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Thursday, May 21, 2015

"Senate and House Republicans are divided on how to proceed ..." Is this new?

*  The Patriot act is an abomination. Should have never been introduced let alone passed. Public servants spying on the boss, We The People.
*  Aside from the admirably principled Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, the other candidates don't take a stand at all. They just grovel.
*  A new survey came out and Washington, D.C., has been named the fittest city in the country. And it makes sense. Just think of all of the exercise they get running for re-election, walking back statements, dodging questions, and jumping to conclusions. That's all cardio.
*  At least - most of them HAVE an opionion. Fiorina and Walker have not yet been told what they think
*  The ones that can't make a decision should be the first to go.
*  While we're on the topic, let's insist that corporations are also restricted in their capacity to collect data (big data and small data) on their customers, clients, and employees.
Bulk domestic surveillance: Where the 2016 candidates stand
By Meredith Shiner and Dylan Stableford, May 19, 2015

One of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act — the one that authorized the bulk collection of telephone data from American citizens, perhaps illegally — is set to expire at the end of this month.

Senate and House Republicans are divided on how to proceed with the sweeping legislation’s reauthorization, putting leaders on a collision path and the future of the law in limbo. At the same time, the controversial issue has split along ideological lines announced and likely 2016 presidential candidates who are jostling for position on national security.

Presidential campaign politics, especially within the Capitol, make an already complicated policy fight for Congress even more so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who supports the domestic surveillance program, is pushing for a clean extension of current law for another five years. This puts him in diametric opposition to the man he’s already endorsed for president in 2016, fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Perhaps more significantly, McConnell has put himself on an opposing track to House Republicans, who already have approved legislation that reforms the program instead of extending it carte blanche, meaning that he’s proceeding with a bill that he knows can’t pass the other chamber.

Even though it’s only May, re-upping the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court provisions of the Patriot Act could be one of the last major battles in Washington until fall, when Congress will have to find a way to both fund the government and extend the nation’s borrowing capacity by raising the government’s debt ceiling.

But it will be a messy one for Republicans, as their divisions on this issue reflect not only a difference in their approach to foreign policy — with “stronger on national security” long a cornerstone of their pitch to voters — but also a rift among GOP primary voters, who are losing confidence in bulk surveillance programs at a much higher clip than Democrats (though their initial support of these programs means they had more confidence to lose).

So where do the announced and likely 2016 presidential candidates stand on the issue? Yahoo News takes a look.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul

• Position on Patriot Act: Strongly opposes

Paul has been one of the most outspoken opponents of bulk surveillance since he arrived in Congress in 2011. While campaigning in New Hampshire earlier this month, Paul pointed out that he is the only candidate in either party who has promised to end the surveillance program on “day one” of his potential administration, according to an account published by Bloomberg Politics.

Paul has campaigned repeatedly and aggressively on the controversial Patriot Act provision in question, Section 215, with his @RandPaul account firing off 13 tweets bracketing last week’s federal appeals court decision that rejected [DB2] the measure’s ability to give the National Security Agency the power to bulk collect civilians’ phone records without warrants. He asked supporters to sign petitions against the surveillance program (thereby capturing their contact information), and his campaign put his Rand Paul-branded “NSA spy cam blockers” on sale to commemorate the decision.

Though some of these more campaign-oriented moves are significant outside of Washington, there’s still some question of what Paul might do inside the Capitol. In 2013, he launched a 13-hour filibuster protesting the use of drones on American citizens. And though his office would not confirm his plans for this pending debate, he has many tools at his disposal to obstruct movement on McConnell’s clean extension bill. The Senate has previously extended the Patriot Act without a roll-call vote, but Paul could object to any agreement, even if the end result is to just slow down the procedural process and force Congress past its deadline.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

• Position on Patriot Act: Opposes unchanged extension of current law; supports alternative USA Freedom Act

Like Paul, Cruz also opposes a clean extension of the USA Patriot Act. Paul and Cruz have strayed from establishment positions on justice issues, even when it comes at the intersection of national security, placing a greater emphasis on civil liberties than many of their GOP rivals.

Unlike Paul, however, Cruz supports the alternative to the clean extension bill, the USA Freedom Act, which the House is set to vote on this week. That legislation would end the NSA’s bulk phone data collection program as it is currently implemented, but it could leave the door open for bulk collection of data from other technologies as they evolve.

Some like Paul and other libertarian-minded members oppose the USA Freedom Act because they believe it does not limit the government enough. Others like McConnell believe it goes too far in limiting the NSA’s capabilities.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

• Position on Patriot Act: Supports

Of Senate Republicans who have formally launched their campaigns, Rubio is the only one who backs a clean extension of the Patriot Act. In remarks on the Senate floor, Rubio wondered if the Sept. 11 attacks would have been prevented had the Patriot Act — devised in response to the attacks — existed before those massive terrorist assaults took place or if the country would be vulnerable to similar attacks if the law were allowed to expire.

In a USA Today op-ed on May 10, Rubio reiterated these points: “Americans have been largely kept safe for almost 14 years. A major contributor to this success has been the development and use of counterterrorism tools such as those authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Patriot Act,” Rubio wrote, adding that there “is not a single documented case of abuse of this program.”

