ron_wyden   10

Giving Ryan undue credit for Wyden-Ryan
I had a faint expression of interest in response to a letter I sent the Times a week-plus ago, responding to Steven Rattner's call for some form of healthcare rationing. Frankly I can see now why they didn't run it, as I concerned myself with a tangential point, while several letters the Times did publish went for the heart of Rattner's argument (and are well worth reading). Still, mine had some political relevance, as it took Rattner to task for giving Ryan credit for cost control mechanisms he dropped from his 2013 budget.  Here it is:To the Editor:In prescribing tough medicine to contain costs in  the U.S. healthcare system, Steven Rattner gave Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan scant credit for addressing costs.  But that little bit was  too much, in that it ignored changes in Mr. Ryan's latest iteration -- not to mention Mr. Romney's further gutting of its nominal cost controls.Mr. Rattner notes that the Ryan plan, which establishes an exchange of competing plans alongside traditional Medicare, imposes an annual cap in government spending on Medicare. If the spending cap is breached, he complains, "Mr Ryan blithely says, "Congress would be required to intervene" -- a sentence he regards as toothless.But the plan laid out in Mr. Ryan's 2013 budget does not say that. That sentence appears in a white paper that Mr. Ryan co-authored with Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, released in December 2011.  The "required" intervention looks like a place-marker for the role played, in the Affordable Care Act, by the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which is required to present Congress with a package of savings when costs exceed the cap. Congress must either accept the package as a whole or pass its own alternative offering equivalent savings. IPAB has become a Republican whipping boy, the final locus of "death panel" paranoia. The Ryan-Wyden plan talks around it. Ryan's 2013 budget omits the mention of its function -- the required Congressional intervention -- and repeatedly bashes IPAB as "bureaucrat control."In any case, the Romney campaign announced recently that its Medicare reform "plan" would not impose any annual spending cap.More on the differences between the Wyden-Ryan white paper and the Medicare reform plan in Ryan's 2013 budget here.
New_York_Times  Steven_Rattner  Ron_Wyden  bureaucrat_control  Paul_Ryan  premium_support  Medicare_reform  IPAB  from google
september 2012 by HalSF
NSA: It Would Violate Your Privacy to Say if We Spied on You
It's pretty much exactly as the title says. Two US senators – Ron Wyden and Mark Udall – have asked the NSA to disclose how many US citizens are being spied upon through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, the NSA claims that they cannot answer that question, because doing so would violate the privacy of US citizens. Recall the FISA allows the NSA to intercept communications without probable cause as long as one party of the communications are located outside of the United States.
fisa  surveillance  nsa  ron_wyden  mark_udall 
september 2012 by fraaz
Senate Panel Keeps ‘Secret Patriot Act’ Under Wraps
The secret Patriot Act is staying secret.

Two Senators have been warning for months that the government has a secret legal interpretation of the Patriot Act so broad that it amounts to an entirely different law — one that gives the feds massive domestic surveillance powers, and keeps the rest of us in the dark about the snooping.

“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret. ”

The Senators tried to get the government to reveal some of the law’s contents, by forcing the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to produce a report outlining when this secret surveillance has gone overboard. Yesterday, the effort failed. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said no to the report by rejecting Wyden and Udall’s amendment to the FY2012 Intelligence Authorization Act.

In other words: we are all still in the dark about how the government is spying on us.

The Senators won’t say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called “business-records provision” is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.

So instead, the Senators are left to make vague — if vociferous — protests. “In our view, the executive branch’s decision to conceal the U.S. government’s official understanding of what this law means is unacceptable, and untenable in the long run,” Wyden and Udall wrote in the committee’s report on the Authorization Act. “Intelligence agencies need to have the ability to conduct secret operations, but they should not be allowed to rely on secret laws.”

As Secrecy News notes, the committee also rejected an amendment by Wyden and Udall that would have required the Justice Department to estimate how many Americans have been eavesdropped on, in violation of another surveillance law, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. That amendment was voted down, 7-8.

