Hillary Clinton makes big statement on NSA spying

The former secretary of state makes some surprising comments in a campaign stop with NSA critic Mark Udall

Published October 21, 2014 10:03PM (EDT)

 Hillary Clinton (AP/Cliff Owen)
Hillary Clinton (AP/Cliff Owen)

Hillary Clinton, one of the Democratic Party's leading national security hawks, lauded Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado on Tuesday for his work on National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance reform.

Campaigning with Udall today, the former secretary of state and likely 2016 presidential contender applauded the senator for "leading the Senate in asking the hard questions about intelligence and the tradeoff between liberty and security," The Hill reports.

"That was an important and challenging task that he took on," Clinton said.

Since security contractor Edward Snowden leaked files last year exposing the NSA's massive domestic surveillance program, Udall has been among the Senate's most vocal champions of surveillance reform. Teaming up with fellow Sens. Ron Wyden and Ron Paul on the issue, Udall has backed privacy safeguards like ending bulk collection of Americans' personal data and requiring agencies to obtain a warrant before reading citizens' emails. As he seeks to fend off a formidable challenge from GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, Udall has highlighted his fierce criticism of NSA spying as an example of his willingness to break ranks with President Barack Obama.

Clinton has previously signaled some support for NSA reform, alluding this summer to "changes" that needed to be made "in order to secure that privacy, that constitutional right to privacy that Americans are due," hastening to add that she views it as a "really difficult balancing act.”

As a U.S. senator from New York in 2001, Clinton joined 97 other senators in voting for the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which significantly expanded the scope of anti-terrorism surveillance and drew ire from civil libertarians. But when the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program came to light, Clinton expressed privacy concerns.

“Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that’s our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way,” Clinton said in January 2006.

While Clinton did not throw her support behind any specific NSA reform proposals on Tuesday, her remarks suggest that she'll make a concerted effort to woo civil liberties advocates ahead of 2016.

By Luke Brinker

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