One of the leading civil liberties supporters in the US Senate has said the Obama administration is considering scaling back its bulk collection of Americans' phone records.
Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the Senate intelligence committee, told the New York Times that he believed the administration was increasingly concerned about the privacy implications raised by a surveillance effort it has performed for four and a half years, after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed it to the Guardian.
"I have a feeling that the administration is getting concerned about the bulk phone records collection, and that they are thinking about whether to move administratively to stop it," Wyden told the Times.
Aides to Wyden said on Friday that the statement was based on public comments from executive branch officials and the senator's prior experience with the termination of a bulk email collection program in 2011, something the Guardian recently reported. The administration has given Wyden no additional assurances of changes to the phone records collection, the aides said.
~ from Senator Ron Wyden: White House Considering Scaling Back Data Collection by Spencer Ackerman ~
I find this article interesting for a number of reasons. For starters, why would Obama suddenly be "concerned" about a program his administration secretly has overseen for the past 5 years? He could have stopped or altered it at any time and we would be none the wiser.
Secondly, it would appear that Sen. Wyden is doing nothing more than thinking out loud since NO ONE in the administration has told him anything directly about scaling back any programs. You really can't go on what administration officials say in public because we know that they tend to misrepresent or outright lie about such things.
Thirdly, because what is allowed to transpire is decided in secret, there is no way to know for sure if the mass surveillance actually is pared back at some point. The president or some other official may go before Congress and/or the American people to share a carefully worded statement that seeks to further shroud what is going on behind the scenes. For example, someone may announce that the PRISM program has been shutdown when all that has actually happened is that the administration secretly renamed the same program, RAINBOW!
I think what we have here is Wyden being Wyden. He wants to be seen as one of the few senators on the side of the American people, while at the same time, he is behaving like a good corporate Democrat who is trying to provide President Obama with some political cover.
This is one of my big beefs with partisanship. When it comes to basic civil liberties, the Obama administration is acting lawlessly and yet not one leading Democrat is willing to stand up to say it point blank. Why? They don't want to tarnish the brand name...which is far more important [to them] than upholding something like the US Constitution!