While presidential candidates Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders were hailing the federal court ruling on Thursday that the National Security Agency‘s bulk collection of phone records isn’t authorized by the Patriot Act, Marco Rubio was on the floor of the Senate arguing for the controversial program to be reauthorized.
“Here’s the truth: If this program had existed before 9/11, it is quite possible that we would have known that the 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar was living in San Diego and was making phone calls to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen,” the Florida senator stated. “There’s no guarantee we would have known. There is no way we can go back in time and prove it, but there is a probability that we could have, and therefore there is a probability that American lives could have been saved.”
The Second District’s U.S. Court of Appeals in New York wrote a 97-page ruling today finding the NSA’s data collection program illegal. The program was launched after the 9/11 attacks, but was never revealed publicly until former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked the material to journalists in June 2013. The revelation sparked outrage among civil libertarians, but also steadfast assertions by the Obama administration that the program was authorized by statute and deemed legal by a series of federal surveillance court judges.
On this issue at least, Rubio sides with President Obama, and not Paul, his Senate colleague who also was supported by a Tea Party-led insurgency in 2010.
“The next time that any politician, senator, congressman, talking head, whatever it may be, stands up and says that the U.S. government is listening to your phone calls or going through your phone records, they’re lying. It just is not true. Except for some very isolated instances, in the hundreds, of individuals for whom there is reasonable suspicion that they could have links to terrorism,” he said.
But Sens. Paul and Sanders see it differently.
“This is a monumental decision for all lovers of liberty,” Paul said in a statement. “I commend the federal courts for upholding our Constitution and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights. While this is a step in the right direction, it is now up to the Supreme Court to strike down the NSA’s illegal spying program.”
Sanders tweeted, “In my view, the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner.”
The ruling comes as Congress faces a June 1 deadline to reauthorize the statute that underpins the NSA program or let it lapse.
Citing the incident Sunday night in Garland, Texas, where two members of ISIS crashed an event held to mock the prophet Muhammed, Rubio called for the Senate to reauthorize the NSA bill related to the Patriot Act.
“One day there will be an attack that’s successful. And the first question out of everyone’s mouth is going to be, why didn’t we know about it? And the answer better not be because this Congress failed to authorize a program that might have helped us know about it. These people are not playing games. They don’t go on these web sites and say the things they say for purposes of aggrandizement. This is a serious threat, and I hope we reauthorize this bill.”