The controversy surrounding domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) is expected to divide hawks from libertarians in the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to the National Journal.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, both staking out a libertarian/tea party position, are strong opponents of the NSA vacuuming up phone records of Americans in search of terrorist or espionage threats.
Paul would dismantle the NSA; Cruz would reform the agency.
Cruz backed the USA Freedom Act
sponsored by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont which — had it passed — would have reformed but not gutted the Patriot Act.
Paul, the singular presidential contender who uncompromisingly opposes NSA surveillance, voted against the measure because he wanted to altogether de-authorize the Patriot Act, according to the Journal.
Other likely Republican Party hopefuls are either less clear-cut on the issue or supportive of NSA surveillance.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has been critical of both the NSA and the Obama administration's handling of the agency, but has offered few specifics.
National security, in contrast, informs the positions of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — and they all categorically support the agency's collection of phone metadata, the Journal reported.
Some 70 percent of Republicans have told Pew pollsters
that they were losing faith in the NSA's surveillance programs in the wake of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden
about the extent of the government's domestic eavesdropping.
Still other Republican candidates, among them Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Dr. Ben Carson, have yet to enunciate a detailed position on the NSA.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry appear to fall more in the national security camp while some of them express concerns that the NSA may have gone too far in some instances, the Journal reported.
Congress must again take up the metadata collection program of the Patriot Act before June 1. That's when its part of the Patriot Act, Section 215, is due to expire, the Journal reported.
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