In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Government surveillance unconstitutional? Reaction from Sens. Rand Paul, Ron Johnson and Gen. Michael Hayden
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Revelations about the government’s monitoring, phone records and emails have renewed questions about the balance between privacy and security. Combine that with the scandals involving the IRS targeting conservatives groups and the Department of Justice snooping on reporters, and critics say you have a government that’s too big and too intrusive.
One of those critics is Senator Rand Paul and he joins us now from Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Senator, welcome back to “Fox News Sunday.”
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: Good morning.
WALLACE: Senator, you call these government surveillance programs an astounding assault on the Constitution. President Obama calls them modest encroachments on privacy.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the abstract, you can complain about big brother and how this is a potential program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, in fact, all three branches of government — the Congress, the president and the courts have all approved these surveillance programs.
How are they then unconstitutional?
PAUL: Well, you know, they’re looking at a billion phone calls a day is what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy. It sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment says you can look at and ask for a warrant specific to a person, place and the items.
This is a general warrant. This is what we objected to and what our Founding Fathers partly fought the revolution over is they did not want generalized warrants where you could go from house to house with soldiers looking for things or now from computer to computer, to phone to phone, without specifying who you’re targeting.
WALLACE: Let’s look at the effects of the Internet surveillance program as opposed to the phone surveillance program. In 2009, we were able, the NSA was able to intercept emails between an al Qaeda bomb maker in Pakistan, Rashid Rauf, and a man in Denver, Najibullah Zazi. As a result, they were able to stop Zazi from putting backups with bombs on the New York City subway system. The program, according to the government, targets foreigners on foreign soil.
You would stop that?
PAUL: My suspicion is — and a lot of this is classified so another side gets to promote their case and we don’t get the information — but my suspicion is that this gentleman was targeted because they suspected him for being a terrorist. I have no problem if you have probable cause and you target people who are terrorists and you go after them and people that they’re communicating with, you get another warrant.
But we’re talking about trolling through billions of phone records. We’re not talking about going after a terrorist. I’m all for that. Get a warrant and go after a terrorist, or a murderer or a rapist. But don’t troll through a billion phone records every day. That is unconstitutional, it invades our privacy and I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level. I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington.
WALLACE: I’m going to talk about legislation in a second, but let’s talk about the practical effects of this because defenders of the program say, if you want to find the needle in the haystack, you have to have the haystack first. And here’s what your fellow Senator Lindsey Graham had to say about you on this issue: “In Rand Paul’s world, you have almost no defenses against terrorists.”
PAUL: I would say that’s an unfair characterization. I want to go after terrorists as much as anyone. For example, we are looking through so much data that I think it makes our fight against terrorism worse. The Tsarnaev boy, one of the Boston marathon bombers, we didn’t know that he went back to Chechnya because we’re not doing enough targeted analysis. We have millions of phone calls and we can’t even possibly look at all the data.
You know, we have millions of audiotape hours of people and we can’t go through it. They haven’t gone back through 25 percent of the audio they have. They’re overwhelmed in data. So, I think it’s just bad police work.
Why didn’t we know the Tsarnaev boy had gone back to Chechnya? Because we’re not going good police work because we’re busy looking at the records of regular Americans who haven’t committed any crime.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s talk about your suggested remedy. You talk on the one hand about a Supreme Court challenge, but you also say that you’re going to introduce something called the “Fourth Amendment Restoration Act”. Now, of course, the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.
So, try to get a little specific here. I know it’s hard. How much would you restrict government surveillance as it now exists? And as a practical matter, do you have any reason to believe that Congress is going to go along with you on this?
PAUL: I think the American people are with me, and I think if you talk to young people who use computers on a daily basis, they’re absolutely with me.
They think that your third party record — so, for example, what I spend on my Visa each month, that’s my business and where I spend it and whether I read conservative magazines, whether I subscribe to FOX News, or whether I subscribe to Yahoo or Google.
What I do in my private life is my private life. If you suspect me of a crime, have probable cause.
Over the last 30 or 40 years, we’ve said, once you give your records to your bank or your Visa company, that they’re no longer private. I disagree vehemently with that. That is, of course, we have to reverse because so much of our life now is digitalized that we have to protect it from a snooping government.
And we’ve now got a government that appears to target people based on our political beliefs. So, I don’t want my records given to an administration that I can’t trust.
WALLACE: All of this — well, let’s pick up on that, because all of this comes at a time when President Obama is involved in scandals or his administration is, the IRS targeting conservatives, the Department of Justice snooping on reporters.
Do you see a pattern? Do you see a connection between the scandals and these government surveillance programs?
PAUL: Yes, because I think it really makes people distrust their government even more, when they’re seeing the IRS being used after political opponent. But this much power is too much power to give any government. I don’t care if it’s a Republican government or Democratic government, I don’t want that much power given to a president and I think it’s very worrisome.
And I think if the young people in this country wake up and say, “Enough’s enough and we don’t want them looking at our phone records,” I think we could reverse this. When we went after the SOPA and PIPA legislation that we thought was going to invade the due process of the Internet, people by the millions came out.
