Friday, June 7, 2013

Concerns About Civil Liberties Could Propel Senator Rand Paul to GOP Presidential Nomination in 2016

On Wednesday, the Guardian newspaper, a publication published out of the United Kingdom, reported on a "top secret" order detailing the United States' government's collection of phone data from American citizens:
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April,
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
customers of Verizon, one of America's largest
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.


Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.


The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of "all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls".

The order directs Verizon to "continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order". It specifies that the records to be produced include "session identifying information", such as "originating and terminating number", the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and "comprehensive communication routing information".

The information is classed as "metadata", or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such "metadata" is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.
To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
The news story prompted an interesting response on Capitol Hill, a response that crossed party and normal conservative-liberal divides.  Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vigorously defended the program.  But their response seemed to be in the minority.  James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and Sen. Barabara Mikulski (D-Maryland) as well as others raised doubts about the encroachment on people's civil liberties and whether the program had exceeded congressional authority.  Perhaps the most outspoken was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) who called the program "an astounding assault on the Constitution."

Graham's response to Rand's declaration? 
"I see the threat to the average American, radical Islam coming to our backyard trying to destroy our way of life. He sees the threat (from) the government that's trying to stop the attack. I'm more threatened by the radical Islamists than I am the government agencies who are trying to protect us..." 
Graham may now be in a minority in his own party when it comes to that view.  Republican voters seem to be increasingly concerned about eroding civil liberties even more so than Democrats these days.  Such concern fits into a natural distrust of government that is inherent in conservative political philosophy.  That distrust of government is one of the trends that fueled the rise of theTea Party.

This sort of issue may well propel Rand Paul to the front of the pack should he run for the Republican nomination in 2016.  While some Republicans claim that his more isolationist stance on foreign policy issues will doom his chances, I don't buy it.  First, very few voters vote on foreign policy.  Second, in addition to become more supportive of civil liberties, Republicans have become increasingly isolationist.  Sen. Rand Paul position on civil liberties and foreign policy is not only becoming popular in the Republican Party, its popular in the general electorate.


Anonymous said...

The link with Paul's quote seems to be misdirected.

Paul K. Ogden said...

The quote is in the Miami Herald article I linked to. The article does appear to be changed...shortened considerably. But the Rand Paul quote is still in there.

Flogger said...

I have long been an avid reader of the Guardian. James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, who called the Guardian's revelations 'reprehensible'.

Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian has been in particular a harsh critic of Obama, and the Obama worshiping cult in the Mega-Media.
I quote Glenn here,
"Ever since the Nixon administration broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychoanalyst's office, the tactic of the US government has been to attack and demonize whistleblowers as a means of distracting attention from their own exposed wrongdoing and destroying the credibility of the messenger so that everyone tunes out the message. That attempt will undoubtedly be made here."

The two most prominent whistle blowers - Julian Assange and Bradley Manning have been vilified. The full weight of State Security complex has been brought to bear against them, short of a drone attack.

Believe me when I say a Liberal like myself is every bit as outraged by the excesses of the Obama Regime as anyone from the Right.

A further Irony at work here is the US accusing China of state sponsored covert cyber spying while at the same time the US spies on it's own citizens.

What is unfortunate is that Americans have bought into this Surveillance State mentality through the constant scare tactics of eminent terrorism.

Pete Boggs said...

This level of intrusion is nothing less than perversion; lurid acts of pornographic statism.

Anonymous said...

The thing that pisses me off is that guns and lack of health care kills more Americans than terrorism does, yet Republicans don't want to do a damn thing about that. Let's not forget these are Bush policies, and Congress was well aware of it.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Brad, Obama has taken these policies to a new level. And, no, members of Congress did not know about this program to collect information on every phone call made by Americans into database. Those members of Congress on intelligence oversight committees knew what was going on, but the rest of the Congress did not.

Anonymous said...

How do you know he's taken it to a new level? At least you conceded my first point.

Pete Boggs said...

Brad: Why stop there? It was Bush who sabotaged Skylab in the late 70's, not to mention gauche poinsettia arrangements on the holiday set of the Today Show.