Medved interviews Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

By Neal McNamara | March 12, 2014
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Kentucky Senator Rand Paul won a presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, and is pushing a lawsuit against the federal government over violations of the Fourth Amendment related to National Security Agency domestic spying. Paul is a staunch conservative, but also a beacon for the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

KTTH host Michael Medved spoke to Paul – the son of former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who ran for president several times – about his performance at CPAC, his views on domestic spying, Edward Snowden, defense spending, and more.

LISTEN: THE COMPLETE RAND PAUL INTERVIEW

Michael Medved: Congratulations on your win at CPAC. You focused your speech on your lawsuit against the NSA, against violations of privacy. Did you concentrate on that issue because you believe that’s going to be the most important issue facing the country in 2016?

Rand Paul: You’re going to a conference with 60 speakers, if you give a speech about Obamacare, someone else has probably already said it. I wanted to be a little different. I believe passionately in the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is as important as the Second Amendment. I was speaking to the young people, who dominated the audience at CPAC. Their lives revolve around their cell phones. Kids communicate their whole day on their phones. They don’t understand how the government can look at their record without a warrant. I think young people connect with that issue – not only conservative youth but also youth across the country connect with this idea that there’s a right to privacy. If Republicans talk about it we’ll grow the party.

MM: To me, one of the strongest sections of the speech and one that’s tough argue with, you say, “Our future hangs in the balance. We can debate a jobless recovery, an alarming debt, a bothersome and abusive regulatory state, but know this; you cannot have prosperity without freedom.”  Is that the message you’re going to take out to the University of California at Berkeley when you go out there next week?

RP: It’ll probably be a little more detailed speech about the NSA. One of the things, I mentioned it at CPAC, if you want to understand why business records can be personal, think about your Visa bill. If you look at your bill, you can find out if you drink, if you smoke, if you gamble, if you see a psychologist, what medicines you take. Most Americans believe that’s private. Just because the credit card company holds that information, you still retain a privacy interest in that information. If we can get this in court, the court is going to say you do still have some privacy interest in this.

MM: When you delivered your speech at CPAC, it was before this Malaysian airplane disappearance. It seems unlikely it’s terrorism, but there was also great concern about holes in our security and the idea that there are so many stolen passports. Do you have any problem with enhancing security with checking passports and actually trying to look at people pretty carefully before they get on airplanes?

RP: I would have much more targeted looking at individuals. Right after 9/11, [George W. Bush] had a program called the [National Security Entry-Exit Registration System], and they chose 25 countries that had Islamic radicalism and people talking about attacking the U.S. and where we knew there was activity. We chose those 25 countries and they had extra scrutiny. I’m not against scrutiny. I just think we waste our time on 7-year-old girls and 75-year-old grandmothers. I think also it’s the same thing with surveillance. We’re collecting 300 million American phone calls every day … and yet the Tsarnaev boys, we were tipped off to them by the Russians. But nobody got a look at their computer, nobody knew he got on a flight and went back to Chechnya. We need more resources, more time, more police work, but less time spying on Americans.

MM: Yes, I went through a situation when our son, who’s now 21, when he was nine, got on some no-fly list. He had full body searches. He was a 9-year-old; he was a Cub Scout.

RP: That’s because no one uses their brain. Nobody had a brain to fix it. I was trying to get on a flight the other day, but the print on my pass was too small. So I had to go in a different line. Everyone knows who I am. I’m not asking for special treatment. But it was a computer glitch – it said I had all the documentation, but it was too small for the scanner to read.

MM: There was a session at CPAC featuring [constitutional lawyer and former Reagan administration official] Bruce Fein, and he took a position – and I wanted to get your response – the question was should Edward Snowden be viewed as a hero or traitor? He took the hero side. Do you agree?

RP: I’m somewhere in between in the sense that I think he revealed something the government was doing that was wrong. If he’d done it through a different channel, some might consider him a whistle blower. But, we do have secrets and you can’t just choose to break your contract of secrecy. What he revealed was something I believe was unconstitutional. I’ve tried to stay to the issue of the Fourth Amendment, to the issue of a single warrant going out to millions of phone calls. I think history will finally decide this. If he were to come back, he would deserve punishment.

MM: Chuck Hagel the Secretary of Defense has called for cutting back the military to the lowest level since Pearl Harbor. Do you think it’s a good idea to cut the military back that far?

RP: I would first decide what is our strategic vision for the country. What are the weapons we need. I do know that you need to and we need as a country to have the best national defense and the best military in the world because we are the dominant superpower in the world. I would start from that vision and not a dollar amount.

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