WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, drawing on her experiences as a young Watergate lawyer who decades later was investigated as first lady, urged creation of a "privacy bill of rights" Friday to protect people's personal data.
"Modern life makes many things easier and many things easier to know, and yet privacy is somehow caught in the crosshairs of these changes," Clinton said in a speech to a left-leaning legal group.
Clinton's speech on protecting consumers from identity theft and citizens from government snooping was the latest in a series of talks billed as "major addresses" by aides. Previous speeches were on energy and the economy.
A potential presidential candidate in 2008 whose eight years as first lady were marked by numerous investigations, Clinton noted her work on a House committee investigating the Nixon administration's illegal snooping and other abuses.
And she ruefully called herself an "expert" in the loss of privacy.
"Having lost so much of my own privacy in recent years I have a deep appreciation of its value and a firm commitment to protecting it for all the rest of you," she said, prompting laughter from the audience of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
Clinton wants to create a "privacy czar" within the White House to guard against recent problems like the theft of personal data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
She also wants legislation to let consumers know what information companies are keeping about them and how it is used, and create a tiered system of penalties for companies who are not careful with consumer data.
Clinton also waded into the debate over anti-terror eavesdropping. For months Democrats have hammered at the Bush administration over the National Security Agency's program of domestic wiretapping without warrants from judges. The administration insists it is both legal and necessary.
Clinton said any president should have the latest technology to track terrorists, but within laws that provide for oversight by judges.
"The administration's refrain has been, "Trust us,"' said Clinton. "That's unacceptable. Their track record doesn't warrant our trust. ... Unchecked mass surveillance without judicial review may sometimes be legal but it is dangerous. Every president should save those powers for limited critical situations."