Following reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting phone records, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Friday introduced legislation that would require federal law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant, with probable cause, before searching Americans’ phone records.
In a statement, Paul called the NSA’s secret seizure of phone records “an outrageous abuse of power and a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
“I have long argued that Congress must do more to restrict the Executive's expansive law enforcement powers to seize private records of law-abiding Americans that are held by a third-party," Paul said.
“The collection of citizen’s phone records is a violation of the natural rights of every man and woman in the United States, and a clear violation of the explicit language of the highest law of the land,” Paul writes in the legislation.
Paul introduced the bill on the same day President Obama held a press conference defending the domestic surveillance program, which was authorized by Congress under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Obama signed a bill late last year to reauthorize the measure for another five years.
“I want to be very clear: Some of the hype that we've been hearing over the last day or so, nobody's listening to the content of people's phone calls,” Obama said.
The Kentucky senator introduced similar legislation in May, but this version is a narrower request. The Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act has no co-sponsors.
Although the president acknowledged the administration had tracked telephone and Internet data – even from sites such as Google, Verizon and Facebook – he said there were safeguards to protect U.S. citizens. The Internet data collection, for example, does not apply to anyone living in the United States, he said.
“You can't have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We're going to have to make some choices as a government,” Obama said, adding that he thought the program had helped thwart plots against the U.S.
Several lawmakers, including Paul, have disputed the president’s claim that lawmakers were fully briefed on the program.