Rand Paul's NSA Filibuster: His Notable Quotes
In an impassioned rebuke of the National Security Agency’s surveillance capabilities, Sen. Rand Paul spoke for more than 10 hours on the Senate floor Wednesday to filibuster a Patriot Act provision used to legally justify the bulk collection of telephone data. Congress faces a tight deadline to reauthorize or change the law, which expires June 1, with its Memorial Day recess starting at week’s end. Nonetheless, the candidate for the Republican presidential nomination held forth (relieved at certain points by several fellow senators). Here are some of his most notable quotes from the marathon session.
1. “I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged. At the very least, we should debate. We should debate whether or not we are going to relinquish our rights, or whether or not we are going to have a full and able debate over whether or not we can live within the Constitution, or whether or not we have to go around the Constitution.”
2. “The president began this program by executive order. He should immediately end it by executive order. For over a year now, he has said the program is illegal, and yet he does nothing.”
3. “We have to decide whether our fear is going to get the better of us. Once upon a time we had a standard in our country that was ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ We’ve given up on so much. Now, people are talking about a standard that is ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.’ Think about it. Is that the standard we’re willing to live under?”
4. “Why don't we see any questions from the press? Why don't we see anybody from the media saying, ‘Mr. President, it's illegal, you started it, you are performing a program that is collecting all of the phone records from all Americans, it's been declared illegal from the second highest court in the land, why don't you stop?’”
5. “I think we've made the [collection] haystack so big, no one's ever getting through the haystack to find the needle. What we really need to do is isolate the haystack into a group of suspicious people and spend enormous resources looking at suspicious people, people who we have probable cause.”
6. “Nobody ever was fired for 9/11. Instead of firing the people who didn’t do a good job, we gave them medals. The guy who did a good job, I don’t know what happened to him. And what we did was we decided we’d just collect everybody’s information. That we’d sort of scrap the Bill of Rights.”
7. “Who gets to decide who’s an enemy combatant and who’s an American citizen? Are we really so frightened and so easily frightened that we would give up a thousand-year history?”
8. “Any time you make an analogy to horrific people in history, Mussolini or Hitler, people say, ‘Oh, you’re exaggerating, you’re talking about, it’s hyperbole.’ Maybe it is. … But I would say is that if you are not concerned that democracy could produce bad people, I don’t think you’re really thinking this through too much.”
9. “You don't know who the next group is that's unpopular. The Bill of Rights isn't for the prom queen. The Bill of Rights isn't for the high school quarterback. The Bill of Rights is for the least among us. The bill of rights is for minorities. The bill of rights is for those who have minority opinions.”
10. “In the aftermath of 9/11, the Patriot Act was rushed to the floor. Several hundred pages. Nobody read it … But people voted because they were fearful and people said there could be another attack and Americans will blame me if I don't vote on this.”
11. “Any time someone tries to tell you that metadata is ‘meaningless, don't worry, it's just who you call, it's just phone records, it's not a big deal’ -- realize we kill people based on metadata. So they must be pretty darn certain that they think they know something based on metadata.”
12. “You wonder why your government's completely broken? We lurch from deadline to deadline, and it's on purpose really. We do deadline to deadline because … ‘we've got to go. It's spring break, we're going to be late for spring break, and we've got to go, so we've got to finish this up before we go.’”
13. "Let’s say tomorrow that there was a president, that we elected a president that eliminated the bulk collection of data. Let’s just say it happened. What do you think would happen? People are like ‘the sky would fall. We would be overrun with jihadists.’ Maybe we could rely on the Constitution. Maybe we could get warrants. … If you make the warrant specific, there’s no limit to what you can get through a warrant.”
James Arkin contributed to this report.