeks Ago We Would Not Have Had A Debate' (update (Original post)
kpete Aug 2013 OP
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Response to kpete (Original post)

Thu Aug 15, 2013, 06:27 PM

1. Aint that the truth! nt

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Response to kpete (Original post)

Thu Aug 15, 2013, 08:37 PM

3. Very interesting. Rec'd

What are your major beefs with U.S. intelligence leaders?
I think a number of the intelligence leaders have been part of what I call a "culture of misinformation." I find it troubling that the Director of the NSA went to a conference at the American Enterprise Institute and said they don't hold data on U.S. citizens. I think that was one of the most false statements ever made about surveillance. In addition to that, he made similarly misleading comments about collecting "dossiers" on Americans at the DefCon hacker convention in summer 2012. This was a senior intelligence official with the highest clearance possible making misleading statements to the public. Senator Mark Udall and I wrote him a letter asking him to correct and clarify his remarks. He corrected some of them, but he declined to clarify his comments about collecting information on "millions or hundreds of millions of Americans." Senator Udall and I also wrote to the Director of National Intelligence, but he too declined to clarify the NSA Director's remarks. I've got all those letters up on my website if anybody would like to read them.

In March, you asked the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, whether the government knowingly collected data on millions of Americans, and he answered "not wittingly" – which we now know was, basically, a lie. Yet Clapper has described it as "the least untruthful" answer he could have given. What's the story behind that?

After both the NSA Director and the Director of National Intelligence declined to clarify these remarks in writing, I decided it was necessary to ask the Director of National Intelligence about them at an open hearing. I sent the question over a day in advance so that he would be prepared to answer it. They didn't ask me not to ask the question – and when they've made requests like that for security reasons, I've always respected them. If they had asked me not to ask the question I would have not asked the question, though I would have kept trying to find a way to press them on it. When the Director gave an inaccurate answer to the question, I had my staff call his office later on a secure line and urge them to amend his response. They decided to let his inaccurate answer stand on the public record, until about a month after the Snowden disclosures. Even then, they started off trying to defend his answer, before finally admitting publicly that it had been inaccurate.

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