Senators slam bill that expands government spying

Tester and Baucus reject legislation, citing constitutional right to privacy

(U.S. SENATE) – Montana’s U.S. Senators today rejected a bill that expands the government’s ability to spy on law-abiding Americans.

Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus say today’s extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, tramples constitutional rights by invading privacy.

The 2008 legislation allows the government to eavesdrop on phone conversations and intercept emails between law-abiding American citizens and foreign citizens-without a warrant. Both the Obama administration and the Bush administration have refused to discuss how the law is being used.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to protect the safety and security of all Americans, but we can and must do it without invading privacy or trampling on our constitutional rights,” Tester said. “Our government should never be in the business of spying on law-abiding Americans.”

“The American people deserve to know exactly how this surveillance authority is being used,” Baucus said. “Without the amendments we supported, this bill leaves the door open for American citizens to get swept up in surveillance that is meant for terrorists, and I simply cannot support extending this authority without stronger protections of the constitutional rights of Montanans.”

Tester earlier this month proposed an amendment to specifically outlaw “reverse targeting”-a controversial practice that effectively allows U.S. intelligence agents to spy on law-abiding Americans by targeting their overseas communications.

Tester and Baucus were among 23 U.S. Senators-both Democrats and Republicans-who voted against the extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.