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Privacy Democrats Government United States

Senator: 'Plenty' of Domestic Surveillance We Still Don't Know About 107

An anonymous reader writes: In a recent interview, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has complained about the Obama administration's failure to shut down the NSA's bulk collection of phone metadata. This program and most other programs we've heard of were disclosed by Edward Snowden. But Snowden couldn't tell us everything. When asked if there were further domestic surveillance programs about which the public knows nothing, Senator Wyden said, "Yeah, there's plenty of stuff." The ones he knows about are classified, so he couldn't elaborate. "Even in cases where the public has been informed of government practices, Wyden warned the government still collects far too much information on millions of citizens with virtually no accountability."
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Senator: 'Plenty' of Domestic Surveillance We Still Don't Know About

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2015 @12:41PM (#49261971)

    It's too bad that Wyden isn't half the patriot Snowden is. We need someone in authority to step up, tell the American people what is going on, and take the heat for it. The last 2 administrators have been so anti-liberty that one can make the argument the government is no longer working for the people.

    • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:10PM (#49262107) Homepage

      5 seconds later, he'd be arrested for revealing classified information. Then the American people would vilify him as a traitor for letting the terrorists know how they're being watched, and he'd be put on trial for treason. In the end, it would make no difference. Nothing will until the majority of the people actually care and desire to not be spied on.

      • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:13PM (#49262117) Homepage

        As for when the people will care -- it'll be after a big scandal involving the abuse of domestic spying powers. Reporting on the spying itself will never disturb most people. A report on say the IRS borrowing NSA spy data to repossess people's guns, on the other hand, will cause a frenzy.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        War is Peace
        Freedom is Slavery
        Ignorance is Strength
      • by WGFCrafty ( 1062506 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:18PM (#49262147)

        And besides, he's a senator. He is actually in a position to talk and be heard by people that matter. Moreover he's the one telling us that there are even more programs, and that he disagrees with the expansive privacy violating abilities the make possible.

        The downfall of this "more perfect union" is going to be from within and in the name of protecting it from terrorists.

        • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:32PM (#49262229) Homepage Journal
          Too bad he's not in a position where he could write some sort of law about it. If you can't fix the problem from there, the problem's not fixable. I'm guessing the majority of the American public either approves or doesn't care. I guess in which case, is the problem even a problem? I mean clearly some people here and this guy seems to think it's a problem, but if the vast majority doesn't agree, are you going to tell them they're wrong? I'm pretty sure that's the definition of fascism. Just sayin'...
          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            The US Constitution was written to protect individual rights from a tyranny of the majority. The problem is judges who can't read plain English, and will rationalize to give the other branches whatever they want. The Supremes deserve contempt.
            • It was also built to be a living document; to change and flow with the will of the governed. Since majority of the governed don't seem to care or are ok with it, its completely constitutional. That being said, I'm moving to the Caymans, or I hear Amsterdam is nice this time of year.
            • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

              I would say rather that SCOTUS has saved us from much abuse by the majority, but that their reading of the Constitution is not sufficiently strict -- itself a hazard of considering it a "living document" as the other reply contends. But I say if its meaning can be changed, then its meaning can become anything, depending on the whims of tomorrow's interpretation.

        • The problem is that he is a Democrat and from Oregon. This basically means that he will be vilified by the right. And for those of you who think I am being a political hack the Democrats are just as bad when someone like Rand Paul does it too. Remember when our side does it, it is great but when the other side does it they are helping terrorists win or are racists.
      • And then he would be the senator from Russia!

        Actually, I do not think he would live that long. Someone would probably kill him, be arrested and convicted in a blindly public way, and while we think he is in prison- back in D wing playing house with Buba, he would be doing covert operations in foreign lands under his real name or another cover name.

        I think he has to be more tactful than just releasing information. Perhaps getting drunk and slipping a name or two out so a reporter could follow the clues and f

        • He's a patriot, he isn't going to violate his oath just to push his agenda.

          I support his agenda to scale back these programs, and I support him doing it from within. He's almost the only one trying, and I'm proud that he represents my State.

