by William Teach | June 2, 2015 7:13 am
So, we were sitting around at working, waiting for the customers, and had a discussion on NSA spying. Interestingly, a mix of Conservatives and Progressives all determined that the bulk collection of data was a Bad Thing, and a violation of our rights. Even the Muslims determined that the program should be targeted to the bad actors of their faith. Also agreed that the rewrite, where that data would be left in the hands of telecom companies for easy request by Los Federales is a Bad Thing. But, don’t tell the WPEB, which has a little hissy fit aimed at Rand Paul
Rand Paul should stop stalling the USA Freedom Act
LEGISLATION TO reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance of telephone metadata and put it on a firmer legal footing has passed the House with a huge bipartisan majority. President Obama backs it, as does a bipartisan majority in the Senate. The Senate would have passed the bill, too, but for the machinations of the majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who favored an ill-considered perpetuation of the status quo.
For the fact that even the current, debatable legal basis of the NSA program has lapsed, at least temporarily, we have Mr. McConnell to thank — along with Kentucky’s other Republican senator. When Mr. McConnell finally allowed the reform compromise, known as the USA Freedom Act, to move Sunday, Rand Paul used procedural maneuvers to block a vote on it until at least Tuesday.
Mr. McConnell accused Mr. Paul, who’s running for president, of playing politics, which is true — up to a point. For Mr. Paul, opposition to NSA “spying” is a matter of libertarian principle bordering on passion. Indeed, the matter excites him so much that he has aimed extreme, sloppy rhetoric at those who don’t share his views, suggesting, for example, that “some people are so fearful” of terrorism that they believe “ISIS will be in every drug store in America, in every house, if we don’t get rid of the Constitution.”
So this is Important to Senator Paul. It only seems to be the Political Class which are accusing him of playing politics, despite him having had a problem with this for a long, long time. Someone should tell the WPEB that We The People also have a big damned problem with this. Hey, remember when Bush was president and liberal media outlets and online presences had a big problem with the Patriot Act (yes, many libertarians had a big problem with it, as well).
Mr. Paul is the one misstating constitutional law. “[T]he phone records of law-abiding Americans are none of the government’s business!” his campaign Web site declares. Actually, the Supreme Court held 36 years ago that there is no constitutional right to privacy in phone records (as opposed to phone conversations). The court reasoned, realistically, that customers willingly convey numbers and times to the phone company each time they dial, knowing that the company retains the information for business purposes. Technology was more primitive in 1979; the justices may well decide that Fourth Amendment doctrine needs updating. Meanwhile, it is not tyrannical for government to rely on existing precedent.
Yes, it is legal for those companies to have the data, data which, per that court opinion, is held by those companies, which customers choose to sign up with, and are provided with their terms. Consumers can choose not to engage in commerce with these companies. However, the problem here is in the Government scooping it all up from the telecom companies, and, bigger, that the NSA is directly collecting it themselves, and they are apparently collecting way more than just phone numbers and times. They are collecting emails and online activity in bulk. And this has done what, exactly? They can’t say that it has stopped any threats.
Mr. Paul calls the NSA program “illegal,” which is somewhat more plausible, since the Bush and Obama administrations stretched the terms of the USA Patriot Act to win approval for it from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If so, the cure is a new law, such as the one Mr. Paul just gratuitously blocked. The USA Freedom Act leaves metadata collection to the private sector, subject to searches approved by the intelligence court, but Mr. Paul thinks anything short of a warrant from an ordinary federal court would be unconstitutional. Again, he’s entitled to his opinion; again, it’s contrary to current Fourth Amendment law, as the legislation’s authors, senior Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Judiciary committees, well understand.
So, the WPEB admits that it will still be pretty darned easy for the information to be taken from the telecom companies, when it comes to phone records. What of the rest? One has to wonder what the WPEB would be saying if Bush was President (or some Republican), or if the filibuster came from a Democrat Senator. The 4th gives Citizens a right to be secure in their personal effects, without a duly sworn, specific warrant.
Denouncing fear and paranoia about terrorism, Mr. Paul sows fear and paranoia about government. Today, as always, the Constitution calls on us to balance liberty and security democratically. This is what the USA Freedom Act will do, just as soon as Mr. Paul stops grandstanding and lets his colleagues vote on it.
I missed that part about balancing liberty and security in my copy of the Bill of Rights.
Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.
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