Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul agree: The NSA goes too far

Bernie Sanders is on the same page with Rand Paul when it comes to ending the NSA’s bulk data collection program.
Bernie Sanders is on the same page with Rand Paul when it comes to ending the NSA’s bulk data collection program. –Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul may not have much in common. But there is one thing the Vermont socialist and Kentucky libertarian agree on: the National Security Agency’s surveillance program.

In an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News on Monday, Sanders said “in many respects’’ he agrees with Paul when it comes to opposing the government’s collection of people’s phone records.

The two presidential contenders also agreed that the Patriot Act’s proposed replacement does not go far enough to protect individual privacy. Though he voted to continue debate, Sanders also said he will oppose the final passage of the USA Freedom Act.

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“There are still too many opportunities for the government to be tallying and collecting information on innocent people,’’ Sanders told Couric.

Passed by the House of Representatives and supported by the White House, the USA Freedom Act would end the bulk collection of phone records. However, the government would still be able to query databases kept by phone companies.

Paul blocked a vote on the USA Freedom Act on Sunday, forcing the data collection provision of the Patriot Act to temporarily expire.

“Little by little, we’ve allowed our freedom to slip away,’’ Paul said Sunday on the floor of the Senate. On May 21, Paul attempted to delay debate on the extension of the Patriot Act’s surveillance programs, speaking on the Senate floor for more than 10 hours before the bill was brought up for consideration.

On Monday, Sanders said that while the government should “go after’’ suspected terrorists, “99.99 percent of the people whose records are being collected have nothing to do with terrorism.’’

Sanders said he also agreed with Paul in his suspicion that the NSA was “getting into people’s emails, getting into people’s websites’’ and that those parts of the Patriot Act needed to be repealed.

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“I worry, really worry, that we are moving toward an Orwellian state of society, where Big Brother, whether in the corporate world or in the government, has too much information on the private lives of innocent people,’’ Sanders said.

“Everybody agrees that our government needs to do everything that it can to protect the American people from the very, very real threat of terrorism,’’ said Sanders. “That’s a very real threat. The question is can we do it in a way that does not undermine the constitutional rights of a free people and our privacy rights.’’

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