Rand Paul: "It's Time To Trash the NSA's Mass Surveillance of Americans, For Good"

Gage Skidmore/wikimediaGage Skidmore/wikimediaWriting in The Guardian website’s “Comment is Free” page, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was "somewhat disingenuous" when he claimed in a recent interview with The Daily Beast that much of the uproar surrounding Edward Snowden’s revelations related to the NSA’s activities could have been avoided if the intelligence community had been more transparent in the wake of 9/11.

From The Daily Beast:

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper said the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community over its collection of phone records could have been avoided. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.

Paul had this to say in response:

The United States needs intelligence gathering, the ability to obtain and keep secrets, spying on foreign powers and genuine threats and all the other tools nations use to protect their security. No one is disputing this.

But Clapper is being somewhat disingenuous here. Part of the reason our government does some things behind Americans' backs is not for security, but because certain activities, if known, would outrage the public.

Spying on every American certainly falls into this category. I also believe it is blatantly unconstitutional, and bringing these activities to light would immediately spark debates the NSA would rather not hear.

The notion that if the NSA had informed us they were monitoring every American would somehow make it OK, does not make it OK. Explaining why you are violating the Fourth Amendment does not invalidate the Fourth Amendment.

Paul concludes his op-ed by saying,

It's time to trash the NSA's mass surveillance of Americans, for good.

Unsurprisingly, given that The Guardian is a U.K.-based paper, some of the commenters are upset that Paul didn’t say that the NSA's mass surveillance of everyone, not just Americans, should be scrapped.

Paul recently filed a lawsuit against President Obama and other administration officials over the NSA’s phone metadata collection program.

More from Reason.com on Paul and the NSA here and here.

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  • Hyperion||

    If the GOP wants my vote in 2016, they will have to nominate this guy. Otherwise, it's 3rd party again.

    OT: Not sure if anyone has posted this yet, but this is really becoming an almost daily thing now.

    Kid holding wii controller, shot and killed by cop

  • John||

    Be nice if the national media would ever take this issue up. It would make for great television. And God knows they are not above muck racking on the latest "explosion" or "disturbing trend" in America. But they never touch it. I really hate those assholes.

  • Hyperion||

    Nope, they won't touch it, they serve the state. They love them some WOD also.

  • Zeb||

    And it seems like the sort of think they should love. Dead kids and dogs.

    Makes me think that the press is not so much liberal/progressive biased (though there is certainly plenty of that too), but biased toward government power and control in all areas.

  • John||

    That is exactly what they are. The are in love with power. Think of it this way, the biggest gig for a reporter to get is covering the White House. Why is that? It is kind of a shitty job. All they do is stand around the press room and listen to various press secretaries lie. Maybe follow the President around playing golf or making a foreign visit. They love it and suffer all sorts of indignities because that is the beat that puts them closest to power. They can't help themselves.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    To be fair, I think it's also part of the institutional bias of the press. Who's considered the "ace" reporter for a major metro daily, the guy covering business news, the guy covering sports, or the guy covering city hall? What's more likely to make the top of a nightly newscast, a Congressional vote, a merger, or a big sporting event.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    ...but biased toward government power and control in all areas

    People tend to ally themselves with those that butter their bread

  • John||

    But we need sources and access. How can we be crusading journalists if all the people in government think we are big meanies and won't talk to us?

    Signed

    The US Media.

  • Zeb||

    Was on H&R yesterday.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    If the GOP wants my vote in 2016, they will have to nominate this guy.

    As a long-standing Republican, I have to go along with you on this. Paul is just so much better a candidate, by orders of magnitude, than any of the other guys being bandied about at this point that it defies credulity that they would run anyone but him out of anything but spite against anyone who actually believes in the principles the Republican party espouses.

    * He brings an established campaign network to the game from day one.
    * He's shown he can bring libertarians, Tea Partiers and socons onto the same bus.
    * He's shown that he knows how to raise issues that fundamentally change the debate in his favor.

    I mean, yes the Republican party is the stupid party. But, beyond some point, you have to start discounting stupidity and assuming malice.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I'm still waiting for "Law and Order: Internal Affairs" - a ripped from the headlines show about police misconduct. Each episode can begin with "In loving memory of (insert name of police brutality victim)" and end with "the officers involved in the actual case this story was based on received a 2 week paid vacation and nothing else happened."

  • Cytotoxic||

    Let us not succumb to hero worship and exclude other good candidates. I don't like Cruz as much as Paul but I am willing to be wooed.

    Paul is also superior because he talks some sense on immigration. Not open borders I don't expect that. But the Borderites are as upset with him as the surveillance state apologists.

  • John||

    Unsurprisingly, given that The Guardian is a U.K.-based paper, some of the commenters are upset that Paul didn’t say that the NSA's mass surveillance of everyone, not just Americans, should be scrapped.

