Oregon Senator Demands Transparency About Government Phone Tapping

By Tom Bacon

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden believes an open society should not be governed by secret law.  So, he took to the Senate floor Thursday morning, demanding that U.S. intelligence agencies give Congress estimates of how often e-mails and phone calls of Americans are tapped during surveillance of terrorist suspects overseas. 

Wyden has been frustrated for years now in his quest to find out details about how often American communications are picked up during surveillance. He opened debate on a bill to re-authorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - commonly shortened to "FISA." Wyden said he supports the general goals of the law, but he fears that Americans are sometimes swept up into the eavesdropping net.

The director of national intelligence told Wyden earlier this year it was not possible to identify the number of people - let alone their identities - whose communications may have been captured under the foreign intelligence law.

Wyden told his colleagues that any idea of congressional oversight on the issue is toothless if lawmakers can't get basic information.
As he put it, "if you're looking for reassurance that the law is being carried out in a way that respects the privacy of law-abiding Americans, you won't find it."

Wyden's fellow senator, Jeff Merkley, also wants to amend the bill to require that court opinions of the FISA law be declassified.
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