If we can have that again — people by the millions coming out and saying, “Look, I want to be part of a class action suit that says to the government, let’s hear this at the Supreme Court level. Are you allowed to look at phone records even though there’s no probable cause that I’m related to a crime?” — I think we’ll put an end to this.
WALLACE: I want to turn to foreign policy. This week, the president named Susan Rice, the former U.N. ambassador to be the new national security adviser to the president in the White House. You say, instead of being promoted, he should have fired her from misleading the country on Benghazi. The problem, of course, from your point of view is, she’s not subject to Senate confirmation.
But, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will you use two others — former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and Samantha Power who has been named as U.N. ambassador — will you use their nominations and the committee to demand answers on Benghazi?
PAUL: I think both Ms. Nuland, as well as Ambassador Rice, were intimately involved with a misleading campaign or a misdirection campaign after Benghazi. And I think really you shouldn’t promote someone who has been misleading — purposely misleading the American public.
No, I think it’s appalling. And so, I think neither one should be to their position. I don’t have the possibility of stopping Ambassador Rice. Ms. Nuland, we’re going to look at because she was Hillary Clinton’s spokesman who says she had nothing to talking points, even though her spokesman was rewriting them all night long to try to get out any references to terrorism.
I still don’t think we’ve gotten to the bottom of why they had this elaborate misdirection campaign when obviously everybody thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning.
So, it really wasn’t designed to work unless, really, the misdirection campaign was to get us away from the fact that the CIA annex there was dealing in arms to Syria through Turkey, which was illegal at the time.
WALLACE: So, just to follow up, are you going demand answers in Benghazi in the Nuland confirmation hearing? And would you, conceivably, as part of that, put a hold on her nomination?
PAUL: I haven’t made a decision on the Nuland nomination yet. But we are going look very carefully and I will be asking probing questions because I still want to know why we were misdirected, why was Ms. Nuland involved? And did she talk to Hillary Clinton that night.
I would never have my press spokesman making statements for me throughout the night on an international crisis without talking to me. So, Hillary Clinton says, “Oh, I had nothing to do with the talking points.” Well, her spokesman all night long was rewriting the talking points — I just find it beyond credulity.
WALLACE: Let me turn to another subject. On Friday, the Senate began debate on comprehensive immigration reform. You say you support that idea in concept.
On the other hand, you now have come out against a new path to citizenship and you say that before any reform that the border has to be secured first.
Senator, as a practical matter, isn’t that going to prevent any kind of comprehensive reform?
PAUL: No. I still think we can have immigration reform. I think we need to fix the system. The reason why we have 11 million undocumented people here is because we have a broken visa system. About half of them came here to work legally, but then they found a better-paying job and we prevent them from being — going from a farm job to a construction job.
Guess what? This bill does the same thing.
So, if you don’t fix that problem, you don’t fix why we have illegal immigration. You need to expand the numbers of workers that are allowed to come to this country. That means I’m all for immigration, but this bill actually puts new caps on immigrants coming out here to pick crops.
So, it does some of the wrong things, and then it doesn’t secure the border. It says to the administration — hey, guys why don’t you have a plan to build a fence that we authorized 10 years ago?
I think that’s absurd and that’s like Obamacare, oh, here, you, the administration, you guys do it. Instead of Congress doing their job and just writing the bill saying, my amendment will say you have to build 100 miles of fence each year and Congress votes on whether or not the border is secure.
PAUL: I think that’s the only way to guarantee they’re secure.
WALLACE: But just briefly, Senator, you know, you got to tradeoff here. You’ve got Democrats who want to get citizenship for the 11 million illegals who are here. You’ve got Republicans who want tougher border enforcement. If you’re not willing to compromise on those, you don’t get comprehensive reform.
PAUL: I am willing to compromise.
For example, I would let you, if you have a work visa also stand in the citizenship line, but not a new citizenship line. There current exist a line that if you’re in Mexico City right now and you want to come and be a citizen in our country, you get in that line. I would let workers who are here on work visa get in the same line, but I wouldn’t create a new pathway or a new line.
What happens is, is right now, it’s illegal to stand in both lines. If you’re here on a work visa, you’re not allowed to stand in line to come into the country permanently. I would let you stand in both lines which would be a legal change, but I wouldn’t create a new pathway.
The whole point is, there needs to be a conduit. I am the conduit between conservatives in the House who don’t want these things and more moderate people in the Senate who do want these things. I want to make the bill work, but see, the thing is, is what they have in the Senate has zero chance of passing in the House. So, why not come to a conservative like myself and say, he’s willing to work with you, why not work with me to make the bill closer to what would be acceptable in the House?
So, I’m really trying to make immigration work. But they’re going to have to come to me and they’re going have to work with me to make the bill stronger if they want me to vote for it.
WALLACE: We’re going to stay on top of it. Senator Paul, thank you so much for coming in today, sir.
PAUL: Thank you.
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