Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, should filibuster the impending attempt by the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Kentucky Republican, and his jihadists for a risk-free existence to extend section 215 of the Patriot Act past its scheduled June 2015 expiration date.
Since May 2006, the section has been tortured by the National Security Agency and the Star Chamber-like Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to seize, retain and search the telephony metadata (caller’s number, number called, and time and duration of call) concerning every telephonic communication involving a U.S. resident, i.e., the entire population. The metadata is seized indiscriminately without any suspicion of a link to crime or international terrorism. It is surveillance for the sake of surveillance. It has predictably turned up nothing for nine years, according to President Obama’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Board and congressional testimony. That knowledge was the subtext of the recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that the NSA’s dragnet surveillance under section 215 was illegal.
Our nation was founded on the proposition that liberty and privacy are the rule and government encroachments are the exception that require a concrete showing of an urgent need. Section 215 fails that test by a country mile. Only ingenues will be duped by the intelligence community’s claims that volumes of counterterrorism successes pivoting on section 215 are classified and cannot be revealed in any form without disclosing sources or methods. Every administration finds ways to leak or declassify such putative cases with supersonic speed and ingenuity.
Mr. Paul can expect to confront a chorus of Chicken Little understudies insisting that the sky will fall and international terrorism attacks will spread like an epidemic throughout the United States without a section 215 extension. The same grim tale was predicted when the Protect America Act — section 215’s predecessor — expired in February 2008. But nothing happened for six months. Congress then foolishly enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008.
Mr. Paul’s philosophical devotion to the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution compel him to filibuster the House passed USA Freedom Act or a simple extension of the Patriot Act.
The right to be let alone from government snooping without cause is the most cherished right among civilized peoples. It is unalienable. It exists at birth. And it is the lifeblood of liberty — a figurative Chinese Wall against tyranny or oppression.
Mr. Paul will earn an honored place in the annals of liberty if he defends the 4th Amendment to scuttle section 215 with the same ardor and eloquence as William Pitt the Elder denounced an Excise Bill in the British Parliament in 1763 for conferring limitless power to search for untaxed cider:
“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter,—but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”