Rand Paul’s Timely Questions

Charlie Savage has a report describing how Rand Paul’s hold the reconfirmation of Robert Mueller threatens to push the process beyond the time when Mueller’s ten year appointment date.

[A] necessary first step — enacting legislation that would create a one-time shortened term and make an exception to a 10-year limit on the amount of time any person may serve as director — has been delayed by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-leaning Republican who was elected last year. He is invoking a Senate rule that allows any member to block a swift vote on a bill.

There may be significantly less time to complete the steps necessary to avoid a disruption at the F.B.I. than had been generally understood.

The widespread understanding has been that Mr. Mueller’s term will expire on Sept. 3, because he started work as F.B.I. director on Sept. 4, 2001.

But the administration legal team has decided that Mr. Mueller’s last day is likely to be Aug. 2, because President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001. Coincidentally, Aug. 2 is also the day the government will hit a debt ceiling if Congress does not raise it.

I’ll be curious, though, whether the questions Paul has submitted to be answered before the vote might also lead to a delay, too In addition to questions about:

Circumstances implicating the Iraqis indicted in Bowling Green, KY
Investigative lapses of Zacarias Moussaoui that happened under Mueller’s predecessor
A Resource Guide: Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers calling boycotts “intimidation” (that might be more easily answered if the government would get over its squeamishness about calling Scott Roeder a terrorist)
A Missouri fusion center report suggesting support for Ron Paul (and Bob Barr!) might be a political risk factor for domestic terrorism

Paul also asks for the FBI to describe how many time it used each of the following tools, whether against citizens or non-citizens, and how many convictions resulted:

John Doe roving wiretaps
Section 215 orders (including its use for library records)
National Security Letters
Suspicious Activity Reports

He also asked, with respect to SARs, whether they got minimized after being investigated.

Now, Paul did not ask for this data in the most savvy fashion. For example, he did not specify on his Section 215 request that he wanted details on the secret program that uses cell phone data to collect geolocation. Nor did he ask generalized questions about minimization. Nor did he specify he wanted this data in a form which he could release publicly.

But these questions are, to a significant extent, the kind of disclosures that Democrats and Paul had been pushing to add to the PATRIOT Act.

In the past, DOJ has not exactly been forthcoming with some of this information. Even assuming they’ll answer Paul in classified form (particularly his question about SARs minimization), it’s not clear how quickly they’ll be able to produce some of this information.

All of which adds to the possibility that Paul’s request might hold up Mueller’s re-confirmation past August 2. If that happens–Tom Coburn has suggested–there are a range of surveillance authorizations that might be open to challenge because no confirmed FBI Director had approved them.

Nice to see someone wring some transparency out of this silly reconfirmation process.


18 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Nitpicking the first paragraph: when Mueller’s appointment ends.

    I’d say that his term starts when he’s sworn in, or whatever the FBI director does.

    • bmaz says:

      You would think so, but they must think there is an issue; I wish they would cite their basis a little better. The one thing that stuck out to me is this:

      An aide said the senator only wanted answers to his questions and did not intend to hold up the matter “until the 11th hour.”

  2. marksb says:

    bmaz, ah but answering the questions is far far more than has been done before, and *could* lead to a significant shift in the discussion of civil rights, the constitutionality of some attributes of the War On Terra, as well as introduce some logical questions into libertarian/teabagger agenda.
    First steps and all that.

  3. emptywheel says:


    I’m torn about what Paul’s game is. His posturing during the PATRIOT debate seemed designed to set off a fury over gun rights, not to improve real civil liberties. These questions are a bit more on point, even if he doesn’t really understand what he’s asking about.

  4. marksb says:

    Well let me enter into the game of political realities and say that Paul has to appeal to his base to ensure his success in elections and party leadership, yet he could actually be a civil libertarian in the true sense. Two birds; one stone.
    I don’t know and shouldn’t guess, but what the heck, it could happen.

    • bmaz says:

      I’m in same boat as Marcy and having a hard time getting a bead on Paul; but you are right they are, even if imperfect, great questions and issues. Credit where due on that. But remember, bigger people than Paul have asked some, if not most, of these before including Leahy and Whitehouse. And, yet, here we are still asking the questions and relying on freaking Rand Paul to carry the ball. And Paul himself says, in the end, he will not delay Mueller. And, if McConnell is desirous of being done with the Mueller issue, Paul’s little hold can disappear pretty fast. So, I am not holding my breath for one second here.

  5. PeasantParty says:

    I am DEFINITELY not a fan of either Paul figure, but HUZZAH on the questions!

    Marcy and Bmaz, how do you think this issue will affect the ongoing investigations of the DOJ and now the most recent Murdoch investigation? For some reason I keep thinking the DOJ did that quick little pronouncement act on behalf of Murdoch instead of what it would normally appear. If all these leaders, banksters, and behind the scenes people that are part of the MOTU are falling out of the woodwork, wouldn’t Holder’s announcement actually hold up investigations from outside the US?

  6. thatvisionthing says:

    Couldn’t stand Feinstein so I fired her and made Bernie Sanders my Senator. Then Boxer reupped the Patriot Act and I made Rand Paul my other Senator. My two senators: Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul. I have a left wing, I have a right wing. LOVE this: “A Missouri fusion center report suggesting support for Ron Paul (and Bob Barr!) might be a political risk factor for domestic terrorism” — now if that could only lead to explaining why peace and environmental defense activists are domestic terrorists while BP, Monsanto and the Army Corps of Engineers can’t get indicted.

  7. thatvisionthing says:

    As for Warren, I wish she’d run for President. Seriously. If all the people on the receiving end of Obama and the govt’s support of financial terrorists and gangsters voted — like, isn’t that 99% of us? — voted, I think there would be no contest. Like Michael Moore said, they have 400 votes, we have the rest!

    If they could only put GIFs on billboards — that’s the candidate I want to vote for:


  8. Semanticleo says:

    Marcy; Lots of conspiracy buzz re;Murdoch and potential CIA links. Remember the Labor PM whose removal created the Constitutional crisis of 1975 in Australia?

    Murdoch’s (edict? Exec Order) citizenship granted in 1985 so he could buy MetroMedia?

    How and by whose order was he given the fastrack to citizenship?

  9. michaelfishman says:

    From the article: “There is never enough information when it comes to terrorism,” says Major Steven G. O’Donnell, deputy superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police.
    Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

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