Rand Paul

If Rand Paul's PATRIOT Act Activism Raises Him Money, Maybe Listen to What He's Saying?

Some senators, tellingly, see listening to Americans' surveillance concerns as a bad thing.


Next thing you know, voters will start thinking legislators work for them!

Sen. Rand Paul's moves to help force Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to sunset and his concerns about the quality of its replacement, the USA Freedom Act, have won him criticism from several different quarters. There are those fear-mongering pro-security-state establishment politicians who want to keep everything the same, even though they actually can't. Senators like Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) made it clear in their comments during yesterday's voting maneuvers that they'd like to keep Section 215, but they never made any efforts to engage the reality that the Second Circuit Court declared that Section 215 never actually authorized the kind of mass phone and Internet metadata collection targeting Americans the National Security Agency (NSA) claimed it did.

Paul's maneuvers have also frustrated some who see him potentially blocking actual reform of surveillance in his insistence on tearing down anything targeting Americans for warrantless data collection. Last night he again raised the specter of the NSA using the USA Freedom Act to continue collecting phone records by using the names of phone companies as selection terms. The Freedom Act, though, forbids using telecom or Internet companies as selection terms unless the companies themselves are a focus of investigations. Cato Fellow (and former Reason editor) Julian Sanchez explains further why the USA Freedom Act has some really important provisions, even if it doesn't drive the stake into the heart of warrantless domestic surveillance, here at Vice's Motherboard.

But the strangest criticism coming out of Paul's actions has to be that it's all to raise money for his presidential campaign. Here's crotchety McCain complaining to Politico that Paul just didn't want to sit down with him at a meeting after essentially calling him a liar:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that Paul has missed "a number of meetings" Republicans have held on the PATRIOT Act in recent weeks. He contended there was an obvious political reason for Paul's stance, pointing out how his colleague was tweeting supporters taking "selfies" of themselves next to Paul speaking on TV.

"I know what this is about — I think it's very clear – this is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise," McCain said Sunday. "He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation."

McCain was very much a sore loser last night. He tried to lecture Paul over procedural matters last night when and tried to block him from giving his five-minute broadside against the PATRIOT Act. But McCain failed and Paul had his say.

The "fundraising" attack wasn't just from the conservative establishment. Here's Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) making the same claim, courtesy of the Daily Dot:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman and an ardent defender of the surveillance state, blasted Paul, who is running for president, for "holding critical national security programs hostage to raise political donations."

"At a time when the threat of terrorist attacks at home and abroad is higher than ever, it's unconscionable that these national security tools can no longer be used, particularly since the reason is to advance the political ambitions of one person," Feinstein said in a statement.

First, it's rather remarkable that senators are accusing Paul of misleading people and then acting like the NSA doesn't have several other surveillance tools to track down terrorists. Section 215 has been shown to have not been a player in actually stopping terrorist plots. One of the other expiring provisions, the so-called "lone wolf' provision that authorizes surveillance of non-affiliated foreign terror suspects, has never even been used. The third provision, for roving wiretaps, is more likely to be used in drug or spy cases, not tracking terrorists, officials say. As Sanchez notes in his Motherboard piece, there's all sorts of other forms of surveillance going on and won't be going away.

But second, it's additionally remarkable that Paul is essentially being attacked for responding to Americans' concerns about their right to privacy and may be rewarded with money for his presidential run by doing so. Recent polls have made it absolutely clear that Americans are very concerned about NSA domestic surveillance and did not want the PATRIOT Act just blindly renewed. If Americans are throwing money at Paul for taking this stand, then maybe there's a good reason? But no, these senators want to treat the American public as though Paul is duping them, while at the exact same time attempting to mislead us all about the effectiveness of these surveillance tools in actually fighting terrorism.

Here's Mike Huckabee actually complaining on Fox News that Paul is actually trying to shape policy as a senator instead of shaking hands and kissing babies:

In response to a question about Paul, Huckabee said on Fox News Monday morning that 2016 contenders must "decide what they want to be when they grow up."

