Trump Just Said He Wouldn’t Spy on Americans. Here Are 4 Times He Vowed to Do So.

From surveilling mosques to reinstating Patriot Act provisions, the GOP nominee has repeatedly called for more domestic spying.

Matt Rourke/AP

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“The United States government should not spy on its own citizens. That will not happen in a Trump administration.”

The Trump campaign issued that straightforward declaration on Tuesday to Science Debate, an organization that asks the presidential candidates for their views on science-related issues. But Trump has repeatedly supported wide-ranging surveillance measures during the campaign, and there’s no evidence that he has changed his views.

Science Debate asked Trump, Hillary Clinton, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein how they would “protect vulnerable infrastructure and institutions from cyber attack, and…provide for national security while protecting personal privacy on electronic devices and the internet.” Cyberwarfare and digital security have only been mentioned infrequently during the general election, but they played a much larger role during the Republican primaries. Back then, Trump positioned himself as a surveillance hardliner willing to authorize wider spying programs on Americans, particularly Muslims.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, Trump said the government should surveil mosques and supported reinstating the New York Police Department’s “demographics unit,” which spied extensively on the city’s Muslims after 9/11. He also backed spying on mosques after the Orlando shootings in July. “We ought to start [surveillance] up again, and we ought to start it up this morning,” he told the Breitbart News Daily radio show in November. “We ought to start it up again and get going. And use your head. This is a lot of nonsense that we ended that.” The program was exposed in 2011 by the Associated Press, sparking an uproar and leading to two lawsuits against the NYPD. The police ended the program in 2014 and settled the suits earlier this year by agreeing to stronger oversight and stricter controls on surveillance practices.

Trump has also refused to rule out more restrictive measures against Muslims, including creating a database of Muslims in the United States and allowing warrantless searches against them. “Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy,” he told Yahoo News. “And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.

But Trump was also in favor of reinstating a major mass surveillance programs that affected all Americans. In December, he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he supported reinstating provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed intelligence agencies to collect the phone records of Americans en masse. That program was ended when Congress passed the USA Freedom Act last May, which instead requires the government to get authorization from a federal judge to collect specific records.

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about whether Trump had changed his views since the primary debates or how he defines spying on Americans.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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