The provisions of the Patriot Act allowing the mass collection of Americans’ metadata expired Monday when the Senate failed to reach a deal. The FBI has admitted these powers haven’t helped them crack any major cases and the Obama Administration can’t point to a single instance of the NSA foiling a terrorist plot.
So why are we still debating whether the government should be able to spy on all of our private communications?
I couldn’t tell you—but here’s where the 2016 candidates stand (in alphabetical order).
Jeb Bush (R) Bush III adores mass surveillance. In fact, he’s said that the “best part of the Obama administration” is his expansion of the warrantless mass surveillance conducted by the NSA under the Patriot Act. Bush has also expressed confusion as to why innocent people might object to their government spying on them.
Ben Carson (R) The heart surgeon has said he agrees with a court ruling which determined the NSA’s mass spying is unconstitutional.
Chris Christie (R) Christie has established himself as a vehement supporter of the NSA, the Patriot Act, and all things mass surveillance. Christie has denied that the Patriot Act has violated anyone’s civil liberties.
Hillary Clinton (D) As a senator, Clinton voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and also voted to reauthorize it in 2006. Her record on privacy issues since then has been vague and she hasn’t specified any changes to current policy she’d like to make.
Ted Cruz (R) The Texas senator has taken a moderate position on these issues—he’d like some reforms, specifically the USA Freedom Act (which I explained here), but he doesn’t want the Patriot Act to go away. Cruz is more outspoken against the NSA, even saying whistleblower Edward Snowden did a “public service” by sharing what he knew.
Carly Fiorina (R) A comparative political unknown, Fiorina doesn’t have much of a record on the NSA and the Patriot Act. She was reportedly “very helpful to the NSA” when she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
Lindsey Graham (R) The arch-hawk senator from South Carolina is probably only rivaled by Christie in his love of the surveillance state. Graham is not interested in curtailing the NSA or letting the Patriot Act expire; he says Americans “don’t have anything to worry about” from mass, warrantless spying.
Martin O’Malley (D) O’Malley says we “need to improve upon the Patriot Act,” and he supported the USA Freedom Act’s moderate reforms. However, the former Maryland governor also sounded a panicky note at the prospect of a failure to renew the Patriot Act.
George Pataki (R) Pataki supports a full reauthorization of the Patriot Act and wants the NSA to continue spying on Americans at will.
Rand Paul (R) Paul is the leading opponent of NSA mass surveillance and the Patriot Act in the Senate. He opposed the USA Freedom Act because he believes it didn’t go far enough, and he spoke for more than ten hours as part of his recent attempt to force the expiration of several sections of the act. Paul says our “founding fathers would be mortified” if they knew how our government spies on us.
Rick Perry (R) The former Texas governor has said he doesn’t want to repeal the Patriot Act, but also that average citizens shouldn’t have their calls recorded.
Marco Rubio (R) The Florida senator strongly supports NSA mass spying and opposes reforms—even moderate ones, like the USA Freedom Act—to the Patriot Act. “There is not a single documented case of abuse of this program,” Rubio says.
Bernie Sanders (D) The long-time senator from Vermont voted against the initial passage of the Patriot Act and said the USA Freedom Act didn’t reform it enough. However, “in 2006 he voted in favor of making fourteen provisions of the Act permanent, including those that codified the FBI’s authority to seize business records and carry out roving wiretaps.”
Rick Santorum (R) Santorum voted for the Patriot Act and says he’d do so again today. He believes it has been “very effective” at stopping terrorism and strongly opposes Rand Paul’s reform efforts.
Scott Walker (R) Walker says it is “incredibly important” for the government to be able to spy on all of us, and that any problems with the way the NSA functions now are “specific to this president and this administration.” The Wisconsin governor does not support reforming the Patriot Act.