Paul says changes in technology and past mistakes leave Americans vulnerable

11/15/2013 06:18 PM

Washington needs to catch up with new technology by clarifying privacy rights through a combination of congressional action and Supreme Court rulings, Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Friday.

And along those same lines, Paul told Pure Politics host Ryan Alessi that he is leaning toward voting no on the confirmation of Homeland Security Secretary nominee Jeh Johnson after Johnson’s non-answers to Paul’s privacy questions.

During a hearing on the nomination this week, Paul asked Johnson whether the Fourth Amendment rights apply to American’s credit card bills and other privacy-related questions to which Johnson said he didn’t have an immediate legal opinion.

“Right now, when they do one warrant and they get every American’s phone calls it goes to a court called the FISA Court, FISA Court is secret,” Paul said (at 4:00). “There is no one representing the constitution, there is only one person representing the government. It is like no other court in our land. In fact, most people would say it is not due process and its not really justice because there’s not two sides arguing in a court with an impartial body.”

Paul did say part of the responsibility to make sure these issues are addressed constitutionally is on Congress, which is why he has co-sponsored a bill to make sure constitutional questions be answered by the Supreme Court.

“That is part of the problem with all of this stuff on the NSA is the government comes forward and says ‘oh we got 50 terrorists’, well then when you ask them questions turns out there is some debate over whether they got anybody with these warrants,” Paul said (at 5:30).

Paul said it is time that the federal government revisit privacy issues as technology continues to evolve, potentially allowing federal agencies greater access to the intricacies of Americans lives.

“I tell people it used to comfort me when I read 1984 the novel I wasn’t so worried because when I was a kid that kind of technology didn’t exist, now it does,” Paul said (at 6:00). “Most people don’t realize this but everything you buy on your Visa card, once its on a bank statement from Visa, they don’t have to have a warrant to look at what your purchases are.”

Paul said that kind of access is a result of some mistakes made by the Supreme Court in the 1970s that now gives the government a record of personal details that Paul said should remain private unless a person has been accused of a crime.

Paul said that could be clarified with new legislation even though he said that expectation of privacy should be protected by the Fourth Amendment. But he acknowledged that has become murkier because so much information is now available online.

“We do it and I am okay with putting stuff online and I buy stuff online but I want to trust the people on the other end not to give it to the government,” Paul said (at 7:00). “And it is one thing if we use it for shopping purchases but do you want to go to jail because the government is looking at your visa bill without a warrant.”

As for the other big news out of Washington this week, Paul began the interview answering questions about the Affordable Care Act. He said the odds of the Affordable Care Act working are about as good they are for the law to be repealed in the next year — extremely low.

Paul said President Barack Obama’s reversal of course to allow Americans to keep their current insurance polices will not work because insurance companies have already begun moving forward with changes.

Paul said he understands the political reality that Republicans do not have the ability to repeal the law. And the chances are also low that they can agree with Democrats on wholesale changes to it. But he did suggest some ideas for how he would like to see the law change, starting with expanding health savings accounts.

“If you didn’t go to the doctor that year, you’d get a higher deductible policy and you would put a little more in,” Paul said. “And maybe 98% of people overtime would gradually build very big accounts. What that would do is then you would ask the price of things because it is your money and you would drive prices down.”


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