Rand Paul’s Moment
I want to like Rand Paul but to be honest, he makes me nervous. It’s partly because he’s his father’s son and partly because he has gone a little off the rails at times (his constant reference to getting hit with a missile while sitting in a cafe in an American city was cringe worthy even while his greater point was valid). I/m watcing his reaction to the NSA story with fear. Will it be good Rand bringing his long held passion on government overreach to an issue many are just catching on to or will he say something that will make people’s eyes roll and do more harm than good?
So far, we’ve seen good Rand. Take his op-ed in today’s WSJ.
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.
One thing Paul has been very careful to do is find ways to frame traditional hardcore libertarian positions in language more comfortable to conservatives and even moderates and liberals. Too often libertarians lecture people as if they are the holders of revealed truth and you’re just a little daft for not understanding them. It never seems to occur to them that people understand but disagree. Paul on the other hand seems to understand the need to convince people of things, to layout an argument in a way that draws people to reach the conclusion for themselves. It’s an effective and necessary political skill, make the controversial seem like common sense.
Unlike his dad who has praised Snowden and others who have called Snowden a “traitor”, Rand Paul has simply decided to reserve judgement. It’s smart because he’s making sure the issue is the government, not Snowden. Snowden may be an angel or the devil but there’s no need to tie the issue of secrecy and surveillance to one man. Paul is keeping his eyes on the real game.
Everyone understands that Paul is at the very least considering a run for the presidency. Given an issue that is right in his wheelhouse, he’s played it cool and not jumped up and down like a nutty tin foil hat enthusiast.
I’m not saying I’m on Team Rand yet but I get less and less worried he’s going to say something self-destructive as time goes on. If nothing else, it’s good to have someone in the Senate on the GOP side who takes limited government seriously and doesn’t sound like an idiot in the process.
In other NSA news:
-Another Gang of Eight (including another Republican who gets it, Mike Lee) is introducing a bill to make public the government’s rationale for its surveillance programs.
This bill would require the Attorney General to declassify significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, allowing Americans to know how broad of a legal authority the government is claiming to spy on Americans under the PATRIOT Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
“Americans deserve to know how much information about their private communications the government believes it’s allowed to take under the law,” Merkley said. “There is plenty of room to have this debate without compromising our surveillance sources or methods or tipping our hand to our enemies. We can’t have a serious debate about how much surveillance of Americans’ communications should be permitted without ending secret law.”
“This bipartisan amendment establishes a cautious and reasonable process for declassification consistent with the rule of law,” Lee said. “It will help ensure that the government makes sensitive decisions related to surveillance by applying legal standards that are known to the public. Particularly where our civil liberties are at stake, we must demand no less of our government.”
-And finally, how the hell did some low level IT get his hands on this stuff?