    Because I am sure the Limeys would be so concerned if MI6 was spying on Americans, which it probably does. The European intelligence agencies are notorious for industrial espionage.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    And, since this is The Guardian, I'm sure the Communists on there are absolutely outraged by Cuban and Russian espionage and surveillance efforts, both of which are well-known.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Explaining why you are violating the Fourth Amendment does not invalidate the Fourth Amendment.

    I wonder if they actually think it does, or if they are just falling back to the tried and true "if only our messaging was better" line.

  • John||

    A bit of both. At this point they are just throwing shit against the wall in hopes that any of it will stick. It is as if they hired Shreek to do their messaging.

    Clapper admitting that they should have told the country about this is the most galling thing I have ever witnessed in politics. Even Bill Clinton couldn't have said that with a straight face. For going on a year now they have been screaming that Snowden is a traitor who did immeasurable harm to US security by leaking this program's existence and now they have the nerve to say things would be okay if only they had told the public about it sooner.

  • Rich||

  • John||

    The Patriot Act and EO 12333 are pretty much what drives the things they do. Him saying that is like the head of the SEC saying he forgot about that whole Sarbaines Oxley thing.

  • Jerryskids||

    Clapper admitting that they should have told the country about this is the most galling thing I have ever witnessed in politics.

    I have seen this sort of comment several other places and it irritates me for this reason: Does nobody else remember that when this story first broke it was dismissed as a non-story because everybody already knew what the NSA was up to? The enabling legislation was not secret, these programs were put in place in full view of the public, the process was completely transparent, Congress had full oversight. So what the hell does he mean "we should have told the public about this"? His first argument was that the public already knew.

  • John||

    The public didn't know. If it did, Snowden wouldn't have been a story. And the enabling legislation was not that clear. People thought the statute meant they would collect on Americans where they thought doing so was connected to terrorism. No one thought that meant they would collect every phone call made in the country.

  • Cytotoxic||

    I keep hearing that Snowden revealed US spy tactics in foreign places. Not that I care very much, but this is bullshit right?

  • John||

    I don't know to be honest. But if he did, they seem to be more pissed off about this than that. So even if that is true, the NSA still seems more angry about being embarrassed than they do about actual damage to national security.

  • wwhorton||

    So, Snowden's treason is more a function of timing than anything else? Man, it sure isn't even a little bit horrifying to think that people who wield that sort of logic are at the helm of the nation.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    I'm new here. Does "somewhat disingenuous" mean "lies like a rug"?

  • ||

    These are the kinds of people who dont think it does or not think it does. They dont give a shit. For them it is only about what they can get away with.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    I think it's of the vein if god knew what I knew god would have done what I did.

  • John||

    Yeah. They have spent their entire careers telling themselves they are special and know things the public just can't know and wouldn't understand if they did.

    The thing to remember about the IC is that no one ever moves to the IC mid career. Everyone who works in it started out in it as some GS9 or some military intel officer or enlisted. That creates an extremely insular culture. They think anyone who is not in the IC is stupid and unworthy. They are amazingly detached and arrogant.

    The sad fact is that that not only makes them a menace liable to do illegal things, it also makes them grossly incompetent and inefficient. Intelligence work is just putting together puzzles and guessing. An insular culture that never brings in mid career people from different backgrounds and with new ways of thinking is not conducive to that.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I think these individuals are so far down the "protect us from terrorists" road that they see the Constitution as an impediment and something to be gotten around. They are SO close to it and SO focused on saving us from "bad guys" they refuse to consider that they are in the wrong.

    I really do think they have good intentions, but their inability to see the forest for the trees is EXACTLY why they need to be smacked down hard from the outside.

  • John||

    I agree Francisco. Consider my post above about the insular culture at these agencies and you can see exactly why and how they are like this.

  • John||

    And the irony of it (in an age where irony seems unlimited) is that their sense of self importance is a lie. The NSA hasn't protected the country from jack shit. We know that because after the Snowden thing broke and they had their big chance to show the country and their critics all of these great things they were doing, they couldn't produce a single instance of where their work stopped an attack. And you know as well as I do if such an instance existed, they would have leaked it and shoved it down their critics' throats.

    Counter terrorism, at least where the terrorism isn't state sponsored, which most of it isn't, really is a law enforcement function. And the NSA was never designed to do law enforcement. It was built to figure out what over governments were doing. It is well on useless as a counter terrorism organization.

  • Jerryskids||


    I think you are exactly right.

    These people don't think liberty is a higher priority than security. It's better to live on your knees than to die on your feet.

  • Whahappan?||

    I'd go further. They think it is better for YOU to die on your knees than live on your feet.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I think 'protect us from terrorists comes a close #152nd to bureaucratic prerogatives, individual ego boosts, and occupational insularity described by John above in explaining how this abortion came to be.

