Right wing and Tea Party darling Rand Paul has decided that the only way he is going to get any attention is if he sued President Obama and other members of his administration over the National Security Agency’s collection of phone metadata.
If you have access to the worldwide wibble you will know that it is full of Rand Paul jokes and this particular lawsuit is going to be no different. It is not that he is wrong, but more that he is trying to appeal to the sort of bogus history of America that only exists in the heads of those who grew up believing in the Bible and Walt Disney.
Paul claims that what the US is doing is the same as the warrantless searches practiced by the British military prior to American independence.
What he is forgetting is that the warrantless searches were being used to stop French backed terrorists from taking control of the country and replacing democracy with a sort of corporate republicanism. Most of the people complaining about the searches were wealthy smugglers and criminals who were defending their bottom lines.
The threat to the democracy in that case was very real, unlike the terrorist threat that Bush and Obama used as a justification to bring in this current level of surveillance.
“The lesson of the American Revolution was that this should never happen again, and yet the NSA’s data collection program is the modern equivalent of this practice,” Paul says. He later adds, “Paul Revere rode through the streets to tell us the British were coming, not the Americans are coming.”
Paul got that wrong too. Paul Revere could not have said the British are coming because his own forces were British and the colonists not referred to generally as “Americans” at that point in history. It is more likely that he said the “the Regulars are out.” In fact the terms “British” and “American” to identify the two sides was not used until the 1820s.
What is important is that incorrectly invoking history Rand Paul has made a big mistake. He has accidently pointed out the dangers of not spying and reminded those who know their history that the revolution came from within a structured and unified society which could be overthrown easily. In short, whatever the correctness of his case, the revolution is not the right symbol for Paul to use.
Paul is suing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of National Security Agency Keith Alexander and FBI Director James Comey, as well as Obama, as defendants. Ken Cuccinelli, a former attorney general of Virginia who lost a gubernatorial bid in the state in the fall, is the lawsuit’s lead counsel.
Paul claims that he will win because he is seeking to protect “a cornerstone of the Constitution.” What he is hoping is that his court case would mean is a debate on the Fourth Amendment with his larger policy concerns about the NSA, the Patriot Act, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
His own stance on the constitution though is even weirder. In 2010, he hit the headlines claiming that businesses should be allowed to discriminate against blacks and not serve them in stores. He is not someone anyone wants to “win” any argument. Victory for Paul and his ilk usually means a loss of something more important.
Sure enough Paul says he wants the court to “clarify the constitutional meaning of the Fourth Amendment” this means to redefine it in an image that he wants. That could easily be a world were bus companies are permitted by law to make black people sit at the back of the bus and whites only cafes.
This case is also being geared to helping his re-election bid in 2016. All supporters who sign a petition supporting the NSA lawsuit have gone Paul’s campaign database which will become jolly useful around election time.
Paul though is distracting people from a more direct assault from the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union which is also engaging the NSA through the courts.
Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director agrees that the surveillance programme is unconstitutional.
It would be generally better for the US public to follow and support its campaign which at the very least will be non-partisan and as far away from Paul and his bogus history lessons.