While attending a national security forum in South Carolina, presidential hopeful Jeb Bush made it clear that he believes the government should have broad surveillance powers in order to fight “evildoers.” Bush criticized the recent changes to the Patriot Act which were passed by Congress in June. The changes in the law will lead to a phasing out of the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA over a six month period, to be replaced by a new program which requires the phone companies to store the records and only turn them over to the NSA if they obtain a specific warrant.
Bush had stated, “There’s a place to find common ground between personal civil liberties and NSA doing its job. I think the balance has actually gone the wrong way.” Bush’s opinion might seem a bit out of touch with his party, since it was the Republican controlled House and Senate which passed the reform bill. However, statements against the reform bill by politicians like Mitch McConnell and John McCain back when the bill was still being debated, suggests that there is still a core group within the Republican party which wants to see the Patriot Act restored in its entirety.
Bush also criticized technology companies who offer encryption, which makes it more difficult for their users to be spied on by the NSA, stating, “It makes it harder for the American government to do its job while protecting civil liberties to make sure evildoers aren’t in our midst.” Bush stated interest in creating a “new arrangement with silicon valley” regarding this issue. After recent leaks demonstrated the close working relationship between the NSA and telecommunications companies like AT&T, it seems Bush wants to create similar working relationships with companies who provide encrypted communications for their users.
Considering how the previous President Bush is not too fondly remembered, even among Republicans, it could be an unwise move for Jeb Bush to heavily push for increasing NSA surveillance. It would be very easy for opponents to draw comparisons between him and his brother on this issue.
Is Bush right, do we need to give the NSA more power to be safe? Leave your comments below.