3 vying for noms discuss government intrusion

Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson is the incumbent politician seeking the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District, which covers 16 counties from east of Erie to portions of Tioga County, south to northern Huntington County and west to Venango County.

Kerith Strano-Taylor, 38, D-Brookville, is an attorney in private practice who is seeking the Democrat nomination for the 5th Congressional District.

Thomas Tarantella, 54, D-Renovo, is a blue collar worker and Army veteran who still goes to work every day in the maintenance department at Norfolk Southern, the fourth largest railroad in the country. He also is seeking the Democratic nomination.

Question: New technologies, such as drones, present new opportunities for law enforcement, the news media and many others. What is your position on the use of drones by government agencies?

Thompson: “I do not really support using drones domestically as an opportunity that violates civil rights. I supported legislation that prevented the EPA from spying on our farmers for an overzealous enforcement of the Clean Water Act. I in no way support them for domestic spying. I think they are very legitimate use in time of war and in gathering intelligence information. I think they are helpful and can be substituted for manned aircraft which keeps the men and women serving our country safer.”

Strano-Taylor: “Any time we are looking at national security issues we have to be cognizant of civil liberties we may be infringing on. It is completely different depending on how we are using this technology and against who. Technology has brought a lot of wonderful things, but this requires a serious examination of the impact on citizens civil liberties, and I don’t know if we have enough information available to answer that question. You have hypothetically coming a wave of people saying it is good if it delivers information that benefits us and those who say it is bad if it has negative results. It makes me nervous when we start crafting public policy around it. That is how we have been navigating through this post 9-11. People want to feel safe, so I understand that desire, but I don’t know if it is the best way to craft policy. It is a very gray area right now. I don’t support privatization of national security. There are certain things that are the role of our government to do and the use of drones is one of them.”

Tarantella: “As a tool, it is a very effective way to engage a hostile force in a hostile land, but as far as spying on Americans, I am not in favor of it.”

Question: Do you support the use of technologies by government to resist the tide of terrorism, or do you believe government has gone too far? What steps do you advocate to look out for the concerns of ordinary citizens?

Thompson: “Govern-ment has definitely gone too far. Federal agencies have violated the civil liberties of citizens in name of national security . I was cosponsor of an amendment following the revelations of the NSA collection of meta data, phone numbers and email information of every day citizens. We have a process laid out by the Constitution, if government authority suspects someone is engaged in illegal activities including terrorism you have to show reasonable cause before you can get a warrant. I also am a co-sponsor of USA Freedom Act that puts that program on pause and requires close evaluation of its impact on civil liberties. The USA Freedom act is a tremendous step in the right direction. It ties into the history of the Patriot Act. The author of the Patriot Act, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who also authored the USA Freedom Act, feels the government has exceeded its authority, and I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill.”

Strano-Taylor: “The fact is, this hits square on the head of the National Security Agency and data mining. The communications companies have the data, they keep it; the question is, should the NSA have access to it? The problem is, it is the government saying that we think this person is doing something illegal and we want his data. Right now, the Federal Intelligence Security Agency and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps can obtain search warrants of citizens without notice being given to them. The argument is it must remain secret to protect national security. I understand the premise, but the application is disturbing. I do not believe they should be able to get ahold of data without a warrant that is not in secret. If you think someone is dealing drugs, you get a search warrant and it is executed at the door. They say, if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear, but what does the government consider to be wrong? It is a brave new world.”

Tarantella: “I do, because we know who our enemies are, but as far as using technology to blanket every American citizen, I don’t think there’s a need for that. As far as spying on Americans, I believe we have gone too far. I think the laws are in place, they just need to be enforced. Use a court order to wiretap, if the person is hostile and will do harm to Americans, but if there is no reason to be investigated, I don’t understand why they need to do it. The laws are cut and dry. Illegal search and seizure is against the Constitution, that’s why these laws are in effect for over 200 years. I understand the world is a different place after 9-11, but there should be a line.”