By Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director
Over the last few months, Montanans’ impatience and frustration with the out-of-control NSA surveillance programs has grown. Each day seems to bring new information about how the NSA has been spying on our emails, phone calls, and internet usage. And while we’ve taken groundbreaking steps to protect privacy rights here in our own state, we’ve had to wait for Congress to exercise its power to rein in this massive domestic surveillance program.
Fortunately, just last week, we got the news that we have been looking for: Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Senator Leahy (D-VT) introduced a good bill—the USA FREEDOM Act—that would go a long way to rolling back the government’s dragnet surveillance program.
The legislation is notable not just for the significant steps it takes to curb government spying, but also for its sponsors and the growing list of legislators lining up to support it. Rep. Sensenbrenner was the lead author of the Patriot Act and now is the chair of the House's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Crime. A conservative member of Congress, he has repeatedly supported surveillance laws in the past, but now he's leading the charge for reform. And Sen. Leahy, the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Patriot Act and FISA, has also acknowledged that these surveillance programs’ intrusion into our privacy have not been proven to be justified.
That kind of bi-partisan sponsorship is no surprise: we saw scores of Montana legislators on both sides of the aisle support our successful pro-privacy legislation earlier this year.
Thankfully, Senator Jon Tester and Representative Steve Daines have already signed on as co-sponsors of this bill, reflecting Montanans’ commitment to protecting and preserving our privacy rights.
This bill represents our best opportunity to make real reforms to rein in government spying. We urge Senator Baucus to join his colleagues in the Montana congressional delegation and become a co-sponsor of the USA FREEDOM Act.