The recent public disclosures of secret government surveillance programs have exposed how secret interpretations of the USA PATRIOT Act have allowed for the bulk collection of massive amounts of data on the communications of ordinary Americans with no connection to wrong-doing. Reliance on secret law to conduct domestic surveillance activities raises serious civil liberty concerns and all but removes the public from an informed national security and civil liberty debate.

In order to foster that debate, 26 senators sent a letter organized by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asking Director of National Intelligence Clapper to publicly provide information about the duration and scope of the program and provide examples of its effectiveness in providing unique intelligence, if such examples exist.

“We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” the senators wrote in the letter. This and misleading statements by Intelligence officials have “prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly. The debate that the President has now welcomed is an important first step toward restoring that trust.”