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ACLU, Tea Party take on federal spying: 'They've gone too far'

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a top Tea Party organization are teaming up to pressure lawmakers to oppose renewing controversial parts of the Patriot Act that undergird National Security Agency (NSA) operations.

The strange bedfellows of the ACLU and Tea Party Patriots will be running joint TV advertisements in Washington, D.C., as well as the early presidential primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa.

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The ads increase the political pressure on the Senate to rein in the NSA, and reflect the growing coalition that has risen up to oppose the agency's spying practices.

“The federal government surveillance program has collected records on nearly every Americans’ phone calls, emails — your most private moments — without a warrant, without cause and without your permission,” a narrator says in the 30-second ad.

Among those communications, the ad implies, are those between a doctor and their patient as well as a troop stationed abroad chatting with his daughter over the Internet.

“When Washington invades your privacy, they’ve gone too far,” the narrator concludes.

The commercials come amid a standoff in the Senate over whether or not to reform parts of the Patriot Act before they expire at the end of the month. Lawmakers are at odds over how to proceed, which has increased the chances that the law expires in just a few days. 

Versions of the new commercial running in Iowa and New Hampshire urge people to contact Sens. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation MORE (R-Iowa) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteOvernight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq Overnight Defense: New START extended for five years | Austin orders 'stand down' to tackle extremism | Panel recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal Study group recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-N.H.), who have appeared to resist reforms to the NSA. Both lawmakers are up for reelection in 2016, and Ayotte is seen as vulnerable

At the same time, however, the ads also serve to prepare Democratic and Republican voters in the nation’s first two primary states to oppose the NSA.

Polling released by the ACLU this week showed that voters in both parties overwhelmingly support reforming the NSA. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, 61 percent of voters believe Congress should “modify the Patriot Act to limit government surveillance and protect Americans’ privacy,” the poll found. Twenty-eight percent of likely Iowan voters and 33 percent of likely voters in New Hampshire disagreed, and said that Congress could renew the law unchanged. 

Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE and other top Democratic White House hopefuls have supported reforming the NSA. 

On the Republican side, Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Texas attorney general hits links with Trump before CPAC appearance MORE (R-Texas) has co-sponsored legislation to change the agency's surveillance practices, while Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) has pledged to filibuster any "clean" extension of the law.

Other White House hopefuls, however — including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWatch live: Day 2 at CPAC DeSantis derides 'failed Republican establishment' at CPAC The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided House on full display MORE (R-Fla.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) — have warned that reforming the law would risk jeopardizing American national security.