The Democratic Senator Who Takes Civil Liberties Seriously
Roll Call has a profile up about how Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has gummed up the works of the Senate Intelligence Committee over concerns about civil liberties. Excerpt:
Sen. Ron Wyden insists he doesn't have a grudge against fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. What he does have, though, is a hold on her two legislative priorities of the lame-duck session — and he has, in fact, placed a hold on every major bill coming out of her Intelligence Committee in the past two years.
Wyden's moves to block the two latest bills — a spy agency reauthorization measure (S 3454) aimed at cracking down on leaks and an extension of expiring surveillance provisions from a 2008 law — are the newest demonstrations of how the Oregon Democrat has become the Senate's hardest line to cross on civil liberties issues in the national security arena. […]
He was one of just five Democrats who voted Nov. 14 against advancing a cybersecurity bill (S 3414) backed by his party's leadership and President Barack Obama. He has been among a small handful of Democratic senators seeking the Obama administration's legal justification for the targeted killing of U.S. citizens suspected of being overseas terrorists, requests he said have gone unfulfilled.
But sometimes, his approach nets gains: His decision to block an earlier intelligence authorization bill over provisions aimed at cracking down on leaks resulted in the panel stripping the language so that it could advance on the Senate floor.
He also led the successful fight against a Senate anti-piracy measure that he said would impinge on free speech. Initially, the bill had broad Senate support, but later it was stalled by a grass-roots opposition campaign that saw numerous senators pull their backing.