      • by jmac_the_man ( 1612215 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @02:31PM (#49262529)
        Like all members of the federal Legislature (the House and the Senate), Wyden is Constutionally protected from being punished for any action taken in the course of his official duties. (Dipshits from both parties have gotten out of drunk driving tickets by saying they were on their way to the Capitol, so this is a pretty broad protection.) If Wyden obtained a classified document about surveillance programs and ordered it read into the Congressional Record, which is a routine thing that Senators and Representatives do, he couldn't be punished for it. (The Pentagon Papers were read into the Congressional Record this way, for example.)
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          This just proves that Wyden, like all other critters, is out for himself and his fellow mates.
          A lot of baloney talk about you and your rights, but when it comes to the grind, he's still a shill and a fraidy cat.
          Make them afraid of YOU...... DO NOT VOTE FOR ANY INCUMBENT CANDIDATE.... EVER!!!
          There is no reason for it. They are all scum, there is no reason for you to give any of them the leverage of a second term.

        • "Constutionally protected from being punished"

          you are misinformed in more than just your spelling, sir. The only thing that I can think of that you may be referring to is the national defense act where party members granted themselves immunity from war crimes. LOL! I would love to see that tested in court. Where does it say in the constitution that our legislative branch is immune from the laws that they themselves make?

          • "Constutionally protected from being punished"

            you are misinformed in more than just your spelling, sir... Where does it say in the constitution that our legislative branch is immune from the laws that they themselves make?

            Sorry about the poor spelling, I was on a cell phone at the time. Anyway, you're looking for the Speech or Debate Clause, which is in Article 1 Section 6 of the Constitution.

            The Senators and Representatives shall... in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place

            The Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] article on the clause has a couple of good examples of elected representatives getting off for things.(they don't mention the dirtbags who got off for DUIs by claiming they were en route to the Capitol.) They even have an example of a Senator reading a classified document into the Congressional Record.

            • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

              That's very interesting. Thanks for the information. I wasn't aware of the Congressional Record method of exposing classified documents.

              One wonders if this clause might also explain some of the blatantly unconstitutional legislation that's occasionally introduced (since it's been suggested elsewhere that such an action should be punishable by law).

              • One wonders if this clause might also explain some of the blatantly unconstitutional legislation that's occasionally introduced (since it's been suggested elsewhere that such an action should be punishable by law).

                That's exactly what the clause is for. It protects legislators from being arrested for advocating for things (or proposing laws) that the executive dislikes. Even if the executive dislikes a bill because it's unconstitutional, he can't have the sponsor arrested.

            • They do not need to read it into the congressional record to be protected under the Speech of Debate Clause of the constitution. Listen to the first senator, Gravel, that ever exercised this right speak. He was uncertain of the legal grounds, so he intended to read it into the congressional record as part of a filibuster. This was prevented by process, so he called a subcommittee hearing and read it into the subcommittee record.

              This senator now states that the supreme court ruling about his actions protects

      • Speech and debate clause.

      • In the end, it would make no difference. Nothing will until the majority of the people actually care and desire to not be spied on.

        I don't know how you came to that conclusion but everyone I've talked to definitely have strong opinions on the matter. Not one of them thought that government spying on it's citizens is a good idea.

        Just because you don't see people protesting in the streets it doesn't mean they don't care. I think you'll see how much this issue matters to people in the next presidential election.

        • Not one of them thought that government spying on it's citizens is a good idea.

          Seems that you know people who actually care and don't fall for the BS "if you have nothing to hide" line. If I look around at the people I know who are closer to what would be considered the average American most of them seem to support these actions. For example my mother puts it as at least they are trying to do something. My sister will repeat the if you have nothing to hide line, while her husband, a former Marine, thinks the programs should be expanded.

          I think you'll see how much this issue matters to people in the next presidential election.

          So by using the results of the last election and

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        5 seconds later, he'd be arrested for revealing classified information. Then the American people would vilify him as a traitor for letting the terrorists know how they're being watched, and he'd be put on trial for treason. In the end, it would make no difference. Nothing will until the majority of the people actually care and desire to not be spied on.

        That would be quite a trick:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      one can make the argument the government is no longer working for the people.

