Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has made a good public political move.
On Wednesday, the likely 2016 presidential candidate introduced a bill in the Senate that would require the federal government to obtain a warrant before it can use domestic drones to collect evidence against or to do surveillance on American citizens. The bill is currently titled the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2013, and would protect citizens' Fourth Amendment rights by preventing any evidence collected by an unmanned aerial vehicle from being used as evidence in a criminal, civil, or regulatory action.
The introduction of the bill comes in the wake of a tumultuous month for President Obama and his liberal cabinet. As varying scandals surfaced, so did criticism linking the president's term in office to that of some historic tyrannical leadership. Using this national sentiment as a springboard, Senator Paul attacked the current court precedents on drone surveillance and furthered his clear advocacy of civil liberties for U.S. citizens. All this rhetoric also succeeded a 13-hour lead filibuster against the nomination of John O. Brennan to director of the CIA in which the republican senator deliberately probed the Obama administration to explain whether it believed government had a legal right to use drones to kill U.S. citizens presumed to be linked to terrorism without due process of law or not.
Bridging the gap between liberal and conservative opinions toward civil liberties will prove to be advantageous to the senator's growing repertoire going into the 2016 election. The American Civil Liberties Union, a primarily liberal thought source, outlines the troubles with proliferation of drones in domestic U.S. law enforcement, manufacturers of which are now allegedly arming the remote-controlled aircrafts specifically to target imminent terrorist threat. If Paul can get that group of thinkers on his side, it could prove to be somewhat of an important momentum shift for the Republican Party.
Paul, in his document, makes sure to carve out exceptions for patrolling the nation's borders and for targeting individuals if there has been officially deemed a high risk of terrorist attack. But for the most part his proposed bill aims to illegalize the tracking of individuals with aerial surveillance within the United States.
Interestingly, Senator Paul proposed a similar bill around this time last year, only to have it eventually shot down by Congress. But circumstances are different this time around, and a looming distrust in federal government is brewing after the Benghazi, IRS, and AP scandals. The American people seem to be edging more towards a precipice of national security, ready to jump at any moment into the sea of civil liberties that Senator Rand Paul is suggesting. Of course, even if the bill doesn't pass again this time, the Kentucky Senator will have his introduction this year as basis for domestic security debates three years from now. And he's pretty excited about that prospect.
That being said, congressional rhetoric as a senator and political action as a president are light-years in difference. Even if Senator Paul thinks that banning domestic drones from targeting American citizens makes sense now — which it does, and I applaud him for taking the initiative to act as such — he may not be as keen if elected president.
But, at least for now, it’s a good move for the Republican, and possibly for the nation as a whole.