Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sharpened his criticism of domestic spying abuse this week in a speech to the Oregon World Affairs Council. He essentially said National Security Agency officials have lied about the extent of their spying.
Wyden's comments follow charges by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Diane Feinstein, D-California, that the Central Intelligence Agency broke into congressional computers and plucked out sensitive documents. CIA Director John Brennan denied the allegation from Feinstein, who has been one of the most stalwart defenders of NSA data gathering from phone and email records.
Wyden, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a longstanding critic of overreaching surveillance techniques by the NSA. Many of his criticisms have been validated by leaked classified information provided by Edward Snowden.
At his Portland appearance, Wyden refrained from commenting on spy charges against Snowden. Some have argued spy charges should be dropped and Snowden invited back to the United States to be dealt with as a whistleblower. Wyden did say Americans should have learned about the extent of domestic surveillance from senior American officials, not through leaks to the news media.
He was specifically critical of Brennan for publicly denying CIA intrusion in congressional files, as charged by Feinstein, "even though CIA officials had spent the past few weeks trying to justify it."
Wyden took pains to direct his criticism at senior intelligence officials. He said rank-and-file staff at the CIA and NSA are "courageous, dedicated professionals keeping Americans safe in a dangerous world."