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Rand Paul says Obama ‘could unilaterally stop’ NSA phone data collection ‘if he were serious about it’

On an interview with Fox & Friends today, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) spoke about the White House's legislative proposal to end the National Security Agency's controversial collection of phone metadata. "The interesting thing is he unilaterally instituted this program without congressional authority, Paul said on the Fox News morning show. "Now he’s saying he has to wait for congressional authority to undo it. I think he could unilaterally stop the program if he were serious about it."


Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in front of U.S. District Court on Feb. 12 to announce the filing of a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and FBI Director James Comey. Paul said he filed the suit to stop NSA surveillance of U.S. phone records because Obama has "publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th amendment." (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The bulk phone data collection was authorized by President George W. Bush in 2001, and has continued during the Obama administration. Because of the Edward Snowden leaks about NSA activities, the program has received much criticism and inspired much debate in the past year. President Obama's legislative proposal to deeply curtail the data collection would make phone data available to government officials only with a court order. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has been in charge of the phone data collection, would need to approve each case as having a legitimate connection to terrorism.

Sen. Paul has long been an opponent of the NSA's collection of Americans' phone data, given his focus on civil liberties and privacy. Earlier this year, he and Freedomworks filed a class-action suit against the Obama administration for its metadata collection program. In today's interview, he said, “I don’t want to take all the credit for ending this. But I think our lawsuit had something to do with bringing the president to the table, some of it depends on what actually happens."

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.

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