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Sen. Wyden denounces bulk phone record collection

By Valerie Bonk

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senator who has been instrumental in the fight for open government warned Wednesday that the government’s practice of “vacuuming up the phone records of millions of law-abiding Americans” puts citizens’ privacy at risk.

During a panel sponsored by the American Society of News Editors, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said while the information collected by the National Security Agency involves phone numbers, location and time of the call, it might also contain vital personal details, such as relationships, medical issues, religious matters or political affiliations.

“I have to believe the civil liberties of millions of Americans have been violated,” Wyden said.

“I have not seen any evidence that demonstrates that the bulk collection of all of these records provides unique value,” he added.

Wyden said he believes that the information the NSA gathers could be obtained by emergency authorization or court order and does not need to be collected automatically from millions of Americans in bulk.

“The fact is that vacuuming up the phone records of millions of law-abiding Americans can really determine and reveal a lot of private information,” he said.

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