Senator Walsh introduces bill to restrict NSA and FBI snooping

2014-03-07T05:00:00Z 2014-10-19T08:11:08Z Senator Walsh introduces bill to restrict NSA and FBI snooping

HELENA – Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., introduced his first bill Thursday, to restrict the ability of federal security agencies to secretly collect phone records and other personal data on U.S. citizens.

Walsh’s bill, titled the Civil Liberties Defense Act, also would require the National Security Agency to purge records of already collected data that don’t comply with standards established by the act.

“As I’ve been traveling around the state … this is an issue that I’m hearing about from Montanans, about the government trampling on our civil liberties,” he said in an interview. “I said that when I came here, I wanted to identify problems, find a fix for the problem and solve that problem.”

Walsh became Montana’s second U.S. senator early last month, appointed Feb. 7 by Gov. Steve Bullock to replace Democrat Max Baucus, who resigned after being confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China.

He’ll serve out Baucus’ term this year while also running for re-election.

Walsh is being challenged in the Democratic primary in June by Wilsall rancher Dirk Adams, and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., also has filed to run for the seat.

Walsh said his bill, referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, has a decent chance of passing, because he’s spoken with many senators in both parties who believe security-agency snooping must be reined in.

He said his bill, if passed, would end the secret, mass collection of telephone, bank, credit and Internet-usage records by government agencies such as the NSA and the FBI, which say the records are used in anti-terrorism investigations.

Any request for such records would need approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and the requesting agency would have to focus on a specific individual and provide specific facts on why the information is relevant to an investigation of international terrorism or foreign intelligence.

NSA also would have to report to Congress within six months on how it will purge records gathered without these new standards.

The bill also applies similar restrictions to national security letters, or NSLs, which are used by the FBI to request the same type of records directly from banks, phone companies and credit firms without the knowledge of their customers.

Under the bill, an FBI agent would need judicial approval to send an NSL, and would have to provide specific information on the letter’s target.

“If we just focused on the (NSA) requests, they would use one or the other,” Walsh said. “This way we would close loopholes in both areas.”

The former Montana National Guard commander said the bill would still allow investigation of terrorist suspects, but prevent mass snooping into the records of innocent citizens.

“As a soldier, going over to Iraq and Afghanistan, I volunteered to fight to uphold the constitution of the United States and the freedoms that we have today,” he said. “Now that I’m not in the military, I’m not going to give up that fight.”

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at

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(4) Comments

  1. idiot state
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    idiot state - March 07, 2014 8:21 am
    Not toooo phony!! Who gave Mr. Walsh this idea; he's acting like a politician who's desperately trying to win a Senate seat that, alas, won't be going to Mr, Obama's little soldiers this time around. Nice try though-Lol!! Has Mr. Walsh let Montanans know his views on Obamacare? Or is he just going to piddle around the edges, pretending to be busy, introducing worthless bills that have zero chance of anything?
  2. retiredmsla
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    retiredmsla - March 07, 2014 8:10 am
    Come, come, come! John Walsh is doing his best to appear conservative. Maybe he'll be reelected. Then, see which issues he hooks up with.
  3. BR
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    BR - March 06, 2014 11:40 pm
    Very encouraging to see someone with some courage. It has been a dozen years since the anti-Constitutional administration of a century deprived us of our rights to un-warranted searches and seizure and our rights to privacy. The question is, will he get co-signers or is our Senate still made up of a handful of persons of integrity plus an entire bin of deadwood.
  4. Picaresque
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    Picaresque - March 06, 2014 6:49 pm
    Good for John Walsh. It's about time that someone in Congress is willing to take positive action to protect our civil liberties. Too many elected officials (Rep. Mike Rogers (R) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) come to mind) are willing to trade our civil liberties for the illusory concept of "security." The NSA and the FBI seem to be fixated on building the infrastructure of a police state and we need our elected officials to push back HARD whenever the Bill of Rights are ignored.

    "They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Ben Franklin
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