OR Senator Leads Effort to Tighten Regulations on Federal Surveillance

By Tom Bacon

An unusual coalition of U.S. senators led by Oregon's Ron Wyden aims to halt widespread snooping on Americans' communications and to create a sort of citizens' ombudsman in a secret surveillance court.

Wyden, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has gotten support from three other members of the committee, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, considered a libertarian and Tea Party favorite. Wyden's bill would end bulk collection of Americans' phone records, forbid the National Security Agency from conducting backdoor searches of communications without a warrant, and create a constitutional advocate to counterbalance government lawyers in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. The measure would also let private companies, such as Google, disclose more information about what data they're forced to hand over to the government. And it would create the right for individuals who are impacted by surveillance to sue the government.

But Wyden and his three senatorial colleagues may have a head-on collision with the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Diane Feinstein of California, who staunchly supports the NSA. Wyden said his bill is an attempt to set a high bar for debate ahead of the committee's first public hearing since  spying revelations by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Wyden may be gunning for the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper in the hearing, because of misleading statements he made last March.
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