Sen. Rand Paul on Obama's NSA Speech: 'A for Effort ... C for Content'

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul sharply criticized President Obama’s speech on the future of bulk surveillance, saying: “The NSA cannot oversee themselves. … Really, [Obama’s] not gonna fundamentally change any of this.”

Paul was speaking with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Blitzer asked the senator to evaluate NSA activities in a hypothetical scenario involving a suspected terrorist overseas making a phone call to someone within the United States.

“Let’s say the U.S. intelligence community learns there is a terrorist in Yemen or Somalia or Afghanistan or someplace in a sensitive area,” Blitzer proposed. “They have the cellphone; they’re monitoring that individual’s cellphone. That individual makes a call to Louisville, Kentucky, someone in your home state. What’s wrong with the NSA then getting a court order from the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and trying to find out what that phone conversation was between Somalia and Yemen, that terrorist suspect there and someone in Louisville?”

Paul responded: “I have no objection to having a warrant for a specific person to look at phone calls. And if we then get a warrant, we find out that the person in Louisville’s connected to the person in Yemen, then we get a warrant for all of their phone calls. If they called a hundred people last month, we look at those hundred and then we ask the judge for another warrant. So I don’t care if it’s 10 hops out with a warrant. But for the president to say, ‘Oh, we’re only going to abuse the Fourth Amendment twice and not gonna get warrants by hopping twice, not three times, it’s either proper or improper. And there is a proper way of doing this and it’s with a judicial warrant individualized to the person, and then you can go look at their friends with another warrant. We do this all the time. At 4 a.m., if there’s somebody who’s a potential murderer or rapist, you name it, we just call a judge and get a warrant. But we separate the police power from the judicial power. That’s why we have to, I think, really assess whether or not police officers or FBI agents should write their own warrants. I think only judges should write their own warrants.”

Hear the rest of the exchange below.


— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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