We made Ron Wyden a better graph of the year

December 31, 2013

Over on Wonkblog, Sen. Ron Wyden (D, Ore.) wrote up his graph of the year -- a lively piece on U.S. natural gas prices. But we couldn't help but think that the vocal NSA critic missed an opportunity to highlight his involvement in one of the biggest stories of the year. So we made him this graph based on his infamous exchange with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:

WYdenchart

In a Senate Intelligence Committee meeting hearing in March, Wyden asked "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper replied "No, sir." When pressed by Wyden, Clapper elaborated that the NSA does "not wittingly" collect data about Americans, with the caveat that "there are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect" such information.

Of course, since then the Snowden revelations have shown that the NSA does, in fact, collect data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. At a minimum, we know that the NSA is collecting information about the phone calls of all Verizon customers, and it's a safe bet that the agency has similar arrangements with other major phone companies. That suggests the NSA likely collects information about everyone with a telephone, which is to say almost all of the approximately 300 million people in the United States.

Clapper denied that the NSA had collected information on "millions" of Americans, but he didn't actually say the number was zero. So we've given Clapper the benefit of the doubt, showing him as allowing for as many as 1,900,000 Americans being the subject of NSA data collection.

Clapper later apologized, calling his statements "clearly erroneous."

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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