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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul speaks out against not-so-secret-anymore phone record surveillance by the NSA

| June 6, 2013 | Reply
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David Adams talks on his Verizon Wireless BlackBerry smartphone following a Tea Party rally for Republican Senate nominee Dr. Rand Paul on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 at the Holiday Inn Cincinnati-Airport hotel in Erlanger, Ky. Adams managed Paul's primary campaign but was replaced in the general election. (Apex MediaWire Photo by Billy Suratt) (US NEWSPAPERS ONLY - ALL OTHER LICENSORS CONTACT ZUMAPRESS.COM)

David Adams, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s former campaign manager, talks on his Verizon Wireless BlackBerry in Erlanger, Ky., during Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign. A June 5, 2013 story by Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian reveals the U.S. National Security Agency has been secretly seizing Adams’ phone records, along with those of approximately 107 million other Verizon customers, so I felt I had a journalistic obligation to ask Adams if he’s a terrorist. His answer? “The worst kind — a Tea Party terrorist.” (Copyright 2010 Billy Suratt) | License Photo/Order Reprints

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has released a statement in response to yesterday’s bombshell of a story in The Guardian which revealed the U.S. National Security Agency has been secretly obtaining millions of phone records from Verizon under the guise of combating terrorism. Paul’s statement:

The National Security Agency’s seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon’s phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution. After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Department of Justice seized reporters’ phone records, it would appear that this Administration has now sunk to a new low.

When Sen. Mike Lee and I offered an amendment that would attach Fourth Amendment protections to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last year, it was defeated, and FISA was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Senate. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarked that FISA was “necessary to protect us from the evil in this world.”

The Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from evil, too, particularly that which always correlates with concentrated government power, and particularly Executive power. If the President and Congress would obey the Fourth Amendment we all swore to uphold, this new shocking revelation that the government is now spying on citizens’ phone data en masse would never have happened.

Love him or hate him — and there seems to be little middle ground when it comes to people’s opinions about Kentucky’s junior senator — Paul’s consistent stance as a staunch supporter of civil liberties stands in stark contrast to the remainder of Kentucky’s congressional delegation.

Lest we forget, all six Kentucky congressional representatives and both Kentucky senators voted for the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Louisville), Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Southgate), 1st District Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Hopkinsville), 2nd District Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Cecilia), 3rd District Rep. Anne Northup (R-Louisville,), 4th District Rep. Ken Lucas (D-Richwood), 5th District Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Somerset) and 6th District Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Lexington).

Maddeningly, Kentucky’s entire congressional delegation also voted in favor of the March 2006 Patriot Act reauthorization: McConnell, Bunning, Whitfield, Lewis, Northup, Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Hebron), Rogers and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Versailles).

Of the eight Kentucky legislators who voted for the 2001 Patriot Act, three are still employed: McConnell, Whitfield and Rogers. Of the eight who voted in favor of the 2006 reauthorization, three are still employed: McConnell, Whitfield and Rogers.

The Patriot Act has done much to trample the constitutional rights of millions of Americans, but very little to make any of us safer. Proponents of the Patriot Act like to say things like, “Well, there hasn’t been another attack like 9/11 since we passed it, has there?” No, there hasn’t — and the Arizona Diamondbacks haven’t won a World Series since 2001, either. Should we credit the Patriot Act for that, too?

Let’s be clear: the reason we haven’t faced another attack like Sept. 11 isn’t because we passed the Patriot Act, it’s because we stopped making airline cockpit doors out of Swiss cheese, started giving pilots guns and started putting air marshals on planes. Plus we blew up some stuff and shot Osama bin Laden in the face. Patriot Act? Please…

Verizon has also released a statement (or should we call it a non-statement?) regarding the NSA’s not-so-secret-anymore phone surveillance program, saying Executive Vice President and General Counsel Randy Milch allegedly sent the following alleged note to Verizon’s alleged employees (allegedly):

You may have seen stories in the news about a top secret order Verizon allegedly received to produce certain calling information to the U.S. government. We have no comment on the accuracy of The Guardian newspaper story or the documents referenced, but a few items in these stories are important. The alleged court order that The Guardian published on its website contains language that:

  • compels Verizon to respond;
  • forbids Verizon from revealing the order’s existence; and
  • excludes from production the “content of any communication … or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer.”

Verizon continually takes steps to safeguard its customers’ privacy. Nevertheless, the law authorizes the federal courts to order a company to provide information in certain circumstances, and if Verizon were to receive such an order, we would be required to comply.

Yes, Verizon cares about its customers’ privacy — it’s just the U.S. government that doesn’t.

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I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at Plus.BillySuratt.com, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email blog@billysuratt.com (discretion is always guaranteed).