In a blistering statement, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., says President Obama has "sunk to a new low" after reports the National Security Agency has collected millions of U.S. citizen's telephone records.
A story in The Guardian revealed the practice and shows a court order requiring Verizon to provide the NSA with information about calls in its system on an "ongoing, daily basis" from inside county as well as between U.S. customers and people in foreign countries.
The White House is defending the practice as a tool to combat terrorism, but civil liberties advocates say the practice is similar to NSA overreach under President George W. Bush in 2006.
Paul says the president is abusing his executive power, but that the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to put Fourth Amendment protections in the post-9/11 surveillance laws.
From Paul's office:
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.
Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee appear somewhat divided. Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, D-Ca., has defended the practice as something aimed at protecting Americans, while committee member Mark Udall, D-Co., called the practice "obscenely outrageous.”