Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a fervent opponent of the National Security Agency's surveillance program, admitted that he considered leaking the program in an interview with Rolling Stone published on Thursday.
In the interview, Wyden said that he opted to tread softly in his role as a watchdog, despite his disapproval of the program:
There are very significant limits [on what you can and cannot say], and they are very cumbersome and unwieldy. If you want to play a watchdog role, you try to work within the rules. This is a sensitive subject. A lot of people have just said to me, "Well, you feel so strongly about [these issues] – when you knew this, why didn't you just go to the floor of the United States Senate and just, you know, read it all [into the record]?" And, of course, anybody who does this kind of work thinks a lot about that. You think about it all the time. I can see why plenty of people would criticize me – progressives and others. I can understand why plenty of people who have views similar to mine would say they would have done it differently.
Wyden gave Director Of National Intelligence James Clapper an opportunity to come clean on the program earlier this year, asking Clapper if the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions of Americans" during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Clapper responded, "No, sir," and later claimed he gave the "least untruthful" answer possible.
"They decided to let his inaccurate answer stand on the public record, until about a month after the Snowden disclosures," Wyden told Rolling Stone. "Even then, they started off trying to defend his answer, before finally admitting publicly that it had been inaccurate."
In June, Wyden publicly denounced the government's practice of "vacuuming up the phone records of millions of law-abiding Americans" during an American Society of News Editors Panel, saying the program could inconsequentially reveal a lot of personal information.
"I have to believe the civil liberties of millions of American have been violated," Wyden said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has defended the NSA's spying program and called for the prosecution of Edward Snowden, has now spoken out against the NSA's actions. In a statement on Friday, Pelosi responded to recent reports that the NSA violated privacy rules thousands of times per year, calling the reports "extremely disturbing."
"Congress must conduct rigourous oversight to ensure that all incidents of non-compliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated," she said.