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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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June 12th, 2013
06:35 PM ET

Sen. Paul: Civil disobedience from Snowden; lying from Intel

One of the loudest voices in Congress crying foul over leaked details about the National Security Agency's super-secret surveillance programs is Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and he is doing it largely without the backing of fellow Republicans.

Some of Paul's GOP congressional colleagues are calling former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's admitted leak to two newspapers an "act of treason," but Paul doesn’t see things that way.

His problem is with the sweeping nature of the program itself that he expects to be spotlighted in a new court challenge – not necessarily how the initiative came to light.

"Committing civil disobedience is a big step forward, and history has treated people in various fashions," Paul told CNN. "Some people who commit civil disobedience have been treated heroes, some have not."

"It's an interesting parallel to see [how] will we treat the head of intelligence, who lied in open committee?" said Paul. "How will history treat him and how will history treat the person who was trying to defend the Fourth Amendment?"

Paul is referring to a congressional hearing on March 12, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied, “No sir … not wittingly.”

The head of the NSA on Wednesday, Army Gen. Keith Alexander,  told Congress how important the agency's broad surveillance programs have been in stopping terrorist attacks.

He did not go into details broadly before a Senate committee, but suggested that monitoring helped disrupt a 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subway system by Najibullah Zazi.

"The phone numbers on Zazi were the things that then allowed us to use the business records, FISA, to go and find out connections from Zazi to other players throughout the communities, specifically in New York City," Alexander said.

But Paul said there is  “a little bit of a credibility gap” with U.S. intelligence agencies.

“They, frankly, lied to us in open testimony in committee and said they weren't collecting any data, when, in fact, not only were they collecting data, [but] billions of bits of it," he asserted.

Paul suggested Zazi could have been captured through his connections to Abid Naseer, a terrorist suspect who was captured and interrogated several months before Zazi's plot was thwarted.

"I'm not opposed to searching the phone records of people we think are terrorists. You go to a judge. It's not that difficult of a bar. You get phone records from Naseer. If Naseer is calling Zazi, you get Zazi. Then if Zazi is calling other people, you get warrants for those people," said Paul.

"That does not require the phone records of everybody who makes a phone call in this country. That, I think, is a generalized warrant and unconstitutional," said Paul.

The argument from the NSA is that a lot of these calls and relationships happen in the past, and by storing up data as they get it, the agency can then go back and look at it once they know where to look.

"They love these programs so much that sometimes the truth may be stretched," said Paul.

"Even though we're trolling through a billion phone calls a day, we're still having attacks because of poor police work. The Boston Marathon bomber went back to Chechnya. How come we didn't know that? The ‘Underwear Bomber’ that came from Nigeria - his dad reported him and he still got on a plane and came here," said Paul.

"Good old-fashioned police work needs to be a little more thorough," said Paul.

Paul said he is ”very concerned about due process issues” and plans to be part of a legal challenge from privacy groups.

“We're going to bring a challenge in court that says that generalized warrants, that warrants on everybody don't and are not essentially consistent with the Fourth Amendment.  We'll be having a press conference (on Thursday) on Capitol Hill with a lot of these different privacy groups that want to defend your civil liberties,” he said.

Immigration reform is another big issue Paul is involved with, though the current reform bill has not won him over yet. Paul introduced a bill that emphasizes border security over granting citizenship to immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

"I won't let it proceed until the border is secure. I let the bill proceed, but I'm not for passing a bill unless border security is primary and foremost," said Paul.

"I want people to be part of the system.  I also want to treat these people with respect and dignity.  And if you want to work in our country, I think we can find a place for you," said Paul. "But it has to be part of a bill that they make acceptable to people like me, who are conservatives."


Filed under: National Lead
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