WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called for congressional hearings on the National Security Agency's data collection on Sunday, while saying that much of the program is unconstitutional and likely can't be improved by oversight.
"You know, I think it would be better with more oversight, but there are some things they are doing that I fundamentally think are unconstitutional," Paul said on "Fox News Sunday." "Our founding fathers, when they wrote the Fourth Amendment, said a single warrant goes toward a specific individual and what you want to look for. ... The constitution doesn't allow for a single warrant to get a billion phone records. ... They basically, I believe, are looking at all of the cell phone calls in America every day."
Paul, who has become one of the most vocal critics of the NSA's surveillance program, also lamented the one-sided nature of the discussion on the issue. He accused the president -- a former constitutional law professor -- of ignorance about the U.S. Constitution.
"You know, I think the president fundamentally missunderstands the constitutional separation of powers," he said. "Because the checks and balances are supposed to come from independent branches of government. So he thinks that if he gets some lawyers together from the NSA and they do a Power Point presentation and tell him everything is okay, that the NSA can police themselves. But one of the fundamental things that our founders put in place was they wanted to separate police power from the judiciary power."
President Barack Obama addressed the NSA's data collection at a news conference on Aug. 9, saying there was no evidence that the agency was abusing its powers.
"What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re -- these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]," he said.
But the following week, the Washington Post revealed that the NSA had "broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents."
The chief judge on the FISC, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, has also admitted that the court's oversight powers are limited.
“The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” Walton said in a statement to the Post. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”
Paul added on Sunday that he would like to see the Supreme Court take up the issue of the NSA's spying program.
"So I think the constitutionality of these programs need to be questioned," Paul said, "and there needs to be a Supreme Court decision looking at whether what they're doing is constitutional or not."
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who also appeared on "Fox News Sunday," defended the NSA.
"I fully disagree with what Sen. Rand Paul said," King stated. "That was just a grab bag of misinformation and distortion. ... And this whole tone of snooping and spying that we use, I think it's horrible. It's really a distortion and a smear and a slander of good, patriotic Americans."