Sen. Rand Paul believes he is in part responsible for President Obama’s reported decision to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collect of domestic phone data.
“I don’t want to take all the credit for ending this, but I think our lawsuit had something to do with bringing the president to the table,” Paul said Tuesday during an appearance on Fox News’s Fox and Friends.
In February, the Kentucky Republican sued the administration with a class-action claim he said was on behalf of “hundreds of millions” of Americans. The likely 2016 presidential hopeful and darling of the tea-party movement has made no secret of his intention to campaign on a platform of strong opposition to government spying.
Paul said he was encouraged by a Monday report in The New York Times that Obama will push for legislation to leave call data in the hands of private companies instead of being held by the government, which is the current standard. He said, however, that Obama may be dragging his feet by seeking approval from Congress for the changes.
“The interesting thing is, he unilaterally instituted this program without congressional authority,” Paul said. “Now he’s saying he has to wait for congressional authority to undo it. He could stop it if he were serious.”
The program — commonly known as the 215 program because it derives legal authority from Section 215 of the Patriot Act — was one of a number of initiatives unilaterally implemented by President Bush shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Obama inherited the 215 program and other elements of the government-surveillance apparatus when he took office.
Reps. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger, the panel’s top Democrat, will unveil their End Bulk Collection Act on Tuesday morning.
Paul has long been one of the most vocal critics of government surveillance, and he used his class-action suit to accrue hundreds of thousands of signatures through his website that may double as a supporter database for future political campaigns.
During his spot on Fox News, Paul also criticized the CIA over recent allegations that it illegally searched the computers of a Senate committee investigating the agency’s Bush-era interrogation practices.
“I really think that there needs to be an overall investigation of the intelligence community,” Paul said. “I favor a select committee like they had in the 1970s, the Church Committee, to look into all of these. there is a certain amount of arrogance that needs to be checked.”