Instead, the committee seemed more focused on potential threats to the intelligence community, rather than the spies’ overreach. The Senators worried about the intelligence agencies’ impulse to move classified information to the cloud, and demanded an “independent review of the efficiency and security implications” of the shift in six months. The committee also expressed concern about how many gadgets and gadget components are now made overseas — and could therefore have backdoors from foreign intelligence agencies built in.  The Senators want a second report in six months on “counterintelligence threats to the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, including any risks associated with purchasing equipment and services from foreign manufacturers and suppliers.”

Photo: Flickr / Rose Robinson

See Also:

There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says
Senate Extends Patriot Act Spy Bill
Lawmakers Punt Again on Patriot Act Reform
Patriot Act Signing Just the Latest in Autopen Infamy
Bill Would Force Intel Chief to Renounce ‘Secret Patriot Act’
Spies_Secrecy_and_Surveillance  Mark_Udall  Patriot_Act  Politricks  Ron_Wyden  Senate_Intelligence_Committee  Spy_vs._Spy  from google
august 2011 by blah
There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says
You think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden says it’s worse than you know.

Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. Wyden (D-Oregon) says that powers they grant the government on their face, the government applies a far broader legal interpretation — an interpretation that the government has conveniently classified, so it cannot be publicly assessed or challenged. But one prominent Patriot-watcher asserts that the secret interpretation empowers the government to deploy ”dragnets” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence committee, he laments that he can’t precisely explain without disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives him immense pause: the so-called “business-records provision,” which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.

“It is fair to say that the business-records provision is a part of the Patriot Act that I am extremely interested in reforming,” Wyden says. “I know a fair amount about how it’s interpreted, and I am going to keep pushing, as I have, to get more information about how the Patriot Act is being interpreted declassified. I think the public has a right to public debate about it.”

That’s why Wyden and his colleague Sen. Mark Udall offered an amendment on Tuesday to the Patriot Act reauthorization.

The amendment, first reported by Marcy Wheeler, blasts the administration for “secretly reinterpret[ing] public laws and statutes.” It would compel the Attorney General to “publicly disclose the United States Government’s official interpretation of the USA Patriot Act.” And, intriguingly, it refers to “intelligence-collection authorities” embedded in the Patriot Act that the administration briefed the Senate about in February.

Wyden says he “can’t answer” any specific questions about how the government thinks it can use the Patriot Act. That would risk revealing classified information — something Wyden considers an abuse of government secrecy. He believes the techniques themselves should stay secret, but the rationale for using their legal use under Patriot ought to be disclosed.

“I draw a sharp line between the secret interpretation of the law, which I believe is a growing problem, and protecting operations and methods in the intelligence area, which have to be protected,” he says.

Surveillance under the business-records provisions has recently spiked. The Justice Department’s official disclosure on its use of the Patriot Act, delivered to Congress in April, reported that the government asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval to collect business records 96 times in 2010 — up from just 21 requests the year before. The court didn’t reject a single request. But it “modified” those requests 43 times, indicating to some Patriot-watchers that a broadening of the provision is underway.

“The FISA Court is a pretty permissive body, so that suggests something novel or particularly aggressive, not just in volume, but in the nature of the request,” says Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s resident Patriot Act lobbyist. “No one has tipped their hand on this in the slightest. But we’ve come to the conclusion that this is some kind of bulk collection. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if it’s some kind of internet or communication-records dragnet.” (Full disclosure: My fiancée works for the ACLU.)

The FBI deferred comment on any secret interpretation of the Patriot Act to the Justice Department. The Justice Department said it wouldn’t have any comment beyond a bit of March congressional testimony from its top national security official, Todd Hinnen, who presented the type of material collected as far more individualized and specific: “driver’s license records, hotel records, car-rental records, apartment-leasing records, credit card records, and the like.”

But that’s not what Udall sees. He warned in a Tuesday statement about the government’s “unfettered” access to bulk citizen data, like “a cellphone company’s phone records.” In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Udall urged Congress to restrict the Patriot Act’s business-records seizures to “terrorism investigations” — something the ostensible counterterrorism measure has never required in its nearly 10-year existence.

