Meet the gubernatorial candidate who stood up to the NSA and the Chinese

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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When the National Security Agency wanted Christine Jones to give them access to information on her company’s clients, she refused.

“It was my strong conviction that law abiding citizens are protected by the Constitution,” Jones, the former general counsel of web hosting company GoDaddy.com,  said in an interview. “And if the government wants to eavesdrop on their conversations, they need to swear on a warrant and they need to have probable cause. And unless and until they do that, I’m not their guy.”

Jones is now running for governor of Arizona in a crowded Republican primary. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, she discussed her work in the tech world, her thoughts on NSA spying and her experience standing up to the Chinese.

Here is a full transcript of the interview, lightly edited for length and clarity.

TheDC: You worked for GoDaddy, the only major internet giant to not give the NSA access to client information. Tell me about that.

Jones: If you look at the list of the nine major Internet companies that participated in the PRISM program – that’s the program that Edward Snowden revealed — pretty much every major Internet company is on the list except for GoDaddy.

I took the position that even though it’s important for internet providers to cooperate with law enforcement, privacy interests — weighed with the national security interests — had to win the day. Anytime any law enforcement around the world came to us with a properly issued search warrant, visa order, cease and desist, any sort of order that was issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, we cooperated readily. And we did it a lot. And we helped to catch lots of bad guys. But anytime we were asked to do something without a proper order form a court, the answer was no.

And I don’t know why no other major internet company took that position. You will not find GoDaddy’s name on that list. It was my strong conviction that law abiding citizens are protected by the Constitution and if the government wants to eavesdrop on their conversations, they need to swear on a warrant and they need to have probable cause. And unless and until they do that, I’m not their guy.

TheDC: Rand Paul filed a lawsuit against the President and other members of the administration this week over the government’s collection of telephone metadata, saying it violates the 4th amendment. What did you think of that?

Jones: I haven’t read the lawsuit. I saw the story. I agree that something has to change. Because I saw a shift in the type of boldness of the administration once President Bush left and President Obama took over. I really do think it’s an attitude of the administration. And if you have an administration that does not respect constitutional rights of law abiding citizens, than perhaps an United States senator needs to bring a lawsuit.

TheDC: GoDaddy also stopped registering sites in China in 2010 because of strict government regulations? Tell me about that experience.

Jones: Certain officials in the Chinese government approached me and informed me that they wanted to start enforcing a rule that would require us to reveal information about our customers. And some of the Chinese leaders attempted to intimidate me. Because they wanted me to reveal identities of either Chinese citizens or Tibetan monks or human rights activists who they considered to be Chinese dissidents — you and I would call them freedom fighters.

I looked them in the eyes and I put my foot down and I told them I’m not going to be an agent for the Chinese government. You’re not going to quiet political or human rights speech on my watch. And not one ounce of protected information was revealed.

TheDC: With your experience in tech, what sort of ideas do you have for incorporating new technology to state government in Arizona?

Jones: Everywhere I look I see a technology solution. And as best I can tell, the only reason we haven’t been better at it as a government is because we don’t have technologists in charge. And pretty much every rock I uncover or lift up, there’s some technology play. Whether it’s a database solution, or some efficiency that we can pick up by sharing information, reducing duplication of effort, and that sort of thing.

It is a significant distinguishing feature between me and the other candidates, at least in my race. And one that I think we have to get serious about. First in Arizona. And then probably all over the country if we hope to compete and make government more efficient and effective. And to be less expensive and spend less money. I mean look at the federal government. The thing is just hugely disproportionally large. We have got to stop spending so much money. I’m a CPA but you don’t have to figure out that the national debt is a burden on many generations to come. We have to spend less money. Technology is a way to help us get to more efficiency.

TheDC: You are running to replace Gov. Jan Brewer, who is term limited. Was she a good governor?

Jones: She has been effective politically. She has done a couple of things that I would have done differently. But she’s extremely well respected in this state. She’s been strong and strong willed. And although I don’t line up exactly with her on a couple issues like tax increases and Medicaid expansion — those sorts of things — I do think she’s been effective.

TheDC: You vow on your website to fight illegal immigration. What should be done?

Jones: You’ve probably heard me say before that no discussion is even worth having unless we secure the border. This is another place where there are technology solutions — readily available technology that we can implement on the border to monitor who is coming and going, to know what sort of impact immigration is having. But the important thing to note on immigration is the solution to securing the border is not that difficult. We just haven’t done it because politicians don’t want it to be done.

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Alex Pappas