WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP)
Sen. Jon Tester today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding that the Justice Department hand over information collected on Montanans through the USA Patriot Act. The request stems from a resolution that overwhelmingly passed the 2005 Montana Legislature with bipartisan support. Senate Joint Resolution 19, sponsored by Montana Senators Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek, and Jim Shockley, Rvictor, in part:
* Asks Montana’s Attorney General to track down information collected on Montanans through the Patriot Act (despite requests, Montana’s Attorney General has not received a response from Gonzales).
* Encourages law enforcement agencies not to take part in federal investigations that violate civil rights.
* Asks public libraries to post signs warning patrons that federal agents are authorized to seize records.
Tester, who supported SJR 19 as president of the Montana Senate in 2005, said now is the time to follow up at the federal level. “How many Montanans have had their private lives pried open without their knowledge?” Tester said. “It’s a pretty straightforward request. It’s one that the people of Montana deserve and deserve now.” In his letter to Gonzales, Tester requested detailed information about all Montanans who have been subjects of Patriot Act investigations, including everyone whose private records have been examined. Tester also asked for names of all Montanans who have been interviewed and arrested by federal agents under the Patriot Act. Tester has long criticized the USA Patriot Act, saying it violates civil rights like privacy a right all Montanans value. “Make no mistake, fighting terrorism is a national priority. But there are much more effective ways to do it without violating our privacy,” Tester said. “You do it by strengthening our borders and by focusing our military on the War on Terrorism. You don’t do it by giving the government permission to look in our back windows.”