Guest opinion: First legislation aims to stop warrantless NSA searches

2014-03-12T00:00:00Z 2014-03-14T15:19:09Z Guest opinion: First legislation aims to stop warrantless NSA searchesBy JOHN WALSH U.S. Senator The Billings Gazette
March 12, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Montanans know hard work. After spending the last few weeks in Washington, I can tell you it’s something a lot of folks back there talk about but never actually get around to doing.

If they did, women wouldn’t make less than men for doing the same job. Bills to expand veteran job training and education benefits wouldn’t fail on the Senate floor. Congress wouldn’t be able to deny a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. We’d address our crippling national debt without shutting down the government or hurting our most vulnerable citizens.

It’s time to do things differently and take responsibility to solve the problems affecting Montana families.

So, when I learned that two disturbing domestic surveillance programs have continued despite the national outcry, I introduced the Civil Liberties Protection Act to shut them down.

The bill – my first as your U.S. senator – will require the NSA to name whose records they want and why, putting a stop to the warrantless searches of unlimited data.

It will also require the FBI to apply for a court review of what it calls “National Security Letters,” which are used to collect private information. My proposal will put in place the judicial oversight that currently does not exist.

It won’t be the last measure we take to protect our rights, but we must begin to set boundaries on what our government cannot do.

And we must focus on what it can do better.

One of the first bills I sponsored restored cuts made to benefits for our men and women in uniform. We must preserve our promise to them – just as we owe those who spent their lives paying into Social Security and Medicare a promise that their benefits will never be cut or turned into vouchers.

We can encourage investments that spur job creation by getting rid of tax credits for corporations that ship jobs overseas. I know plenty of Montanans who will gladly do the work that big corporations outsource to countries like China.

It can also protect the industries that allow states to thrive. Our treasured outdoors are among our greatest assets and spur millions of dollars in tourism each year. I’ve co-sponsored both the North Fork Watershed Protection Act and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act to preserve open land for the recreation, hunting and hiking enjoyed by tourists and Montanans alike.

Growing up in Butte, I didn’t expect to go as far as Washington, D.C. Back then, I knew my only ticket to college was through the National Guard and I joined to get the education that my parents, brother and sister never had.

Students today too often have to choose between college and bankruptcy. That’s a false choice that threatens the middle class. We can help make college more affordable by cutting the waste from other parts of our federal budget.

I spent 33 years with the Montana National Guard and led 700 of Montana’s finest men and women into combat. I know what it takes to keep our country safe, and it’s not wasteful taxpayer-funded military contracts. We can eliminate many of those in order to make investments that improve our economy and create jobs.

As a former military commander, I know we have a lot of work to do to reform the way sexual assault is prosecuted in our Armed Forces. Last week, I voted in support of legislation to remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command so that justice is served.

The highlight of my first month as your senator has been meeting with Montanans across our state. Your input inspires good ideas, so please keep it coming. Keep visiting, calling and writing.

I might not know my way around the Senate hallways yet and we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead, but as a Montanan I’m ready to tackle any job to do right by our state.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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