Civil liberties board sides with Tester on NSA surveillance

Independent panel calls for end to bulk phone data collection

(HELENA, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after a majority of the members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – a panel Tester called on to investigate the NSA – said the spy agency’s current program for bulk collection of Americans’ phone data is illegal, should be ended and raises serious threats to civil liberties:

“Today’s report makes clear what most Americans already suspect: the intelligence community’s long leash needs to be reined in. We need more than small steps and half measures. We need to end the out-of-control surveillance of law-abiding Americans that is crippling trust in government and infringing on Americans’ civil liberties without making us significantly safer.”

Tester in June called on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to look into the NSA’s surveillance activities after Edward Snowden revealed the scope of the federal government’s controversial spying programs.

The panel today said that the statute that the NSA uses to justify its bulk phone collection program “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program.”

Back in 2011, before the extent of the government’s surveillance programs were widely known, Tester called on President Obama to fill the oversight board’s vacancies so it could “safeguard the rights of law-abiding Americans.”

Since the Snowden revelations, Tester has led the charge on reining in the government surveillance programs by backing legislation to declassify more FISA Court rulings, change how judges are selected to the court and outlaw the widespread collection of Americans’ personal records.

Tester, who constantly seeks to increase Americans’ privacy and has voted to repeal the Patriot Act multiple times, last week responded to the President’s speech on government surveillance and civil liberties by saying that “too many questions remain about the reach of intelligence agencies into Americans’ private lives.”

A copy of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s report is available online HERE.