Security & Liberty

Since becoming a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2001, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has fought for the principle that security and liberty are not mutually exclusive. To achieve that principle, he has worked to increase transparency, combat over-classification and ensure accountability within the intelligence community.  His oversight halted efforts to undermine the independence of the CIA inspector general and his hold on the Fiscal Year 2011 Intelligence Authorization bill led to the removal of a provision that would have damaged protections for national security whistle-blowers.  He was instrumental in establishing the Public Interest Declassification Board to evaluate classification policy and decisions and in supporting the oversight work of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.  He also forced the declassification of the CIA Inspector General’s 9/11 Report and helped pass legislation declassifying the total size of the of the national intelligence budget, making it possible for the public to better understand the nation’s overall investment in intelligence programs.

Wyden’s work has long focused on ensuring that national security programs fight terrorism and other national security threats while still protecting Americans’ constitutional rights and values.  He won the largest expansion of U.S. citizens’ privacy rights in 30 years when he successfully passed legislation in 2008 requiring the government to get a warrant before targeting Americans outside the U.S. for surveillance, and his amendment to the 2010 Intelligence Authorization bill increased criminal penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of a covert intelligence agent’s identity.

Wyden called for congressional investigation of torture allegations involving the CIA years before the scope of the Bush Administration’s coercive interrogation program was brought to light, and he led the successful effort to terminate the Bush Administration’s far-reaching proposed “Total Information Awareness” program.  In 2008, Wyden exposed the Bush Administration’s secret interpretations of the Geneva Conventions in correspondence that ran in national news outlets, and his efforts to force the declassification of secret legal interpretations of the Patriot Act and the Executive Branch’s authority to kill Americans have brought the term “secret law” into common use.

Fighting Government Overreach  

Senator Wyden is the national leader in the fight against government overreach. In 2017, he wrote and introduced the most progressive reform of US surveillance policies in years, the USA RIGHTS Act. Ron has also led the fight against unnecessary searches of electronic devices at the border and has consistently and forcefully argued against government intrusiveness via hacking.

Liberty doesn’t exist only in our homes. Senator Wyden first introduced in 2011 the GPS Act, a bill which would require law enforcement to get a warrant before tracking Americans’ location or getting revealing information from phone companies. The GPS Act would also create criminal penalties for stalking, and would require law enforcement to get a warrant before using a cell-site simulator, aka “stingray.”

Keeping Americans Safe  

Senator Wyden was one of only 23 Senators to vote against George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.  After listening to the administration make its case, Wyden saw no evidence that Saddam Hussein constituted a clear and present threat to the United States.  Wyden also concluded that President Bush had not exhausted every diplomatic opportunity before considering an attack.  President Bush went ahead with the invasion over Wyden’s objections, resulting in the needless deaths of more than 4,300 American service members.

  • North Korea North Korea poses a grave threat to U.S. national security, particularly to those of us on the West Coast.  Wyden has longed called for diplomacy, de-escalation, and a return to the negotiation table.  Given the lack of easy or quick options with respect to North Korea, Wyden believes tough-minded diplomacy represents the best chance for a peaceful resolution.

  • Russia Wyden has worked tirelessly to fully investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy and to increase transparency so that the public gets the full story.  He has also supported sanctions against Russia in response to this direct threat to our national security.

  • Afghanistan After more than 16 years of war in Afghanistan, Wyden sees little evidence that thousands more American troops will turn the tide.  The American military cannot make the difficult choices necessary to move Afghanistan forward, only Afghan political leaders can do that.  Wyden opposes a forever war in Afghanistan.  He continues working to bring our troops home and help them get the care and benefits earned they have earned through their service.  

  • Syria American support and partners on the ground have crippled ISIS but Syria remains a war zone and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to slaughter his own people.  Wyden has supported the limited use of American air power to help those already fighting to drive ISIS from Syria.  He is very concerned that Donald Trump wants to leave troops in Syria indefinitely, absent congressional authorization, and he does not believe policing foreign civil wars is an appropriate job for the American military.  

  • Iran In one of the toughest decisions of his political career, Senator Wyden voted to support the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, despite his reservations.  You can read the Senator’s full statement on that vote here.  The Senator continues to monitor Iran’s compliance like a hawk and he supports working with partners and allies to strengthen the agreement.  He also supports bipartisan efforts outside the nuclear agreement to hold Iran’s rulers to account for their support for terrorism and their violations of Iranian citizens’ basic human rights.
    Secret Law  

    Senator Wyden has led the fight to address the Intelligence Community’s reliance on secret interpretations of law, arguing that while “intelligence agencies need to be able to conduct operations in secret, even secret operations need to be conducted within the bounds of established, publicly understood law.”

    In 2011, Wyden warned that “when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” Revelations in 2013 revealed the government had been secretly interpreting the Patriot Act to collect millions of Americans’ phone and email data – without a warrant. Senator Wyden led the fight to end this warrantless mass surveillance that hurts both Americans’ civil liberties and the American economy.

    Wyden has spent years pressing the Intelligence Community to disclose more information about how it interprets surveillance law, while increasingly raising concerns – in both classified and unclassified settings – that there is a significant gap between what the American people and most members of Congress believe is legal under laws like the Patriot Act and how government agencies are interpreting the law.

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