Just last week, Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House panel, offered a vigorous defense of the programs, saying that they are subject to strong oversight and criticizing the way they have been portrayed in the media in much the way Wyden described (Rogers rejects the term "surveillance," for instance).
But Wyden insists that he is ready for the fight, and urges citizens to contact their representatives to make their voices heard.
He envisions a groundswell of opposition to the government's secretive intelligence operations that could sway lawmakers in large numbers, recalling the grass-roots, largely Internet-driven protests to a pair of anti-piracy bills -- dubbed SOPA and PIPA -- that critics argued would be an affront to Internet freedom and open the door to censorship of the Web.
The outcry against SOPA and PIPA effectively killed the bills, and Wyden is hoping that shifting public opinion will eventually produce a similar level of criticism of the NSA's activities.
"The more information people learn about these programs the less they actually like them," Wyden said. "The fact is most Americans think their government can protect our security and our liberty. These are not mutually exclusive."
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