Senator Ron Johnson Dismisses Russ Feingold’s Opposition to Patriot Act, Touts Own Ties to NSA

The U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold is shaping up to be a referendum on surveillance issues.

MILWAUKEE - OCTOBER 22:  (L-R) Senator Russ Feingold (WI-D) and Republican candidate Ron Johnson discuss topics as they take part in the Senatorial debate held at Marquette University Law School October 22, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This will be their third and final debate before the election.  (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

The upcoming campaign by former Sen. Russ Feingold to challenge incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., will present a stark contrast on a number of issues, particularly on surveillance. Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010.

Feingold was the lone vote in the U.S. Senate against the Patriot Act in 2001, while Johnson has become a powerful champion of the National Security Agency. Johnson is pushing for full renewal of the Patriot Act and for additional new domestic surveillance legislation, including the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.

Discussing the differences between him and Feingold on the Patriot Act on WTMJ in Milwaukee yesterday, Johnson touted his position as chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, telling host Charlie Sykes that he has the “advantage of talking to folks at the NSA, talking to FISA court judges,” whom Johnson said “do not want to snoop on Americans.”

Listen to the exchange here:

Johnson has criticized the USA Freedom Act, legislation to shift bulk collection of telephony metadata from the NSA to telecom companies and to create a public advocate at the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. According to Johnson, such revisions to surveillance law would create “a race to the bottom” that will “degrade our ability” to monitor terrorists.

“The Patriot Act has needed to be changed from the day I voted against it,” Feingold recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The former senator said he thought the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House of Representatives last week, is a positive step but doesn’t go far enough in protecting civil liberties.

Johnson has also touted his track record on highlighting ISIS social media efforts. Earlier this month, he hosted a widely ridiculed congressional hearing about combatting ISIS social media memes.

(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)

Photo: Russ Feingold debates Ron Johnson during the 2010 election, Darren Hauck/Getty 

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