Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Senator Rand Paul suggested that he would challenge the NSA surveillance programs revealed this week in the Supreme Court. He also hinted at organizing a class action suit against the government.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he would examine ways to block the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs before the Supreme Court.
“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” vowed Paul on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington,” he said.
Paul said he was concerned with the scope of the NSA’s surveillance.
“They are looking at a billion phone calls a day, is what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of primary, it sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy,” said Paul.
Paul said such snooping was “partly what our founding fathers fought the revolution over.”
Asked about reports that the programs had helped thwart a terror attack in New York, Paul said he did not oppose surveillance targeted at a particular individual suspected of wrongdoing.
“I have no problem if you have probably cause and you target people who are terrorists and you go after them and the people they are communicating with… but we are talking about trolling through billions of phone records.
“We aren’t taking about going after a terrorist. I’m all for that,” he said.
Senator Paul does not have to go to all the trouble of starting a class action lawsuit or going to the Supreme Court. He and his colleagues can amend the relevant legislation — Patriot Act, FISA, and perhaps AUMF — to make sure the government can’t engage in these expansive surveillance dragnets.
But when it comes to privacy, Congress talks a good game, but rarely follows through in protecting privacy rights. So perhaps Paul will have better luck in court. The problem is, as far as we know, a FISA court judge signed off on all specific actions taken by the NSA so it’s hard to see where the constitutional challenge would come from. The programs are “legal.” The law has been followed. On what grounds would Paul challenge the government’s authority to conduct these surveillance programs?
The Senator’s proposal has merit, but it’s difficult to see how he would implement it.