Wyden Amendment Clears Crucial Hurdle
WASHINGTON — Finalizing an omnibus spending package this week, bipartisan House and Senate negotiators retained a Senate amendment restricting the data mining activities of the Pentagon’s Office of Total Information Awareness (TIA). The amendment, offered by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), requires Congressional oversight of the program and conditions its funding on actions by the executive branch to protect privacy and monitor the usage of personal information. It also bars deployment of TIA technology without explicit Congressional authorization.
“The potential for privacy invasion is too great with an unrestricted Total Information Awareness program. We applaud the members of the conference committee for recognizing this and keeping the essence of Senator Wyden’s amendment intact,” People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said. “The common-sense language in the Wyden Amendment will help ensure that Americans’ freedoms are protected.”
The Total Information Awareness program as it was originally conceived posed a grave risk to the privacy of every American. Thousands of members and supporters of People For the American Way contacted their lawmakers and urged adoption of the Wyden Amendment. These voices combined with those from constituents across the ideological spectrum to ensure that these restraints on the Total Information Awareness program are sent to President Bush.
Once the conference report is approved by the House and Senate, the bill to fund much of the government’s spending for the current fiscal year will be sent to President Bush. “Until this amendment was offered, President Bush and others in his administration acted as if they had free rein over the freedoms and liberties of every American,” Neas said. “The continuing action on this amendment demonstrates some willingness to perform oversight of the executive branch and challenge the Bush administration when it attempts to undermine constitutional freedoms. Hopefully, this spirit will remain as future threats to civil liberties and basic rights come into view.”