Rand Paul on FISA Surveillance Reform: "Obey The Bill Of Rights," "You Need Checks And Balances"


Sen. Rand Paul is threatening to filibuster reauthorization of the FISA domestic surveillance program without reform. He tells MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' that the Fourth Amendment requires authorities to get a warrant before spying on Americans.

Paul says he spoke with the president before he tweeted:

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: But let's bring in right now a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. And, senator, of course, is on the side of the civil libertarians that Gene was just talking about.

So, senator, did you speak with the president? Were you able to influence him to switch his position from last night?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I have spoken with the president, but I don't think it's necessary that you understand this as switching his position. He still advocates, or the administration says they advocate for reauthorization. So do I, actually. I want reauthorization with reforms. I don't think they're mutually exclusive.

This program allows us to spy on foreigners in foreign lands with a less-than-constitutional standard or really with no constitutional standard. I'm OK with that.

What I'm not OK with is that millions of Americans are collected into this data system and that maybe rogue people at the FBI or our Justice Department could look at this database without a judge's warrant. So we want a judge's warrant.

So I don't think they're mutually exclusive. You can be for the program and for the program with reforms.


PAUL: And the way I understand the president's position is that he wants some of the reforms. That he thinks that we ought to have a warrant to look at this and that there's a possibility that people with bias in the intelligence community could use that bias to actually abuse the system.

This is an enormous power. You have to realize, we have the ability to soak up every phone call in Italy in one month. And apparently we did. So we have the ability to soak up most of the phone calls and conversations in the whole world. That power is so enormous that it needs to be limited and watched carefully. And I think a judge should be looking at this before you try to look at an America's information.

SCARBOROUGH: Right. So -- so follow up on my last question then is, you spoke with the president. Did you speak to the president about this? Did you encourage him to change his position? Or if not change his position, at least take a position inconsistent with what the White House officially released last night?

PAUL: Actually, sort of the opposite. Our -- at our discussion, he was encouraging me that this is his position, that he agrees with me on the position. But I don’t think -- I think that we're getting it wrong if you think they're mutually exclusive, because I know you're always looking for inconsistencies. But you can be for reauthorization, what the administration is for --

BERMAN: Right.

PAUL: With reform. So my bill, and the Justin Amash amendment that they're going to vote on today, reauthorizes the program but says you have to get a warrant, and it also says that you cannot use that -- the information from this huge database that's been collected without constitutional protection, you can't use it for domestic crime. You can only use it for terrorism, national security, et cetera.

SCARBOROUGH: So -- so -- so -- so, Rand, drill -- drill down for -- for those of us, people watching that may -- that obviously haven't studied this as closely as you. So you want to keep the FISA system in place. You want to keep the FISA courts in place. You have no problem with us doing this abroad. I -- I would -- I would guess that you also would have no problem with this happening at home domestically when -- when our -- our intelligent agencies have to look for terrorists or home grown terrorists, you are just saying there --

PAUL: Well, no, no, there is a --

SCARBOROUGH: Let me finish, because I think you may agree with me. You, though, just are -- you're fine with that. You just want an extra layer of protection before that power is granted. Is that correct?

PAUL: At home -- at home there has to be the Constitution. Abroad there doesn't.

SCARBOROUGH: Domestically.

PAUL: That's a simple way to put it. So if you have somebody, even a person who mows down pedestrians in New York that we all want to punish, we use the Constitution here. They get a jury. They get a lawyer.

I'm for having the Constitution work in our country. It doesn't necessarily have to work. But all the information we gather through FISA on foreigners and foreign countries, it captures American's data too. Many accidentally or incidentally --


PAUL: Who are completely innocent. If I have made a phone call, if any of you have made a phone call, it could have been caught up.

Think of this. If a journalist sends an e-mail and puts in the words "Baghdadi," the leader of ISIS --



PAUL: That may be captured because now he is a target --


PAUL: And you sent an e-mail to one of your reports overseas.

SCARBOROUGH: So we understand. So, again, let's strip it down. So let's say this happens incidentally. I don't know if this is what actually happened with the general, General Flynn. But let's say they pick it up incidentally. So my question is, when is it possible -- this is the best way to ask it, I guess, when is it possible for law enforcement to use incidentally picked up information which proves a crime or a terror attack is going to be committed by an American?

PAUL: There are currently only internal controls over who can search the database. They say they're not doing it very often. But here's the point, you should ask a judge. The same way when we say, well, police brutality can occur. One of the ways we check police brutality, even though we think most police are good, is they have to call a judge. You have to --

SCARBOROUGH: Would it -- would it be a -- would it be a FISA judge? Right, would it be a FISA judge?

PAUL: It's -- that's a -- it -- you would have to have a judicial warrant. And, in this case, yes, it probably still would be a FISA judge which --

SCARBOROUGH: So it would still be secret? Like, you're not saying, let's go to the -- the -- the -- you know, the local federal judge?

PAUL: Right.


PAUL: There still would be a judge overseeing it. It would be a FISA judgment. But here's the rub about this, you need checks and balances. As Madison said, men are not angels. And we found out recently there were people in the FBI plotting to bring the president down. There are people in the Department of Justice working with opposition research to bring the president down.

SCARBOROUGH: Who -- who was plotting in the FBI to bring the president down?

PAUL: Strzok, his girlfriend, perhaps someone named Andy, talking about, we need an insurance policy to bring the president down to prevent his election. That was happening on company time, on company phones.

SCARBOROUGH: And -- and that -- that's actually -- that -- that was -- that was -- that was a couple people talking. And are you -- are you suggesting there's an FBI conspiracy?

PAUL: Yes, well --

SCARBOROUGH: I mean would you like all of -- would you like all of your texts when you're blowing off steam about politics, would you like them produced all over (ph)? Because I know I certainly wouldn't.

PAUL: Yes, but when you're talking on an FBI phone and you are at work conspiring with other workers to bring the president down, that is a real problem. But it's evidence that there's bias. And bias can occur on either side. We now have evidence of at least two, maybe three high ranking FBI agents had enormous bias against the president. Each one of them could potentially have been searching the database just looking for stuff.

The other problem is --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Rand -- Rand, I understand that. But you would admit that there were a lot of FBI agents that had tremendous bias against Barack Obama. In fact, when people like me, and I would guess you --

PAUL: Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH: Were angry that Barack Obama was saying that Hillary Clinton didn't -- didn't violate any national security standards --

PAUL: Right. Right.

SCARBOROUGH: That FBI -- he had agents really angry and leaking things against him.

PAUL: Bias can -- bias can occur on other side. Men are not angels, as Madison said. That's why we need more oversight.

All of the arguments we're making, they could be Republican, Democratic, liberal or conservative, and that's why this is a bipartisan coalition. When you look in the House, it's half Republicans, half Democrats that are going to be for this reform amendment.


PAUL: All it says is that we are worried that men and women are human, could be biased, and that this enormous power to soak up all of our phone calls needs to be overseen by a judge.


PAUL: You should not have people just searching the database without any kind of oversight.

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