Paul on NSA data: 'It is not about who holds it'

 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Friday he might be more concerned if a private entity controlled the vast database of phone records currently maintained by the National Security Agency.

Immediately following President Obama's address to the Justice Department, in which he announced a series of NSA reforms, Paul questioned who would be tasked with holding the records.

He jokingly asked if the government would get Edward Snowden’s former contractor for the job. He reiterated it is not about who holds the data. He takes issue with its collection in the first place. 

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“I’m not sure if I am more or less concerned with having a private entity,” he said on CNN after Obama’s speech. “Who are we going to hire, [Edward] Snowden’s contractor to hold all the information? I don’t want them collecting the information. It is not about who holds it.”

Snowden’s leak of information while working for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton led to revelations about the program and the ensuing debate.

The Kentucky senator is one of the most vocal critics of the NSA program and has launched a lawsuit against the bulk collection program.  

In one of his largest recommendations, Obama argued for the NSA to give up control of its database that holds millions of Americans' phone metadata — which includes call times, lengths and durations. However, he did not outline a specific proposal on where to store the information, either with telephone companies or a third party. 

Paul applauded Obama’s rhetoric but said the reforms were just window dressing, and the issue would eventually have to be decided by the Supreme Court.  

“Well, I think what I heard was, if you like your privacy you can keep it, but in the meantime, we are going to keep collecting your phone records, texts messages and likely your credit card information,” he said. 

About Obama’s proposal to appoint a public advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, Paul said “it’s better” and noted he has sponsored legislation to make the change as well. 

But he questioned whether there could be a real adversarial process if the government appoints the advocate. 

“I don’t think it works necessarily if they are appointed by the government,” he said. “To truly have an adversarial process, they have to be hired by someone who thinks they are being injured by the government.” 

Paul touted his own proposal to reform that court, which would allow people to challenge FISA court orders at appellate courts.

There is no doubt this debate would not be happening without the disclosures by Snowden, Paul maintained. But Snowden’s prosecution is another question entirely.