When it comes to the NSA's overbroad surveillance activities, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) would be perfectly within his rights to say "I told you so." Wyden, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been talking – vaguely, because all the information was classified back then – about how the Patriot Act was being used in an overbroad way to keep tabs on American citizens. It used to be that spying on American citizens was outside the NSA's purview and jurisdiction, but the Patriot Act and other laws opened the flood gates. But Wyden was sounding alarm bells about this way back in 2011.
"I want to deliver a warning this afternoon," Wyden said in 2011. "When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry."
Fast forward to 2013 and we now understand what he was talking about.
Speaking to Ars Technica last week, Senator Wyden told the publication that Edward Snowden's leaks about PRISM and mobile phone meta data collection are just the tip of the iceberg. Like most things the NSA is doing, the details on the other stuff we do not know about is classified:
"There is a lot more to know, particularly in terms of getting a declassified version of the legal analysis used by the FISA court," Wyden told Ars. "When people get that, and see it in the context of the bulk phone records program, they will see how astoundingly broad it is. We've got secret law, authorizing secret surveillance, being interpreted by a largely secret court.
The administration's legal rationale talks about something that sounds like there's a connection to terrorism. Instead, it's morphed into an arrangement where, for millions of law-abiding Americans, the government knows who they called, when they called, and where they called from. It's a treasure trove of human relationship data. In my view, that reveals so much about the lives of law-abiding Americans."
When asked if Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA were a good thing, Senator Wyden said that he couldn't comment on much of it because a criminal investigation is underway, but also added that "the debate of the last eight weeks should have been started a long, long, long time ago by those who hold elected office, rather than by Edward Snowden."
Finally, Senator Wyden warned that if surveillance laws aren't revised and modernized to keep pace with technology, Americans are going to regret it in the future:
"This is a unique time in our constitutional history," Senator Wyden said. "There's been a combination of dramatic changes in technology, and sweeping decisions from the FISA court. If we don't take the opportunity to revise our surveillance laws now—to show that security and liberty can go hand in hand—all of us are going to regret it."
You can read the entire interview here.
Source: Ars Technica