U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, on Wednesday said recent government programs, including the Real ID Act, have violated privacy and built executive power to the extent that it threatens national security. “The Real ID Act was yet another in a series of sweeping laws and programs that represent an invasion of privacy by the government that far exceeds anything that we’ve seen in a generation,” he said at a Cata Institute forum on the Real ID Act. That erosion of privacy started with the Patriot Act, which gave the FBI “extraordinary powers to snoop on the private lives of all Americans,” he said. It was followed by the revelation of the president’s secret domestic wiretapping program.
“At the core, these efforts share a common origin, the arrogant and wrongheaded belief that the federal government knows best,” he said. The failure of Congress and the administration to address the concerns of states and civil libertarians results in far more than philosophical disagreement, Tester added. “In my view, these executive powers do long-term harm to our national security.” The Real ID debate has distracted the country from the need for states to improve the security of driver’s licenses and of the real mission of preventing terrorism, he said. The federal government should spend money on border security gaps rather than on looking over states’ shoulders or creating a national database, he said.