Rand Paul to oppose Patriot Act provisions after all 6 Ky. congressmen voted for them

02/09/2011 07:50 PM

Citing a fear of “unchecked authority,” Kentucky freshman U.S. Sen. Rand Paul announced in a seven-minute video Wednesday evening that he would vote against extending three key provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act.

“I intend to oppose extending the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act in the coming weeks,” he said in the video posted on his YouTube page. “But more importantly I want to spark a discussion of who we want to be as a people and as a nation. Are we a nation whose laws are in place to protect the rights of the people or are we willing to give those rights up … to more expeditiously capture criminals.”

Paul said the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, “unconstitutionally empowers the federal government to violate the 4th Amendment rights” in place to protect against government searches and seizures.

His announcement came after the House failed on Tuesday night to approve the extension of three provisions of the law that are slated to expire Feb. 28. Two-thirds of the 435 members needed to support the extension, but 26 Republicans from the majority joined 122 Democrats to oppose the legislation — enough for the measure to fail.

All six of Kentucky’s congressmen voted to extend the provisions.

Paul criticized the House’s willingness to take up the issue without holding committee hearings and said Congress failed by not living up to its pledge to regularly examine how the Patriot Act was being used by law enforcement.

The parts of the Patriot Act that are on the verge of expiring include:

  • allowing FBI agents latitude in setting up wiretaps of targets without naming the person of interest in the warrant;
  • give agents permission to spy on people who aren’t American citizens but aren’t known to associate with terrorist cells;
  • provide law enforcement access to certain records, including library usage and hospital records, as part of a terrorist investigation.

Paul expressed concerns about the Patriot Act during his 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate. And his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, was one of three lawmakers in the U.S. House to oppose the original bill in 2001.

“My main objection to the Patriot Act is that searches that normally require a judge’s warrant are performed with an FBI agent’s letter — a national security letter,” the younger Paul said in his video Wednesday. “I object to these warrantless searches being performed on American citizens.”

He also took issue with the more than “two million searches of bank records” through “suspicious activity reports” that have been conducted over the last 10 years.

Paul prefaced his remarks by talking about President John Adams, who defended British soldiers accused of participating in the Boston massacre because of Adams’ belief in due process. And he spoke of the purpose of the 4th Amendment that guards against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

Paul had hinted earlier in the week that he would oppose the extensions. He told the Washington Post on Monday that:

“I’ve had a lot of reservations about the Patriot Act,” Paul said when asked whether he’s leaning toward voting for an extension. “We’re reviewing it and we’re going over it, and we will have something out probably in the next couple of days,” he added. “We won’t be shy about it when it comes out.”

- Ryan Alessi


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