Presidential hopefuls differ over Snowden, NSA at Democratic debate

Democratic candidates during Tuesday’s debate were divided over Edward Snowden.
Democratic candidates during Tuesday’s debate were divided over Edward Snowden.
Democratic candidates during Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas were divided over whether Edward Snowden deserved praise or prosecution for blowing the whistle on the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contending that Snowden shouldn't be allowed to come back to the U.S. “without facing the music.”

Clinton noted that Snowden “stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands.” Sanders agreed, saying that despite the revelations from Snowden's antics, “he did break the law and I think there should be a penalty to that.” However, former Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee said he would “bring him home” because thanks to this whistleblower, Americans got to see that “government was acting illegally per the Fourth Amendment.”

Clinton took heat from Sanders for voting in favor of the USA PATRIOT Act, which helped give the NSA its broad surveillance rights, but she defended her vote, claiming the law “was necessary to make sure that we were able, after 9/11, to put in place the security that was needed.”  The Bush administration, she explained,  began to erode the process, at which point she said she “began to speak about their use of warrant-less surveillance.”

Sanders contended there are ways to defend the country against terrorism “without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.”

If elected president, “I'd shut down what exists right now,” said Sanders, adding that it is “unacceptable” that “virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA.”

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