Bush was joined by Chris Christie, both in backing Patriot Act reauthorization and in praising the Obama administration’s surveillance programs. “President Obama has done nothing to change the policies of the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. And I mean practically nothing,” Christie said. “And you know why? Because they work.”
Others have been somewhat more circumspect. Bobby Jindal has not directly addressed Patriot Act reauthorization, but he has generally supported mass surveillance, including the metadata program. Rick Santorum has also been generally supportive of the program. But Rick Perry has been more critical, agreeing that some surveillance is crucial to national security but admitting that he was shocked by the revelations about NSA spying. “You would expect to hear those stories coming out of China,” Perry told reporters when Edward Snowden’s revelations first broke. Mike Huckabee, who announced his candidacy yesterday, has not formally commented, but in Facebook posts has been even more critical of the NSA, writing that the agency “routinely violated the rules and invaded Americans’ privacy.” In another post, he wrote, “I would think it’s unconstitutional even to have a secret court that rules on citizens’ civil rights without them knowing it.” Scott Walker, as has been his habit lately, is straddling the issue, avoiding any specific position on reauthorization, while generally suggesting that we need to balance civil liberties with security.
Already the candidates have begun to throw barbs at one another.
Cruz has criticized Paul for his vote last fall against the USA Freedom Act, which Cruz cosponsored with Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah). That bill would have reauthorized the Patriot Act with restrictions on NSA surveillance similar to those now in the House bill. The bill fell two votes short of the 60 necessary to block a filibuster, and Cruz says that Paul’s no vote sank “our single best chance to end the bulk collection of metadata.”
A Paul spokesman countered that “Others are welcome to their decision to compromise on Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, but not to cast it misleadingly as a vote for liberty.” Paul also criticized Bush, tweeting, “Sadly, one GOP candidate thinks the NSA’s violation of your rights is ‘very important.’ ”
As the campaign moves on, we should expect the candidates to increasingly set out their differences. The debate over Patriot Act reauthorization and NSA spying provides an important, and healthy, opening salvo.