Former Wyden aide: Obama stifled debate on NSA


But in a blog post on TechDirt over the weekend, Hoelzer, a former spokeswoman and deputy chief of staff for Wyden, claimed that the Obama administration had stifled attempts at a public debate over the programs. 

"Do you really expect me to believe that you give a damn about open debate and the democratic process? Because it seems to me if your Administration was really committed those things, your Administration wouldn't have blocked every effort to have an open debate on these issues each time the laws that your Administration claims authorizes these programs came up for reauthorization, which — correct me if I am wrong — is when the democratic process recommends as the ideal time for these debates," she wrote.

She noted that the administration denied requests from Wyden, Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (D-Colo.) and others to declassify portions of the programs as Congress was debating whether to reauthorize the surveillance laws.

She accused the director of national intelligence of deciding to "lie" to Wyden during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Clapper denied that the NSA is collecting any kind of data on millions of people in the United States.

The NSA has since admitted that it collects records on virtually all U.S. phone calls. Clapper said he gave "the least untruthful" answer he could during the hearing.

"Given that Wyden shared his question with the [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] the day before the hearing, I am highly skeptical that Clapper's decision to lie was made unilaterally," she wrote.

Hoelzer claimed that the administration's efforts to suppress debate about the programs have undermined trust in the government.

On Friday, Obama endorsed a number of steps aimed at improving privacy protections to restore public trust in the surveillance programs.

He said he supports creating a special counsel to advocate for privacy rights before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and will work with Congress to curb the NSA's vast phone data collection program.

He also called for an NSA chief privacy officer and the appointment of a high-level group of experts to review the programs.