Indeed, Hinnen allowed himself an out in his March testimony, saying that the business-record provision “also” enabled “important and highly sensitive intelligence-collection operations” to take place. Wheeler speculates those operations include “using geolocation data from cellphones to collect information on the whereabouts of Americans” — something our sister blog Threat Level has reported on extensively.

It’s worth noting that Wyden is pushing a bill providing greater privacy protections for geolocation info.

For now, Wyden’s considering his options ahead of the Patriot Act vote on Thursday. He wants to compel as much disclosure as he can on the secret interpretation, arguing that a shadow broadening of the Patriot Act sets a dangerous precedent.

“I’m talking about instances where the government is relying on secret interpretations of what the law says without telling the public what those interpretations are,” Wyden says, “and the reliance on secret interpretations of the law is growing.”


See Also:

House Extends Key Patriot Act Provisions
House Fails to Extend Patriot Act Spy Powers
Lawmakers Punt Again on Patriot Act Reform
You Can Take the 9/11 Security State From My Cold, Dead, Top …
FBI Cops to Illegal Spying
Crime_and_Homeland_Security  Cops_and_Robbers  FBI  Homeland_Security  Justice_Department  Patriot_Act  Ron_Wyden  Shhh!!!  from google
may 2011 by toby.tripp
Al Gore may have invented the Information Superhighway, but Oregon Senator Ron Wyden just saved the Internet
While the Internet may not be a series of tubes or a big truck you can dump stuff on, it is a place where an awful lot of folks spend time and energy building businesses. And as such, one of the most hotly debated topic is the idea of copyright. And who owns what on the Web.

Enter the US government and the attempted legislation of said copyright, the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA, S.3804). Problem is that—as usual—the devil is in the details.

So what exactly does the Senate bill propose to do? Well, according to Ars Technica, here’s what COICA entails:

The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA, S.3804) sets up a system through which the US government can blacklist a pirate website from the Domain Name System, ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid online ad networks from working with the site. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 19-0 this week, but it’s never going to pass the Senate before the end of the current Congress.

But according to the EFF, the bill isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out, it may very well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) is an Internet censorship bill which is rapidly making its way through the Senate. Although it is ostensibly focused on copyright infringement, an enormous amount of noninfringing content, including political and other speech, could disappear off the Web if it passes.

The main mechanism of the bill is to interfere with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), which translates names like “” or “” into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. The bill creates a blacklist of censored domains; the Attorney General can ask a court to place any website on the blacklist if infringement is “central” to the purpose of the site.

If that is truly the case, that could be horrible for the Internet as a whole. And that’s why a single Senator is standing up against the bill. And that stance stalled the legislation. The senator? Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

A bill that critics say would have given the government power to censor the Internet will not pass this year thanks to the Oregon Democrat, who announced his opposition during a recent committee hearing. Individual Senators can place holds on pending legislation, in this case meaning proponents of the bill will be forced to reintroduce the measure and will not be able to proceed until the next Congress convenes.

So Wyden, long a proponent of technology and the Internet—including co-sponsoring the Internet Tax Freedom Act—takes another step in helping ensure that the Internet remains an open, competitive environment. And that prevents the US from sliding down a slippery slope that could impact some of the freedoms we hold dear, like free speech.

For more on the story, see the Raw Story, Ars Technica, and PC World. BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow is tracking COICA as well.

(Image courtesy OregonDOT. Used under Creative Commons.)

(Hat tip Steven Walling)
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0Featured-post  Government  Oregon  al_gore  coica  copyright  cory_doctorow  information_superhighway  Internet  legislation  online  ron_wyden  senate  senator  from google
november 2010 by selenamarie
ObamaCAre: Oregon Dem Senator Ron Wyden Undermines President
Jay Cost noted that Democratic senator Ron Wyden sent a letter last week to Oregon health authority director Bruce Goldberg, in which Wyden states that the federal government "has never had the flexibility" or the "will" to implement "innovative solutions" to our health care woes. Can you imagine a statement from a Democratic senator more directly opposed to the position of the Obama White House? Wyden goes on to encourage Goldberg to ask the federal government for a waiver to let Oregon opt out of Obamacare's requirement that everyone buy federally approved health insurance, because, he writes, "the heart of real health reform is affordability and not mandates."

