Tester renews push for answers on government surveillance programs
(U.S. SENATE) - Senator Jon Tester says Montanans have the right to know if the federal government is spying on them.
Tester is backing legislation to require the government to release more data about the type and amount of private information it is collecting under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). His bill also lets private companies - like Google and Microsoft - publicly disclose what kinds of information the government forces them to collect.
"Montanans have the right to know if they're being spied on," said Tester, who recently gave a speech on the Senate floor about the importance of Americans' civil liberties. "This bill will help Congress hold government officials accountable and find the right balance between protecting our civil liberties and our national security."
Tester, a leading voice for protecting Americans' privacy and civil liberties, recently introduced legislation to declassify important Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions so Americans know what legal arguments the government is using to spy on them.
The bill Tester co-sponsored today, the Surveillance Transparency Act, will broaden the range of information the government must declassify to include the number of rulings made by the FISA Court, the number of Americans who have had their information collected, and details about the kinds of data being collected.
Since Edward Snowden revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court secretly granted the National Security Agency access to Americans' phone and internet records without their knowledge, Tester has taken multiple steps to rein in the federal government.
Tester, who has voted to repeal the Patriot Act multiple times, is demanding answers about the scope of the government's surveillance programs from the government's top intelligence official and recently called on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to investigate the spying programs.
Tester today also sponsored two more bills to reform the FISA Court and change the way its judges are selected. Currently, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court holds exclusive power to select judges from the federal bench to the court.