In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday evening, Senator Rand Paul outlined how vast NSA surveillance of hundreds of millions of Americans is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. He also reminded readers that the Founding Fathers fought a revolution over this type of behavior....cue John McCain calling him a whacko bird again in 3...2...1...
In addition to pointing out why secret monitoring is a violation of American rights, Paul makes one very important and crucial point.
These activities violate the Fourth Amendment, which says warrants must be specific—"particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." And what is the government doing with these records? The president assures us that the government is simply monitoring the origin and length of phone calls, not eavesdropping on their contents. Is this administration seriously asking us to trust the same government that admittedly targets political dissidents through the Internal Revenue Service and journalists through the Justice Department?
No one objects to balancing security against liberty. No one objects to seeking warrants for targeted monitoring based on probable cause. We've always done this.
What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won't be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation. Americans should trust the National Security Agency as much as they do the IRS and Justice Department.
Monitoring the records of as many as a billion phone calls, as some news reports have suggested, is no modest invasion of privacy. It is an extraordinary invasion of privacy. We fought a revolution over issues like generalized warrants, where soldiers would go from house to house, searching anything they liked. Our lives are now so digitized that the government going from computer to computer or phone to phone is the modern equivalent of the same type of tyranny that our Founders rebelled against.
I also believe that trolling through millions of phone records hampers the legitimate protection of our security. The government sifts through mountains of data yet still didn't notice, or did not notice enough, that one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was traveling to Chechnya. Perhaps instead of treating every American as a potential terror suspect the government should concentrate on more targeted analysis.What an idea! We've heard everyone from John McCain to President Obama defend vast NSA monitoring, but the fact is, that same monitoring didn't prevent Boston. Not to mention, while the Obama administration defends the program, it is also saying large scale attacks are no longer a threat and that al Qaeda is "on the run."
As Paul said, nobody is refuting that liberty and security must be balanced, but a better use of resources is much more effective in any situation.