Rand Paul, National Review, and a View From the Cheap Seats

I first subscribed to National Review when I was in high school, which would be somewhere northwards of 42 years ago. I  have been a faithful subscriber since that time, and — disagreements and all — it remains my favorite magazine. They are still genuinely conservative, although it should be said at the outset that they are not conserving quite as much as they used to.

Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, is a skosh more libertarian than I would like, but I like what he has been doing very much. About time somebody did, and all that. There are places where the libertarian streak will lead you astray (e.g. marriage), but there are other places where it supplies a much needed corrective to our putative lords and masters (e.g. metadata).

In their latest issue, in an unsigned editorial, NR took Rand Paul to task for his recent lawsuit claiming that the NSA’s collection of metadata was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. At the recent CPAC convention, Rand Paul said that what you do on your cell phone is “none of their damn business,” which was red meat for the assembled conservatives. But NR dismissed this line as showboating, a “publicity stunt” — frivolous and unnecessary.

Their argument was that the Fourth Amendment protects four categories of intimate personal property — “one’s person, home, papers, and effects.” The metadata has to be considered the property of the service providers, and not part of the citizen’s personal effects. Ergo, showboating.

Not so fast. The service providers are private entities. The Fourth Amendment applies to them also. Why should they be pressured into turning over metadata without a warrant? If a telecom company started up on the premise that they would keep all metadata confidential, meaning that nothing would be turned over without a warrant, would that be allowed?

And do we really want to say that it is okay for someone at the Post Office to keep a log book of all the letters I write? One column for the address, another for the handwriting, another for the size of the package, and so on, even if everybody promises not to open any of the letters? Unless they suspect something? These are my “effects,” which I entrusted to a third party for transport. I think the Fourth Amendment clearly does apply, but let’s suppose it doesn’t. That would only mean that Madison and company failed to anticipate the invention of the cell phone, and so we need to apply the principles they understood to this new situation, and we need to do it instanter. The Fourth Amendment protects my “papers” so I need to make sure that I don’t record my private information in a “paperless” office? Are they serious?

Now for a qualification. I have argued in the past that there is a distinction to be made between the desire for privacy, which is noble, and the desire for anonymity, which is not. And I grant that a hefty part of the libertarian moment is agitating for the latter, not the former. There are hazards here, in all directions. Just as I don’t have a problem with citizens operating in the new electronic world, so also I have no problem with legitimate police work being done there. The laws concerning warrants have to be updated, and not just the laws concerning the privacy of citizens. The same goes for those who are doing legitimate intelligence work. This is a problem that responsible people do have to work out.

Unfortunately, Washington D.C. is not run by responsible people. And, as Shakespeare would have put it, there’s the rub. We are told that the federal government is dedicated to keeping us safe. And we are saying in reply that we don’t believe you. You tell us that you are trustworthy. We reply that you are not trustworthy. If there were a scandal concerning the metadata, a genuine scandal, what on earth makes you think that it would be handled in any way different from how the IRS scandal has been handled? Or Fast and Furious? Or Benghazi? If you reply that our national security is at stake, I will say that the corruptions of Washington are a far greater threat to our national security than the jihadi ragheads are. If you really want to do something for national security, clean up the sinkhole of federal corruption first. Then let’s talk about the metadata you are yearning to get a hold of.

Our congressmen spend money like they were a regiment of chimpanzees that got into a warehouse full of trade gin. Millions of unborn Americans have been offed because of the federal government’s perverse definitions of privacy, speaking of privacy. You now want to tell us that you have a good grip on what privacy means when it comes to cell phones? No, you don’t — slaughtering thugs. You can’t recognize the image of God in an unborn child. Why would you suddenly respect the digital images of somebody’s kids on their cell phone? You don’t even know what a person is. How could you then know what personal privacy is?

In short, here it is. We don’t believe you any more. If I were a citizen of Russia, and just found out that Putin was collecting all the cell phone metadata over there, would you be assuring me that there was nothing whatever to worry about? That a character like Putin couldn’t put such information to a despotic use? Exactly. Your knickers would be in a twist if Putin were doing it. And this is not in praise of Putin. I believe him to be a competent thug, unlike Obama, who is an incompetent thug. And there are certain things I don’t want either one of them to have.

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timothy
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timothy

A firing-line episode with you and WFB would have been great.

Christopher Kou
Guest

I think one of the 4th Amendment issues is that the NSA is arguing it can attain a warrant for the acquisition of ALL the records from a third party at one time.  It’s not that the 4th is not applying to those service providers, but that the records can be taken in bulk, which is a violation of the rights of the 4th amendment rights of the individual customers of that SP.

