Rand Paul's bold dissent on the Patriot Act

I supported the Senate filibuster by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulClapper: Killing of Saudi journalist displays that Trump will ‘accept the words of autocrats’ Trump’s relationship with Saudi crown prince under pressure Rand Paul: 'Evidence is overwhelming' that Saudi crown prince was involved in Khashoggi murder MORE (R-Ky.) that forced an extended debate about renewal of the Patriot Act and I support many of his efforts to reign in the mass eavesdropping and bulk collection powers of the National Security Agency (NSA). It would have been better, however, if Paul had agreed to unanimous consent requests to extend the authorization for a week, to allow for a more intelligent public debate than we will probably have with the deadline expiring and the Senate coming back to a rush job with only hours left before the deadline expires when the Senate reconvenes.

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Most Americans are not allowed to know the details of the eavesdropping program, but all Americans know that when we add it all up, there is virtually no privacy left in America. This is bad for Americans, bad for liberty, bad for democracy and bad for the world. This is why I supported the Paul filibuster and support reasonable restrictions on the bulk collection of intelligence.

There are two things wrong with the bulk collection of intelligence through eavesdropping.

The first is what I mentioned earlier, that there is no privacy left in America. The Big Brother of government, combined with the privacy invasion capabilities of Big Business and Big Tech, create what is currently an unacceptable invasion of privacy and the seeds of even more dangerous destruction of liberty if and when the power of the government falls into the wrong hands that will abuse these invasions of privacy.

The second problem with the bulk collection of intelligence is equally important, but less widely understood. I have many years of experience with all facets of the intelligence community, and one major point I would emphasize is that too much intelligence overloads the system and leads policymakers to miss the most important intelligence information, which is what happened before the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Too much information can be just as dangerous to intelligence gathering as too little information, and I strongly suspect that is what is occurring today.

Some eavesdropping is certainly necessary to prevent future terror attacks, especially when that eavesdropping is directly targeted against those who pose a terror threat and others they communicate with.

What is needed is a balance between the surveillance that is legitimately needed to protect our security and the surveillance that sweeps in huge numbers of Americans who pose no threat, which invades our privacy and in many ways threatens our security.

For these reasons I believe Rand Paul performed a service by extending this long overdue debate.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.