Jeb Bush is a big fan of government spying programs started under his brother, President George W. Bush. In fact, he called support of National Security Agency powers "the best part of the Obama administration" in a recent interview on a conservative radio talk show.
But where presidential hopefuls stand on the phone records program -- which scoops up information including who Americans call and the length of those conversations, but not their content -- has a new urgency because the part of the Patriot Act that authorizes that phone records program, Section 215, is set to expire on June 1.
The deadline is thought by many observers to be privacy advocates' best chance to end the program -- either by pushing through a reform package or by blocking an extension.
And the race is already on in the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has introduced a bill extending Section 215 authority through 2020, while attempts to push a version of the USA Freedom Act -- a reform bill which would have stopped the government from collecting Americans' phone records but would allow it to query records retained by phone companies in certain circumstances and extend some parts of the Patriot Act, and which was defeated last year -- are in the works.
A Bush spokesman referred The Post to his radio remarks from this week, when asked directly if he supported an extension of Section 215. But Bush, who is widely expected to compete for the Republican nomination although he hasn't officially announced, isn't the only person with White House ambitions who has weighed in on the domestic phone spying program.
Here's where the declared candidates stand so far:
The Kentucky senator is probably the most outspoken critic of NSA domestic spying among the official candidates -- a title Paul claimed before he was even an official candidate. He has voted against Patriot Act extensions during his time in office so far and specifically addressed the looming deadline at the South by Southwest conference in March. "I’m opposed to the Patriot Act and will vote no," Paul said, according to U.S. News & World Report.
In November, Paul voted against the USA Freedom Act moving forward -- but argued the bill did not go far enough to end the program. However, despite saying the founding fathers would be "mortified" by the current debate over the phone program, he declined to comment specifically on McConnell's bill Wednesday night, according to the Hill -- and the Paul campaign did not immediately respond to a Post inquiry about his position on a 215 extension.
The Texas senator has also been a critic of NSA spying. He was one of four Republican senators who crossed party lines to vote to move the USA Freedom Act forward in November. At a recent campaign event in Iowa, he called the compromise bill the "single best chance to end the bulk collection of meta data," according to CNN -- and knocked Paul for his vote against it.
Cruz's campaign did not immediately respond to a Post inquiry about his position on an extension of Section 215.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio seems to have more in common with his state's former governor than Paul or Cruz when it comes to his position on NSA spying. In response to a Post inquiry about his position on a Section 215 extension, a spokesman for the senator referred The Post to a January Fox News op-ed:
"This year, a new Republican majority in both houses of Congress will have to extend current authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and I urge my colleagues to consider a permanent extension of the counterterrorism tools our intelligence community relies on to keep the American people safe," he wrote.
The lone declared Democratic candidate is also the most elusive on NSA spying. The former secretary of state stayed quiet about the government's spying activities when they were first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, although she criticized him -- and her remarks since then have stopped short of taking actionable policy positions.
In the fall, she praised NSA critic and then-senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) for "asking the hard questions about intelligence and the trade-off between liberty and security" during a campaign stop for Udall, according to The Hill. And in a February interview with re/code's Kara Swisher, Clinton said the NSA "needs to be more transparent," and that she wanted a "better balance."
But it's not clear exactly what that means to Clinton, who voted for the Patriot Act in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and for a reauthorization compromise in 2006, but against the 2008 FISA Amendment Acts which expanded other NSA spying powers. A spokesman for the Clinton campaign declined to comment on her position on extension 215 in light of the current looming deadline.
Correction: This post has been updated to correct that Rand Paul voted against the USA Freedom Act, not for it.