OTHER VIEW: Congress silent on spying for far too long


Federal lawmakers put on quite the show this week as they strafed the administration with criticism over its intrusive national security snooping.

But where were these brave defenders of civil liberties when the Obama administration gave them secret briefings about the reach of its domestic spying and asked for their votes to approve legislation to let it continue?

The disturbing truth is that they were AWOL, and it took the actions, likely unlawful, of a renegade intelligence analyst to get them to take their oversight duties seriously.

It wasn't until Edward Snowden disclosed a trove of secret documents to journalists that the debate over U.S. spying tactics moved into the open and hard questions were put to intelligence officials.

In response, those officials conceded that their massive collection of phone data was not their most important anti-terrorism tool, contradicting previous statements to Congress.

It makes us wonder what else the Obama administration is doing in the name of national security and whether we can trust lawmakers to protect our privacy interests.

To give credit where it is due, Colorado's Sen. Mark Udall and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden worked furiously to drum up concern when the Patriot Act, which expanded spying authority, came up for reauthorization in 2011. Said Udall: "Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out."

Their concerns were kicked sideways as Congress overwhelmingly passed the measure, with support from Colorado's Sen. Michael Bennet, and Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and Doug Lamborn.

What a difference a little sunlight has brought to the debate. There has been some serious backtracking on Capitol Hill in recent weeks as lawmakers who supported the last Patriot Act reauthorization had sharp words for the administration.

Notably, Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., who authored the Patriot Act and voted to reauthorize it in 2011, earlier this month said another re-upping of controversial parts of the wide-ranging legislation would never happen.

Unfortunately, the House went on to reject an effort to end the controversial phone data program.

That vote, however close, was disheartening and makes us wonder how many more Snowden bombs will have to explode before Congress finds the will to rein in an administration too willing to sacrifice civil liberties in pursuit of national security.


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