Oregon Senators React to Massive U.S. Surveillance

By Tom Bacon

Of the six U-S Senators who represent northwest states - Idaho, Oregon and Washington - only two have had anything to say about the revelations of massive communication surveillance by the U.S. government. And those two - Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley - have had plenty to say.

Wyden has struggled for years to make the government come clean about its intelligence gathering operations under the PATRIOT act and through secret court orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Over the weekend, Wyden all but accused senior administration officials of lying about the data collection program. He and Colorado Senator Mark Udall, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, flatly said that the communications surveillance has not provided any uniquely valuable intelligence. Wyden said the information gleaned would have been available under other methods which do not violate the privacy of Americans as the PATRIOT Act does.

The Oregon Democrat also rebuked President Obama's contention that vacuuming up huge volumes of communications strikes the "right balance" between security and privacy. As he put it - "when Americans call their friends and family, whom they call, when they call and where they call from is private information".  Merkley was even more blunt. He said "This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans' privacy". Merkley voted against both renewal of the PATRIOT Act and of the FISA authorization. Idaho Senator Jim Risch, a Republican, is also on the Senate Intelligence Committee, but so far, he's been silent on the controversy.
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