March 12

Collins challenger among candidates who see potent weapon in surveillance issue

Opposition to domestic spying appeals to a range of midterm hopefuls, from progressives to tea partiers.

By Kevin Miller
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 3)

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Democrat Shenna Bellows, who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in November's election,sees the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance activities as a winning argument against incumbents who have defended aspects of the programs.

2013 Telegram File Photo/John Patriquin

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Sen. Susan Collins' campaign says she is listening to arguments from both sides of the NSA surveillance issue but that most Mainers are concerned about other topics.

2012 Telegram File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

The odd political dynamics are perhaps most visible in hallways and committee rooms of Capitol Hill.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has teamed up with Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner to introduce bills that would curtail the NSA’s domestic spying ability. Sensenbrenner was a co-author of the Patriot Act.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian-Republican firebrand and tea party favorite considering a White House bid in 2016, has joined Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado in pushing their own surveillance reform plan.

Wyden and Udall are the two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who have been most critical of the NSA activities. But the House and Senate intelligence committees’ two top members – Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan – have strongly defended the metadata collection program as legal and constitutional.

“We have carefully reviewed this program and have found it to be legal and effective,” Feinstein and Rogers said in a joint statement in mid-January. “And for seven months, both the House and Senate intelligence committees have developed legislation to provide additional safeguards on the program, while keeping the data where it is most secure and effective.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit against the NSA has attracted co-litigants as diverse as Greenpeace and gun manufacturer Franklin Armory. Maass, the Electronic Frontier Foundation spokesman, said that while his organization does not endorse candidates or get involved in elections, the group hopes it will become a bigger campaign issue.

“I think it is a ripe issue that should very much be part of not only the 2014 but also the 2016 presidential cycle,” Maass said.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

Twitter: @KevinMillerDC

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