Dem Senator: Allow Patriot Act to expire

The Hill

by Josiah Ryan

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) bucked his party's leadership and called on his colleagues to vote down a bill that would renew provisions of the Patriot Act.

"Today we have an opportunity to do away with a law that tramples on Americans' constitutional rights," Tester said. "The Patriot Act flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment and it allows the government to hold secret proceedings even when the proceedings don't need to be held in secret."

The Patriot Act renewal legislation, which will see a cloture vote in the Senate this week, would extend the ability of U.S. intelligence authorities to conduct roving wiretaps, gain access to business records and survey "lone-wolf" operators, authorities that expire at the end of this week.

Last week, congressional leaders in both chambers reached a deal to extend the statutes without changes for four years.

Tester, who is preparing for a tough reelection battle next year, touted the agility of American intelligence agencies and suggested they do not need the Patriot Act to succeed.

"Our intelligence services are the best in the world," said Tester. "They do what they need to do without having to snoop around the lives of law abiding Americans and Montanans."

"Our constitutional freedoms are too valuable," he concluded.

Both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have expressed concerns about the bill, arguing the provisions violate civil liberties.

The bill will need at least 60 votes to proceed in the legislative process. A vote is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.