Beltway Confidential

Rand Paul dismisses proposed NSA restrictions as 'window-dressing'

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to impose some restrictions on the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program, but Sen. Rand Paul regards that bill as "window-dressing."

"I think Feinstein's bill is window-dressing," the Kentucky Republican told the Washington Examiner during a Thursday interview. "They define anything beyond what they decide is content as not spying. So, if you define away the idea of surveillance, then I don't think you've really done anything."

Paul's doubt about how the NSA defines and describes its activities leads him to question the denial the agency issued when accused of spying on Pope Francis when he was an archbishop.

"I think if this were five years ago and you accused the president of spying on the pope, it'd be in the National Enquirer," Paul said to explain why he wants President Obama to say if the NSA is "collecting any data on the pope's phone calls."

"My guess is, they probably did collect data on the pope's phone calls, and they're just saying they're not spying because they didn't actually listen to the conversation," he added.

Feinstein defended her bill, which formally approves the bulk collection of phone records but bans the collection of content, as a necessary measure to prevent terrorist attacks.

“The threats we face — from terrorism, proliferation and cyber attack, among others — are real, and they will continue,” the California Democrat said, per the Washington Times. “Intelligence is necessary to protect our national and economic security, as well as to stop attacks against our friends and allies around the world.”

Paul countered that the bill "probably does nothing, except maybe — probably — encourage more of what we've got going on."

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