Since the heart of Obamacare is mandates and not affordability, this is quite a statement from a man who voted for the president's signature piece of legislation—and it's a strong indication of how well his support for that legislation is playing out on the Oregon campaign trail.
They all want to be re-elected......
Obamacare  ron_wyden 
september 2010 by Flap
Vote by mail is the answer
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued this press release:
As already reported voting difficulties continue to frustrate voters in another decisive election, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden renewed his proposal to simplify the way Americans vote. Wyden has introduced legislation to provide funds to help states adopt Vote by Mail election systems, such as Oregon's.
"The great Yogi Berra said it best: 'It's Déjà vu all over again.'  Except instead of the boys of October, we're talking about the long lines and broken machines of November." Wyden said. "Allegations of election fraud and voter suppression were once rarities, today they're business as usual for the American voter. It's time to stop throwing taxpayer dollars at a broken system. Oregonians have a solution--Vote by Mail."
For more than a decade Oregonians have been successfully voting by mail. Up to three weeks before Election Day, ballots are sent to all registered voters, giving busy families time to research their votes and carefully mark their ballots, which are then either dropped in the mailbox or delivered to secure drop boxes at libraries, county offices and other convenient locations. Trained election officials then match the signature on each ballot against the signature on each voter's registration card, before processing the vote.  
The transparency of Vote by Mail eliminates virtually all fraud, while addressing many traditional voting challenges:
Vote by Mail eliminates poll problems--there are no long lines, polls to open late or even confusion about where to vote.
Vote by Mail eliminates voter roll issues and the need for provisional ballots--ballots are mailed only to registered voters at their official address. Those who do not receive a ballot have ample time to resolve the issue with election officials.
Vote by Mail virtually eliminates voter fraud--no vote is processed or counted until a trained election official is satisfied that the signature on the ballot matches the signature on the voter's registration card.
Vote by Mail reduces the risk of voter intimidation--a 2003 study of Oregon voters showed that groups--like the elderly--who are most vulnerable to coercion prefer Vote by Mail.
Vote by Mail creates a paper trail.
Vote by Mail increases voter turnout--by eliminating the need to stand in line at the polling place, voting becomes convenient for hourly wage employees and other working families. Oregon's consistently ranks among the top five states in voter participation.
Vote by Mail encourages educated voters--receiving ballots weeks in advance, gives voters an opportunity to research issues and deliberate in a way that is not possible in a voting booth.
· Vote by Mail saves taxpayer dollars--because there is no longer a need to transport equipment to polling stations and to hire and train poll workers, Oregon has reduced its election-related costs by 30 percent since implementing Vote by Mail.
In September of this year, building on the success of Vote by Mail in his own state, Wyden teamed up with Senators John Kerry and Barack Obama to sponsor legislation to help other states implement their own version of VBM. Wyden's bill creates a $110 million, three-year grant program to provide funds to states to help offset the cost of adopting VBM election systems. States have the option of adopting VBM statewide, within a group of selected counties (or municipalities in states where elections are overseen at this level), or even in a single county or municipality.
"Vote by Mail works. This legislation gives states funds they can use to make the transition away from traditional voting methods that have led to so many problems, so many concerns and so little confidence in the American election system.,"  Wyden said.

Vote by mail is so obvious a solution that I can't believe states are still fiddling with voting machines. Today's mess should make it clear that it's time to eliminate the current broken system and go with one that is less expensive, more secure, encourages informed voting, and increases voter participation.
Update: These guys are promoting Vote By Mail: The Vote By Mail Project.
Ron_Wyden  Oregon  2006_elections  election_irregularities_2006  vote_by_mail  from google
november 2006 by sjenkins

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