Tester pledges ‘no’ vote on extending controversial Patriot Act
Senator: ‘When we give up our rights, we give way to exactly what terrorists want for us’
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today announced that he will vote against a 4-year extension of the controversial Patriot Act, which he said “tramples on our constitutional rights.”
Tester, a longtime opponent of the Patriot Act, spoke against the law in a speech on the Senate floor. Tester said the law “invades the privacy of law-abiding Montanans and law-abiding Americans.”
“Long before I ever got to the Senate, the Patriot Act was sold to us as a toolbox of sorts—to give U.S. agents the tools they need to find, fight and kill terrorists,” Tester told his colleagues. “But what we got from the Patriot Act was a law that is killing the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”
“When we give up our rights, we give way to exactly what terrorists want for us: fewer freedoms and invasion of privacy,” Tester added.
Tester noted that Senators may not be permitted to offer amendments on the Patriot Act extension, which he called “a shame.”
Tester also praised U.S. troops and intelligence agents, saying they are better trained, smarter and stronger than any other force in the world.
“And they do what they do without needing to snoop around in the private lives of law-abiding Americans and Montanans,” Tester said. “Without having to dig up your medical records, or your gun records, or your library records, or your internet records.”
Tester is an outspoken advocate for privacy rights who has consistently opposed the Patriot Act and the federal REAL ID program. He voted against a 3-month extension of the controversial law earlier this year.
Text of Tester’s speech appears below.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester
Patriot Act Floor Remarks
May 23, 2011
PREPARED FOR DELIVERY.
Mr. President, today we have opportunity to do away with a law that tramples on our constitutional rights.
A law that invades the privacy of law-abiding Montanans. And law-abiding Americans. A law that deprives Americans of some of our most basic Constitutional protections.
This week we are voting on whether to extend the USA PATRIOT Act four more years, as is.
And there’s a chance we may not have an opportunity to change it, even though we know that our freedoms have been compromised.
That is a shame.
Because without that possibility, we are not having the debate the American people deserve.
If our only choice is to vote yes or no, I’m going to vote: No way. No how.
Long before I ever got to the Senate, the Patriot Act was sold to us as a toolbox of sorts to give U.S. agents the tools they need to find, fight and kill terrorists.
But what we got from the Patriot Act was a law that is killing the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
It gives our government full authority to dig through your private records or tap your phones to make a case against you — without even having to get a judge’s warrant. Even if you’re doing nothing wrong.
When we give up our rights, we give way to exactly what terrorists want for us: Fewer freedoms. Invasion of privacy.
That’s not acceptable in Montana. I’m sure it’s not acceptable anywhere else.
More than 200 years ago, one of the founders of this country warned us, quote:
“Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Words of wisdom, from Benjamin Franklin.
Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom, privacy, and a government that we control. We get exactly the opposite, with the Patriot Act.
Mr. President, here’s a copy of the Constitution.
Here’s a reminder of our rights as Americans, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. I quote: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
The folks who wrote the Patriot Act were here in Washington long before I even thought about running for the U.S. Senate.
But you do not have to be a lawyer to know that the Patriot Act flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment.
It allows the government to conduct secret proceedings–even when those proceedings don’t need to be secret.
And if we allow that to happen, we toss government transparency and accountability out the window.
As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, our military forces and intelligence agents are the most effective in the world. They are the best because they have the most powerful tools in the world to do their jobs.
They are better trained than anyone else. They are stronger. They are smarter.
And they do what they do without needing to snoop around in the private lives of law-abiding Americans and Montanans. Without having to dig up your medical records. Or your gun records. Or your library records. Or your internet records.
Mr. President, the Patriot Act is bad policy that has put us on a very slippery slope. Our Constitutional freedoms are too valuable to give even an inch of them away, especially when we don’t need to.
And without the opportunity to make real changes this bill… our only option is to say yes or no to extending this law four more years. If we do, an entire decade will have passed, without an opportunity to make any adjustments.
Not having the opportunity to amend the Patriot Act, I’m going vote against it — in the name of freedom and privacy. And I urge all of my colleagues to do the same. It’s the responsible thing to do.
I yield the floor.