Oregon Senator Hails Ruling Against Collection of Bulk Phone Records

By Tom Bacon

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has gotten some vindication in his long effort to bring government intelligence collection programs to heel.

Wyden, a member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, hailed a federal judge's ruling Monday that the National Security Agency has likely broken constitutional limits on massive collection of e-mail and phone records of Americans. Shortly after the ruling was issued, Wyden hailed it as hitting the nail on the head.

The senior Oregon senator said the ruling makes it clear that bulk phone records collection is intrusive digital surveillance, and not simply inoffensive data collection as the administration has claimed. The judge also echoed a theme that Wyden has been playing for years now - that vacuuming up huge amounts of communications records has not stopped a single imminent terrorist attack.

Wyden said the executive branch claims about the program's effectiveness are now -as he put it- crumbling under public scrutiny. Wyden is in a ticklish spot with his crusade to shed light on NSA's data collection. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he is forbidden from making public the information he hears in the committee. But he's been asking questions for years now, including one question to the US director of national intelligence last spring. At the time, James Clapper denied collecting indiscriminate data on millions of Americans. He later had to admit that he lied, or at least, had misled Congress.

Wyden has introduced a bill to rein in the excesses of the NSA. Among other things, his measure would outlaw bulk collection of phone and communication records.
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