Rand Paul would not abolish the NSA

Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulConservative group presses GOP to vote against spending bill Saudi skeptics gain strength in Congress Senators challenge status quo on Saudi arms sales MORE (R-Ky.), a top critic of the National Security Agency, said Sunday that if he were elected to the Oval Office he would not eliminate the agency but refocus its bulk collection of phone records.

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"No, I would actually keep the NSA. In fact, I would have the NSA target their activities more and more towards our enemies," Paul said in an interview aired on NBC's "Meet the Press."

His answer came in response to a question from host Chuck Todd, who referenced Paul's very "critical" comments on the NSA in his forthcoming book Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America, due out May 26.

On Sunday, Paul pointed to incidents in which authorities came into contact with suspects who were later involved in the 2013 Boston bombing and the recent the Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest shooting in Garland, Texas.

"I want to spend more time on people we have suspicion of and we have probably cause of, and less time on innocent Americans. It distracts us from the job of getting terrorists," Paul said on NBC.

Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has maintained the NSA be abolished, along with other intelligence agencies.

He also brushed past a question on a move from his fellow Kentucky Republican, Sen. Mitch McConnell, to extend by two months a June 1 deadline to reauthorize controversial NSA surveillance powers under the Patriot Act.

"Really it ought to stop. If the president is obeying the law, he should stop it immediately," Paul said of the NSA's bulk collection of phone data, citing a recent ruling from a federal appeals court that found the program illegal.

McConnell is moving forward with a "clean" reauthorization bill to extend expiring parts of the Patriot Act, which the Senate is expected to take up this week before the Memorial Day recess despite opposition from both sides of the aisle.

The Senate majority leader on Sunday brushed off a potential filibuster from Paul and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"Well, you know, everybody threatens to filibuster. We’ll see what happens," McConnell said on ABC's "This Week."

"But this is the security of the country that we’re talking about here. This is no small matter. We see it on display on almost a weekly basis."