NSA Opponent Mark Udall Could Lose Senate Seat


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While Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is not exactly a libertarian's best friend, he has been one of the loudest critics of the National Security Administration's (NSA) surveillance program. He may also be en route to losing his Senate seat. The most recent polls give his opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a narrow lead.

A Udall loss could be grim news for civil libertarians hoping to rein in the NSA. The Hill reports:

Udall's possible defeat would leave a void in the Senate and on the powerful Intelligence Committee, civil liberties and anti-secrecy advocates fear.

Udall has long been one of the Senate's biggest fighters against government secrecy, tough spying programs, the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and other issues important to civil libertarians.

On the campaign trail, however, the NSA and the security state have become non-issues—not least because of Udall's own bungling campaigning:

Part of the problem for Udall is that the focus of his efforts are just not a top issue for most Americans. Americans consistently rate economic issues as the most important problem facing the country…In Colorado, Gardner and Udall have focused their attacks largely on women's health and energy issues. 

Recently, Udall has taken to emphasizing his national security and surveillance positions, but it's probably too little, too late. Real Clear Politics notes that Udall needs a big break in order to pull even with Gardner, who has won all polls but one since mid-September.

In 2011, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Udall anticipated the Edward Snowden leaks by warning of gross overreach under the PATRIOT Act. He called for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan after it came to light that the agency was spying on Senate computers. He sponsored a bill designed to limit the NSA's power—and tried to strengthen the bill when its key provisions were weakened. Udall has also teamed up with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in criticizing NSA dragnet surveillance.

Gardner himself has expressed tepid support for Udall's efforts—though his past voting record belies this agreement. And even if Gardner's support is real, civil libertarians fear what the loss of a staunch supporter on the Intelligence Committee could mean:

"I do think it would be a significant loss for the movement," said Laura Murphy, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office.

"What Udall has is the institutional memory, and the relationships in the civil liberties community, in the Democratic Party and in the tech industry so that we don't have to start over again with someone new," she added, while noting that her concern would be the same if Republican civil liberties advocates were also at risk of losing their seats.

Whatever one might think of his other positions, it's clear that if Udall loses, it will further dim the prospects of real reform to America's burgeoning surveillance state.

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  1. Non-issues. Not that long ago, the NSA revelations would’ve toppled the government. Now, just a little noise, with no visible consequences.

    1. Obviously, if “They hate us for our freedom”, the solution is to do away with freedom.

    2. There are more important things to worry about, ProL, like the epidemic of campus rape perpetrated by Ebola-infected illegal immigrants high on jenkem and bath salts. And your mom.

      1. My mom knowing all, seeing all isn’t constitutionally verboten, see.

  2. Wait, are we allowed to talk about Lucian?

    1. *nods approvingly*

  3. I think this is a Dem that libertarians should vote for.

    1. I’d prefer Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Rand Paul can pick up the post-Udall slack.

    2. Why?

      So he raises some fuss in Committee – so what? He’ll also vote for Harry Reid as Majority Leader, ensuring no meaningful legislation. He’ll spend and tax and grab guns at every chance.

      1. A McConnell led Senate will of course in contrast oversee a return to truly limited government as it did last time in power.

        1. Didn’t say that, but a loss by Udall is no tragedy.

          1. It is. We need him to harp about the NSA. Rand clearly gets along with him so he must be helpful.

    3. Maybe, if he was campaigning on freedom issues rather than yapping about the war on women. They’re calling him Senator Uterus because of his single minded harping on the issue. He’s simplt

      From The Washington Post, no less:

      1. Didn’t Gardner propose or support a personhood amendment?

        1. Didn’t Udall vote with Reid to gut the First Amendment?

          1. Udall sponsored that shit!!

  4. A Udall loss could be grim news for civil libertarians hoping to rein in the NSA

    Grim? Really? How long has it been known that the NSA is a bit out of control? And what has happened in that time? Oh, right, nothing has happened and nothing will happen regardless if Udall wins or loses.

    I must say I find it hilarious that the Reason staff seem to be absolutely shitting their pants at the prospect of a Stupid Party win in November.

