Victory for Civil Liberties on Total Information Awareness

Wyden Amendment Successfully Included in Senate Spending Package

WASHINGTON — In a bold bipartisan move, the U.S. Senate today adopted an amendment that could protect Americans from the broad reach of government data-mining efforts associated with the office of Total Information Awareness. The amendment, proposed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), conditions funding of some data-mining programs on actions by the executive branch to protect privacy and monitor the usage of personal information.

“With concerted, bipartisan effort, the Senate today has advanced a common-sense measure to protect the constitutional liberties of all Americans,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. “The House of Representatives should accept the Wyden Amendment in conference, and President Bush should promptly endorse this vital provision.”

As the Senate recognized, a broad-ranging program of domestic surveillance such as that envisioned by the Total Information Awareness office could represent a threat to the privacy of all Americans. “Until today, the Bush administration has proceeded unchecked in many aspects of the war on terrorism,” said Neas. “I hope that today’s action demonstrates Congress’ willingness to perform oversight of the executive branch and challenge attempts to undermine constitutional liberties.”

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