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The Democratic presidential candidates gave sensible answers on questions relating to NSA spying, the Patriot Act, and the purported crimes of Edward Snowden. The only notable exception was frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb gave strong reminders that most of the Democrats are better than most of the Republicans on civil liberties. When asked whether the NSA’s spying program should be shut down, Sanders responded affirmatively. Webb explained that all Americans should be concerned about the federal government’s surveillance programs, which violate the Fourth Amendment. And the candidates broadly agreed that Edward Snowden—who leaked details of NSA surveillance to the press—provided a service to his country that should offset any criminal charges he faces.
Clinton, on the other hand, defended voting for the Patriot Act. “I think it was necessary to make sure we were able, after 9/11, to put in place the security that we needed,” she said.
Clinton was also less vastly less appreciative of Snowden, saying that he broke the law and stole important information. “I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music,” she said.
In contrast, libertarian leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul has said that if Snowden is to be punished, he should share a cell with James Clapper, the head of the NSA.