Wyden: Passing on surveillance reform would be ‘huge mistake’
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said it would be a “huge mistake” for Congress to reauthorize portions of the Patriot Act without making meaningful reforms to U.S. surveillance programs.
Wyden said Congress still has time to negotiate a deal before the reauthorization deadline a little more than two months from now.
“It would be a huge mistake to just take a pass again and say at the last minute, ‘oh my goodness it is a dangerous time,'” he said in an interview with Huffington Post Live. “It is always a dangerous time — and just extend them. Now is the time for fundamental reforms. We’ve got the time to get this done before June 1. I and my colleagues are going to insist on it.”
Key sections of the Patriot Act are set to expire June 1 if Congress does not reauthorize them. Those provisions include a section that provides the legal backing for a National Security Agency program that collects and stores phone metadata from millions of Americans.
A group of technology giants and civil liberties organizations sent a letter to members of Congress on Wednesday pressing to include reforms to the program within the reauthorization.
Wyden applauded the advocacy from technology companies, saying revelations about spying from the NSA have taken a “considerable toll” on their business.
“I think we’ve got a real opportunity for substantial reform now,” he said. “Certainly if you look back to the days where when we just had a handful of votes and now we are at 58, closing in on 60. We’ve made a lot of headway. And I’m very pleased that the companies are speaking out, particularly in a coalition with Americans who value their privacy.”
A proposal that would have ended the government’s bulk collection of Americans phone records fell short of passage on a procedural vote in the Senate late last year. Lawmakers have not begun serious work on new reforms ahead of the deadline.