Kevin Cramer: Privacy Must Be Balanced With Safety


Libertarian U.S. House Candidate Jack Seaman has made a number of false claims about my record, claiming I’ve voted to “expand our government’s surveillance of U.S. citizens” and “in favor of indefinite detention of U.S. citizens.”  The fact of the matter is, my record is exactly the opposite.

While I wasn’t serving in Congress in 2001 when the USA PATRIOT Act and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) were put into law, I’ve been improving them since my arrival while still making sure law enforcement and national defense personnel have the proper tools to protect us.  We’ve done this most notably through the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act signed into law on June 2, 2015 and annual National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA).

When it comes to concerns about government surveillance of U.S. citizens people are often referring to Section 215 and 702 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  In Section 215, the concern was over the bulk collection of telephone metadata by the National Security Agency (NSA) which includes the number that was dialed from, the number dialed to, the date, and the duration of the call, not the audio of the call or the identity of the callers.  Even though the information collected wasn’t very revealing, I wasn’t comfortable with the bulk collection and potential slippery slope under this practice.  The USA FREEDOM Act I voted for and is now the law of the land, ended this bulk collection process, reducing government surveillance, not expanding it as Mr. Seaman claims.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Like many passionate political movements, the current Libertarian Party has allowed their sincere concern for privacy to abandon the other priority of the federal government to keep our citizens safe.[/mks_pullquote]

In Section 702, the concern is the NSA carrying out warrantless searches of U.S. citizens’ communications.  This Section allows the NSA to seek court approval to go after the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside of the U.S. who are likely to provide foreign intelligence information.  The law expressly forbids the NSA from going after the communications of U.S. persons.  However, since they can see both sides of a conversation, collection could incidentally reveal a U.S. person.

For example, there may be an ISIS planner in Syria communicating with an ISIS operative inside the U.S.  The NSA must then get a specific court order based on probable cause to go after that U.S. person’s communications while following procedures to protect that information.  With approval it can then use that information to search databases of communications it already lawfully acquired under Section 702.  This is not new information or considered a Fourth Amendment “search.”  This is the equivalent of police officers looking through an evidence locker to see if past crimes might help solve an open case.  Suggestions to prevent the NSA from being able to see the other side of a conversation when it monitors overseas terrorists is like preventing a police officer from looking at certain evidence of a crime they don’t expect to find when they search a house.

Lastly, the assertion I’ve voted in favor of indefinite detention of U.S. citizens is also blatantly false. Skeptics, like my opponent, will cite the 2001 AUMF and subsequent NDAAs as the legal basis for detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely or without trial.  While  the 2001 AUMF never established the authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens , ever since the 2012 NDAA, Congress has provided additional assurance that access to a court for habeas corpus is available to U.S. citizens and those arrested in the U.S.

Like many passionate political movements, the current Libertarian Party has allowed their sincere concern for privacy to abandon the other priority of the federal government to keep our citizens safe. We can always do better. But my record of protecting individual liberty while protecting individual safety is clear. I’m sure Mr. Seaman’s effort to convince voters otherwise is due to his lack of knowledge about the facts and not a deliberate attempt to mislead.