Patriot Act: Cruz and Paul vs. Rubio and Graham in post-9/11 debate


Staff member
WASHINGTON – Republican senators eyeing the presidency split over the renewal of the Patriot Act surveillance law, with civil libertarians at odds with traditional defense hawks who back tough spying powers in the fight against terrorism.

The political divide will be on stark display this month as Congress debates reauthorization of the post-Sept. 11 law ahead of a June 1 deadline. The broader question of privacy rights has gained attention since a former National Security Agency systems administrator, Edward Snowden, disclosed in 2013 that the NSA had been collecting and storing data on nearly every American's phone calls for years.

On one side, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina want Congress to permanently reauthorize parts of the law, giving the NSA much of its surveillance authority.

If there were another attack, "the first question out of everyone's mouth is going to be, why didn't we know about it?" Rubio asked this week in a speech on the Senate floor. "And the answer better not be because this Congress failed to authorize a program that might have helped us know about it."

The rise of Islamic State militants, the continued threat from al-Qaida and the ongoing civil war in Syria have pushed national security to the forefront in the 2016 race for the GOP nomination, with some candidates determined to show their toughness. On NSA surveillance, however, Americans are wary of government intrusion.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, however, say the law infringes on citizens' privacy.

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