Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, said Sunday that in light of recent revelations about data mining by the National Security Agency, the country needs a serious examination of privacy and the Fourth Amendment — and he pledged to take the fight to the country’s highest court if necessary.
“I would like to apply the Fourth Amendment to third-party records,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t think you give up your privacy when someone holds your records, so when I have a contract with a phone company, I think those are still my records, and you can look at them if you’re from the government if you ask a judge.”
The Washington Post reported this past week that the NSA is collecting nearly 5 billion cellphone records a day under a sophisticated program that tracks the whereabouts of individuals.
“But the most important thing is a warrant applies to one person — a warrant doesn’t apply to everyone in America,” Mr. Paul said. “So it’s absolutely against the spirit and the letter of the Fourth Amendment to say that a judge can write one warrant and you can get every phone call in America, and that’s what’s happening. I think it’s wrong. It goes against everything America stands for, and I will help fight that all the way to the Supreme Court, and we need to get the Supreme Court to re-examine privacy, the Fourth Amendment and our records.”
“So if we think someone’s a terrorist, you call a judge, you get a warrant,” he said. “If that person’s called a hundred people, you get a hundred more warrants. If they’ve called 10,000 people, you got to get 10,000 individual warrants. And it’s a pain, but it’s a pain because we’re trying to protect people’s freedom; we’re trying to protect the Bill of Rights. That’s what we’re fighting against terrorism to protect, so we can’t give up the Bill of Rights in order to fight terrorism. You have to keep your privacy; you have to keep the Bill of Rights.”
Amazon also revealed recently that it’s developing technology with which unmanned drone planes eventually could be able to drop off packages at people’s homes. The development seemed teed up for Mr. Paul, who famously held the Senate floor for 13 hours in March during a talking filibuster on the U.S. use of drones.
But he said Sunday he favors a balance.
“I’m not against technologies — I’m not one of these people who says, ‘Oh, unmanned airplanes is really a bad thing’ — there will be air traffic control issues,” he said. “My problem is more with surveillance for privacy reasons, not with delivering of packages.”
“So I’m worried about the government looking into our backyard,” he continued. “I’m also worried about private companies looking and counting and looking into our windows, and I have said previously — this has nothing to do with Amazon — but that the rules on peeping Toms will have to be applied to higher technology.”
“There has to be a certain extension of privacy, not only your house, but your yard and the things that you do, that people really shouldn’t be able to observe all of the time. And so there will have to be rules on private entities, but really most particularly I’m concerned about the government looking at our activities,” he said.