Presidential Candidates on The Privacy Debate

Michael In the News

Still more than a year away, the United States’ Presidential race has more people joining the fight for the top spot than a Marc Anthony concert in Miami. Unsurprisingly internet privacy has taken a back seat to other top issues in the race. Issues like foreign policy (no surprise), income inequality (rightfully so), immigration, climate change (fingers crossed), and gay marriage are all on the forefront of the presidential candidates’ minds. But for many Americans, even given the defeat of the USA PATRIOT Act, and the subsequent underwhelming replacement, the USA FREEDOM Act, privacy and NSA surveillance is still an important issue.

Where do Some of the Top Presidential Candidates Stand on Privacy

Well, if how the candidates feel about Edward Snowden is any indication of how the presidential candidates feel about the NSA, the outlook is not good. Both form the left and the right.


Presidential candidates opposed to NSA reform

Christie, Bush, Rubio (credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Some candidates, like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie are all in stark opposition to any kind of NSA reform. Jeb bush has called the NSA program, “the best part of the Obama administration.” Marco Rubio has outright called Snowden a criminal. He also publicly opposed any reform to the NSA, dogging both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for their efforts. Marco Rubio has called the Snowden leaks, “the single most damaging revelation of American secrets in our history.”

On the other side of the coin, Rick Perry’s stance is hopeful. However, he’s played both sides of the fence. He’s expressed some shock at the Edward Snowden revelations, reportedly saying in 2013, “You would expect to hear those stories coming out of China.” But he has referred to Snowden as a criminal, and he defied the definition of whistleblower that many people grant Snowden with.

Hillary Clinton is another presidential candidate who seems unsure about which way to bat. She has criticized Snowden about taking refuge in constrictive Russia (as if he had a choice). And says that he should be present in America to have a voice in the debate. Yet, when asked by Ben Wizner of the ACLU if America is worse off after his release of information to journalists, she answered elusively, “I think its hard to make that argument.”


Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz (Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif)

The outlook on Ted Cruz, a conservative Republican is bright. He praises Edward Snowden by saying, “If it is the case that the federal government is seizing millions of personal records about law-abiding citizens, and if it is the case that there are minimal restrictions on accessing or reviewing those records, then I think Mr. Snowden has done a considerable public service by bringing it to light.” And Ted Cruz sponsored the historic, albeit weak tea bill, the USA FREEDOM Act.


The candidate who impresses me most on this issue is Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On his webpage  he uncompromisingly delves into the issue. Sidestepping the question of Edward Snowden completely to head to the heart of the matter. “Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? I don’t care…. Because it is the wrong question. The Snowden narrative matters mostly to White House officials trying to deflect attention from government overreach and deception…” Instead he poses questions like, are the two programs revealed constitutional, how else might the government be infringing on Americans’ privacy, and why does a secret federal court almost always side with the government’s request to seize information. This may be the candidate to watch as far as privacy concerns go, although he will likely be vastly overshadowed by Hillary Clinton.


Democratic Presidential Candidate Lincoln Chafee

Presidential candidate and Metric advocate Lincoln Chafee (Credit: AP/Steven Senne)

Lincoln Chafee is one of my favorite presidential candidates for a different reason. He wants to bring the metric system to the United States. To me, this is long (very long) overdue. He jokingly stated, “It doesn’t take long to realize that 34 degrees [Celsius] is hot.” But back on topic. The Republican-turned-Democrat suggests amnesty for Snowden, a proposition that no other candidate has the gall to even hint at. The former Rhode Island Governor also supports NSA reform and supports the changes recently made by way of the USA FREEDOM Act.of

Another safe bet would be on presidential candidate and Libertarian Republican Rand Paul; who has comically proposed, “…punishment: Snowden and [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper should be in the same cell talking about liberty and security.” Rand Paul, as you might know, has stood out as a leader for NSA reform. Completing a 10 hour ‘filibuster‘ against the patriot act.

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