      The argument for that is that study showing no correlation between public demands and representatives votes in congress, but high correlation with corporate interests (lobbying / legalized bribery).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        one can make the argument the government is no longer working for the people.

        The argument for that is that study showing no correlation between public demands and representatives votes in congress, but high correlation with corporate interests (lobbying / legalized bribery).

        In a system that supposedly carries out the will of the majority of people, you must agree it's odd that gay people are roughly 3% of the population and states everywhere are legalizing gay marriage, yet over 2/3 of Americans admit they have used marijuana (probably there are more who won't admit to an illegal act) and its recreational use remains almost universally illegal, with only a few states as exceptions to this.

        Both the homosexuals and the marijuana users deserve to get what they want. Neither are

    • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:20PM (#49262155)
      We need someone in authority to step up, tell the American people what is going on, and take the heat for it.

      So Wyden spills the beans, goes to jail, and then we're left with no one on the inside that will let us know that the intelligence community is still overstepping their bounds. As a bonus, after Wyden tells everyone what's going on, the executive branch refuses to take any action and continues to cow the legislature into letting them do what they want because the rest of the Intelligence Committee is largely a stunning exercise in uselessness.

      As long as he remains in office and on the Committee, Wyden is doing more good being on the inside - certainly more good than those like Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, or my own state's elected dickhead Marco Rubio. Only in the event Wyden loses his place on the Committee or fails to get re-elected would coming out and telling everything he knows be potentially useful.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        He's not doing anything useful. He is not telling us anything that can't already be assumed to be true. He mentions the existence of more classified programs, but that should not come as any surprise to anyone with an ounce of awareness. He sits of the oversight committees, asks inconvenient questions, and is otherwise ignored there.

        So what use is he?

    • by facetube ( 4023065 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:36PM (#49262251)
      Wyden's on-record questioning of James Clapper – wherein Clapper answered "No sir... not wittingly" to Wyden's "Do you collect any information on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" question – is cited by Snowden as the event that pushed him over the edge, and caused him to disclose the US domestic spying programs. Wyden's patriotism set the whole thing in motion.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Who gives a shit? It feels good to attack others. Giving them credit for when they do the right thing doesn't build up my ego, so fuck that.

      • Wyden's on-record questioning of James Clapper â" wherein Clapper answered "No sir... not wittingly" to Wyden's "Do you collect any information on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" question â" is cited by Snowden as the event that pushed him over the edge, and caused him to disclose the US domestic spying programs. Wyden's patriotism set the whole thing in motion.

        I wonder if Wyden really knows this... and realizes where it may lead. If political ambition is his goal he could take it to the top some day. In 2015 Americans view 'the government' as the No. 1 Problem [gallup.com] to solve. Unfortunately the issues they are most upset with -- such as healthcare -- are extremely partisan.

        Domestic NSA surveillance is NOT a partisan issue. Who will chair the first Church Committee of the 21st Century? Senator Frank Church warned us waay back in 1975 [gallup.com],

        "Now, that is necessary and important

    • Look at the whole thing this way:

      1. Edward Snowden told us what we had already suspected, but the things Mr. Snowden told us is just a very tiny part of the big picture

      2. Ron Wyden, as a senator, knows things that Edward Snowden doesn't know, but he can't tell us the things that he knows because they are classified

      3. Even as a senator, Ron Wyden himself are not told of many things that are going on, as there are very highly classified things that even senators like Ron Wyden has no authority to know

      4. Thing

      • What is there that are so important to protect that propels them to do all these???

        Power. Same as every failed government for the past seven thousand years.

        2. Ron Wyden, as a senator, knows things that Edward Snowden doesn't know, but he can't tell us the things that he knows because they are classified.

        Of course he can - he just chooses not to risk the possible consequences of doing so.

        Snowden made news because he still believes in "our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honors" - which is all but absent in

    • he doesnt realize (along with all the other candidates) that one if the easiest ways to get a front runner status in this election is privacy concerns. We need another snowden, but we need one to blow the lid off things even bigger and even faster. At first i liked the slow trickle but now i want the dump
      • Getting the public riled up doesn't appear to solve the problem of the government sneaking around doing illegal stuff. If you want this to stop, you must solve the problem of how to force the government to follow the rules first.
        • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

          If you talk to average people on the street, you'll find that a significant fraction, perhaps even a majority ARE riled up -- but don't know what to do about it. I certainly don't have a plan for halting, let alone reversing surveillance creep -- do you??

