By Julian Hattem - 10/13/15 10:47 PM EDT
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump: A vote for the Green Party helps me Panetta interrupted by chants of 'no more war' Panetta's Trump attack thrown off course MORE would “absolutely” end sweeping surveillance powers at the National Security Agency, he said during the first Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday.
Without going into detail about his intentions for the agency, the Vermont Independent, who identifies as a democratic socialist, trumpeted his status as one of the few congressional opponents of the Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11.
The NSA’s bulk collection of millions of U.S. phone records is set to end later this year, following a dramatic congressional battle earlier this year that resulted in the brief expiration of some portions of the Patriot Act.
Still, Sanders’s stance puts him at odds with front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonFULL SPEECH: Michael Bloomberg 'invades' Democratic convention FULL SPEECH: Vice President Biden speaks to the delegates Bloomberg offers scathing indictment of Trump MORE, who voted for the Patriot Act and defended her vote on Tuesday evening.
“It was necessary to make sure that we were able, after 9/11, to put in place the security that was needed,” Clinton said.
“What happened, however, is that the Bush administration began to chip away at that process, and I began to speak about their use of warrantless surveillance.”
Clinton and Sanders have offered slight but notable differences on their support for federal surveillance reform in recent months.
On Tuesday evening, the two also offered nuanced differences on the fate of Edward Snowden, the former government contractor whose leaks set the country on a path to reform the NSA.
“He broke the laws of the United States,” Clinton said. “He stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.”
Sanders similarly believed that Snowden “did break the law,” but said that his crimes ought to be weighed against the benefits of what he did.
“I think that Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree to which our civil liberties ... are being undermined,” Sanders said.