During the February 22 Libertarian Party presidential debate in Florida, the following exchange took place, starting at the 51:36 mark:
MODERATOR: Mr. Chafee, how do you support your vote for the Patriot Act?
CHAFEE: It was a mistake. You have to put in context that even Ron Paul voted for it. And the smoke was still coming out of the Pentagon, Twin Towers. It was still smoldering. We made some mistakes. I probably cast 5,000 different votes. That was a mistake. And I should have not trusted Bush and Cheney. They deserved not to be trusted.
So a lot of us made mistakes on that one. I’ll own up to it.
But it’s just renewed my passion for our civil liberties, since then. And on a stage, when they ask is Snowden a hero, I was the only one who said ‘absolutely, bring him home and drop the charges.’
CHAFEE: But I’m more militant . . .
CHAFEE: . . . since being burned by voting for the Patriot Act.
Libertarian presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee tried to alleviate criticism of his 2001 vote as a Republican Senator from Rhode Island in favor of the USA Patriot Act with the claim that then-Congressman Ron Paul of Texas also voted for the Act.
This claim is false.
On October 24, 2001, Ron Paul was one of only three Republican congressmen who voted against HR 3162 in the House of Representatives. The others were Robert Ney of Ohio and Butch Otter of Idaho. 62 Democratic representatives and one Independent (Bernie Sanders) opposed it. The next day, in the US Senate, Lincoln Chafee voted with 97 other Senators to send the bill to President George W. Bush’s desk. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the lone vote in opposition.
However, even more recently, Chafee has expressed support for the Patriot Act. During an October 13, 2015 CNN debate, while Chafee sought the Democratic presidential nomination, the following exchange occurred:
MODERATOR: You and Hillary Clinton both voted for the Patriot Act which created the NSA surveillance program. You’ve emphasized civil liberties, privacy during your campaign. Aren’t these two things in conflict?
CHAFEE: No, that was a 99-to-1 vote for the PATRIOT Act, and it was seen as at the time modernizing our ability to do what we’ve always done to tap phones which always required a warrant. And I voted for that.
MODERATOR: Do you regret that vote?
CHAFEE: No, no. As long as you’re getting a warrant, I believe that under the Fourth Amendment, you should be able to do surveillance, but you need a warrant. That’s what the Fourth Amendment says. And in the Patriot Act, section 215 started to get broadened too far. So I would be in favor of addressing and reforming section 215 of the Patriot Act.