Rand Paul Charges That the NSA Monitors Americans’ Communications Without Warrants
National Security Agency analysts “are not targeting Americans. They are targeting foreigners,” said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” “But they are doing it purposefully to get to Americans.”
Paul’s comment was in response to questions about Donald Trump’s claims that President Obama had him wiretapped during the 2016 presidential campaign. As The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald writes, although Paul dismissed allegations of an Obama-led plot to spy on Trump specifically, his discussion of government violations of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights is illuminating.
From The Intercept:
Paul explained how the NSA routinely and deliberately spies on Americans’ communications — listens to their calls and reads their emails — without a judicial warrant of any kind … As I documented at the height of the controversy over the Snowden reporting, top government officials — including President Obama — constantly deceived (and still deceive) the public by falsely telling them that their communications cannot be monitored without a warrant. Responding to the furor created over the first set of Snowden reports about domestic spying, Obama sought to reassure Americans by telling Charlie Rose: “What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls … by law and by rule, and unless they … go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause.”
The right-wing chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, echoed Obama, telling CNN the NSA “is not listening to Americans’ phone calls. If it did, it is illegal. It is breaking the law.”
Those statements are categorically false. A key purpose of the new 2008 FISA law — which then-Senator Obama voted for during the 2008 general election after breaking his primary-race promise to filibuster it — was to legalize the once-controversial Bush/Cheney warrantless eavesdropping program, which the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing in 2005. The crux of the Bush/Cheney controversy was that they ordered NSA to listen to Americans’ international telephone calls without warrants — which was illegal at the time — and the 2008 law purported to make that type of domestic warrantless spying legal.
Because warrantless spying on Americans is so anathema to how citizens are taught to think about their government — that’s what Obama was invoking when he falsely told Rose that it’s “the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause” — the U.S. government has long been desperate to hide from Americans the truth about NSA’s warrantless powers. U.S. officials and their media spokespeople reflexively mislead the U.S. public on this critical point.
Greenwald goes on to say immediate backlash against Paul for his comments illustrates the type of “rank disinformation” tactics that surveillance powers use to maintain their ability to “constantly, easily, deliberately, and by design” spy on American citizens.
— Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata
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