James Clapper: The notion that we’re trolling through everyone’s emails and voyeuristically reading them or listening to everyone’s phone calls is, on its face, absurd. We couldn’t do it even if we wanted to, and I assure you, we don’t want to.
News Anchor: That, of course, was the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, during a sit down exclusive interview with Andrea Mitchell over the weekend, where she pushed back against the notion of a Big Brother government. But, as opponents say, that is exactly what we should be afraid of. Joining me now on the phone is the Chairman for Campaign for Liberty, but he’s more famously known for being a presidential candidate and former Republican member of Congress from Texas, Ron Paul. Congressman Paul, thanks for joining me on the phone this morning.
Ron Paul: Thank you, Chuck, it’s nice to be with you.
News Anchor: I want to start with this issue that you praised Mr. Snowden, and essentially said that he is a hero in this case. You’ve heard that there are a lot of senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who believe what he did was illegal and he should be treated as a traitor. Why shouldn’t he be treated as a traitor?
Ron Paul: Well, it is probably illegal, there are some laws against this, but what about the people who are breaking the law, violating the constitution, even using the PATRIOT Act extensively. According to (?) who wrote the law, said they didn’t act within the law: “Who’s going to punish them, why don’t we talk about those individuals who’re breaking the law”. And which one has the higher order: the constitution and the written law, or the authority of the executive branch who controls the enforcement of laws. So I would say the bigger the government gets, the greater threat the lack of knowing the truth of things is. So, really, my goal in life has always been to try to figure out what is the truth, and I would say individuals who are willing to take a risk and realize the danger of telling the people the truth, are real heroes. For instance, right now we have a CIA agent in prison because he told us the truth about torture. So I would say that we have to sort this out, both, in a moral sense and a legal sense. But to say that only the whistle blowers are the ones who are breaking the law … we should question the people in authority about breaking the law and what recourse we have. Evidently, they feel very frustrated and have to go to the public, because going to the FBI and other agencies to investigate themselves, doesn’t seem to pan out very well.
News Anchor: I had a law-maker say to me yesterday, that you get more protection from the media than perhaps going to an inspector general or the FBI. But I want to ask you this question about these two issues: one is the disclosure of these programs, and the other is whether the programs are themselves a violation of the 4th Amendment? So let’s start with the disclosure aspect and the transparency. Would you be potentially uncomfortably about accepting, for instance, the telephone database program? The idea that they gobble up, they vacuum clean, essentially, all telephone numbers. They collect the American telephone number, what calls they make to who (not necessarily the contents), and put it in a database. If the government was more transparent about that procedure, would you be more accepting of the procedure?
Ron Paul: Being transparent about breaking the law and violating the 4th Amendment doesn’t make me feel any better.
News Anchor: So you believe even the telephone, even that specific instance, is also a violation of the 4th Amendment?
Ron Paul: Yes, the big question is, why should they do it? They say, “We’re not listening, we’re not going to use it, and we’re not going to ever use it”. Well, why do it? And if they’re looking for ten people, why do they have to look at 300 billion people’s activity? So it makes no sense whatsoever, and it’s such a blatant violation of the clear language of the constitution and the 4th Amendment. And the founders knew what this was about, the British did it to them, and they wanted to try to prevent this. And yet now, we have the heroics of the politicians saying, “The persons who are telling us the truth are the ones who are committing the treason”. So it’s been turned on its head. And even the political foolishness of the Republicans running to rescue Obama … the American people are sick and tired of all this snooping and prying and surveillance. So the Republicans run to the rescue saying, “Oh no, we passed those laws, we want to preserve these laws”. So it doesn’t even make political sense, it doesn’t make good moral sense, it doesn’t make good constitutional sense.
News Anchor: And very quickly, do you believe the only way we can resolve this debate is by having the Supreme Court weigh in on the constitutionality of these procedures?
Ron Paul: I think that’s a tool that we have to use, and hopefully it gets there. But I think the ultimate test is education, the people understanding this and the people being determined that they believe in liberty and they want limited government. And when you have big government, you have this kind of abuse, you have big government taxation, you have abuse. So the abuse comes from big government, and the natural tendency of individuals who hold this power to abuse it. So no, the biggest issue is the acceptance by the people of big government to take care of us from cradle to grave and make us safe and secure in our houses by having policemen investigate and have all this surveillance, as well as economic security. If we expect the government to be the nanny state, it will be big, it will be abusive and that, to me, is the most important issue.
News Anchor: Ron Paul, I’m going to leave it there with the Campaign for Liberty, Congressman Paul, thanks for coming on this morning.
Ron Paul: Thank you.