          The best I can do from here is to vote for pro-privacy and small-government candidates. Small government is important here -- when it's small and preferably a bit under-funded, it doesn't have the resources to waste on watching average Americans (nor on cra

  • In the end the worrying thing is not that "they" are watching us, it is that they do everything in their power to stop us watching them. Whether by voting you government in or even by abstaining they are still your government and you must do what they say - including going to war. But if you are unable to watch them then democracy itself becomes no more than a marketing exercise.
    • by geoskd ( 321194 )

      But if you are unable to watch them then democracy itself becomes no more than a marketing exercise.

      democracy has never been anything other than a marketing exercise. The moment government comes into being, it is used by those with the power to control those without. The cynic in me suspects that government has no other purpose.

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @12:51PM (#49262017)

    ... stop being an enabler and speak up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "... stop being an enabler and speak up."

      Most people are locked in the matrix of their upbringing and education, they are quite literally spinning in terms of exhaustion/being distracted by stress of school/work and debt (paying the bills). We'll not get into poor parental environment or upbringing which heavily interferes with all of that. And yes you can be manipulated without knowing it.

      Reason doesn't work the way we thought it does:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYmi0DLzBdQ [youtube.com]

      This (mass surveillance) by

    • by JoeRandomHacker ( 983775 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:58PM (#49262361)

      ... stop being an enabler and speak up.

      Nobody wants to listen. They have other things to worry about. Like lives. And even if we could get them to care, they best they could do within the system is vote for the candidate who is slightly less in favor of the surveillance instead of the candidate who is slightly more in favor of the surveillance.

      • Nah.

        The wheels are already falling off.

        I give you Manning and Snowden.

        I'm not taking a position on their wisdom, but that's the weak point.

        People are way smarter than other people.

  • Send a letter (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:02PM (#49262075)

    If a bunch of Republican senators could get together and write a letter outlining the details of these abuses, I'm sure there wouldn't be any consequences (to themselves) whether the spying is classified or not. Plus, it would be a great way to limit the powers of the federal government and stick it to Obama at the same time!

    • Re:Send a letter (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:30PM (#49262219) Journal

      I'm sure there wouldn't be any consequences (to themselves) whether the spying is classified or not

      If Senator Wyden actually believed that these programs were undermining civil liberties he could read them into the Congressional record with no consequences whatsoever [wikipedia.org] to his person or position. He'd undoubtedly lose access to classified information going forward but he could not be held accountable for the breech thereof.

      The thing is, and nobody here wants to hear this, all of the people "in the know" about these programs seem to agree that they're necessary. Even those Senators and Representatives whose political leanings suggest they wouldn't support these programs (Wyden, Pelosi, et. al) haven't outright condemned them. Neither has the sitting President, who may you recall railed these practices as a candidate, then reversed himself once he had the nomination and was presumably read into (Presidential candidates the same briefings as the sitting President) these programs. Some people "in the know" have nibbled around the edges, suggesting reforms and more oversight, but none have condemned the practices in question or tried to change them.

      At the end of the day, under our system of government, you delegate decisions such as these to your elected representatives. If you don't agree with their judgment vote their asses out of office. If you can't convince enough people to vote with you on these issues then that's your starting point. Remember, soap box, ballot box, jury box, ammo box, in that order. Step #1 isn't even complete, unless you think Slashdot is representative of the entire American body politic.

    • Well, they could hold some hearings on it, get Hillary to be a special independent third party prosecutor or hearing officer to maintain an independent appearance, email the information that she will be investigating and have her server get hacked because of all the recent publicity surrounding it.

      But any appearance of partisanship would likely be met with a knock on the door some morning and a guy in a trench coat saying look what I have hear, show a tablet of some pictures, maybe play a video or audio rec

    • If a bunch of Republican senators could get together and write a letter outlining the details of these abuses, I'm sure there wouldn't be any consequences (to themselves

      Wouldn't there? Ask Joe Nacchio if he agrees with you. My expectation is that certain details of the private lives of some of those politicans would somehow become public.

