WEINSTEIN: Is there a split in the ‘Wacko Bird’ caucus over the NSA?

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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“Wacko Bird” legislators led by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz don’t agree on everything, but you would think that the National Security Agency’s expansive surveillance program would be one issue where these crusaders for freedom would stand united.

But that does not appear to be the case.

While Paul has vociferously denounced the recent NSA revelations detailing the agency’s controversial anti-terrorism surveillance program and declared he will investigate to see if he can challenge the constitutionality of some of the measures at the Supreme Court, Cruz has taken a much more nuanced position.

Cruz’s concerns about the programs seem to be based less on principle and more on trusting the Obama administration to administer the intrusive spying programs judiciously.

“We should always be mindful of the need for government to have the tools necessary to keep Americans safe in a dangerous world, where there are enemies plotting to attack us,” Cruz said in a statement Friday.

“We have seen the face of that enemy time and again, most recently in the terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Benghazi and Boston to name a few.”

“But on one hand the Obama administration says this enemy is in retreat, yet on the other, they are implementing what appears to be an unprecedented and intrusive surveillance system on private American citizens in the name of guarding against that enemy,” he continued.

“Just today, the president encouraged us to trust him on this – to trust that there are safeguards to ensure our privacy is protected, trust that there is a system of checks and balances to prevent an abuse of power. But in light of this administration’s track record, how can they expect to be trusted?”

“Americans trusted President Obama when he came to office promising the most transparent administration in history,” he concluded, after detailing the Obama administration’s misdeeds and raising the specter that the NSA revelations could be an “unprecedented intrusion into Americans’ personal phone records and potentially into their broader online activities.”

“But that trust has been broken and the only way to earn it back is to tell the truth. That’s what Americans deserve. I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate who share my concerns to ensure that we have all the facts about these surveillance programs, and that our government is appropriately balancing concerns of national security with Americans’ personal liberties.”

In an email, Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier reiterated that Cruz needed more information before damning the program, though she said the senator does have “concerns.”

Cruz’s “statement says he will be working with colleagues to ensure we have all the facts and any that surveillance program is being used appropriately,” she said.

“His statement also cites concerns it is not being used appropriately. Right now, there isn’t enough information to determine how it is operating, and the concern is that the government could use such a program to target innocent civilians when it should be focusing on catching terrorists and those that would do us harm.”

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