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Wyden: Freedom Act biggest privacy win in a decade


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., praised Tuesday’s passage of the USA Freedom Act, which he said ensures the end of mass surveillance of Americans under the Patriot Act and brings new transparency to U.S. intelligence programs.

“It is not an exaggeration to say the passage of the USA Freedom Act is the most significant victory for Americans’ privacy rights in more than a decade, and stands as a true endorsement of the principle that Americans do not need to sacrifice their liberty to have security.,” Wyden said

“This program to collect the phone records of millions and millions of U.S. citizens was hatched in secret, depending on a secret interpretation of the law that Americans were not allowed to see,” the senator added. “I have spent nearly a decade fighting mass surveillance, first working to bring this secret dragnet to light and then working to bring it to an end. “

But Wyden added, “The fight to protect Americans’ constitutional rights against government overreach is not over.

“I’m committed to plugging the backdoor search loophole that the government uses to review Americans’ communications without a warrant, to beat back efforts to build security weaknesses into our electronic devices and to require the government to get a warrant before tracking Americans’ movements electronically.

“Everybody who has supported our fight for surveillance reform over the last two years is responsible for our victory today and I’m looking forward to joining all of you for more victories in the future,” the senator said.

The legislation includes a provision modeled on Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s “no secret law” bill that would put an end to secret interpretations of law made by the FISA Court.

Merkley released the following statement after the vote:

“The passage of the USA Freedom Act is a good first step in reining in the government’s intrusions into the privacy of law-abiding Americans. In addition to limiting the government’s bulk collection of our private records, this legislation takes a crucial step towards ending secret law.

“Secret law has no place in a democracy. Every citizen has a full right to know how a court interprets and applies our laws. Otherwise citizens have no power to understand or advocate for changes in the law. The inclusion of my ‘no secret law’ principle in this bill will go a long way toward ending the abuses of the FISA Court, which eviscerated the protections for citizens’ private records embedded in the clear language of our laws.”

Under the new legislation, the FISA Court will be required to declassify or provide a declassified summary of any opinion that includes a significant construction or interpretation of any provision of law.

If national security is determined to be at risk in declassifying such a decision or summary, the Director of National Intelligence can waive disclosure of those documents, but must still make public an unclassified statement prepared by the Attorney General that summarizes the significant construction or interpretation of any provision of law.

Merkley has long pushed to end secret law. He co-authored with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) bipartisan legislation similar to the provisions now included in the USA Freedom Act.

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