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Senator Rand Paul Introduces the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act

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On Friday, June 7, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act of 2013, which "which would extend Fourth Amendment guarantees to electronic communications and requires specific warrants granted by judges in order to obtain this information," according to a statement on the senator's website.

 

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects against illegal searches and seizures without probable cause, states:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." 

 

The amendment has been cited as recently as 2010United States v. Warshak to halt government efforts to obtain personal email data from Internet Service Providers. 

 

Although it appears retroactive in title, according to the senator's website, the "restoration" seeks an upgrade to the Fourth Amendment to include protections for users of modern technology in a publicly and privately networked society, reliant on third-party data storage and transfer for its daily, routine activities. The actual language of the bill focuses mostly on telephone calls, however.

 

“No one objects to balancing security against liberty. No one objects to seeking warrants for targeted monitoring based on probable cause. We’ve always done this. What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won’t be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation,” wrote Paul in a Wall Street Journal op-ed

 

Furthermore, on Sunday, June 9, Paul announced his intent to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf on the American people on Fox News.

 

“I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington," he said.

 

According to a Washington Post-Pew Research Center Poll released Monday, June 10, 45 percent of Americans believe that the government has the right to monitor online activity to prevent terrorist attacks, while 52 percent oppose this breach of privacy. When asked whether the NSA's ability to access phone records through secret court orders was "acceptable" or "unacceptable," 56 percent reponded yes and 41 percent no.

 

Timothy B. Lee of the Washington Post Wonk Blog has five recommendations for private telecommunications users to be able to stop the government from spying on them. They include using Tor to browse anonymously, chatting privately with OTR, calling securely with Silent Circle or Redphone and removing cell phone batteries to avoid location-based tracking.

 

Here's an interesting mash-up by Save the Fourth Amendment on statements made by Candidate Obama in 2009 va. President Obama in 2013 on the issue of privacy vs. security: