Former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul calls the Obama administration's secret surveillance of Americans' phone calls "very dangerous."
Paul, currently the chairman of the Campaign for Liberty, told Newsmax TV that he is concerned about the public's right to privacy and enforcement of the Fourth Amendment, saying, "It's a very, very serious matter and very, very dangerous, and the abuse has been going on for a long, long time. If the people don't wake up it'll get a lot, lot worse."
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In response to claims by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein that the PRISM surveillance program has foiled multiple attempted terrorist attacks inside the United States, including a 2009 plot to bomb New York City’s subways, Paul said, "If they can find one incident they'd be lucky. They are exaggerating, but even if they did, is that an excuse to throw the whole Constitution out the window?"
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"And besides," he continued, "the statistics they cite are grossly exaggerated because – I think it was The New York Times that reported it – 14 out of 22 of these so-called incidents where they saved us from these horrible attacks were actually sting operations. They're entrapments and the FBI's involved and they get out of hand and then it's, 'oh, we just saved you from ourselves.' So no, that's all to build fear and intimidate people and make them willing to sacrifice their liberties at the expense of thinking they're going to be safer."
Paul said that instead we should "throw out" measures such as the Patriot Act and FISA courts and "obey the Constitution."
"The Constitution provides ways to get a search warrant but these blanket searches of everybody and giving up all your privacy is insane," he argued. "It's the position of an authoritarian dictatorship that wants this type of power. So if they get a legitimate warrant there should be probable cause. I mean why do we give up on this? This whole idea that you have to give up so much of your freedom for more security is a very dangerous notion."
Paul also said he does not believe President Obama's claims that the government is not listening to Americans' phone calls. "I wonder what they're doing if they're not listening. They have to listen to find out who the bad guys are that they think they're going to catch. So they have to listen to them," he maintained, adding, "What they're saying is as we speak on the phone today that they're not literally listening right now. But there's a recording of this made and there will be flags and then they can go back and listen to what they want. "
As for Edward Snowden, who has revealed himself as the whistleblower behind the NSA leak, Paul said, "He should be heralded as a hero for releasing the truth about our government . . .This idea that government should be totally secret, we don't know the truth, is the most dangerous thing that we could have. So yes, he knows he's broken a law but they have broken the Constitution, which is much worse."
He continued, "He's trying to save us from ourselves by telling us what is going on and it is excessive so he knows the risks and he knows that he's a target now. He suspects they'll try to kill him, they'll try to put him in prison or execute him but he felt so strongly about telling the American people what's going on that you know – I've used the saying that in an empire, truth becomes treason."
"We have lost the fundamental purpose of what government should be in a free society and for that we are suffering economically, we're suffering from the constant wars, and we're suffering from the loss of our liberties," added Paul.
He dismissed reports that Snowden is apparently a Ron Paul supporter and contributed twice to his presidential campaign, saying, "I wonder why people ask the question? Why is that important?
Turning to Syria, Paul condemned the possibility that the White House could decide this week to approve lethal aid for the Syrian rebels, saying, "It's crazy. We have all these wars that we're losing. We've lost in Afghanistan, total chaos in Iraq – there was no al Qaeda in Iraq and now there is. Al Qaeda's over there helping the rebels in Syria and now we're joining al Qaeda and helping them to overthrow Assad."
"Ultimately this policy is going to backfire on not only the United States, it's going to backfire on Israel because these countries end up taking over, or the rebels that take over are usually radical Islamists who are going to be more anti-Israel and yet we're supporting them. It's a foolish policy," he said, adding, "The policy that the founders talked about is noninterventionism, mind our own business, no nation building, stay out of the internal affairs of other nations. That's the foreign policy that Americans should endorse and more and more people are starting to realize the foolishness of these past 10 years of endless war."
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Looking ahead, Paul said the GOP in 2014 has "this tremendous opportunity because the American people now are sick and tired of Obama, especially on this surveillance, spying on all Americans."
But he said he and his son Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have not talked about the younger Paul's plans for a presidential bid in 2016. As for whether he would like his son to throw his hat into the ring, Paul said.
"I want him to do what he wants to do."
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