Our Found­ing Fa­thers would be mor­ti­fied: Rand Paul on NSA


U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who is seek­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent, lashed out against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sweep­ing sur­veil­lance pro­grams, stak­ing an ag­gres­sive po­si­tion on an is­sue al­ready di­vid­ing the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial field.

The lib­er­tar­ian-lean­ing Paul, who launched a White House bid ear­lier in the month, noted Wed­nes­day that mem­bers of his own party sup­port pro­grams that al­low the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency to col­lect the phone records of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

“Our Found­ing Fa­thers would be mor­ti­fied,” Paul said dur­ing an awards cer­e­mony hosted by the Con­sti­tu­tion Project, a Wash­ing­ton think tank.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sur­veil­lance pro­grams could play promi­nently in the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary con­test, which is heat­ing up just as Congress de­bates sur­veil­lance pro­grams ini­ti­ated by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­tin­ued un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Paul, of Ken­tucky, is part of a crowded field of po­ten­tial Repub­li­can hope­fuls and one of three who have for­mally de­clared their can­di­dacy. The nom­i­nee will likely face Demo- crat Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton.

In a Tues­day ra­dio in­ter­view, for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is ex­pected to seek the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, praised the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s use of “big meta­data pro­grams” that be­gan un­der Bush’s older brother.

“There has been a con­tin­u­a­tion of a very im­por­tant ser­vice,” Bush said. “The first obli­ga­tion, I think, of our na­tional gov­ern­ment is to keep us safe. And the tech­nolo­gies that now can be ap­plied to make that so, while pro­tect­ing civil lib­er­ties, are there.”

Congress is now de­cid­ing whether to re­new or mod­ify the phone re- cords col­lec­tion when the law au­tho­riz­ing it ex­pires in June. Se­nate Repub­li­cans this week in­tro­duced a bill to al­low the NSA to con­tinue col­lect­ing the call­ing records of nearly ev­ery Amer­i­can, un­veil­ing a mea­sure that would by­pass Se­nate com­mit­tees and reau­tho­rize sec­tions of the USA Pa­triot Act.

In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials say the pro­gram — it col­lects the “to” and “from” in­for­ma­tion of most do­mes­tic land­line phone calls but not their con­tent — is crit­i­cal to de­tect­ing ter­ror­ist plots and have sought to jus­tify it through the on­go­ing de­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing from the For­eign In­tel- ligence Sur­veil­lance Court.

Paul has promised to en­act an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to end such gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance pro­grams on his first day in of­fice should he win the pres­i­dency.

On Wed­nes­day, the first-term se­na­tor took an ap­par­ent jab at Ari­zona Sen. John McCain’s de­fense of the sur­veil­lance.

“One un­apolo­getic se­na­tor who I’ve had a few rounds with said, ‘If you’re not talk­ing to ter­ror­ists, why are you wor­ried?’” Paul said. “Have we fallen so low that that is our stan­dard? If you have noth­ing to hide you have noth­ing to fear? It’s a long way from in­no­cent un­til proven guilty.”

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