Sen. Ron Wyden teamed up with Colorado Democrat Mark Udall to block the Obama administrations effort to extend the surveillance law that has resulted in a broad warrantless wiretapping campaign of American citizens.
Wyden, who has long opposed the wiretapping program offered an amendment last week that would specifically prohibit such unauthorized surveillance. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee voted overwhelmingly to reject that provision last week.
In the meantime, Wyden has asked the administration to provide him with an estimate of how many American citizens have been subjected to the extra-legal surveillance program. According to published reports, Wyden said he has been told that it is impossible to determine that number.
“We have sought repeatedly to gain an understanding of how many Americans have had their phone calls or emails collected and reviewed under this statute, but we have not been able to obtain even a rough estimate of this number,” Wyden and Udall wrote.
Calling the warrantless program a loophole, the Senators announced on Tuesday that they were putting a hold on the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA) that created the warrantless wiretapping program. Unless the law is renewed, it is scheduled to sunset at the end of this year. Not all Dems are in agreement about the issue. Powerful California Senator and Committee Chair Diane Feinstein has defended the program’s safeguards as adequate. She said a pending Inspector’s General report on the program should clear up the question of how many Americans have had their phone records or emails reviewed under the program, as Wyden has requested.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that Wyden is not required under Senate rules to disclose when he puts a hold on legislation. However, he has made it a practice to announce when he exercises that privilege.