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Congress Alert

Sen. Ron Wyden: House-Passed USA FREEDOM Act is 'Reform in Name Only'

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), speaking Wednesday in his home state of Oregon, declared that the “Status Quo Caucus” including “intelligence leadership, their friends in the House of Representatives, [and] their allies in academia” had successfully transformed the USA FREEDOM Act (HR 3361) into “reform in name only” by the time it was debated and approved on the United States House of Representatives floor.

This development regarding legislation supposedly intended to restrain the US government’s mass spying program comes as little surprise to Wyden, who explains that “[w]hat has happened is what I predicted would happen last fall.” Indeed, Wyden warned in October that:

…we know in the months ahead we will be up against a "business-as-usual brigade" – made up of influential members of the government's intelligence leadership, their allies in thinktanks and academia, retired government officials, and sympathetic legislators. Their game plan? Try mightily to fog up the surveillance debate and convince the Congress and the public that the real problem here is not overly intrusive, constitutionally flawed domestic surveillance, but sensationalistic media reporting. Their end game is ensuring that any surveillance reforms are only skin-deep.

Wyden proceeds in his Wednesday comments to explain how “the reality is that in many particulars [the House-passed USA FREEDOM Act] simply would not pass the ‘smell test’ in terms of protecting Americans from suspicionless surveillance.”

Watch Wyden’s comments here:

Wyden mentions in his Wednesday comments that the House-passed bill was so “watered-down” by the time it reached the House floor that “a substantial number of the sponsors of the original legislation voted against it.” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), one of those cosponsors who voted against the bill on the House floor, denounced last week the back room machinations that dramatically altered the bill between its approval in two House committees and its consideration on the House floor under a process that prevented the introduction of any amendments. Like Wyden, Lofgren explains that the House-passed legislation—despite the contrary pronouncements by some of the bill’s advocates—will allow the US government’s mass spying to continue throughout the United States and worldwide.

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