Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul voiced his worry over abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, suggesting that more safeguards need to be put in place to protect the privacy of American citizens.
Speaking at a news conference Friday with Arizona senatorial candidate Kelli Ward, Paul told The Western Journal his “biggest concern” regarding FISA abuse is that biased intelligence officials can obtain access to Americans’ private data without a warrant.
“Madison said that men are not angels, and that’s why we put all these checks and balances in there,” Paul stated, referring to James Madison, who is credited as being the “father” of the U.S. Constitution.
He went on to indicate that ideally, the bias of officials at the FBI would be checked by a FISA judge, who decides whether or not they can get a warrant to surveil American citizens on U.S. soil.
“So really what you’re supposed to have is the FBI, if it has people that are biased — let’s say they’re really liberal or they’re really conservative — the check and balance should be they have to ask a judge for a warrant,” Paul said.
“And that’s my biggest concern,” he added, noting that there is “this enormous database” with many Americans in it.
Paul was talking about a database of information created under section 702 of FISA. That part of the law permits American intelligence agencies to surveil the communications of foreigners in foreign lands without first obtaining a warrant, according to Fox News.
The program — which many lawmakers say is vital in the fight against terrorism — was reauthorized last month by both houses of Congress and President Donald Trump, despite the concerns of privacy advocates like Paul.
The Kentucky Republican is worried that intelligence agencies have the ability access the private data of Americans who communicate with foreigners.
“A lot of journalists are in the database,” he said. “A lot of Arab-Americans are in the database. A lot of people are in this database — I’m in the database because I’ve talked to foreign leaders. The president is.”
Paul detailed why he believes it’s so important for intelligence officials not to have unfettered access to this database,
“No one should be looking at that database without calling a judge,” he said. “That way if someone is biased either against President Trump, or frankly, against Hillary Clinton, they shouldn’t be able to search the database saying ‘oh you’re a contributor to so and so and we’re going to go after you.’”
But he thinks it’s still possible for this to happen, especially following the revelations regarding the strong anti-Trump bias of FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were having an affair during the 2016 presidential election season.
“I wrote a note to the FBI director last week saying Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page, ‘Are they still having access to secret data like this?'” Paul said.
In his letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Paul voiced his concern about the two officials’ “continued access to sensitive private information, such as that contained in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) databases.”
“If openly biased agents such as Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page still have access to classified databases,” he wrote, “one might argue that the FBI’s internal controls are inadequate.”
On Friday, Paul once again cited those two FBI officials, using them to argue that more checks and balances have to be implemented so Americans’ privacy can be maintained.
“So really, there do need to be more checks and balances and more restraint” regarding FISA surveillance, he said.
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