Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is declaring victory.
Late Sunday the National Security Agency (NSA) shut down its bulk data collection program as the PATRIOT Act expired thanks to Paul’s efforts. He tells Breitbart News exclusively that “we’re excited by the fact that the battle has been won.”
“The president has been told in no uncertain terms—and by the end of the week this will be in writing—that he can no longer illegally collect all of Americans’ phone records and keep them in Utah,” Paul said.
I think this is a big rebuke for the president. The courts told him it was illegal and he just kept doing it anyway. I think most Americans, particularly Republicans, don’t trust this president. This is the same president who went after Tea Party groups and went after religious liberty and religious groups. I don’t understand why some of the big government Republicans up here don’t get it because most Republicans I meet across the country don’t want this president to have access to all their phone records.
Paul criticized—without naming names—GOP senators including Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republicans like Jeb Bush for failing to listen to voters about their concerns with the NSA program.
“I think they get in a Washington echo chamber for so long and don’t get outside the beltway enough to listen to people in America,” Paul said of the Republicans who blindly support the program.
I’ve been all over the United States in the last year, particularly in the last week or so when we’ve been talking just about the PATRIOT Act, and we get hundreds of people showing up at every stop who are all saying you know what, they don’t want President Obama to be collecting their phone records. So I find that not only is it the right position, it’s also a very popular position among Republicans—just not in the Washington establishment Republicans. But when you’re out there meeting with grassroots Republicans, the grassroots by and large think that President Obama went way too far with this illegal collection of our phone records.
Despite a Washington Post article that suggested he’s slipping in Iowa because of this stance against the NSA’s program, Paul points to several recent polls that show he’s in the top tier of GOP candidates—and one of the best Republicans when it comes to facing off directly with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, polls from battleground states ranging from Iowa to Colorado to Pennsylvania to New Hampshire have Paul beating Clinton if the election were held right now.
What’s more, several GOP primary polls put Paul in the top tier of GOP candidates. In fact, the newest Des Moines Register-Bloomberg Politics poll puts Paul tied with Dr. Ben Carson for second place in Iowa at 10 percent apiece. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the far-and-away frontrunner, however, reaching 17 percent.
“I think even more importantly is when you poll me against Hillary Clinton, I’m one of the few Republicans who beats her in purple states,” Paul said.
We’ve had statewide polls showing me beating her in Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire. Really, elections are about winning the purple states—the battleground states—so the polls show I’m consistently in the top tier in the Republican primary but even more importantly they show us having the ability to beat Hillary Clinton in the battleground states. I think that’s precisely because of my defense of the right to privacy and to be left alone. So I will continue that—I think this is something that’s an important battle, so we’re going to continue the fight.
In Paul’s interview with Breitbart News on Monday, he largely credited Matt Drudge—the proprietor of the wildly successful Drudge Report—for helping lead the fight to stop the NSA.
“I think one of the things about Matt Drudge that’s probably made him so successful is that he doesn’t live in Washington and he’s not part of the Washington establishment,” Paul said of Drudge. “I think that if anybody is tapped into the grassroots of people who believe in limited government, it’s Matt Drudge. We’re excited that he Tweets out and is supportive of our fight to keep the government from collecting all of our phone records.”
Drudge himself has been very vocal on the matter, Tweeting out his disdain for the NSA’s data collection program many times and also highlighting stories and efforts critical of the program on his website.
Paul added he thinks that his effort to take down the NSA’s data collection program is proof positive that one person can make a difference in this world—even when they’re going up against the entire federal government.
“The thing is is that as we discuss this program, one of the important things for people to know is I want to collect more records—from terrorists—I just want to collect less records from innocent Americans,” Paul said.
The Constitution doesn’t prevent us from getting the records of terrorists. In fact, a judicial warrant with an individual’s name on it allows them to collect an enormous amount of information. The FBI said last week they don’t have enough FBI agents. I’d like to hire a thousand new FBI agents with the money we’d save from ending the collection of Americans’ records.
Let’s spend that time actually collecting records and investigating people who are here and are inclined to attack us. The main objective I have is to the generalized collection—the collection of records when you don’t put someone’s name on the list. If you put the name of a suspect—and it doesn’t even have to be enough to convict, you just have to have enough information to make a judge believe there’s probable cause that a crime may have been committed—it’s really not that high of a standard.
It’s a standard that is almost always affirmed by the judges. I would like people to know that I’m not just defending privacy, but I’m also a believer that the Constitutional warrant can get more information than the bulk collection system can.