On Wednesday, Senator Rand Paul filibustered the controversial National Security Agency surveillance program and the Patriot Act, bringing to the fore the internal debate among Republicans.
Paul, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination, started his speech about bringing an end to the NSA’s surveillance program that collects phone records of millions of Americans at about 1:30 p.m., and continued until shortly before midnight.
According to CNN, his opening remarks of a speech that went on for more than 11 hours were, “There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now and I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”
The NSA gathers phone metadata of Americans – with an aim to foil potential terrorist plots – under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The Senate is debating whether to reauthorize the act or reform the law. Last week, a bill was approved by the House stating that the law should be reformed.
The evidence of collection of phone records was revealed in the documents leaked in 2013 by former government contractor Edward J. Snowden.
Paul said, “We do need surveillance — what we do not need is indiscriminate surveillance. The collection of records that is going on is beyond your imagination.”
We’re at a stage where we need to ask, “Can you not have your liberty and security?” I think we can. #StandwithRand
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 20, 2015
With the expiry of provisions of the Patriot Act that allow running surveillance, which first came into effect after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, slated for June 1, the House of Representatives had passed a bill that prohibited collection of information but allowed access of the same data from telephone companies.
Paul also commented on how keeping a constant check is causing “economic punishment” for major U.S. software companies, as more users are seeking increased encryption. According to RT, software will also become increasingly prone to hacking if a “back-door” access is placed for U.S. spying agencies.
“There is a danger that we will destroy great American companies by forcing this surveillance into their products,” Paul said.
Allowing the surveillance program to continue would breach the Bill of Rights, he said, something that could cause what former NSA official and whistleblower Bill Binney called “turnkey totalitarianism.”
Paul said, “If you’re not concerned that democracy can produce bad people, you’re not thinking this through.”
U.S. government’s deployment of weaponized drones was a topic of Paul’s filibuster in 2013, an issue on which he talked for more than 13 hours.
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