Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had some harsh words Thursday for the Obama administration collecting phone records of millions of Americans.
Speaking with Yahoo! News, Paul said, “I think it would be remedial education for those who are doing this. They need to go back and read the Constitution, read the Fourth Amendment, and understand that our records are private.”
OLIVIER KNOX, YAHOO! NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So overnight, sir, we learned that the National Security Agency, with the blessing of a court order, has been collecting the Verizon phone records of millions of Americans. What’s your reaction to that?
SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KENTUCKY): I’m appalled. I’m absolutely opposed to the government sifting and sorting through millions of innocent people’s records. I’m not opposed to them going to a judge and getting an order for an individual who you have probable cause to believe that they’ve been involved with a crime. So one thing it’s a great invasion of our privacy, but it’s also I don’t think good police work. Better police work would be tracking down individuals who have come here from other countries, that are traveling in and out, that are associating with terrorists and going and looking at an individual’s records with a judge’s warrant. But I think when you look at millions of people’s records, you get distracted.
It’s sort of like the TSA at the airport. Because we treat everyone as a potential terrorist, we’re wasting time with twelve-year-old kids and seventy five-year-old grandmothers. They’re trying to get away from that, but it’s been twelve years and they’re still doing it. So it’s the same thing here. We’re sifting through too many people’s records. It’s a violation of the Bill of Rights. We need to have a better and a more thorough understanding of the Fourth Amendment.
KNOX: Does that mean rewriting existing national security law to maybe require the executive branch to tailor its searches more narrowly?
PAUL: I think it would be remedial education for those who are doing this. They need to go back and read the Constitution, read the Fourth Amendment, and understand that our records are private. You know, some of the court decisions have gone the wrong way. In the 1970s, we started saying, “Well, when you give your records to a third party, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect you.” I disagree completely. I disagree with those decisions. I think they were wrongly decided, and I think your records, particularly in a digital age where more of your life now is online, these records are yours and it’s part of your privacy.
Think about it. You know, whether I have an account on Yahoo! or something, that information’s out there and I have arrangements with Yahoo! for maybe sharing my buying habits. But those don’t extend to the government. I want Yahoo! to protect me from the government and to only give up my information if I’m accused of a crime.
KNOX: You know perhaps better than most in Congress that the executive branch doesn’t just give up its secrets. It requires whistleblowers, it requires the junior senator from Kentucky taking a stand. How far are you prepared this time around to get the answers you think you need in this?
PAUL: Well, I think we keep asking. It’s hard. Once the three letters N-S-A come up, they’re going to say most stuff is classified. But I think this is an area where, you know, people are always complaining about leaks, but I think the idea that somehow the news media can get this and talk about it -- it’s the only way we ever hear about it because they’re not going to let us know otherwise. But I think it is important, and it’s not that I don’t want to go after terrorists, or rapists or murderers or any kind of terrible criminal. It’s that I want to go after them, not the rest of the mass-abiding, law-abiding citizens that are out there.