Freedom Act 

Baucus not yet on board

The National Security Agency continues to engage in widespread surveillance on American soil, and some members of Congress want it to stop.

On Oct. 29, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a bill to Congress that would rein in the excesses of America's intelligence agencies by amending the USA Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Two members of Montana's delegation—Rep. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester—have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill in their respective chambers. Sen. Max Baucus has not.

According to an Electronic Frontier Foundation statement, the bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, "brings new levels of transparency to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court (FISA court), introduces a special advocate to champion civil liberties in the FISA court, and appears to create new statutory limits on mass surveillance by the National Security Agency." Local supporters believe it's a law that a majority of Montanans would back.

"Montana is known for being a leader in the area of digital privacy and our congressional representatives have a long history of supporting measures to amend the Patriot Act," says Niki Zupanic, public policy director for Montana ACLU. "We are asking Sen. Baucus to join with Sen. Tester and Rep. Daines in support of this bill. We would love to have all three representatives on record backing this bill."

Despite his inaction, Baucus recently expressed support for the bill's goals.

"There's no question we need more transparency and more accountability when it comes to allegations that the government is widely snooping on its own citizens," said Baucus in an emailed statement. "Sunshine is the best disinfectant and people need to know that their civil liberties and the constitutional privacy rights we hold dear are not under attack."

Until they have a firm commitment from Baucus' office, however, privacy advocates at Montana ACLU say they will continue to push the senator to take action in support of the legislation.

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