    1. If one of the handful of Senators forcefully opposed to it gets beaten you don’t think things might get even worse on the issue?

      1. I rather be able to retain my right to speak out about politicians and the NSA then have some jerk in congress that wants to shut me up, but might also talk badly about the NSA.

        Udall’s opinion of the first amendment makes him unfit for office!!!

        1. It’s a stupid amendment proposal, but we somehow escaped the Gestapo when that was the basic legal understanding before Citizens (and Buckley for that matter)

          1. If you think the amendment just takes us back to pre-Buckley, I don’t have a lot of optimism for your graduation from law school.

          2. The feds under McCain-Feingold thought they were authorized to censor third party media. That amendment would have given them constitutional authority to do that.

            None of the sponsors of that should ever be allowed to live it down.

      2. I have seen no indication that he has been forceful about anything except getting re-elected.

          1. I did. I’ve never heard of him until recently. Maybe he should have been more forceful about all those libertarian things he loves so much.

            1. Reason covered him before so it is your fault that you did not hear about him.

    2. While I have very low expectations for a GOP Congress, I have even lower ones if the Senate remains in the hands of the state-adoring Democrats. At least some Republicans want to stop the madness. And if they’re willing to turn the heat up on this administration, then I’ll be even happier.

      1. The NSA madness? Other than Paul in the Senate I don’t see anyone else on that.

        1. There are many fronts in the War on Statism. We only have allies for some of those.

          1. Conceded, but I think a libertarian could prioritize a number if things, the NSA being one.

          2. Udall is one of those allies.

            1. And one of the enemies on more important fronts.

    3. Wait… I thought the (D)’s were the stupid party & the (R)’s were the evil party? Do I need a new Playbill?

  5. Mike? Mark? Pick one and go with it.

  6. Are you f**king kidding me Reason????!!! Seriously WTF?!!

    This is the guy that want’s to scrap the first amendment in its entirety because, because Koch brothers!!!!

    How in the hell can you post an article saying “this guys not so bad”. I mean really he only want to give congress oversight over our every utterance around campaign time, unless you’re “the press”. Do you think for a minute that Udall really would count Reason as truly the press??!!

    My mind totally boggles at how the hell this post could make it to the website.

    1. Reason does seem to be grasping for something these days, but I can’t figure out what it is.

      1. Reason does seem to be grasping for something these days, but I can’t figure out what it is.

        Invitations to the better class of cocktail parties?

      2. These articles reflect the schizo nature of libertarianism in general. One minute you’ll have an article about how open borders are great, the next minute an article about destroying the welfare state. Can’t have the former and the latter at once, sorry.

        Since so many libertarians seem to find common ground with a little of column A and column B, instead of concentrating on tearing the whole edifice down, they’ll end up achieving nothing.

    2. A Koch Bros. financed website, I might add. Maybe they don’t really control the universe.

      1. Mr. Gillespe, call on line 2 its a Mr. Koch.

    3. I think Reason staff libertarians are more of the left-leaning variety and still feel a tinge of panic at the prospect of a Stupid Party victory, even though it means it will be easier for them to do their jobs.

      1. I don’t know about ‘left-leaning’ but they sure do contrast with the Hit ‘n Runpublicans that raise a fuss every time a Democrat is not immediately whaled upon by the Reason writers.

        1. I recall an HnR piece earlier this year saying that the GOP was bad on civil liberties because some had supported an anti-flag burning amendment a decade or more ago. Udall sponsors an amendment eliminating “Congress shall make no law” part of the speech/press clause and he gets lauded as a civil libertarian?

          There’s a difference between not getting whaled on and apologia.

  7. I have to ask… by “women’s health” are we talking about free abortions?

  8. In Colorado, Gardner and Udall have focused their attacks largely on women’s health and energy issues.

    So he’s running on free shit for chicks, and NIMBY.

    If he loses with that campaign, that’s not a bad thing in my book.

  9. They aren’t implying in this article that libertarians should “waste” their vote by voting libertarian are they? The man is not a friend of libertarians, nuff said.

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