Sen. Rand Paul tells Newsmax that history will determine whether leaker Edward Snowden is a traitor or a patriot, but warns that it "won't be good" for Snowden if he "cozies up" to a hostile country.
The Kentucky Republican also says he'll bring legal action against the government over its sweeping surveillance efforts, asserts that the nation has "gotten beyond" the need for some provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and charges that President Barack Obama has lost the "moral authority to lead" following the scandals rocking his administration.
Paul was elected in 2010 and is a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
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Snowden, a former technical contractor for the National Security Agency, leaked details of top-secret American and British government mass surveillance programs to the press. Federal prosecutors have filed several charges against him, including unauthorized communication of national defense information.
But in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, Sen. Paul strongly castigated the NSA for its surveillance programs: "The one thing we need to do is address whether or not the rights of all Americans are being invaded by our government.
"I am disturbed that the intelligence director came to the Senate and lied to us and basically said they weren't collecting any data on Americans. I'm also concerned that our founding fathers said that warrants should be specific to a person, and when you look at a billion phone calls of innocent Americans every day, that doesn't sound like a specific warrant. So I am very concerned about Americans' privacy and whether or not our government is obeying the Bill of Rights."
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The Snowden affair is a "confusing situation because America is supposed to be the country that defends people's individual rights and privacy, and so a lot of people are upset by this, not to mention people around the world as well," Paul says. "So there is sympathy toward this man because people are sympathetic to the ideas of privacy."
Asked if Snowden is a traitor or a patriot, Paul responds: "History will determine that, and history will probably compare and contrast the national intelligence director who lied to Congress and Mr. Snowden, who actually told the truth about the program. So there is some question.
"It won't be good for Mr. Snowden if he cozies up to countries that at least on the surface are not our friends or don't appear to be. So it depends on how this all plays out, but history will make that judgment."
Congress is not likely to hold the NSA director accountable for what Paul describes as lying to Congress, he maintains.
"It's against the law, but I haven't seen any will from either party to do anything about it, so he's going to get away with lying," Paul says.
"The problem is that he's really damaged the credibility of the intelligence community. So when they come up here and they tell us something the next week and try to say, 'Oh, these programs helped us catch this terrorist and that terrorist,' it's a little hard for us to believe them because their credibility has been greatly damaged. So we don't know when they're lying and when they're not lying now."
Paul recently announced that he's taking steps toward bringing legal action against the government over the NSA's PRISM Internet eavesdropping program and the government's other surveillance efforts.
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"We've had over 250,000 people sign to be part of the class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the court order that allowed this to happen," he explains.
"We don't think you can write one warrant and apply it to all Americans, and so we have a good case in court and we're going to challenge. There are some lawsuits that have already started. We haven't decided whether we'll become part of those lawsuits or whether we'll initiate our own, but we're in the process of making that decision."
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller said last week the agency has on rare occasions used drones for domestic surveillance.
Paul comments: "Once again it's secret, so they won't tell us what they're doing. Congress has not been briefed on this, to my knowledge. I would say we can use a drone if we get a warrant from a judge, but we have to be very careful about letting drones proliferate throughout our countryside.
"There's a police department in Texas that bought a $300,000 drone. We have to have some rules on this. We can't have drones crisscrossing the countryside looking at you at a church picnic or a barbecue in your backyard or swimming or hunting. We do need to be concerned about our privacy and this type of snooping should not go on without significant restraint from the courts."
As to the likelihood that Paul will filibuster again if he doesn't get the answers he seeks from the administration, he tells Newsmax: "I'm still worn out from the first filibuster. It took me 13 hours to get a simple answer last time. I sent them letters for six weeks asking if they could kill an American on American soil. I didn't get an answer until the very bitter end after 13 hours of filibuster. I'm hoping they'll be more forthcoming.
"They're going to have to have a new FBI director approved at some point and what I would say is, why don't you take the easy way out, answer my questions, they're legitimate questions. What will they do to protect the privacy of Americans, and what are they doing to be consistent with a Fourth Amendment approach, which protects individual rights?"
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act — the map that determines which states and localities must get federal permission before they change their voting laws.
"I haven't seen the decision yet so I can't give you a thorough answer other than to say it was a time in our country when the color of your skin did need to factor into voting, but we've really gotten beyond that now," Paul observes.
"We have an African-American president. African Americans are voting at a higher percentage in the last election than whites. There doesn't seem to be any sort of systemic problem like there was in the South with precluding blacks from voting. So we're at a point in time in our history where the color of your skin should not be taken into account with voting."
President Obama has called for a one-third cut in the nuclear arsenal, as long as Russia agrees to do the same, and reports suggest he won't seek congressional authorization for the cuts.
"I'm quite disturbed by this," Paul says.
"Part of the president's problem right now is he's lost a lot of credibility. He's losing the moral authority to lead the nation, with all the different scandals. But in addition to that, he keeps pushing the envelope to try to do things unilaterally because he doesn't want to take the time to go through the constitutional process of having Congress vote.
"We will try to block him if he attempts to do things unilaterally."
Obama also is trying to sidestep Congress with new initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. It's been reported that he plans to move forward with climate changes policies by utilizing executive orders.
Asked how Republicans will respond to this, Paul tells Newsmax: "We're not too happy about it, particularly being from Kentucky. When the president's spokesman said that he's going to accelerate this war on coal, we take it as it a war on Kentucky and a war on our jobs and a war on a great American industry.
"As a consequence, in our state, in the Democrat primary for president, 40 percent of Democrats didn't even vote for the president, who was the incumbent this time around. So he's basically writing off a state like Kentucky and making it very hard for any Democrats in Kentucky to win election because they have to disassociate themselves completely from his war on coal."
In his Newsmax interview, Sen. Paul asserts that the Senate's immigration reform bill is "dead on arrival" in the House, and says we should eliminate "most, if not all" of the Internal Revenue Service.
See more of the exclusive Newsmax interview with Rand Paul:
Rand Paul to Newsmax: Senate Immigration Bill 'DOA' in House
Rand Paul: US Should Go to Flat Tax
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