Paul also criticized the CIA for its illegal spying, reinforcing similar remarks made by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) on the Senate floor on March 11. In a March 20 commentary about Feinstein’s remarks for Fox News, former judge Andrew Napolitano called the NSA “the CIA’s cousin.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m worried,” Paul addressed the Berkeley Forum at UC Berkeley’s International House. “If the CIA is spying on Congress, who exactly can or will stop them?”
The San Francisco Chronicle cited Paul’s statement that Feinstein’s revelations about the CIA had created uneasy feelings on Capitol Hill. “I look into the eyes of senators and I think I see real fear,” he said. “I think I perceive fear of an intelligence community drunk with power, unrepentant and uninclined to relinquish power.”
Paul said he had congratulated Feinstein on her statement, telling her: “‘Great speech, everybody is talking about it.’ [I told her] I hope she will stand up, not let the CIA push her around, not let the NSA (National Security Agency) push her around.”
Following Feinstein’s remarks, Paul said that the Senate should appoint a select committee, “bipartisan, independent” and with full investigative powers, to investigate the government spy agencies’ abuses.
Paul’s cooperation with a very liberal Democratic senator is not without precedent. When the USA Patriot Act — a measure enacted as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that had the effect of suspending the Bill of Rights in the name of “national security” — was being debated, a leading opponent of this federal power grab was Senator Russ Feingold (D.-Wisc.). Feingold, who warned against the “enormous expansion of authority,” was the single Senate vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.
In the House, Senator Paul’s father, Rep. Ron Paul was one of only three Republicans (the others being Robert Ney of Ohio and Butch Otter of Idaho) to vote against the Patriot Act. (Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — now a senator who is also concerned about NSA spying — also voted nay.)
“You may be a Republican, or a Democrat, or a Libertarian,” Paul told the crowd. “I’m not here to tell you what to be. I am here to tell you, though, that your rights, especially your right to privacy, is under assault. I’m here to tell you that if you own a cellphone, you’re under surveillance. I’m here to tell you that the NSA believes that equal protection means that Americans should be spied upon equally, including Congress.”
“I believe what you do on a cellphone is none of their damn business,” Paul said emphatically, drawing much applause.
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Photo of Sen. Rand Paul at the Berkeley Forum: AP Images