How kind of Kashmir Hill to write this article on the day I kick off this site’s Election 2016 coverage on privacy issues:
When Kentucky senator Rand Paul announced this week that he plans to seek the Republican nomination for president, he put out all kinds of bait to appeal to Americans of the techno-libertarian persuasion—people who hate seeing the Internet twisted into a surveillance tool, love crypto-currencies, and generally want the United States to look a little more like a scene out of HBO’s Silicon Valley.
First, Paul signaled that he wants to be friendly with the crypto-crowd by announcing that his campaign will accept Bitcoin donations of up to $100 per person, making him the first presidential candidate to accept the darkweb’s favorite currency. “The novelty of the payment method is likely to help Mr. Paul highlight his edgy appeal to other libertarians, tech-savvy voters, young people and others who favor Bitcoin,” wrote the New York Times. (Accepting Bitcoin is a great start, but a true crypto-candidate would also create a PGP key to allow supporters to send encrypted e-mails to his campaign.)
In addition, Paul has some unique items in his official campaign store. As in Hillary Clinton’s campaign store, there are candidate-branded t-shirts, coffee mugs, and iPhone covers. But as noted by Ars Technica, Paul’s store has an “NSA spy cam blocker” for sale, its description noting that “that little front facing camera on your laptop or tablet can be a window for the world to see you – whether you know it or not!”
Read more on Fusion. Of course, politicians running for office say a lot of things about what they’ll do if we only elect them, only to abandon their pledges before the inauguration ceremony is even over.
In his coverage of Paul’s candidacy announcement, Dustin Volz reported:
Paul has been among the most ardent critics of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance programs in Congress—a policy position that has grown more pronounced in the two years since the Edward Snowden disclosures began.
Some civil-liberties advocates criticized Paul in November, however, when the senator cast a crucial no vote against an NSA reform package that failed to advance in the Senate, claiming that it did not go far enough. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who also is running for president, was one of four Republicans to support the Democratic-backed measure. Cruz said last week that he was “dismayed” Paul voted against advancing the bill.
But Paul has said he will fight to block the reauthorization of a core surveillance provision of the Patriot Act, which is due to sunset on June 1 unless Congress acts.
Paul on Tuesday indicated he would act unilaterally to end the dragnet surveillance—though he did not say whether he favors a transition that would have phone companies maintain their records in a way that government officials could request them on an as-needed basis after obtaining judicial approval. Such a move is favored by Obama and would have been enacted under the bill Paul voted against.
“Your phone records are yours,” Paul said during his speech. “The phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business.”
Paul’s speech leaves little doubt of his intention to slam his opponents within the GOP field on matters of privacy and surveillance.
But rhetoric aside, if we look at his voting record up until now – and in the months to come – will we find that Paul votes in ways to roll back surveillance measures, or will he continue to go his own way and just urge us to trust that if we elect him, he’ll terminate the program by executive order?
Time will tell.