Intelligence & National Security

Since becoming a member of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2001, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden has taken his oversight role extremely seriously.  Believing that even secret programs are most effective when government is held accountable, he has worked to increase transparency and combat overclassification within the National Security Community.  His oversight forestalled 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 whistleblowers.  He was instrumental in establishing the Public Interest Declassification Board to evaluate classification policy and decisions.  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 ferociously while still upholding American 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 proposed “Total Information Awareness” program after he revealed plans to encourage gambling on future terrorist attacks.  In 2008, Wyden exposed the Bush Administration’s secret interpretations of the Geneva Conventions in correspondence that ran on the front page of the New York Times, 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.