On January 17, President Obama gave a speech outlining the changes that he planned to make to the NSA’s surveillance programs. Afterward, I remained skeptical, even saying that “NSA transparency and security accountability are pipe dreams.”
But as it turns out, I may have spoken too soon.
It appears that there’s one man on Capitol Hill who is unwilling to watch the NSA’s abuses continue unchecked. And he’s ready to fight for his right… to privacy.
This intrepid liberator is none other than Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. And he has joined with FreedomWorks, as well as Virginia’s former attorney general, to sue President Obama. Paul’s lawsuit alleges that the president is violating the Fourth Amendment by collecting Americans’ phone data.
In addition to the president, the lawsuit names as defendants James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence; Keith Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency; and James Comey, the Director of the FBI.
Paul’s team, which includes Matt Kibbe, the President of FreedomWorks, and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who will be the lead counsel, is aiming to halt the phone surveillance program and purge all of the previously collected phone data from the government’s databases.
The Will of the People
The call to protect citizens’ freedoms has been ongoing since Edward Snowden first leaked information about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Eight months ago, my colleague, Floyd Brown, wrote, “Even if I have nothing to hide, I refuse to sacrifice freedoms for which generations of Americans fought and died.”
The NSA firestorm quickly spread from phone surveillance all the way to revelations that the NSA and the Department of Justice were using Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Yahoo! (YHOO) and most other large tech firms to spy on Americans.
And since then, the opposition to intrusive government spying has only grown stronger.
“There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records would be taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant and without individualization,” Paul said at a press conference after filing the lawsuit in Washington, D.C.
The culmination of this protest is Paul’s “historic lawsuit,” which he plans to take all the way to the Supreme Court. It’s a class-action lawsuit, and Paul has been using an offshoot of his political action committee to collect signatures.
If you’d like, you can support Paul’s cause by going here to “Stand With Rand.”
But Will It Work?
Of course, the first question in everyone’s mind will be: Can Paul actually pull this off?
It’s hard to say at this point, but there are some interesting precedents involving the Fourth Amendment that may work in his favor. The most significant is Katz v. United States (1967), which expanded the Fourth Amendment’s focus to embrace an individual’s right to privacy.
More specifically, the case concluded that a search had occurred when the government wiretapped a phone booth using a microphone attached to the glass.
In the majority decision, Justice Potter Stewart wrote that “the fourth Amendment protects people, not places.” And since then, a “search” occurs whenever the government violates a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Now, the NSA surveillance program isn’t a direct parallel to the wiretapping scheme used against Katz over 40 years ago. However, the invasion of privacy is clear as day, and Americans are fed up with the government’s indiscreet spying.
Let’s hope that Paul can make a stand and protect at least some of our privacy rights before they’re gone forever.
In Pursuit of the Truth,