Stop unconstitutional spying on Americans

In this June 6, 2013 file photo, a sign stands outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. The Justice Department warned lawmakers that the National Security Agency will have to wind down its bulk collection of Americans' phone records by the end of the week if Congress fails to reauthorize the Patriot Act. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

There is always a balance between security and liberty, and the American tradition has long been to err on the side of liberty.

America’s founders feared a government powerful enough to commit unreasonable searches and seizures and crafted a Constitution designed to protect citizens’ privacy.

Today, many Americans keep their daily activities and personal information on their cell phones.

We believe that as technology evolves, our constitutional rights should endure. The Fourth Amendment protects our right to privacy and we should never let a government entity run roughshod on our rights.

When we took office, we vowed to uphold and protect these rights.

This is precisely why we vehemently oppose the renewal of the Section 215 of the USA Freedom Act.

Section 215 allows for secret court orders to collect “tangible things” that could be relevant to a government investigation — a far lower threshold and more expansive reach than a warrant based on probable cause.

The list of possible “tangible things” the government can obtain without a warrant is seemingly limitless and can include things like driver license records and Internet browsing history.

Ironically enough, the court of appeals for the Second Circuit deemed this bulk collection of data to be illegal.

Yet just a week later, the House of Representatives voted to turn this illegal act into law.

While we believe U.S. intelligence should keep a close watch on suspected terrorists, the U.S. Constitution should not be trampled in the process.

This administration and some government officials think that violating American citizen’s right to privacy is essential for national security and that proves just how out of touch and out of control our government has become.

It should be said that we do not believe the vast majority of NSA agents and contractors are using these programs for pernicious purposes. They love their country and are simply trying to protect it with the tools that they have been given.

But the NSA is just one more example of a tool used by a president who has abused his executive authority time and time again.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and trusting unlimited power is not an American strength.

Should our civilization move in that direction, it would represent an American vice.

As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

We should never give up our freedoms for a false sense of security and we will continue to do all we can to protect our nation without infringing upon our constitutional rights.

Rand Paul, a Republican, represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate. Mark Sanford, also a Republican, represents South Carolina’s 1st District in the U.S. House.