  • Francisco d Anconia||

    I think 'protect us from terrorists comes a close #152nd to bureaucratic prerogatives, individual ego boosts, and occupational insularity...

    To some degree.

    There is no bigger ego boost than when you believe you are doing "god's work". When you've convinced yourself that you are the only thing standing between the good people of the US and utter annihilation, that's a pretty big ego...

    Such people are easily capable of convincing themselves that anything done for the cause is just.

  • Joe_C||

    Just like Tom Cruise at the scene of an accident.

  • Bobarian||

    Shorter Clapper:

    This is Bush's fault.

    Clapper is Shriek?

  • Hyperion||

    Sounds like the NSA is planning to double down on their spying instead of scaling back. And of course their head cheerleader is Diane Frankenfiend. Why do the people in her district keep electing her? Do they like abuse or something?

  • Rich||

    Have you seen this?: NSA VOWS TO SPY EVEN MORE!

  • Hyperion||

    Yes, was what I was referring to, just too lazy this morning to post the link.

  • Rich||

    "Our hands are tied by THE LAW!!"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    If she's the head cheerleader, then Peter King must be the captain of the football team who gets to bang her under the bleachers.

    Think about it. Let that image sear itself into your mind.

  • Hyperion||

    Throw 1 Lindsey Graham into the recipe and ponder that scene.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Okay. Now I need mental floss.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Let that image sear itself into your mind

    It can't. I keep myself blissfully unaware of what politicians look like. It saves me thousands in Brain Bleach expenses.

  • Dweebston||

    Except for Kathleen Sebelius, since Reason insists on tagging every HHS/Obamacare article with her Clint Eastwood impression.

  • Cytotoxic||

    AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH WHY

  • wwhorton||


    If she's the head cheerleader, then Peter King must be the captain of the football team who gets to bang her under the bleachers.

    Think about it. Let that image sear itself into your mind.

    And just what the hell did I ever do to you to deserve three months of nightmares???

  • John||

    Of course they will. They have a culture devoid of any accountability. They figure they have so much dirt on Obama and the Dems that no Democratic President will ever stop them and there will always be enough Dems in the Senate to keep Congress from doing anything. And they figure there never will be another Republican President and even if there is it will be some establishment hack who thinks it is a good idea.

    They might be right. But I am optimistic that they are not and they are going to end up doing so much damage to the image of the intelligence community that the resulting political storm will make them long for the good old days of the Church Commission.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Why do the people in her district keep electing her? Do they like abuse or something?

    Considering her district is California maybe the answer to question 2 is "yes"

  • Rich||

    Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was "somewhat disingenuous"

    Allow me: "There's no sugarcoating it -- the Director spoke in the least untruthful manner."

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "Sen. Dianne Feinstein defends NSA and need for intelligence gathering"

    “What keeps me up at night, candidly, is another attack against the United States. And I see enough of the threat stream to know that is possible,” Feinstein said at a Pacific Council on International Policy dinner in Century City.

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/.....z2tsRlIFml

  • ||

    Yeah, you did a bang up job stopping a pressure cooker bombing in Boston, Dianne.

  • Hyperion||

    The terrorists that keep Feinstein up at night are not radical Islamists. Her terrorists read libertarian blogs and vote for people like Rand Paul.

  • Rich||

    “But the way we prevent another attack – and this is tricky – is intelligence," she said. "You have to know what’s going to happen, because it’s too late otherwise.”

    This is why Dianne is Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Only the choicest of Senators belong on the Select Committee, much like a Columbian coffee bean hand picked by Juan Valdez.

  • Bobarian||

    the richest kind (literally).

    /Mrs Olson

  • wwhorton||

    What a maroon. Dianne, your use of the term "threat stream" makes you as much an expert on intelligence and counterterrorism as my use of the term "synergistic" makes me an expert on business management. Not to mention the fact that your "threat stream" is completely irrelevant to the issue of the 4th Amendment. To the best of my recollection there is no "...except if Dianne Feinstein is getting nervous about things" clause.

  • Joe_C||

    I think they removed that clause just prior to ratification.

  • Jerryskids||

    Unfortunately, with the facial-recognition cameras and license plate scanners we are definitely moving toward a true surveillence state. As Paul points out, this sort of thing was supposed to be used as foreign intelligence gathering, but that's too hard. Americans already all have extensive records - birth certificates, Social Security numbers, vaccination records, drivers licenses, W-2's, and coming soon all those Obamacare electronic medical records and health insurance records - so it makes it easier to collate those records and keep track of everybody. Foreigners often live in lesser-developed countries that may not have the extensive citizen databases the US has.

