Mike Huckabee is the latest Republican to weigh in on the controversial issue of government surveillance, going as far on Sunday to suggest authorities should get a warrant if they want to listen in on Americans’ phone calls.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor criticized the National Security Agency’s controversial collection of millions of Americans’ phone records, asking host Chris Wallace, “If this is so effective, why hasn’t it foiled potential terrorists plots?”
He argued the NSA program – recently deemed illegal by a federal appeals court -- was just one of the reasons Americans are so distrustful of government. Huckabee pointed to the U.S. Constitution, saying it “provides what we should do.” He added, “If you have probable cause to suspect Chris Wallace is going to commit criminal acts you go to a judge and get a warrant. Then you can listen to his phone calls.”
If no action is taken by the end of May, some provisions of Patriot Act will expire – including the ability to conduct roving wiretaps, business record searches and gathering information on individuals who are suspected of terrorist activity but aren’t necessarily affiliated with a particular group.
It’s an issue that has divided the emerging 2016 Republican field.
Critics have spent years condemning the Patriot Act – which was instituted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and allows the government to obtain telecommunication, financial and credit records without a court order – arguing it tramples on civil liberties and allows the government to spy on innocent people. In 2011, Obama signed a four-year extension of the act, allowing the government to conduct roving wiretaps in an effort to thwart terrorists.
Some like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – who have not officially declared their 2016 intentions but are expected to run -- have defended the programs, arguing they are vital to national security. Similarly, declared candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida Recently argued on the Senate floor that a perception has been created “that the United States government is listening to your phone calls or going through your bills as a matter of course,” said Rubio. “That is absolutely and categorically false.”
Others like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky (who spearheaded an 11-hour filibuster like speech against the NSA program) have hailed the court decision as “monumental” for “all lovers of liberty” and called on the Supreme Court to “strike down the NSA’s illegal spying program.” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the ruling confirmed what many Americans already know – that the NSA “went too far in collecting the phone records.”