Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may be on opposite sides of the aisle, but they do see eye to eye on the issue of government surveillance.
In an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo News on Monday, Sanders said the USA Freedom Act does not go far enough in reining in the government’s spying programs. When pressed by Couric, who suggested that he is “in lockstep” with Paul, Sanders reluctantly admitted they are on the same side of this issue.
“I wouldn’t say in lockstep, but we both have the same concerns,” he said.
Sanders told Couric he plans to vote against the USA Freedom Act, which orders the government to transition to a system in which it must ask phone companies for phone call records, and reforms the court that deals with government surveillance. But the bill would still renew the surveillance programs authorized by the Patriot Act, which Sanders and Paul both oppose.
“It doesn’t go far enough in protecting our privacy rights,” Sanders said. “There are still too many opportunities for the government to be tallying and collecting information on innocent people. There are other ways for the government to get information.”
In a rare Sunday session, the Senate failed to reach an agreement on the matter, which then allowed for the provisions in the Patriot Act that authorized NSA bulk data collection to expire at midnight. However, it will continue debate on the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate as well.
Like Sanders, Paul also opposes the bill. In a procedural move, Paul held up debate on the bill, allowing for the data collection programs to expire, and buying lawmakers more time to consider more reforms.
Sanders told Couric another reason he opposes the bill is because he feels “corporate America” is equally implicated in the widespread data collection programs.
“Let me say this: This is not just the government. It’s corporate America as well,” he said. “What is very clear is that technology has significantly outpaced public policy. So probably, there is somebody who knows exactly where you are at this moment. There’s somebody who knows the food that you eat if you use a credit card at the grocery store, the books that you purchase, the magazines that you buy. There is a huge amount of information being collected on our individual lives. We need to have a discussion about whether we are feeling good about that.”
Couric asked Sanders if eliminating the surveillance programs would make it more difficult to track down suspected terrorists.
“If we have evidence that somebody is involved or might be involved in terrorist activity, let’s go after them. But clearly in terms of telephone records, 99.99 percent of the people whose records are being collected have nothing to do with terrorism,” he said. “I worry, really worry, that we are moving toward an Orwellian state of society, where Big Brother, whether in the corporate world or in the government, has too much information on the private lives of innocent people.”
Watch the full interview above.