Nathan Anderson
Member

“The Fourth Amendment protects my ‘papers’ so I need to make sure that I don’t record my private information in a ‘paperless’ office? Are they serious?” <– Quite right.  This mindset that we have to invent new laws in order to deal with the new times and unanticipated new technologies has always bugged me.  For example, the passing of the DMCA before the turn of the millennium.  They argued it was necessary to have new laws in place to protect copyright owners in the “digital age”, but this is despite the fact that it was already illegal to infringe on… Read more »

Nathan Anderson
Member

…contrast this attitude with God’s law as given to us in the Decalogue, where these 10 laws can be reduced to two great commandments, which can then be further summarized into one. 

Allen
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Allen

The difference between a Putin and an Obama go beyond competence — at least Putin seems to understand the idea of national well-being and how to act to benefit the people he rules over. Our American elite regards its country as a resource to be consumed, not an investment to cultivate. In this debased era, it may be too much to ask for a non-thuggish government. But Russia has at least shown us that it’s still possible to have a government that looks out for the common folk in some degree. I’d rather have an incompetent ruler that’s on the… Read more »

David Zuniga
Member

Boy howdy, Doug.   If you have not read Rothbard’s ‘The Betrayal of the American Right’, please do so before reading your next issue of National Review or Hillsdale’s rag,’Imprimis’. National Review is to constitutional conservatism* what William F. Buckley was to…well, to Douglas Wilson.   Buckley’s New Right was ever the Cold War’s handmaiden (Rothbard suspects, the CIA’s, too).  Hundreds of billions were made by War, Inc. and its supply chain as the nefarious precursors of today’s Terrorists — those of the ‘War on Terror’, now deemed eternal.  The ubiquitous commie spies haunted the speech-writers of Buckley’s ‘Conservative’ ilk,… Read more »

J
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J

Allen,  “I’d rather have an incompetent ruler that’s on the side of me and mine than a competent one who shares none of my interests.” A that might be an ok thing to think….until you get invaded. My point being I don’t think an incompetent patriot is any better than a competent dictator. Both are to be rejected equally when talking about rulers. Just my opinion though and I’ve been known to be wrong a time or two.

David Zuniga
Member

Doug, it is long past time that the body of Christ in America that purports to be erudite, courageous, or both should set itself to action, rather than more words alone.  You fellows of the philosopher/theologian bent can put on trousers like the rest of us.  And you should.  I’ve been hailing you fellows (you, RC Jr, and George Grant) for over a decade now, from this rampart.  We have good stone, and a catapult that *will* clear the enemy’s wall.  You boys love to write them damned purty words, while the groundlings burn.  If you have anything more than… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

Allen, Just a quick note of differing opinion. Russia’s oligarchs are still just thugs. A matryoshka of Putin has Lubyanka inside.

RFB
Guest
RFB

As someone who has executed search warrants, written scores, and reviewed and provided oversight and supervision of hundreds (trying to be conservative here), no street copper would ever get away with the type of warrants in the instant scenario. The  essence of “…particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” has always been inviolate in every venue I have ever worked, from multi-million jurisdictions to East Moose Nipple, RFD.

Allen
Guest
Allen

J, I agree that neither is ideal. I merely meant this along the same lines as Proverbs 17:1 — if I had to pick between two bad options, I’d pick the one that could lead to being invaded and ruled by a hostile force later over being ruled by a hostile force now.

RFB, I’m not saying Putin is a paragon of virtue, just that he’s shown willingness to use his position to promote the interests of Russians rather than the global elite. Standing against the militant sodomite lobby is an example of this.

J
Guest
J

Doug,  That is a good saying, but an old one….my 25x power scope can see those whites a long way out. :-)                                                                                                                                                         Allen, I… Read more »

J
Guest
J

One more thing, In my opinion it is this kind of topic and conversation that is going to get people put in jail for their faith far sooner than any comment on sodomites. The people who run this country don’t care if we are fighting among ourselves about gay mirage. They care very much if we threaten their control. Even if its just metaphorical language. It makes them nervous, because in the back of their mind there is that little question that keeps repeating “Are they just talking?? Or are they serious?”. It might be a good idea if we… Read more »

Roy
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Roy

Alan stated; “Our American elite regards it’s country as a resource to be consumed, not an investment to cultivate.” Amidst a plethora of bullshit rhetoric, this rings true. Just because it’s ours doesn’t make it righteous. On an unrelated note, I would like D.M. To post more often.

Moor
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Moor

Doug, you misspelled “magazine” in the first paragraph.  Thanks for the article.

Dan
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Dan

Doug, National Review has been my favorite magazine for many years too.  I used to also get The Weekly Standard for many years, but eventually just settled on NR due to the amount of time I have to read.  I enjoy reading NR from cover to cover (usually).  I’ve tried many magazines over the years, and there are plenty of good ones.  But NR is the best in my opinion.  And NR Online is great too.

RFB
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RFB

I hope that my above post regarding search warrants was clear. My point was that everyday law enforcement is held to the standard and would not get away with the abuses of that standard that seems to be treated much more like a wax nose by those  in D.C.