Rand Paul discusses domestic spying and privacy rights at Berkeley Forum event

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Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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Hoping to appeal to younger voters and those outside the coalition of the Republican Party, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., came to the politically polarizing territory of UC Berkeley to speak on the issue of domestic spying under the Obama administration.

The Berkeley Forum hosted Paul to an audience of nearly 400 on Wednesday in the Chevron Auditorium of International House. Paul condemned the government’s mass collection of data — calling it an abuse that crosses party lines — and mentioned a recent lawsuit he filed against the Obama administration over revelations of the National Security Agency’s data-collecting procedures.

“I’m not against the NSA per se, but I am for the due process of law to protect your rights,” Paul said. “Generalized warrants that don’t name an individual and seek to get millions of records goes against the very fabric of the Fourth Amendment.”

Amid Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s allegations of the Central Intelligence Agency’s inappropriate search of lawmakers’ computer networks, Paul announced a push for the creation of a bipartisan and independent committee to investigate the government’s intricate intelligence networks.

Casey Given, an editor at the libertarian nonprofit Students For Liberty and former columnist at The Daily Californian, said he is encouraged by Paul’s decision to broaden his political appeal by speaking at Berkeley. Paul’s father, Ron Paul — a prominent libertarian politician and once presidential hopeful — visited the campus in 2012 in a similar effort.

“If he continues to reach out to those demographics which so many Republican candidates have dismissed as not part of their electorate and talk about these issues of … civil liberties, he can really galvanize the youth vote,” Given said.

During an interview and open Q&A session moderated by UC Berkeley freshman Matthew Freeman, Paul fielded questions regarding his opinions on whether Edward Snowden should be labeled a hero or villain — he claimed mixed feelings — if he supported a flat tax and how to help students alleviate loan debt.

What garnered the loudest applause, however, was Paul’s answer to the question on whether his visit was fueled by a potential 2016 presidential run. Paul replied, “Maybe,” but parlayed that into a suggestion for the modern Republican Party: Take a page out of Domino’s Pizza’s playbook and finally admit to having “bad crust.”

“The Republican Party has to either evolve, adapt or die,” Paul said. “Maybe there are some new Republicans, maybe there’ll be a new GOP — we’ll see.”

The Berkeley Forum is a nonpartisan undergraduate student group founded by Pierre Bourbonnais, a former staff member of The Daily Californian and an ASUC presidential candidate. The next event will be an address by Nobel laureate and former U.S. secretary of energy Steven Chu.

Contact Jeff Landa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JeffLanda.

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