Oregonians may not know it, but U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has become one the nation's leading critics of the federal government's efforts to spy on its own citizens.
Although Wyden voted for the Patriot Act, the post 9-11 effort by Congress and then-president George Bush to remove restrictions on law enforcement's ability to search telephone, email, medical and financial records, he has become increasingly vocal in his concerns that the Obama Justice Department is abusing the Patriot Act in a way that threatens our civil liberties.
In May Congressional testimony, for example, Wyden said, "When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry."
Recently, Wyden introduced a bill that would limit the use of geolocation surveillance by law enforcement.
And on Wednesday of this week, Wyden and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, challenging the Justice department on its interpretation of what it can and cannot do under the Patriot Act.
Says Dave Fidanque of the Oregon ACLU: "Ron Wyden is no friend of terrorism. But he has becoming increasingly alarmed about the invasion of privacy of average Americans."
So what exactly does Wyden mean? How is Big Brother snooping on you?
We have no idea.
Wyden and Udall are both members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which gives them briefings about the activities and budgets of the U.S. Intelligence Committee than no one else in the Senate enjoys. The price of admission to this club, however, is that members can say absolutely nothing to the public about what they have learned. So while Wyden can express alarm over Intelligence activities, he can not go public with any details.
Which means the rest of us can only guess.