"If you want to be a governor, be a governor. If you want to be a senator, be a senator," Huckabee said. "If you want to be president, then let go of what you're doing, because it's a full time pursuit to run for the presidency."

Those in government positions owe a responsibility to the taxpayer, he continued.

"If you want a different job, then say I don't want this one anymore. I'm bored with it," he said. "But be honest about it and go out and give the taxpayers a break, and let them have someone on the job full time."

I don't even know exactly how to parse this criticism. It almost feels like the opposite of McCain's complaining. Paul should stop trying to accomplish things and run for president and just talk about the things he wants to accomplish because taxpayers! Stop getting things, done, Paul! Don't you see you've got a campaign to run! How on earth will you get publicity for your presidential campaign if you spend all your time shaping policy! 

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  1. …pointing out how his colleague was tweeting supporters taking “selfies” of themselves next to Paul speaking on TV.


    1. BOOM.

    2. Thread. Winner.

  2. So according to Huckabee, if I want a different job, I should immediately quit my current one to focus on finding my new one. It is unpossible to fulfill my current obligations.

    There truly is no accounting for the sheer amount of dumb that man can produce.

    1. Could anybody tell the difference between his governing Arkansas and not?

  3. Scott Shackford: He listens to the likes of Mike Huckabee and John McCain and Dianne Feinstein so we don’t have to.

    1. Still not as bad a job as the people in the commentariat who read Gawker, Jezebel, Salon, and the various rantings of Jessica Valenti, ESB, and their ilk.

  4. I don’t even know exactly how to parse this criticism.

    Here, I’ll do it for you.


    That’s really all there is to it.

    1. That seems to be the gist of all the criticism. They’re just a bunch of whiny babies.

      1. Hillary: “I am shocked! Shocked to find money in politics!”

        Clinton Foundation worker : “Another $500,000 from the government of Algeria”

        Hillary : (sotto voce) Oh, thanks very much. “SHOCKED I TELL YOU!”

  5. But the strangest criticism coming out of Paul’s actions has to be that it’s all to raise money for his presidential campaign.

    A stop will be put to that when his campaign is declared a terrorist fund-raising operation. That happens right after the Clinton Foundation, in a joint effort with the Jeb Bush campaign, order 100,000 copies of “Dreams of My Father” in a show of solidarity for America’s future.

    1. I think there is halperadol in your future.

  6. Rand Paul is being more disruptive and effective than I ever dreamed he’d be. It will be interesting to see how much more popular this makes him. Most Americans hate Congress, and not all that many of them care enough about the Civil Rights Act to hate him. So we’ll see.

    1. not all that many of them care enough about the Civil Rights Act to hate him

      I’m sure MSNBC will do their level ass best to “educate” the proles on that matter.

      1. I am sure all 37 of their viewers are already quite predisposed to not vote for anyone with an “R” after his or her name.

        1. But they’re loud, and very squeaky.

    2. not all that many of them care enough about the Civil Rights Act to hate him

      I’m sure MSNBC will do their level ass best to “educate” the proles on that matter.

  7. “Some senators, tellingly, see listening to Americans’ surveillance concerns as a bad thing.”

    What are you talking about? They *love* listening to Americans! And keeping extensive files on what they say!

    1. One of the big problems is that they are not just keeping files, they are sharing them with law enforcement. Any one think they aren’t also willing to share them with any regulatory agency who has it’s own militia, BLM, NEA, Agriculture, etc?

  8. From the linked Vice article:

    Also permanent are National Security Letters or NSLs, which allow the FBI to obtain a more limited range of telecommunications and financial records without even needing to seek judicial approval. Unsurprisingly, the government loves these streamlined tools, and used them so promiscuously that the FBI didn’t even bother using 215 for more than a year after the passage of the Patriot Act. Inspector General reports have also made clear that the FBI is happy to substitute NSLs for 215 orders when even the highly accommodating FISC manages a rare display of backbone. In at least one case, when the secret court refused an application for journalists’ records on First Amendment grounds, the Bureau turned around and obtained the same data using National Security Letters.

