Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is the Senate’s leading opponent of the status quo regarding federal spying. Although the issue has fallen by the wayside to a certain extent since Edward Snowden’s leaks in 2013, Paul continues to fight for the privacy rights of Americans. He has announced his intent to filibuster the extension of illegal spying.
“I will actively oppose and filibuster any long term extension of warrantless searches of American citizens,” Paul said in a tweet earlier this week.
The program that Paul is referring to in his tweet was authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It permits the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on non-American persons of interest who are outside of the United States. The big problem is that this is allowed to be done even when these individuals are communicating with American citizens. This has created a backdoor way for the NSA to expand its surveillance power on all citizens.
Transparency advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have illustrated the many problems with this provision in a white paper released back in 2013.
“The surveillance is similar to the hated British general warrants—broad and vague warrants used against American colonists—which led to the Fourth Amendment,” the EFF said in its report.
Section 702 has also been abused to cause a laundry list of problems, only a handful of which are known by the public.
“An annual NSA Internal Audit revealed over thousands of violations, in Washington area offices in one year… In one example, a programming error confused US area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, and intercepted a ‘large number’ of calls placed from Washington,” the EFF said in its report.
Paul’s 2013 filibuster on the issue of drones made national news and put him in the spotlight while a similar gambit in 2015 regarding re-authorization of the Patriot Act failed to resonate as much with the public. It will be interesting to see if Paul’s opposition to the reauthorization of Section 702 of FISA will strain his rapport with President Donald Trump, who remains a proponent of illegal spying despite his rhetoric to drain the swamp.