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October 23, 2014

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In Las Vegas, Rand Paul laments dangers of a ‘surveillance state’

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Charles Dharapak / AP

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference luncheon in Washington, Thursday, June 13, 2013.

Updated Friday, July 12, 2013 | 8:45 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned of a “grand spymaster” during a speech he delivered in Las Vegas Friday evening.

He delivered his remarks to a crowd of thousands of people gathered at Planet Hollywood for Freedom Fest, a libertarian-oriented conference and film festival.

Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, devoted his brief speech to the concepts of security and liberty. He assailed the federal government, and especially the National Security Agency.

“What if you were a minority by virtue of the color of your skin or the color of your ideology? Will the ends justify the means?” he said. “What if the frightened majority pleads security as they rifle through your mail? What if the grand spymaster uses the least untruthful of his lies to send you to prison but he claims he does it for your own good?”

Alluding to comments that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made when he claimed to have delivered the “least untruthful” answer on the recently revealed NSA Internet and phone spying programs, Paul called security the “siren song” of America after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City.

“The surveillance state quietly avoids the fact that their leader lied to Congress, a felony punishable by up to five years,” Paul said, presumably of Clapper. “Not a peep about any prosecution from the one who lied, only vim and vigor for the blood of the leaker.”

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed aspects of domestic and international spying programs, is currently stuck in an airport in Moscow. Unable to find asylum in another country, he is avoiding extradition to the United States. Federal prosecutors last month charged Snowden with violations of the Espionage Act.

Speaking to a receptive audience, Paul quoted the Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry’s famous line of “give me liberty or give me death” in rejecting the federal government’s arguments that security concerns legitimize the NSA spying programs.

“Hawks in both parties say we must surrender our liberty or we’re all going to die,” Paul said. “Even if we completely destroyed the Bill of Rights, even if we gave up all of our liberty for our security as many seem eager to do, not even a total police state could guarantee our security. Where is the outrage? If you are outraged, cry out in a loud and anguished voice that you’ve had enough.”

Sure enough, the crowd cried out, applauding the senator, who shouted “louder” to an audience that enthusiastically raised their voices a few decibels.

Attendees at the conference had gathered from around the country, making the libertarian gathering a ripe place for Paul to make connections with voters who may comprise his base in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

“If you can get 2,000 free-market, libertarian, conservative folks, that’s a good place to give a speech,” said David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank.

Like Boaz, Bonnie App of Cypress, Texas, saw the senator deliver his brief speech.

She said she was impressed, noting that she’d also liked his father, Ron Paul, a Texas congressman who failed to gain the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

“He’s my kind of guy because he’s conservative and interested in maintaining our liberties and keeping our spending down,” she said of Rand Paul.

The senator closed his brief speech with remarks that alluded to a presidential bid.

“Only when we march to a drummer above and beyond the empty partisan, only when we rid Washington of politicians drunk with power will America thrive again,” he said. “Be part of that. Thank you.”

Paul did not linger for questions or handshakes, instead making a quick exit from the stage.

He is scheduled to speak again Saturday at a Nevada Republican Party fundraiser.

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  1. All of a sudden, Rand has seized on privacy and security, hoping it will make him formitable in Republican primaries. Remember, however, that this is the same fellow who strenuously believes that private businesses everywhere should be allowed to discriminate in every was possible. That's liberty to him-a one way street of intolerance.

  2. I'm not saying that worries about a "surveillance state" should be ignored per se. But that's not really a message that plays very well in a city that either developed or perfected surveillance technologies, and set the industry standards and procedures that government agencies now use themselves. A place it should also be mentioned that has a populace that already tolerates and encourages certain instances of say CCTV surveillance systems in select areas.

    If you want to send a message that resonates with Las Vegas voters about governmental fears, how about tapping into our feelings of resentment and frustration of whenever the President of the US arrives, the city practically goes on lockdown where we can't cross any bridges over or under the freeways, and main roads get closed down entirely.

    Surveillance concerns just don't exist when most people here already rely upon the technology to either keep them safe at their jobs, or they interface with it directly as apart of their job duties.

  3. I'm confused a little bit here. I thought Grand Maul Rand Paul and the Southern Avenger came to Las Vegas to defend their tag team title belt in competition at Planet Hollywood. Not give some dumb political speech and raise money from gullible people...

  4. Rand Paul is a white supremacist who will talk about anything else so that people will not look in to his words and record and find out the truth. He is as big a whack job as his father Ron Paul. It is very telling how the GOP picked Las Vegas for this luncheon as they pursue their white race only campaign to the white house. If anyone thinks this guy could win the presidency they must not read a paper, watch TV or have followed the Mitt Romney campaign to know that the GOP is in a demographic death spiral and will forever be a regional minority party. I wonder why Sandoval wasn't there could it be he is trying to win a re-election and he can not do that by acting like a partisan Tea Partier? Good old Brian is hiding from these nut jobs and pretending to be moderate. Good luck with that.