    Now, who was saying merge the BATFE with the FBI?

    1. Can we merge them and then drop them into the Marianas Trench?

  9. Of course, I’ve never been thrilled with Obama, but compared to McCain, he might still have been the lesser evil.

    1. Cancer versus the plague…let’s see…

  10. “”If you want a different job, then say I don’t want this one anymore. I’m bored with it,” he said. “But be honest about it and go out and give the taxpayers a break, and let them have someone on the job full time.””

    This is actually the first time I want to tell Huckabee to fuck himself.

    When he was attacked for being too generous with his pardons, I actually agreed with him.

    When he was attacked for being a SoCon, I was like, “what’s the problem?”

    But if he’s going to denounce a Senator who is simultaneously (a) running for President and (b) doing more good as a Senator than any of his colleagues, then my reply to Huckabee is, indeed, that he should fuck himself.

  11. McCain, McConnell, Graham need to shut up and tell the truth. All are neo-cons, ESPECIALLY McCain and Graham. You do not keep people safe by trampling their civil rights. Lincoln was seen as a tyrant for imposing directives before and during the civil war that do not approach the government intrusion of the Patriot Act. The notion that it should be okay to put hundreds of thousands of people under surveillance using a single warrant is insane. Especially when the vast majority of them are normal law abiding citizens. Two weeks ago a number of people were killed and scores injured during a “shoot out” between biker gangs. At first the Waco Sheriffs department and ATF claimed they found hundreds of weapons. Now we have found out the only weapons were carried by the same, yet we are supposed to ‘trust’ they will only spy on terrorists?

    1. If they were capable of telling the truth, they would never have gotten in to politics. They lie their way through campaigning, lie in their accomplishments, then lie again to get re-elected. The trick is in finding who lies the least. Have you ever met a hedge fund baby that could speak the truth?

  12. I chuckle every time I hear McCain say anything critical of Paul. This is the same guy who hasn’t seen a country on a map he didn’t want to invade. They talk about the terrorist winning, that we will be fighting them here, the unconstitutional parts of the patriot act, and idiots like McCain defending it is proof the terrorists are winning. It’s not ISIS we need to worry about, it’s these neocons who brought us to this point in the first place.

    1. PTSD from being a POW. He needs a check-up from the neck up….too old and battered to think straight.

  13. Everyone already knew that the Patriot Act encroached our Constitutional rights, which is why the POTUS has refused to challenge it in the SCOTUS, but has anyone (other than our crooked politicians) checked the legality of the US Freedom Act?

    I find it rather abstract, that our Govt is able to pass laws that violate our Constitution without changing the Constitution. One would have to assume that they would not get the number of votes to change our Constitution in order to fit a law such as the Patriot Act. So, instead, they just ignore our Constitution?

    Since every one of these politicians had took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, shouldn’t they all be censured, forced to retire, and be forced to pay back all their salaries since the first violation against the Constitution?

  14. It’s hard to take seriously an argument that starts out painting its opponents as “fear mongering.”

    Libertarians seem to believe that the only dangers in the world come from their own government.

    In reality, we do need a government, even though any power we grant it is dangerous. Sometimes, to survive, you can’t avoid danger. The Patriot Act, although horribly named, was carefully crafted to minimize that danger while still allowing us to defend ourselves in this modern age. In the modern age, our enemies use technologies in a way that our outmoded surveillance means cannot handle. The Patriot Act was merely a modernization of a system that previously required treating every phone number as if it was the only one a person used. It ignored email and other forms of communications.

    We cannot do that. It is not fear mongering to recognize that we actually have enemies, and they have the intent and the means to wreak havoc in our society. Trash the Patriot Act today, and when we get hit badly again, the response will be much less finely tuned.

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