Jeb Bush, former Florida governor

• Position on Patriot Act: Supports

Jeb Bush is a big supporter of surveillance — so much so, he has applauded the Obama administration’s continuation of the program, which began under his brother’s presidency.

“I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using, you know, the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced,” Bush said on a radio show in April. “Even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation I think of our national government is to keep us safe.”

“For the life of me, I don’t understand [how] the debate has gotten off track,” the former Florida governor said in February, “where we’re not understanding and protecting — we do protect our civil liberties, but this is a hugely important program.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

• Position on Patriot Act: Supports

During a visit to New Hampshire on Monday, Christie attacked detractors of the Patriot Act as “civil liberties extremists,” and said he relied on parts of the law when he was New Jersey’s attorney general.

Even before engaging more seriously in presidential campaigning, Christie repeatedly has sparred with critics such as Paul over the spy program, which the New Jersey governor believes has helped thwart terrorist attacks after 9/11.

“These esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation,” Christie said in 2013. “And they won’t. That’s a lot tougher conversation to have.”

Christie, a former federal prosecutor who “was appointed by President George W. Bush on September 10, 2001,” called opposition to the NSA program “dangerous.”

“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” he said in 2013.

Paul fired back via Twitter.

“[He] thinks freedom is dangerous,” the Kentucky senator tweeted. “Dangerous is borrowing money from China to send to people who burn our flag.”

The New Jersey governor, Paul added, “should hear from more Americans who value both security and privacy.”

Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive

• Position on Patriot Act: Unclear

Fiorina, who’s only other bid for elective office was a failed U.S. Senate run in 2010, has not clearly stated a position on the Patriot Act specifically, though her private sector background suggests that she is a supporter of the bulk collection program — or at least enabled its growth.

In 2001, when Fiorina was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the company — at her direction — significantly aided the NSA by providing the equipment and servers necessary to greatly expand its operations. She developed a professional relationship with the then leader of the NSA, Michael Hayden, who would go on to lead the Central Intelligence Agency five years later.

Hayden created an external advisory board, for which Fiorina was the chair, a position that has been at the heart of her early 2016 messaging on her foreign policy experience.

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor

• Position on Patriot Act: Against

Huckabee released a statement last week praising the appeals court ruling that the NSA went too far in its surveillance of American citizens, and he vowed that he would “repeal” the program to “protect the privacy and civil liberties” of American citizens. The former Arkansas governor did not say whether the controversial provisions should be replaced or amended along the lines of the USA Freedom Act, only that intelligence gathering is important for national security.

“This is good news that a court agrees with what so many Americas already knew, that this program has gone too far,” his statement read. “There’s no doubt that Intelligence gathering is vital to the security of all Americans but there should be a balance between that protection and our privacy.” Huckabee visited the U.S. Capitol this week and was asked by Yahoo News about the pending Patriot Act reauthorization, but he declined to answer the question.

Much of his previous commentary on the issue of surveillance came in the form of Facebook posts.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

• Position on Patriot Act: Unclear

Walker has not answered specifically whether he approves or disapproves of the surveillance program, and a spokesperson said the campaign could not provide comment on the matter, as the governor was overseas.

Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island governor

• Position on Patriot Act: Opposed

Chafee is a sharp opponent on bulk surveillance.

“The words of the Fourth Amendment are very clear: You need a warrant,” the former Rhode Island governor told U.S. News in April. “That’s strict language, and ‘no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.’ It’s not complicated.”

As a senator, Chafee, like Hillary Clinton, voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and for its 2006 reauthorization. But he now says the executive branch overstepped its bounds.

“I don’t believe it granted any power to tap phones or any other surveillance without a warrant,” Chafee said. “That’s a definite stretch.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

• Position on Patriot Act: Opposed

Civil liberties are often among the few issues in Congress that unite members on the far left with those on the far right. Domestic bulk surveillance is no exception, with Sanders’ position more closely resembling Paul’s than even that of some members of the Senate’s Democratic leadership.

Perhaps more important, however, the issue also gives Sanders another opportunity to contrast himself with Clinton.

Sanders, who already questioned Clinton’s Iraq War vote in his first press conference as a presidential candidate, voted against the Patriot Act and reauthorizing it. Clinton voted for the program.

In an op-ed published earlier this month in Time, Sanders dismissed the Patriot Act as “Orwellian” and urged Congress to implement stronger reforms to give the body more oversight over the administration’s actions on surveillance.

“Let me be clear: We must do everything we can to protect our country from the serious potential of another terrorist attack,” Sanders wrote. “We can and must do so, however, in a way that also protects the constitutional rights of the American people and maintains our free society.”

Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state

• Position on Patriot Act: Supports USA Freedom Act

Clinton recently announced on Twitter that she supports the reform bill that already passed the House but has an uncertain future in the Senate, calling the legislation “a good step forward in ongoing efforts to protect our security & civil liberties.”

Clinton, however, did support the Patriot Act in the past, voting to authorize the program to begin with in 2001 and then again to reauthorize it in 2006.

During a tense debate in the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton slammed then-Sen. Barack Obama for voting for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act after opposing parts of it.

“You said you would vote against the Patriot Act — you came to the Senate and voted for it,” Clinton said.

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