Senate Insider Speaks Out: Ex-Wyden Staffer on Secret Laws, Domestic Spying and Obama’s NSA Reforms

Democracy Now!, 8/12/13

As President Obama proposed a series of changes to reform the government’s surveillance policies and programs, we speak to Jennifer Hoelzer, the former deputy chief of staff for Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a longtime critic of the Obama administration for using a secret interpretation of the USA PATRIOT Act to allow the NSA to conduct domestic surveillance. “Unfortunately Edward Snowden was the only means by which we have been able to have this debate,” Hoelzer says. “We, working for Senator Wyden, did everything to try to encourage the administration to bring these facts to light. We’re not talking about sources and methods, we’re not talking about sensitive materials, we’re talking about what they believed the law allows them to do.” Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper has revealed the National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases to search for email and phone calls of U.S. citizens without a warrant. According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, NSA operatives can hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information….

continue reading at Democracy Now!

See also timeline and documentation at Senator Wyden’s (D-OR) site:

Secret Law

In recent months, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has been ramping up efforts to address the Intelligence Community’s reliance on secret interpretations of surveillance law, arguing that while “intelligence agencies need to be able to conduct operations in secret, even secret operations need to be conducted within the bounds of established, publicly understood law.”

Wyden has been pressing the Intelligence Community to disclose more information about how it interprets surveillance law since 2008, while increasingly raising concerns – in both classified and unclassified settings – that there is a significant gap between what the American people and most members of Congress believe is legal under laws like the Patriot Act and how government agencies are interpreting the law.

Below is a timeline of Wyden’s public efforts….

continue reading at Senator Wyden’s (D-OR) site

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