Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCotton swipes at Fauci: 'These bureaucrats think that they are the science' Paul, Cruz fire back after Fauci says criticism of him is 'dangerous' No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline MORE is inching away from comments where he accused his colleagues of secretly wanting a terrorist attack on the United States in order to undercut his efforts to dismantle a government surveillance program.
"Sometimes, in the heat of battle, hyperbole can get the better of anyone, and that may be the problem there," the Kentucky Republican said Monday on Fox News's "America's Newsroom."
"The point I was trying to make is, I think people do use fear to try to get us to give up our liberty."
The presidential candidate made the controversial comments about terrorist attacks during an unusual Sunday night Senate session aimed at reauthorizing three expiring measures of the Patriot Act. Paul successfully blocked those efforts, forcing the expiration of the NSA’s metadata program at midnight.
"People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake," Paul said Sunday.
"Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me."
During Monday's interview, Paul declared victory for briefly forcing the expiration of the surveillance program, even though the Senate is expected to renew it in the coming days.
"From here on out, beginning this week, the government will not collect your phone records in bulk, so I think that’s a huge victory," he said.
Paul portrayed his opposition to the NSA bill as a win in the GOP’s fight against President Obama, whom he blamed repeatedly for carrying out the warrantless surveillance of innocent Americans.
"This is a big rebuke to the president; the president has been committing an illegal program. The court told him to stop, and now Congress is going to tell this president this much," he said. "This is a big victory for the American public."
The NSA bases its authorization for the program on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was passed in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. The collection started under President George W. Bush and continued under Obama. The president could end the program with an executive order, but he has supported congressional efforts to change the program to find a balance between privacy and security.
A federal circuit court ruled last month that Section 215 doesn't actually authorize the collection program, but it didn't touch on whether the surveillance program was constitutional. The administration is expected to appeal that ruling.
Paul lamented the government spending "billions of dollars collecting the records of innocent Americans" and said the FBI should hire a thousand new agents with that money to help track those the government has confirmed suspicions against.
He also struck back against those, including Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News Trump's attacks on McConnell seen as prelude to 2024 White House bid MORE (R-Ariz.), who have suggested Paul is grandstanding in order to gain notoriety for his presidential campaign.
"Nobody really questions my sincerity with my support and the defense of the Fourth Amendment and the Bill of Rights, and those that do are just simply trying to make the debate into a tawdry debate," he said.
"I think sometimes we get caught up in this Washington atmosphere, but the truth of the matter is that the American people think the government shouldn't be collecting their records indiscriminately."