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2016: Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on NSA Blanket Surveillance

21st Century Wire says…

As the 2016 US Presidential election approaches, there will be a lot of talk from candidates, especially those wearing the Republican badge, about how they ‘believe in America’, and ‘American values’ and ‘freedom’, and the rest of it.

As old Patriot Act provisions begin to expire, we can see clearly how certain political leaders are actively lobbying to extend draconian policies and other unconstitutional ‘laws’ – still under the cult doctrine of “National Security”. In other words, what the government really means here is that they cannot be secure as long as you are. From a constitutional point of view, one could easily class these political leaders as the true enemies of freedom and liberty, and the slick, new corporatized breed of 21st century neofascists who see the Bill of Rights as an obstacle to their end goal of total social monitoring and control of the population.

Big government likes and needs control, and as both parties seem to favor big government (despite all their hollow cries to the contrary), party affiliation doesn’t really matter that much on this issue. Jeb Bush (R), Marco Rubio (R), and Hillary Clinton (D) (and all with the ideological backing of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), are just a few of the candidates who appear committed to strengthening – not dismantling, the mass-surveillance and police state.

While most GOP Senators are remaining as vague as possible on the issue (no one wants to be called ‘weak’ when it comes to national security),  Jeb Bush is perhaps the most openly despotic so far on the issue, saying that, “this is a hugely important program to use these technologies to keep us safe”.

Here’s a look at their positions on the NSA highly illegal and un-American domestic spying machine…

FILE - In this June 6, 2013, file photo, a sign stands outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. Britain's electronic spying agency, in cooperation with the NSA, hacked into the networks of a Dutch company to steal codes that allow both governments to seamlessly eavesdrop on mobile phones worldwide, according to the documents given to journalists by Edward Snowden. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Switch

Jeb Bush is a big fan of government spying programs started under his brother, President George W. Bush. In fact, he called support of National Security Agency powers “the best part of the Obama administration” in a recent interview on a conservative radio talk show.

Bush’s position on the controversial program that collects the phone records of millions of Americans isn’t new: 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.

But where presidential hopefuls stand on the phone records program — which scoops up information including who Americans call and the length of those conversations, but not their content — has a new urgency because the part of the Patriot Act that authorizes that phone records program, Section 215, is set to expire on June 1.

The deadline is thought by many observers to be privacy advocates’ best chance to end the program — either by pushing through a reform package or by blocking an extension.

And the race is already on in the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has introduced a bill extending Section 215 authority through 2020, while attempts to push a version of the USA Freedom Act — a reform bill which would have stopped the government from collecting Americans’ phone records but would allow it to query records retained by phone companies in certain circumstances and extend some parts of the Patriot Act, and which was defeated last year —  are in the works.

A Bush spokesman referred The Post to his radio remarks from this week, when asked directly if he supported an extension of Section 215. But Bush, who is widely expected to compete for the Republican nomination although he hasn’t officially announced, isn’t the only person with White House ambitions who has weighed in on the domestic phone spying program.

Here’s where the declared candidates stand so far:

Rand Paul

The Kentucky senator is probably the most outspoken critic of NSA domestic spying among the official candidates — a title Paul claimed before he was even an official candidate. He has voted against Patriot Act extensions during his time in office so far and specifically addressed the looming deadline at the South by Southwest conference in March. “I’m opposed to the Patriot Act and will vote no,” Paul said, according to U.S. News & World Report. 

In November, Paul voted against the USA Freedom Act moving forward — but argued the bill did not go far enough to end the program. However, despite saying the founding fathers would be “mortified” by the current debate over the phone program, he declined to comment specifically on McConnell’s bill Wednesday night, according to the Hill — and the Paul campaign did not immediately respond to a Post inquiry about his position on a 215 extension.

Ted Cruz

The Texas senator has also been a critic of NSA spying. He was one of four Republican senators who crossed party lines to vote 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.

Cruz’s campaign did not immediately respond to a Post inquiry about his position on an extension of Section 215.

Marco Rubio

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio seems to have more in common with his state’s former governor than Paul or Cruz when it comes to his position on NSA spying. In response to a Post inquiry about his position on a Section 215 extension, a spokesman for the senator referred The Post to a January Fox News op-ed:

“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,” he wrote.

Hillary Clinton

The lone declared Democratic candidate is also the most elusive on NSA spying. The former secretary of state stayed quiet about the government’s spying activities when they were first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, although she criticized him — and her remarks since then have stopped short of taking 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.”

But it’s not clear exactly what that means to Clinton, who voted for the Patriot Act in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and for a reauthorization compromise in 2006, but against the 2008 FISA Amendment Acts which expanded other NSA spying powers. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign declined to comment on her position on extension 215 in light of the current looming deadline.

Continue this story at The Switch

READ MORE 2016 ELECTION NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire 2016 Files

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