    Anybody familiar with bureaucracies knows that systems exist for their own sake, as their own raison d'etre, it doesn't matter what the original purpose of the system was. You develop this huge system to monitor foreign threats but it's too hard to use it against foreign threats so you have to find some other use for it or face the prospect of thinking about the fact that the whole thing is a massive failure and a waste of money and manpower. If the system doesn't perform its function, you just redefine the function to match whatever it is the system is doing.

    It's like the drunk looking for his watch under the streetlamp - he lost it up the street but he's looking here where the lighting is better.

  • John||

    Exactly. Every leader in a bureaucracy is looking to make his career by building an empire. You do that by thinking of new things for the bureaucracy to do.

  • ||

    To reinforce my comment below ( damn squirrels )
    I will point out that foreign powers pose almost zero threat to the political class. I dont think they are all that interested in spying on furriners. Any foreign power, no matter how powerful, would have to work with or through the political class here to accomplish anything.

    The American people, however, do pose a serious threat to the political class.

    That is why they spy on us.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Facial recognition tech sucks though, and surveillance in general is really expensive. The government won't be able to afford the total surveillance state, and that may be what saves us.

  • Jordan||

    Do not read the Guardian comments.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Precious aren't they?

  • Rich||

    The one about libertarians condoning slavery was, anyway.

  • sarcasmic||

    Show me someone complaining about corporate tyranny and I'll show you a functional retard.

  • Sal Paradise||

    And that nut mentions "libertarian socialist". Does not compute.

  • Wandering Texan||

    I read that, and for a second, I wanted clarification.

    A second later, I realized tha in the end, its probably safer to not know.

  • Bobarian||

    "libertarian socialist":

    I want the state to have more freedom to control what you do.

  • Dweebston||

    I wonder how many of Paul's detractors across the pond would also spitroast Farage given a moment alone with the man.

    Not to say that UKIP is the British embodiment of libertarianism, but it's a group advancing national sovereignty against the tides of globalizing extralegal governance, and in that regard at least both parties are wedded to subsidiarity.

  • ||

    "Explaining why you are violating the Fourth Amendment does not invalidate the Fourth Amendment."

    I am not taking issue with what Paul said. It is an accurate statement. I will however, say what he cant.
    The explanation they are giving for what they are doing is not true. Their motives are not what they say they are.
    They are spying on the people that they see as enemies.

    Not having term limits, having people spend their entire lives on the public payroll in positions of power, has allowed a political class to develop that is in essence no different from the old european aristocracy. A class apart from everyone else that sees itself as entitled and the perpetuation of that class as an end in itself. Such a class is inevitably going to see everyone else as 'the enemy'. After all, those are the only people who pose any threat to it.

  • ||

    "Explaining why you are violating the Fourth Amendment does not invalidate the Fourth Amendment."

    I am not taking issue with what Paul said. It is an accurate statement. I will however, say what he cant.
    The explanation they are giving for what they are doing is not true. Their motives are not what they say they are.
    They are spying on the people that they see as enemies.

    Not having term limits, having people spend their entire lives on the public payroll in positions of power, has allowed a political class to develop that is in essence no different from the old european aristocracy. A class apart from everyone else that sees itself as entitled and the perpetuation of that class as an end in itself. Such a class is inevitably going to see everyone else as 'the enemy'. After all, those are the only people who pose any threat to it.

  • UnCivilServant||

    So riled you had to say it twice?

  • Dweebston||

    So troubled he's seeing double.

  • califernian||

    The United States needs intelligence gathering, the ability to obtain and keep secrets, spying on foreign powers and genuine threats and all the other tools nations use to protect their security. No one is disputing this.

    I dispute this.

  • John||

    I don't. The government has a duty to protect my privacy. I couldn't care less about the rest of the world.

    "But we shouldn't spy on foreigners either" is about the most idiotic hill Libertarians could die on.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Agreed, spying on foreigners is the job description of Intel agencies and is a very useful function at times.

  • Cytotoxic||

    John and TIT are right, although I do want a few limits on what we spy on oversees.

    "But we shouldn't spy on foreigners either" is about the most idiotic hill Libertarians could die on.

    But those are their favorites!

  • wwhorton||

    Not all (in fact, not much) intelligence gathering is clandestine. Most of the stuff we use is "open source", or freely available, and the value comes from our interpretation of it. Those interpretations are indeed kept secret, and ought to be, especially as they don't imply the violation of anyone's privacy.

    Besides which, countries that are actively spying on each other (and know it) can use the IC as a valuable signalling tool for messaging that for whatever reason shouldn't be shouted from the hilltops. It can be reassuring for other countries to have what they believe is first-hand, unvarnished information about allies and neighbors.

  • widget||

    I'm afraid of Americans:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....feature=kp

    Not Bowie's best song, but let me know when Pussy Riot even writes a song

    I'm not sure about some of Bowie's lyrics.

    "It's safe in the city, to love in a dual way, to wrangle sun-streams from the dome"

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