Sen. Rand Paul, a strong privacy advocate, expressed reservations about President Obama’s NSA speech today, giving him an A for effort but an unenthusiastic C for content as far as real reforms of the controversial domestic surveillance program.
The consensus about the speech seems to be that beyond the lofty rhetoric, it’s going to be business as usual with NSA invasive metadata collection.
In commenting on the president’s remarks on CNN (see embed above), Paul sarcastically made a callback to the Obama’s repeated claim that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” when he was selling healthcare reform via the Affordable Care Act to the American people.That assertion has been deemed the lie of the year by Politifact.
In the interview, Paul also appeared to acknowledge that the speech was lacking in substantive reforms of National Security Agency procedures, of which he is a outspoken critic on constitutional grounds:
What I think I heard is that if you like your privacy, you can keep it, but in the meantime we’re going to keep collecting your phone records, your emails, your text messages, and likely your credit card information. So, I didn’t hear any lessening of the spying on Americans or collection records of Americans. I heard that ‘Trust me, I’m going to put some more safeguards in place, but I’m going to keep right on collecting every Americans’ records.'”
Paul added that ultimately the the Supreme Court will have to decide if a general warrant can apply to millions of people’s records.
The Kentucky senator, who is a libertarian-leaning Republican, also suggested that Obama’s Paul Revere reference may be a misinterpretation of American history. “Paul Revere was warning us that the British were coming; he wasn’t warning us that the Americans were coming.” The Fourth Amendment, explained Paul, was a response to British authorities in pre-Revolutionary War America writing general dragnet-style warrants –- rather than an individualized warrant — that gave British soldiers the unfettered ability to go into the colonials’ homes and examine their papers whenever they wanted. The NSA is engaging in a similar but more high-tech activity today, he implied.
In an official statement about the president’s NSA speech, Paul offered the following addtional criticism:
While I am encouraged the President is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details. The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails. President Obama’s announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration. I intend to continue the fight to restore Americans rights through my Fourth Amendment Restoration Act and my legal challenge against the NSA. The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house.”
The Kentucky senator previously announced that he would file a class-action lawsuit against President Obama with regard to the NSA spying program, so it appears that the lawsuit will go forward. According to Paul, any American who owns a cell phone is a potential plaintiff in the legal action against the administration for unconstitutional NSA spying.