NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul gave a narrow, civil-liberties minded speech to a crowded ballroom of young supporters on Friday, slamming President Barack Obama for his administration’s surveillance sweeps.
“Imagine a time when the White House is occupied by a friend of liberty,” Paul, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said to approving noises from the crowd. “You may be thinking I’m talking about electing Republicans — I’m not. I’m talking about lovers of liberty. It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must pick men and women of conviction, principle and action.”
Referring to the Sons of Liberty and abolitionists, Paul thundered that American revolutionaries would “make a bonfire of secret orders issued by police” to spy on American citizens.
“If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance,” he continued. “I believe that what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business. Can a single warrant be applied to millions of Americans’ emails, cell phones and credit cards?”
The legal battle over the National Security Agency’s mass sweeps “is a great battle … for the heart and soul of America,” Paul said.
“The Fourth Amendment is equally important as the Second Amendment, and conservatives cannot forget this,” he added.
Paul spent the rest of his speech vehemently criticizing Obama’s civil liberties record, comparing his campaign trail rhetoric with his executive actions.
“History will record [Obama's] timid defense of liberty,” Paul said, slamming Obama for imprisoning terror suspects without a trial. “Justice cannot occur without a trial — anyone who’s ever been a minority of thought, a minority of religion … should be alarmed that any government might presume to imprison [someone] without a trial. Whether you are black, or brown, or white, or a man or a woman, you should be afraid of a government that can imprison without a trial.”
Obama’s alacrity to use executive orders to govern concerned Paul. “It’s not so much what Obama has done with his usurpation of power as the precedent he’s set for lawlessness,” he said. “Government unrestrained by law becomes nothing sort of tyranny. … [H]e destroyed the checks and balances.”