Rand Paul on Technology
Republican Kentucky Senator
RUBIO: Here's the world we live in. This is a radical jihadist group that is increasingly sophisticated in its abilities. We are now at a time when we need more tools, not less tools. And that tool we lost, the metadata program, was a valuable tool that we no longer have at our disposal. This tool allowed the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies to quickly and rapidly access phone records and match them up with other phone records to see who terrorists have been calling.
PAUL: You know, I think Marco gets it completely wrong. We are not any safer through the bulk collection of all Americans' records. In fact, I think we're less safe. We get so distracted by all of the information, we're not spending enough time getting specific information on terrorists. The one thing that might have stopped San Bernardino--that might have stopped 9/11--would have been stricter controls on those who came here.
Companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Yelp--through their Washington trade group, the Internet Association--are public backers of net neutrality. They together have praised Obama for endorsing an approach that might subject the Internet to utility-like regulation. All three Republicans, however, rejected the president's suggestion.
To hear Paul tell it, the party hasn't hurt its standing among the tech crowd. He and others, for example, have backed high-skilled labor reforms in the past. The GOP senator also stressed that support for net neutrality is "not actually uniform throughout Silicon Valley."
Paul said in an interview that it's not for him to judge whether the New Jersey governor should step down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association while he deals with the bridge scandal, but "It's important that people think that their government not be used to bully them," Paul told the CNN affiliate in Houston. "So for example, one of the things that conservatives have been upset with President Obama is that it looked like he was using the IRS to target taxpayer groups."
"Nobody wants to think their government would shut down a bridge or do something just because you're a Democrat and I'm a Republican," Paul said. "It's unsettling and it's a serious charge. I don't know if it's true, but it's unsettling."
PAUL: You know, we make the mistake up there that we try to agree to too much. I'm the first to acknowledge the president and I don't agree on every issue, but if you took ten issues I think there are two or three that we agree on, and we agree firmly on, and why don't we go after the issues that we agree on? When I was at the White House a couple of weeks ago, I said to the president, "I want to increase infrastructure spending, and I know you do. Let's let companies bring back their profit from overseas at 5% and put it all in infrastructure." And I've been talking with Senator Durbin, others in the Senate on the Democrat side. I think we could agree to that tomorrow, but we have to go ahead and just narrow the focus and not say, "Oh, we're going to do overall tax reform," because we don't agree on overall tax reform.
PAUL: One single warrant should not apply to everyone who has a cell phone in America. One of the things that Edward Snowden released was a single court order to the company Verizon that all of their customers records would be looked at. That to my mind smacks of a generalized warrant. That's what we fought the revolutionary war over. So, I think by bringing a class-action suit, where we have thousands of people who come forward and say, "my cell phone records are mine unless you go to a judge & ask a judge specifically for my records," you shouldn't be able to have a general warrant. A class-action lawsuit really brings to the forefront the idea that this is a generalized warrant and it should be considered unconstitutional.
I don't think we can't selectively apply the law. Edward Snowden did break a law and there is a prison sentence for that. I don't think Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison. I think that's inappropriate. And I think that's why he fled, because that's what he faced. Do I think that it's OK to leak secrets and give up national secrets and things that could endanger lives? I don't think that's OK, either. But I think the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal.
So no clemency for Edward Snowden, but perhaps leniency?
PAUL: Well, I think the only way he's coming home is if someone would offer him a fair trial with a reasonable sentence. I think, really, in the end, history is going to judge that he revealed great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community.
PAUL: I would like to apply the Fourth Amendment to third-party records. I don't think you give up your privacy when someone else holds your records. So, when I have a contract with a phone company, those are still my records. And the government can look at them if they ask a judge. But the most important thing is, a warrant applies to one person. A warrant doesn't apply to everyone in America. So, it's absolutely against the spirit and the letter of the Fourth Amendment to say that a judge can write one warrant and you can get every phone call in America. That's what's happening. I think it's wrong. It goes against everything America stands for. And I will help to fight that all the way to the Supreme Court.
Q: So, you would ban mass data mining?
PAUL: I'm not opposed to the NSA. But I am in favor of the Fourth Amendment.
Since then, he's clashed repeatedly with other Republicans on these issues, including the recent revelations regarding the National Security Agency's sweeping collection of phone and internet data. Paul defended his position as being more geared towards the youth vote that the GOP desperately needs to attract. "If you talk about some privacy issues like that, I think you will find youth coming to you," said Paul. He sought to make his position on intelligence gathering clear as well: "I don't mind spying on terrorists. I just don't like spying on all Americans."
While it's true that the government provides subsidized phone service for low-income persons, such programs were in existence before Obama came into office. Lifeline, a federally mandated program that reimburses phone companies with a monthly subsidy of $9.25 for each low-income customer, has been around since 1984, when it began providing landline service. The program is designed to fulfill FCC policy of providing universal access. The program was then expanded during the George W. Bush administration in 2008 to cover cell phone usage. Since 2009 [FactCheck.org has been] debunking false Internet claims of an "Obama phone."
But, as noted, the alternative to incandescent light bulbs isn't much better.
When I sharply questioned a Department of Energy bureaucrat about the light bulb and consumer choice, my Democrat colleagues said that the ban on incandescent bulbs was beyond criticism because a bipartisan majority had passed it.
Beyond criticism? Government overreach doesn't become constitutional or morally right simply because both parties agree to it.
There are many parts to this tragedy: great expansion of unchecked federal power; agencies 1st distorting then growing entirely beyond their mission. The combination of all of this has left us where we are today--in a mess.
First came the introduction of the "naked body" scanners, which some have accurately dubbed "porno scanners." For years, passengers on airlines just like visitors to a secure building, have gone through metal detectors to ensure they were not carrying a weapon. In recent years government bureaucrats at the TSA decided that such measures were inadequate.
America is better than this.
"The Internet's development is based on the free flow of information, innovation, and ideas, not central government control," Sen. Paul said. "Both PIPA & SOPA give the federal government unprecedented & unconstitutional power to censor the Internet. These bills enable the government to shut down websites that it deems guilty of violating copyright laws. While we support copyright protections, we are also concerned about websites being shut down without their day in court, and making innocent third parties bear the costs of solving someone else's problems."
Sen. Paul concluded, "I will not sit idly by while PIPA and SOPA eliminate the constitutionally protected rights to due process and free speech. For these reasons, I have pledged to oppose, filibuster and do everything in my power to stop government censorship of the Internet."
Opponent's Argument for voting No (Cnet.com): Online retailers are objecting to S.743, saying it's unreasonable to expect small businesses to comply with the detailed--and sometimes conflicting--regulations of nearly 10,000 government tax collectors. S.743 caps years of lobbying by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represent big box stores. President Obama also supports the bill.
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes: Sen. COLLINS. This bill rectifies a fundamental unfairness in our current system. Right now, Main Street businesses have to collect sales taxes on every transaction, but outbecause -of-state Internet sellers don't have to charge this tax, they enjoy a price advantage over the mom-and-pop businesses. This bill would allow States to collect sales taxes on Internet sales, thereby leveling the playing field with Main Street businesses. This bill does not authorize any new or higher tax, nor does it impose an Internet tax. It simply helps ensure that taxes already owed are paid.
Opponent's Argument for voting No: Sen. WYDEN: This bill takes a function that is now vested in government--State tax collection--and outsources that function to small online retailers. The proponents say it is not going to be hard for small businesses to handle this--via a lot of new computer software and the like. It is, in fact, not so simple. There are more than 5,000 taxing jurisdictions in our country. Some of them give very different treatment for products and services that are almost identical.
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Senate Votes (analysis)