A group of U.S. senators is looking to expand surveillance of Americans’ communications, with Sen. Ron Wyden and other supporters of privacy rights voicing their objections on Thursday, calling on the government to justify its new surveillance powers.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Wyden said that the new surveillance powers announced by the White House during the administration of former President Barack Obama amounted to “a significant expansion of the powers of the National Security Agency.”
© Sputnik / Alexei Nikolskyi Former CIA Director Michael Hayden
“Now we’re going to have a program where the government can get access to communications without any probable cause to search them unless they actually have to, if they’ve got evidence that someone’s trying to hide something, or they’ve got evidence that there are terrorist targets present in a specific area,” Wyden told journalists while discussing his new book “We the People: A Common Sense Guide to the Constitution.”
The senators said that surveillance programs are already used for a whole host of criminal investigations and for investigations against people suspected of terrorism and espionage.
Ahead of an event at the Brookings Institution on Thursday, Wyden said that the public needs to be able to know that a program is being used, rather than just relying on press releases.
“How do you get to know this is being done? I think the answer is that we have to have a program that the administration and courts and Congress can understand is being used, so they can protect the public’s interest,” the senator said.
Under the Obama administration, the Obama administration claimed that the NSA’s surveillance program will allow the intelligence community to “deter terrorist attacks,” but critics believe that the program has led to more than just terrorism, to civil liberties abuses.
A number of privacy concerns have been raised by opponents of the NSA surveillance program, including a case involving the NSA snooping on communications from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, and the revelation that NSA agents are monitoring communications of millions of Americans without a warrant.
The NSA’s surveillance powers are a key question in President-elect Donald Trump’s forthcoming election campaign.
A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner told Sören Jakobsson that the program is not only the issue that is most important for Americans, it is also an issue that should be a major issue in the upcoming election.
“It’s the one issue that’s most important for public expectations right now