By Brendan Sasso - 10/09/13 04:53 PM EDT
"From a privacy and liberty perspective, this is truly a dangerous proposition," Wyden said. "It would spark a new era of digital surveillance in our country and serve as a big rubber stamp of approval for invading the rights of law-abiding Americans."
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is working on legislation that would codify existing NSA rules and require greater transparency. She argues that legislation is necessary to rebuild trust in the NSA but that the agency's surveillance programs are critical for protecting national security.
The most controversial revelation from the Snowden leaks is that the NSA has been collecting records on all U.S. phone calls. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved that program in secret and has imposed certain restrictions on the NSA's handling of the phone data. For example, analysts must have a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that a phone number is associated with terrorism before searching the database.
Feinstein's bill would codify many of those existing restrictions into law.
But Wyden warned that such legislation would make the "constitutionally-flawed" NSA program more permanent.
"It is a mistake that Congress would regret," Wyden said.
He argued that the framers intended the Fourth Amendment to prohibit the kind of indiscriminate record collection the NSA is now conducting.
Wyden also claimed that the NSA's programs are hurting the ability of U.S. Internet companies to compete internationally and are damaging the U.S. economy.
"This is a serious economic issue at a time when we all know our economy certainly is fragile," Wyden said, arguing that users are becoming skeptical that their private information will be safe with a U.S. company.
"It will put tens of thousands of high-paying American jobs at risk if this trend continues," Wyden said. "If a foreign enemy was doing this much damage to our economy, people would be in the streets with pitchforks."
Wyden has proposed an NSA reform bill along with Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Their legislation would end the bulk collection of phone records, limit the agency's ability to collect the communications of Americans and create a privacy advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.