Rand Paul weighs Supreme Court challenge to NSA surveillance

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he would examine ways to block the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs before the Supreme Court.

“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” vowed Paul on “Fox News Sunday.”

{mosads}“I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington,” he said.

A report in the Guardian last week revealed that the NSA had sought information on phone numbers, and the location and duration of calls to help identify potential terror threats. A separate program, PRISM, sought information on foreign Internet users from American tech companies. 

The disclosures unleashed a firestorm of criticism at the Obama administration’s record on civil liberties, coming weeks after news that the Justice Department had seized reporter records in leak investigations and after the Internal Revenue Service admitted targeting Tea Party groups.

The administration has defended the programs, with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Saturday saying that Internet companies only provided user data to the National Security Agency after an order from the secret FISA court, and only for information requests tied to a “foreign intelligence purpose.”

Administration officials said Saturday that Congress had been briefed 13 times on efforts to obtain electronic data for national security, as the White House sought to push back against claims from many lawmakers that they were not properly briefed on the measures. 

Paul said he was concerned with the scope of the NSA’s surveillance. 

“They are looking at a billion phone calls a day, is what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy, it sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy,” said Paul.

Paul said such snooping was “partly what our founding fathers fought the revolution over.”

Asked about reports that the programs had helped thwart a terror attack in New York, Paul said he did not oppose surveillance targeted at a particular individual suspected of wrongdoing.

“I have no problem if you have probable cause and you target people who are terrorists and you go after them and the people they are communicating with… but we are talking about trolling through billions of phone records. 

“We aren’t taking about going after a terrorist. I’m all for that,” he said.

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