Rand Paul and Ron Wyden Preview Their Next Moves Against the NSA

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 18 2013 10:12 AM

Rand Paul and Ron Wyden Preview Their Next Moves Against the NSA

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Everything's not hunky-dory for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Judge Richard Leon's ruling against the NSA, and for Larry Klayman, has given brand-new energy to the legislators who've been screaming for reforms to spying programs. This year petered out without anything serious getting a vote.

"We're excited about it," said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul when asked about the ruling. "I'm excited that we're finally going from secret court to open court. It's important that constitutional questions be debated out in the open. I have an amendment that would have facilitated people who were challenged with a secret warrant to be able to challenge that in a public court. So we're excited by it. I hope the Supreme Court will take it and make it the law of the land."

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The fact that the NSA critics' arguments were heard in open court, and so thunderously endorsed, has changed the way Paul, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, and the rest talk about this. "For literally years, senators were told, even when you're raising questions, no reason to sweat it, folks," Wyden told reporters, not skimping on the sarcasm. "The FISA court is taking care of it. The FISA court is overseeing it. They're saying everything's hunky-dory. Now you listen to the judges and they basically say they were lied to." The new judgment valiated what Wyden had been saying: "Bulk collection of all of these phone records is not inoffensive data collection."

And what did that mean for Paul's amendment? "All the people opposed to letting me have this amendment on the NSA and FISA, Republican and Democrat, have said, oh, you'll get your chance next year," said Paul. "The type of reforms that are coming from the establishment are people who don't believe collecting your information is spying. They have defined away the notion of spying by saying unless we collect all your phone calls, we're not doing surveillance. I don't accept their proposals for reform, nor do I accept it when the president says we'll just get a bunch of lawyers to talk to each other about it. The president was a constitutional lawyer, for pete's sake."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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