SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY) TELLS “CBS THIS MORNING” HE KNEW OF THE NSA SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM BUT COULD NOT TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE OF A GAG ORDER
PAUL TELLS CO-HOSTS CHARLIE ROSE, NORAH O’DONNELL AND GAYLE KING: “YOU CAN’T COMPLAIN, BECAUSE THEY PUT YOU IN JAIL IF YOU COMPLAIN”
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul knew about NSA surveillance program PRISM, but could not discuss it because of a gag order, he said in an interview broadcast today, June 11, 2013, on CBS THIS MORNING (7:00-9:00 AM) on the CBS Television Network.
“The most ridiculous thing I hear from people of this persuasion is politicians saying, ‘no one was complaining,’ but you can’t complain, because they put you in jail if you complain,” Paul told co-hosts Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King.
Additionally, Paul said that he was “reserving judgment” on whether Edward Snowden, which revealed the NSA program, is a hero or a traitor, and also took issue with recent polls saying that Americans didn’t mind surveillance measures if they are used to prevent terrorism. Paul told Gayle King, “I don’t think it’s true.”
Excerpts from the interview are below.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let’s talk about Mr. Snowden. Do you think he’s a hero or a traitor?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I think it’s sort of a side point. I think the real point is the Bill of Rights is being violated, our privacy is being violated, and really no government should do this, and we need to obey the rules. So we’re going to try and hold the president accountable and say look, we don’t want the government following us around every day.
CHARLIE ROSE: But do you agree with what he did? Whether there’s a title to what he did or not, do you agree? Did he do the right thing? Do you support him?
SEN. RAND PAUL: You know I think it’s a complicated issue. I think when people choose civil disobedience they’re at their wit’s end and think there’s no other choice. We’ve had great civil disobedience in our history. Sometimes they turn out that we laud them and other times we say oh they went too far. I personally am trying to work within the law and change the law. I think that’s what my job is. And I think we can challenge the President on this, particularly his hypocrisy. I’m reserving judgment on Mr. Snowden but I think he felt like this was something so wrong, billions of phone records, and you have to realize, by looking at your phone records they can actually track your movements all day long. I’ve been jokingly saying I’m leaving my phone at home when I’m going to Republican leadership meetings because the President doesn’t need to know where I am all day long.
GAYLE KING: Sen. Paul, the polls show that a lot of Americans seem to be okay with what the government is doing to monitor terrorist threats, even if it invades on privacy. What do you say to that?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I don’t think it’s true, and actually if people knew the extent of what could happen. For example, I purchase most of my daily needs on my Visa card. My whole life is digitalized. You can tell whether I go to a psychiatrist, whether I gamble, whether I read conservative magazines, whether I drink, whether I smoke. The government has no right to this knowledge unless you’re accused of a crime, unless there’s probable cause.
NORAH O’DONNELL: But there’s no proof that the government is monitoring that and using that information. They need a warrant in order to find out where you’re shopping and where you’re using your credit card.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Actually you’re wrong. There’s no proof that they’re actually doing it, but we do know that third party records for the past 30, 40 years, have not been sufficiently protected by the Fourth Amendment. We have an exclusion, we say that when you give up your records to a bank, you’re actually giving up your right to privacy. I disagree with those court cases. Some of those court cases need to be reversed. It’s not just President Obama, its President Bush, and all of those presidents probably for the last four or five presidents. But I think the American people are fed up with it now that more and more of our lives are online and digitized, we don’t want the government looking at our entire life.
NORAH O’DONNELL: Senator, this is an important issue. All three branches of government have approved this surveillance. Obviously it’s carried out by the executive branch. Congress approved it, the courts have approved it. The Congress was briefed 22 times on this PRISM surveillance program between October 2011 and December 2012. Did you attend any of those briefings?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Most of these are for the Intelligence Committee, so I wouldn’t have been invited. But I would say just because Congress approved it doesn’t make it right. Congress has about a 10% approval rating, so I think we’re often doing things the public doesn’t approve of. Last year we approved of indefinite detention where an American citizen can be detained without charge or trial for the rest of their life and sent to Guantanamo Bay. I think that’s wrong, whether the President signed it or not. It’s also hypocritical because the President, when he was a senator, was much more in favor of defending civil liberties.
NORAH O’DONNELL: In press accounts though today it says there was an invitation in 2011 for all senators, all lawmakers to view this classified report on what was going on. You could also ask for a briefing. Did you go to that? Why not? Why just now raise these concerns? Congress was briefed on this.
SEN. RAND PAUL: I have been raising these for over a year. You can look back at a speech I gave in Las Vegas last year. I have attended briefings on this so I was aware of it. The interesting thing was I was unable to talk about it. So was Sen. Wyden. They put a gag rule on us. They put a gag rule on those who were investigated. The most ridiculous thing I hear from people of this persuasion is politicians saying, “no one was complaining,” but you can’t complain because they put you in jail if you complain, or they don’t tell you that they’re investigating you. We had 8 million suspicious activity reports from banks issues, but you’re not allowed to complain because nobody knows you’re being investigated. I think most Americans don’t want this surveillance.
CHARLIE ROSE: Beyond that, you mentioned civil disobedience whether you think about Mahatma Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were people who said they were breaking the law but were prepared to go to jail and presented themselves for arrest. Should Mr. Snowden, in the spirit of civil disobedience, step forward and present himself to be tried and judged by the judicial system?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I can’t make that decision for him. He’s chosen exile, which is a pretty significant thing to have to leave your family and your country. But what I would say is that the issue really is about privacy, the right to privacy, and whether the President’s a hypocrite for wanting to look at all of our phone records all of the time and I think he really is.
Click here to watch the clip.
<embed src="http://cnettv.cnet.com/av/video/cbsnews/atlantis2/cbsnews_player_embed.swf" scale="noscale" salign="lt" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" background="#333333" width="425" height="279" allowFullScreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" FlashVars="si=254&&contentValue=50148692&shareUrl=http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50148692n" />
Chris Licht is the Vice President of Programming, CBS News, and Executive Producer of CBS THIS MORNING.
* * *
Press Contact: Weesie Vieira 212-975-2856 VieiraW@cbsnews.com