The Washington Post compiled a list of declared presidential candidates and how they weigh in on the Patriot Act, along with the NSA’s indiscriminate collection of phone records of all Americans. The part of the Patriot Act that authorizes the phone records program, Section 215, is set to expire on June 1. Section 215 authorizes the NSA to collect information including who Americans call and the length of those conversations, but not their content.
Jeb Bush – a big fan of government spying programs calling support of the National Security Agency powers “the best part of the Obama administration” in a recent conservative radio talk show interview. In a February speech, the former Florida governor said he didn’t even understand why there was a debate over the issue. “We do protect our civil liberties, but this is a hugely important program to use these technologies to keep us safe,” he said, according to the National Journal.
Rand Paul – The most outspoken critic of NSA domestic spying among the official candidates. “I’m opposed to the Patriot Act and will vote no,” Paul said, according to U.S. News & World Report. Paul also voted against the USA Freedom Act – the act designed to reduce domestic spying – claiming it did not go far enough to end the program. He has been quoted as saying the founding fathers would be “mortified” by the current debate over the phone program.
Ted Cruz – The Texas senator has also been a critic of NSA spying. He crossed party lines – with three other Republican senators to move the USA Freedom Act forward in November. At a recent campaign event in Iowa, he called the compromise bill the “single best chance to end the bulk collection of meta data,” according to CNN — and knocked Paul for his vote against it.
Marco Rubio – The Florida senator has more in common with Bush than Paul or Cruz. In a Fox News op-ed he wrote, “This year, a new Republican majority in both houses of Congress will have to extend current authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and I urge my colleagues to consider a permanent extension of the counterterrorism tools our intelligence community relies on to keep the American people safe.”
Hillary Clinton – the most elusive in the group regarding NSA spying, she remained quiet about the government’s spying activities when they were first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. While criticizing him, she stopped short of actionable policy positions. In the fall, she praised NSA critic and then-senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for “asking the hard questions about intelligence and the trade-off between liberty and security” during a campaign stop for Udall, according to The Hill. And in a February interview with re/code’s Kara Swisher, Clinton said the NSA “needs to be more transparent,” and that she wanted a “better balance.” Her campaign spokesperson declined to comment on her position on the Section 215 deadline.