Tester, Baucus to Civil Liberties board: Your mission is clear

Senators task panel with investigating government surveillance programs

(U.S. SENATE) – In the wake of revelations about the scope of the federal government’s controversial spying programs, Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus want the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to get to work.

The oversight board investigates national security measures to make sure they do not violate the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding American citizens. News reports earlier this month revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly monitors Americans’ phone and internet records without their knowledge.

Tester and Baucus, two leading voices for protecting Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, want the panel to examine the NSA to make sure the government is following the law and respecting Americans’ Constitutional rights as it takes steps to protect the nation.

“We request that you make it an urgent priority to investigate the programs and determine whether they are conducted within the statutory authority granted by Congress, and take the necessary precautions to protect the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens under the Constitution,” Tester and Baucus told board members.

Tester, who previously pushed the President to fill the oversight board’s vacancies, and Baucus asked the panel to release an unclassified report of its findings.

The five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created in 2004, was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

Tester, a long-time critic of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that made it easier for the government to spy on Americans, is actively working to strengthen Americans’ civil liberty and privacy protections in the wake of the recent revelations.

In addition to criticizing the collection of Americans’ personal communications, this week he introduced a bill to expose the “secret law” preventing Americans from knowing about the legal arguments the government uses to spy on them. Baucus is also co-sponsoring the “Ending Secret Law” Act.

Both Baucus and Tester also voted against reauthorizing the secret FISA courts at the end of 2012.

Tester’s bipartisan letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board by les_braswell5524