At the last Republican debate, we saw a scrap between senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul over surveillance reforms and limits. Rubio has been consistently in the "collect everything" camp, willing to sacrifice citizen privacy for nebulous security. Paul has been on the other side, demanding an end to unwarranted mass domestic surveillance and smarter focus. Cruz was somewhat in the middle. He is opposed to mass domestic surveillance but accepted the compromise legislation of the USA Freedom Act, which added some barriers to keep the National Security Agency (NSA) from simply collecting all Americans' phone records.
The USA Freedom Act clearly, obviously came about as a result of the public outrage from the revelations leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Of that there can be very little dispute. Cruz seemed to understand the value of what Snowden provided, even though he was hesitant to embrace Snowden's methods. At an event hosted by The Blaze he said, "If it is the case that the federal government is seizing millions of personal records about law-abiding citizens, and if it is the case that there are minimal restrictions on accessing or reviewing those records, then I think Mr. Snowden has done a considerable public service by bringing it to light." But he also said if Snowden broke the law, then the laws need to be enforced. In short, he had a similarly nuanced position as Sen. Paul, who has made similar statements.
The New York Times has dug up those old Cruz comments because Rubio is on the attack, using Cruz's slightly favorable comments toward Snowden as an indictment of Cruz's judgment. The Times went back to Cruz's campaign to see how he feels now about the whistleblower. Prepare to be disappointed:
In a statement, Mr. Cruz took a very different tone, saying?,? "?It is now clear that Snowden is a traitor, and he should be tried for treason."
He pointed to his remark in 2013 that Mr. Snowden should be prosecuted if he broke any laws. "Today, we know that Snowden violated federal law, that his actions materially aided terrorists and enemies of the United States, and that he subsequently fled to China and Russia," he said. "Under the Constitution, giving aid to our enemies is treason."
With Paul out of the debate tonight, Cruz was the next best hope for holding the line for a defense against unwarranted domestic surveillance against the likes of Rubio and Chris Christie. But it's disconcerting to see him cast aside the very person responsible for providing impetus for the only restraints on domestic surveillance, as modest as they are.
(Hat tip: Michael Warren at The Weekly Standard)