Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Meanwhile, our president claims that we cannot have 100% security and 100% privacy and that as a society we have to make some choices. To that I say, no Mr. President, we don’t.
Let’s look, for example, at the recent attacks in Boston. Our government was violating our rights, trolling through millions of phone records, sifting through mountains of data and yet still didn't notice, or didn’t notice enough, that one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects was traveling to Chechnya. Perhaps instead of treating every American as a potential terror suspect, the government should concentrate on more targeted analysis and an analysis that doesn’t violate the Bill of Rights.
This assault on personal privacy affects the Facebook generation more than anyone else. Your generation is completely digitized and uploaded. Everything you do is traceable via phone, email and bank records. And it is you, more than anyone, who should be outraged by this astounding assault on your constitutional right to personal privacy.
I hear people say, "Well if you aren’t doing anything wrong, then the government will leave you alone." But over the last month and a half, this administration has proven that they will target anyone. Under this administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted political dissidents, the Department of Justice has seized reporters' phone records, and now we've learned the NSA seized an unlimited amount of Verizon's client data. So, do you really expect us to trust a government that admittedly targets innocent citizens without probable cause? These overreaching acts are unacceptable under any president, whether Democrat or Republican.
This issue has made for some strange bedfellows in Washington. You have some of my fellow Republicans – I like to call moss-covered – defending Barack Obama’s violation of your rights. Meanwhile, I am being joined by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), left–leaning journalist Glenn Greenwald, and Republican Congressman and author of the PATRIOT Act, Jim Sensebrenner (R-Wisc.).
It is clear that this issue is not about party politics. It is about protecting the civil liberties that our Founding Fathers fought a revolution for. And issues such as this really show you how your political leaders feel about your rights.
What should frustrate you the most is the hypocrisy of it all. In December 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama threatened to filibuster the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). He now uses FISA courts to survey your personal information.
Then-Senator Obama opposed provisions granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that shared private client information with the government. Senator Obama was right. Had I been in the Senate, I would have voted with him. Senator Obama in 2008 also wanted to track potential terrorist activity "without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties.” Yet, today, President Obama undermines the rule of law, basic rights and core liberties — all in the name of tracking terrorists.
Last week, I introduced the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013. The purpose of the bill is in its name — to restore what has been taken from us — our right to personal privacy.
Over the last 30 or 40 years, our government has decided that once we give our records to our bank or our credit card company, that they're no longer private. I disagree vehemently with that. In today’s world, so much of our life is digitalized, and we must maintain a sense of privacy from an overreaching government.
I do not think this is what Verizon customers had in mind when they signed up for the “share everything plan” and I want these customers to join me in filing a class-action lawsuit against the NSA. I’m asking all of the internet providers, all of the phone companies and their customers to join me in protecting our rights to privacy. Our Constitution is consistently ignored and it is time we take a stand. I encourage all Americans, especially the millennials, to stand with me in this fight to protect our constitutional right to privacy.