To no one’s surprise, the admiration is mutual. That was easy to predict. Harder to predict is how Paul fils will react.

Crunch time for Rand. Should Snowden be prosecuted or not?

Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul today again condemned reports that the Obama Administration is secretly collecting data from the phone and internet records of millions of Americans and called for more transparency in government:

“The Fourth Amendment is clear; we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, and all warrants must have probable cause. Today the government operates largely in secret, while seeking to know everything about our private lives – without probable cause and without a warrant.

“The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing.

“We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk. They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”

I assume that means Ron Paul thinks Snowden shouldn’t be prosecuted, although he doesn’t say explicitly. A man like Rand with semi-serious presidential aspirations doesn’t have the luxury of sharing that opinion. His entire 2016 strategy thus far has been based on triangulating between hardcore libertarians, who no doubt would be happy to see Snowden skate, and more hawkish mainstream conservatives who don’t know if they can trust a Paul as commander-in-chief. E.g., he’ll launch a 13-hour filibuster in support of civil liberties vis-a-vis drones, but when you read the fine print you see he’s only objecting to drone use against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. That makes libertarians happy because he’s vindicating the position that America isn’t a battlefield and hawks happy because he supports drone use overseas and managed to humiliate The One as a civil-libertarian fraud on the Senate floor. His vote against, and then for, Chuck “no Iran sanctions” Hagel as SecDef is another example. He supported the filibuster against Hagel’s confirmation vote, angering libertarians, and then appeased them by voting to confirm Hagel when the filibuster fell apart. He’ll go on doing that for the next three years, simply because his path to victory requires him to hold most of his dad’s supporters while taking a chunk of mainstream conservatives from the Rubios and Jindals in the field. If he comes out for total amnesty for Snowden, he’ll lose some of the latter who want Snowden prosecuted or tried for treason. And even among some mainstream righties who refuse to quit on him, he’ll plant the seed of doubt in their minds that he’s more like his old man than he’s letting on and therefore too risky to vote for in a primary.

So how does he play the very tricky Snowden case? Well, he’s already stroked libertarians by saying he’ll file suit to try to stop PRISM. My hunch is that, with respect to prosecution, he’ll argue that what Snowden’s engaged in is a form of civil disobedience and therefore he has to be prepared to accept the legal consequences of his actions. He’ll also emphasize that, while we need more transparency for secret government data-mining, that decision can’t be left to leakers; it’s simply too dangerous to let individual government employees who don’t have the complete picture of national security and don’t know for sure who they’re putting at risk to determine unilaterally what information should be released. What we need is a Congress that’s more assertive about disclosure and civil liberties, not rogue NSA analysts spilling state secrets to Glenn Greenwald. So yes, he’ll say, Snowden should and must be prosecuted, even though the leak spillage kicked off a debate that’s overdue. We’ll see how I do with that prediction; Rand does enough media hits that we should have his views on this within the next 24 hours, I’d guess.