WASHINGTON — Republican congressional leaders continue to support an expansive surveillance state because of the “generational” gap in the Republican Party, Sen. Rand Paul posited in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller on Thursday.
The Kentucky Republican said he believes that opinions about the United States’ surveillance practices within the Republican Party are a matter of age.
“Maybe it’s a generational thing and some people believe you can’t have safety without giving government wide and sweeping powers,” Paul told TheDC during the short car trip back to his Senate office from a press conference at the Capitol Hill Club, where he announced his lawsuit against the federal government.
Paul’s belief that the government is acting unconstitutionally by collecting communications data on millions of Americans stands in stark contrast to his party’s leadership.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have all said that they believe the surveillance programs used by the National Security Agency to collect data on phone calls are legal and necessary.
But Paul said younger Republicans don’t have as much tolerance for what he sees as a massive invasion of privacy.
“It does divide our party some, but I think some of the younger members of Congress are just like the younger people in our country, more conscious of issues of privacy,” Paul said.
Paul also expressed outrage that James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, “flat-out lied” when he testified before Congress in March that the NSA wasn’t collecting data on American citizens.
“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions of or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon asked Clapper then.
“No, sir,” Clapper responded bluntly.
“The interesting thing about it is,” Paul explained, “I read that Senator Wyden informed [Clapper’s] office in advance that he would be asking the question. It’s not like he can even claim he was unprepared. He just flat-out lied and said they weren’t collecting any data on Americans and apparently that’s just a complete and utter falsehood.”
The constitutional boundaries of privacy laws were expanded in the 1970s after the Supreme Court ruled on cases like United States v. Miller and Smith v. Maryland, Paul explained, saying that the digital age has brought fresh reminders of the need to protect privacy.
“I think now that more of your information is digitalized, I think that maybe we’re headed back in the other direction to where we’re conscious of protecting privacy,” he said.
Sen. Rand Paul speaks during a news conference June 13, 2013 at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC. Sen. Paul was joined by lawmakers and other groups to discuss the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
During his Thursday press conference, Paul joined other members of Congress and civil liberties leaders to call upon the American people to fight back against the Obama administration’s invasion of their privacy.
Paul took special exception with President Obama’s now-infamous turn from a privacy-conscious candidate to an invasive president.
“I think people are bothered not so much about people they disagree with, but about hypocrisy and when you say one thing and do another,” Paul explained.
During the press conference, Paul encouraged Americans and companies who had their records seized to join in on his effort to sue the federal government.
Paul acknowledged that the probable lawsuit is in its earliest stages and that the mechanics of the suit are still being worked out.
One possible option, he said, would be to join the American Civil Liberties Union in their own recently filed lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance program.
“We’re going to sue over the constitutionality of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court order,” Paul said, referring to the secretive court which has only turned down 11 of the federal government’s 33,900 surveillance requests between 1979 and 2011.
Paul has also introduced the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013 in the Senate to restrict the government’s wide range of interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.
“[It] basically talks about some of the abuses of what’s going on and says that any interpretation or construction of the Fourth Amendment cannot be construed to let government agencies collect your phone data. It tries to interpret and talk about the 4th Amendment,” he said.
In Paul’s view, the American people have a right to know about the ways the government is watching them.
“What would be wrong is sharing the computer code and how we’re doing it. That we have a program and are doing it shouldn’t be a secret,” he said.
Paul made it clear that he has made it his mission to turn back the federal government’s surveillance of innocent Americans and that he wants to take the president head on.
“The president wants a debate,” Paul said. “It starts today.”