      At this point, I believe that it is possible (likely?) that the CIA and the NSA would use (have already used?) blackmail to preserve their position.

    • They are recording every call, every e-mail and text. It is all stored for later analysis if they need it. If this were "only" meta-data, they would not need the Utah Data Center.
      As a result, they probably have a lot on each congress critter to use as blackmail.

  • by Software ( 179033 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:40PM (#49262263) Homepage Journal
    The first paragraph of Article 1, Section 6 is (emphasis added):

    The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

    See the Wikipedia article on the Speech and Debate Clause [wikipedia.org] or read it for yourself in the Constitution [archives.gov]. So he can talk all about the program during a speech on the floor of the Senate, and nothing can be done to him.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sumdumass ( 711423 )

      You better read that again.. This time, pay attention to the part that says this "shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace

    • See the Wikipedia article on the Speech and Debate Clause or read it for yourself in the Constitution. So he can talk all about the program during a speech on the floor of the Senate, and nothing can legally be done to him.

      FTFY.

    • by pben ( 22734 )

      I have often wondered why the senators who say you don't know half the danger don't just get off their ass and tell us? I usually think that they are political creatures, sometime of the weakest sort. They know that Assange and Snowden kicked up a shit storm and had to be expelled from the political conversion by establishment. If they told it all on the floor of the House or Senate they would be bullied out of office and never get the cushy jobs of ex-politicos. You are talking bout people that are on

    • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@NOSPAm.poetic.com> on Monday March 16, 2015 @01:01AM (#49264879)

      "and nothing can be done to him"

      The first thing that a freshman congressperson learns is that if you aren't on an important committee, you are nobody. How do you get on an important committee? You make your party happy. You vote according to their agenda, you show up at the proper events, you bring in donors who contribute to party priorities. Dare to make waves, to contradict any party platform and you will be relegated to obscurity.

      Yes, lots can be done to him. He treads a fine line between attracting our favor and losing his party's favor.

      • And we've got a good one in. We need him to hold his position while we get more like-minded people into authority.

        Jumping on a grenade is brave, sure, but then he'd just get replaced with a lapdog of the police state. Hold the line, bring in reinforcements, and focus on winning the war, not just the battle.

  • Sousveilliance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @01:49PM (#49262307)

    Sousveilliance [wikipedia.org] means basically watching the watchers. In this modern world collecting information about people continues to get easier, not just by governments but by the business world as well (Google and Facebook to name a couple of prominent examples). The only real defense the general public has against this is to watch back so we can stem the abuse of the data collected.

    Author David Brin writes a lot about this at his blog, Contrary Brin [blogspot.com] including his current post, "Armed with Cameras". [blogspot.com] His basic thesis is that you're not going to stop all of this enhanced surveillance even if you pass laws against it. It's too easy to do. So the answer is to sousveil, watch back intently enough so we can call the watcher out on their abuse.

    BTW, I'm proud to have Ron Wyden as one of my Senators. He's in a position to know an has been at the forefront of curbing government abuse of surveillance for a long time.

    • He's my Senator, too. And I believe he's taking the correct position here, but I still think it's time for him to be replaced - he's getting older, is not the firebrand about surveillance that he could have been 20 years ago, and, frankly, has more ties to the east coast now than Oregon.

      Just my 2 cents, and he's been fine - it's just time for some new blood. Frankly, I say the same thing about Merkley, who seems elderly and dull and insiderly after two terms - should've voted for Novick in the primaries..

  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Sunday March 15, 2015 @02:18PM (#49262461)

    ...is for good men to do nothing.

    Edmund Burke

    If the government has done nothing wrong, they should have nothing to hide.

    • If the government has done nothing wrong, they should have nothing to hide.

      Wrong when directed at you, just as wrong when directed at government.

  • Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has complained about the Obama administration's failure to shut down the NSA's bulk collection of phone metadata.

    ... Congress could, you know, do something about this itself. Of course that would mean Congress would actually have to do *something* - other than bitch about things not getting done and pointing fingers (including the middle finger) at others.

A penny saved is a penny to squander. -- Ambrose Bierce

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