As fights over the temporarily reauthorizing and changing of the Patriot Act loom, one prominent critic did not commit to battling a possible extension ahead of the June 1 deadline.
In an appearance on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Sen. Rand Paul did not indicate whether he would filibuster an extension, instead reiterating his support for the end of bulk data collection.
"Really, it ought to stop," Paul told Chuck Todd. "If the president's obeying the law, he should stop it immediately and we shouldn't be doing this. I don't want to replace it with another system."
Paul, R-Kentucky, has long been a vocal opponent of the law that expanded the government’s surveillance authority in 2001. It has been reauthorized three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2011.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has proposed an extension that would give Congress until July 31 to work out a deal. The expiring provision, Section 215, is the basis for the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. phone records. The proposal comes on the heels of a May 7 federal appeals court decision that ruled that the NSA’s interpretation of the provision is incorrect, and that the program is illegal.
Paul did announce that he would not eliminate the National Security Agency if elected President, arguing the agency’s time could be better spent tracking potential foreign threats.
"I would have the NSA target their activities, more and more, towards our enemies," Paul said. "I think if you're not spending so much time and money collecting the information of innocent Americans, maybe we could've spent more time knowing that one of the Tsarnaev boys, one of the Boston bombers, had gone back to Chechnya."