No one has been quicker to leap on the White House since The Guardian's National Security Agency revelations than Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. This is, of course, no too surprising coming from the libertarian-leaning lawmaker who cited The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald during his nearly 13-hour long filibuster of John Brennan's nomination to the CIA in March.
However, as Paul looks ahead to a possible 2016 presidential run (and with incredibly early polling and showmanship giving some credence to the idea), his early and active rumblings on PRISM and the security state give some sense of what a Paul platform could look like—and how he may be planning on revving up the engines for a campaign.
On Thursday, Paul wrote an op-ed in The Guardian, criticizing perceived contradictions between Sen. Barack Obama and President Barack Obama's statements on civil liberties and denouncing the NSA's massive data-mining effort:
If the seizure and surveillance of Americans' phone records—across the board and with little to no discrimination—is now considered a legitimate security precaution, there is literally no protection of any kind guaranteed anymore to American citizens. In their actions, more outrageous and numerous by the day, this administration continues to treat the U.S. Constitution as a dead letter.
Also on Thursday, Paul announced his Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013, which would "ensure the constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment are not violated by any government entity." He introduced the bill Friday, while calling the NSA surveillance an "astounding assault on the Constitution."
Paul took his message to the news interview shows Sunday, suggesting on Fox News Sunday that the NSA surveillance programs are unconstitutional, while being careful to not appear to be letting terrorists and criminals off the hook. Paul also announced his intention to head up a class-action suit against the Obama administration:
We're talking about trolling through billions of phone records. We're not talking about going after a terrorist. I'm all for that. Get a warrant and go after a terrorist, or a murderer or a rapist. But don't troll through a billion phone records every day. That is unconstitutional, it invades our privacy and I'm going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level. I'm going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class-action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don't want our phone records looked at then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington.
If you thought the marathon Mr. Paul Goes to Washington filibuster was good entertainment, just wait for Mr. Paul Goes to Court. And the Paul line you'll likely hear on repeat during the GOP primaries if he does wind up running: "I want to go after terrorists as much as anyone."
As Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write over at The Fix, Rand Paul could be catching a pro-same-sex marriage, pro-pot-legalization libertarian wave by making himself the most obvious and out-front opposition to the surveillance state. It's the kind of civil-liberties stance that looks to have led NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to support Rand's father, Ron Paul, in 2012. How far that will actually take Paul the Younger come 2016 in a Republican Party that didn't give Paul the Elder much space for success is another matter.