Jon Tester continues to be one of the Senate’s most outspoken and fierce civil liberties advocates (shouldn’t all U.S. Senators be advocating for our civil liberties?). Our junior Senator has joined a gang of eight Senators fighting to hold the NSA and FISA accountable for spying on virtually every American.
The Federal Government has been taking advantage of the deeply flawed PATRIOT Act for years in order to implement an intrusive program of surveillance of almost every phone call, Internet search, and email in the United States.
Opposing the PATRIOT Act is nothing new to Mr. Tester. In 2006, Tester was celebrated by liberals and libertarians and demonized by conservatives for advocating for the repeal of the PATRIOT Act. During a debate with Republican Senator Conrad Burns, Tester stated, “I think the PATRIOT Act has very little to do with the war on terrorism and has a lot to do with why the terrorists attacked this country: to take away freedoms from regular Americans.”
Burns responded, “[Tester] wants to weaken the PATRIOT Act!” To which Tester shot back, “let me be clear. I don’t want to weaken the PATRIOT Act, I want to repeal it.”
Since being elected to the U.S. Senate, Tester has repeatedly slammed the PATRIOT Act and voted time and time again to undo the law.
In recent weeks, the Federal Government’s massive and unconstitutional domestic surveillance program has been exposed and Tester’s opposition to laws like the PATRIOT Act has been more than validated.
What’s disappointing is that only eight U.S. Senators seem to be truly outraged over NSA’s abuses. The Hill reports, “Eight senators introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require the attorney general to declassify significant opinions made by courts operating under the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
If the bipartisan bill were adopted, the government would be required to reveal the kinds of National Security Agency surveillance activities that came to light last week.
However, “while the legislation has bipartisan backing” it has “received a chilly reception” on Capitol Hill. “’I just don’t see a freight train coming down the track,’ in terms of getting the White House and Congress behind the Merkley-Wyden bill, Durbin said.
Even if a bill got through the House and Senate, it is unlikely that President Obama would accept it, Durbin said.
The Merkley-Wyden bill was offered in response to the classified information on the two domestic surveillance programs that were leaked by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old government contractor.“
Nonetheless, Tester has continued to push forward. Twice, while appearing on MSNBC, Tester has stated that the Snowden leak gives Congress and the American public an opportunity to have an “honest debate” about domestic surveillance. Tester also strongly disagrees with Republicans who are calling for the punishment of journalists who report on intelligence leaks. Pure insanity.
Tester has gone on to say that while Snowden “probably shouldn’t have done what he did,” his actions don’t compromise the security of the United States “and quite frankly, it helps [members of congress] become aware of a situation that [we weren’t] aware of…”
You can watch the two interviews here and here.
Intelligent Discontent has done an outstanding job f documenting Tester’s unwavering dedication to protecting our civil liberties and constitutional rights. Over the weekend Don Pogreba wrote the following:
“One of the reasons I have so enthusiastically supported Senator Tester has been his consistent opposition to overreaching federal policies like the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments of 2008 Act. The latter was specifically identified by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, as justification for the PRISM program, which allowed the NSA and FBI to tap “directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs.”
Back in 2008, Senator Tester voted against the FISA Amendments Act, just as he voted against extending the PATRIOT ACT. Representative Rehberg, along with almost the entire Republican House, voted for the bill.
It’s easy for politicians to decry the abuses of the NSA after they’ve been revealed, but we should credit Senator Tester for seeing the danger of NSA overreach five years ago. In fact, Tester was the sole Senator from the Rocky Mountain region to oppose the bill that year.”
And, “Senator Tester has come out swinging against NSA spying–demanding that the government declassify documents so that the American people can decide the scope of the program. On the other hand, Representative Daines has been incredibly quiet on the issue, other than issuing politicized and generic ‘concerns.’ The would-be Senator has had plenty of time to poll test a message. Shouldn’t he tell Montanans what he believes?”
Montanans are lucky to have a Senator so dedicated to protecting our civil liberties. Let’s hope more Senators join Tester’s effort to declassify important FISA court opinions in the wake of the leaks surrounding National Security Agency surveillance.
We wonder how Rehberg would have handled NSA’s surveillance program had he been elected to the United States Senate. Yikes.