Schweitzer herding Burns into a box canyon
Governor: Burns needs to 'stand with Montana' against Patriot Act>For the rest of the article, go here.
By MATT GOURAS
December 21, 2005
HELENA -- Montana's governor is pushing Republican Sen. Conrad Burns to oppose renewing the Patriot Act, saying the measure intended to help in the war on terror goes against what the vast majority of Montanans believe.
"Montana values are not neighbors spying on neighbors," Schweitzer, a Democrat, said Wednesday.
Burns, however, said he supports the act and indicated he expects to vote for renewing it.
The Patriot Act, passed in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was intended to give law enforcement more tools in tracking down terror suspects. Some of the most contentious parts of the act include allowing police agencies to secretly get access to library and medical records and other personal data during investigations of suspected terrorist activity.
Schweitzer said contempt for the act is widespread in Montana. The 2005 Legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing parts of the act as an invasion of privacy, and a number of cities and counties across the state have passed similar resolutions -- some of which call for prohibiting local officers from helping enforce provisions of the act.
At a hearing earlier this year in the state Capitol residents from across the political spectrum lined up at a hearing on the Legislature's resolution to speak against the Patriot Act.
The country is "pretty close to what any reasonable person would say is almost a fascist state, and I don't believe I am being extreme in saying that," Dillon resident Mike Mosolf, one of those who spoke at that hearing, said Wednesday.
Burns, who said the measure also includes help to fight methamphetamine abuse, believes the measure has its place in the fight against terrorism.
"It is a Montana value to support our law enforcement, and a vote for the reauthorization of the Patriot act not only provides the tools for law enforcement to better intercept those who would do us harm but it provides the critical judicial review that is necessary to protect innocent civilians," Burns said.
President Bush is trying to break a filibuster over the Patriot Act's renewal. Recent reports that he authorized spying on Americans have fanned the flames of the debate, and Democrats are seeking more protections for civil liberties.
But Burns needs to break ranks with Bush, and side with popular sentiment in Montana, Schweitzer said. The governor sent Burns a letter on the issue Wednesday.
"This is going to be tough for him, because I understand the president wants him to vote another way," said Schweitzer, the first Democrat to be elected governor in the state in 20 years. "But he is not the senator from Texas, he is the senator from Montana."