Paul and other anti-government activists who style themselves as libertarians fight national security and the rule of law at every turn — assuring us they know these virtues have their place, but eroding that place whenever the opportunity arises.
Paul’s campaign against the Patriot Act is not about fidelity to the Constitution. His ill-informed banter about “general warrants” and the like is geared to impede the legitimate exercise of constitutional authority. Nor is this approach limited to government’s national-defense powers. Paul also objects to the exercise of routine, commonsense law-enforcement powers, even under strict judicial supervision.
Among the most disingenuous arguments the senator lodged against the Patriot Act involved so-called sneak-and-peek search warrants. As is the case with a traditional search warrant, a sneak-and-peek warrant permits the search of a home, a business, or other premises only if investigators first persuade a federal judge that there is probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed.
During his diatribes last week against the Patriot Act’s Section 215, the business-records provision that is (or was) the government’s asserted authority for the NSA’s metadata program, Paul diverted to take a swipe at Section 213, the sneak-and-peek statute:
Here’s one of the problems, one of the big problems I have with the Patriot Act. We now use parts of the Patriot Act to arrest people for domestic crime. Section 213 “sneak-and-peek,” where the government can come into your house, place listening devices and never announce that they were ever in your house, and then leave, and then monitor your behavior and never let you know they’ve been there, is being used 99.5 percent of the time for domestic crime.
This is so mendacious it is hard to know where to begin.