Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned of a "grand spymaster" and criticized government spying programs during an event in Las Vegas on Friday.
"What if you were a minority by virtue of the color of your skin or the color of your ideology? Will the ends justify the means?” he said. “What if the frightened majority pleads security as they rifle through your mail? What if the grand spymaster uses the least untruthful of his lies to send you to prison but he claims he does it for your own good?”
Some of Paul's criticism was a nod to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who said in June he gave the "least untruthful" answer possible on the National Security Agency's surveillance program when he told Congress in March that the agency does not collect data on millions of Americans.
“The surveillance state quietly avoids the fact that their leader lied to Congress, a felony punishable by up to five years,” Paul said. “Not a peep about any prosecution from the one who lied, only vim and vigor for the blood of the leaker.”
After reports of the National Security Agency's collection of Verizon phone records broke, Paul issued a statement saying the NSA's order to scoop up phone call records was an "astounding assault on the Constitution." He also said he is weighing a Supreme Court challenge to the surveillance programs, calling them an "extraordinary invasion of privacy."
But Paul's criticism of the National Security Agency could hurt him later on. The AP reported earlier:
Of the handful of tea party-backed Republicans eyeing a 2016 presidential bid, Sen. Rand Paul is emerging as the most forceful in pushing libertarian principles, especially on anti-terrorism issues.
Rather than playing it politically safe, the Kentucky freshman is attacking government surveillance programs that many other Republicans – and many American voters in general – defend.
It could hurt him if GOP activists, who dominate primary elections, decide Paul over-emphasizes privacy at the expense of secret data-collection programs, which the administration says are essential to detecting potential terrorists.
The strategy suggests Paul hopes to inherit his father's libertarian loyalists even if it might complicate efforts to reach a much wider electorate, capable of nominating him – and electing him – to the White House.