Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday for a one-on-one interview. While Paul discussed many things with Stephanopoulos, the host pressed him a bit on his recent comments relating to Edward Snowden as well as James Clapper. On Friday night while talking to Eric Bolling on Fox News, Paul commented that Clapper, the Director of the National Intelligence Agency, and Snowden, the renowned NSA whistleblower, should ‘share a prison cell.’
Below is the transcript of Paul’s exchange with Stephanopoulos on Sunday:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Another big issue, this controversy over the NSA. You announced on Friday that you’re going to be filing a class-action lawsuit against the surveillance program. Now this issue is already making its way through the courts. Two federal judges have already weighed in on it, so why is this lawsuit necessary?
PAUL: Well, the thing is, is that the point is, that one single warrant should not apply to everyone who has a cell phone in America. One of the things that Snowden released was a single court order to the company Verizon that all of their customers records would be looked at. That to my mind smacks of a generalized warrant. That’s what we fought the revolutionary war over.
So, I think by bringing a class-action suit, where we have hundreds of thousands of people who come forward and say, my cell phone records are mine unless you go to a judge and ask a judge specifically for my records, you shouldn’t be able to have a general warrant.
So, I think the idea of a class-action lawsuit with hundreds of thousands of participants really beats home and brings to the forefront the idea that this is a generalized warrant and it should be considered unconstitutional.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This issue of clemency for Edward Snowden also back in the news this week. The New York Times weighed in. They said that it should be considering. Here’s what they wrote, “considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service.”
I am trying to figure out where you stand on this. A couple of months ago we talked about this. You said that you didn’t know enough then. But on Friday you said it might be a good idea for Edward Snowden and James Clapper, the head of national intelligence, who you believe perjured himself before the Congress, to share a prison cell.
So is clemency for Snowden now off the table as far as you’re concerned?
PAUL: No, the reason I said that is to make a point that I can’t — I don’t think we can’t selectively apply the law. So James Clapper did break a law and there is a prison sentence for that. So did Edward Snowden.
I don’t think Edward Snowden deserves the death penalty or life in prison. I think that’s inappropriate. And I think that’s why he fled, because that’s what he faced.
Do I think that it’s OK to leak secrets and give up national secrets and things that could endanger lives?
I don’t think that’s OK, either.
But I think the courts are now saying that what he revealed was something the government was doing was illegal.
So I think personally, he probably would come home for some penalty of a few years in prison, which would be probably not you look what James Clapper probably deserves for lying to Congress and that maybe if they served in a prison cell together, we’d become further enlightened as a country over what we should and shouldn’t do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re smiling now, but you’ve taken a lot of heat for making that comparison. I just want to clarify here. So you’re saying no clemency for Edward Snowden, but perhaps leniency?
PAUL: Well, I think the only way he’s coming home is if someone would offer him a fair trial with a reasonable sentence. But I don’t think the death penalty — I mean we’ve had people all over the news, some of the same people who are defending James Clapper lying to Congress are saying off with his head or he should be hung from the nearest tree.
I don’t think that’s appropriate. And I think, really, in the end, history is going to judge that he revealed great abuses of our government and great abuses of our intelligence community and that James Clapper, in lying to Congress, really seriously destroyed the credibility of our intelligence agencies. And even though I actually give them the benefit of the doubt — I don’t think James Clapper is a bad person. I think he’s a patriotic person who wants to stop terrorism. So I don’t think he’s a bad person.
But by lying to Congress, he’s made us doubt and believe that maybe the government could be listening to our phone calls, even though they tell us they’re not.
Basically, Paul has now twisted himself into knots regarding Snowden and doesn’t know how to get himself loose. He has held up Snowden as a hero ever since Snowden’s story came out. Paul has constantly spouted out everything that Snowden has to help create the notion that the Obama Administration is running wild and spying on everyone and endangering every single person’s civil liberties. Meanwhile, he has denigrated Clapper as being a treasonous person and a liar who has harmed the nation in the name of protecting it.
However, it appears that Paul realized that since he has presidential ambitions, he needs to temper his uber-libertarian ways a bit. It is fine to support Snowden and his cause, but you can’t advocate for him to be offered total clemency. As a ‘true’ libertarian, Paul should be for total transparency and basically no real central form of government. He should be pushing for Snowden to face no repercussions and that his whistleblowing should mean that he is greeted as a hero and it will help start the dominoes tumbling towards a complete dismantling of the federal government and realization of a confederacy of autonomous cities and states.
Of course, if Paul felt passionately about his beliefs, he would stick to his complete defense of Snowden. However, what he wants, what he REALLY wants, is to be President. He can taste the Republican nomination and doesn’t want this to come back to him in two years in a debate. Therefore, he will toss his ‘core’ beliefs out and say whatever he thinks is politically convenient. Like his colleague Ted Cruz, Rand Paul is only interested in whatever is most beneficial for himself.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).