SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has threatened to vote against any spending bill that permanently renews a foreign intelligence data collection program that he believes can be used to spy on Americans.
But he said Wednesday he doesn’t think it will lead to a government shutdown because there is increasing awareness in Congress that the two things shouldn't be tied together.
"There's not enough of a nexus there. There’s no good reason to say we're not going to fund the government unless we further empower the government to spy on the American people," Lee said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Lee joined GOP Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, and Ron Wyden, of Oregon, at a news conference Tuesday to speak against renewing section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They say government agencies use the law to wrongfully monitor, collect and search U.S. citizens' electronic communications.
"We're determined to fight this thing," Lee said.
Congress would most likely pass a short-term extension of the program that separates it from the stop-gap spending bill, allowing "real reform" of section 702 early next year, he said.
Lee said "warrantless back door" searches allowed under the program leave Americans vulnerable to "nefarious" treatment and exposure when the government itself gets hacked, which "happens on a regular basis."
"This is dangerous," he said.
Privacy and security don't have to be at odds with each other, Lee said. "We're truly not secure unless we're private."
Federal agencies will shut down unless Congress passes a funding bill before midnight Friday.