OTR Interviews

Rand Paul: Pres. Obama's losing the 'moral authority' to lead the nation, we need a new Director of National Intelligence

Kentucky senator sounds off on his differences with fellow Republicans on the NSA surveillance program and leaker Edward Snowden and NSA chief's explanations at the House hearing


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 18, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Rand Paul leading the charge against the government's sweeping surveillance programs. Senator Paul calling it snooping and an all-out assault on the constitution. Griff Jenkins asked NSA Director General Keith Alexander about the criticism.


GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: What do you say to your critics, like Senator Rand Paul and others, that say that what you're doing violates the constitution and is an overreach of the government?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY DIRECTOR: I would tell you that everybody has a difference of opinion, but I just tell you that the courts, the administration, and Congress all agree with what we said.


VAN SUSTEREN: Is the general's answer good enough? Senator Rand Paul joins us. Nice to see you, senator.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY: Good to see you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: So are you satisfied with the response by the general?

PAUL: Well, I think your questioning gets to the crux of the problem. Is the court order constitutional? Is it constitutional for the court to take records without the permission of the individual or without a judge's warrant targeted toward an individual? My reading of the Fourth Amendment is our person and our things are ours and only a judicial warrant on probable cause can take them.

Now, some of the courts for years have said if you give your records to a bank or a phone company they're no longer yours. I disagree with those decisions, and I think they need to be revisited, particularly in this digital age.

So, technically, yes, they did get a court order. Technically, yes, some people in Congress approved of this, but it really was widespread. And they also lied to Congress and said they weren't taking lots of millions of bits of Americans information. It turns out they were taking billions of phone call records on a daily basis. So them lying to us has really developed a credibility gap on our part.

VAN SUSTEREN: Before we get to the credibility gap, I'm curious, are you saying that the Supreme Court can be wrong on the Constitution? Or are they the last word and we have to accept it as gospel?

PAUL: Well, you know, I think most of us believe Dred Scot was wrongly decided. I think most of us believe Plessey versus Ferguson was wrongly decided. So I think, yes, we do overturn things after a while when you get a different court, a different understand maybe of the Constitution, and also maybe a difference in the technology of how much information is stored by third party users.

I have always felt that the records that you have when they're being held by a third party are still your records, still your papers, and they deserve the Fourth Amendment protection.

VAN SUSTEREN: You mentioned the line to Congress. I assume what you meant specifically, correct me if I'm wrong is DNI James Clapper's response to Senator Wyden's questions in March. So should he resign? If he doesn't resign, should the president fire him? If the president doesn't fire him, what's the statement to us?

PAUL: Well, the thing is, the president's really hurting in a big way right now. I think he's losing the moral authority to lead the nation, because we had the IRS scandal, then he targeted Fox reporters and AP reporters, the Benghazi investigation, no one was fired. And now we have this snooping where his director of national intelligence looks at the Senate and says I'm not keeping or collecting any Americans' information, and it turns out it was a bold face lie. I don't know how he can regain his credibility when he lied outright to Congress, and it's frankly against the law.

So, no, I think we need a new director of national intelligence, and I think the longer we keep him on board, the longer the president keeps him on board, the more it's going to sap the president's moral authority.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, two points. One is that you have been quoted as calling Edward Snowden similar to a civil disobedient and even akin to Martin Luther King. And the second thing is Vice President Dick Cheney has come out in disagreement with you about this whole surveillance. How do you respond to both of those?

PAUL: You know, I think when you see there have been polls as late as this week, asking the American people what they think, and the vast majority of the people agree with me, the NSA's gone too far, the president's gone too far, and that we do have a right to privacy. Even if you polled just Republicans, well over 60 percent agree with me the government has gone too far in looking at all of our phone records.

As far as weather Edward Snowden is a hero or whether he's a scoundrel, history's going to decide that. But I think he's risked his future and his career over something that is a belief, a belief that our records are protected and we do have a right to privacy. So you can see how many might judge that as being noble, to risk anything you have for something you believe in.

You think of Henry David Thoreau who wouldn't pay one dollar, not because the dollar was too much but because he didn't believe in the fugitive slave law. So yes, I think there are ways to look at what he did, and say, yes, this is a noble thing he tried to do. I think you can also say, well, gosh, if he revealed secrets that got somebody hurt, that would be bad.

And the way I like to divide this issue, if he had released the computer code that showed how we tracked people who would attack us, that I think would be a betrayal of the country. But he simply released information about a program that had been reported by The New York Times that we came back to Congress on and Congress did vote. I didn't approve of it, but the majority of Congress did vote to allow this authority to occur. So I'm not sure you could say it was exactly a secret. The ACLU had it on their website that we were going through billions of phone calls before this happened. So I don't think he endangered anyone, and I think he was trying to do what he felt was right and consistent with the constitution.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the vice president disagreeing with you?

PAUL: It wouldn't be the first time he made a mistake.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, "The New Republic" had you on the cover, had you crossing your fingers, and then you've come back in your Facebook page and given a smack-down back at "The New Republic." What's going on between you and "The New Republic"?


PAUL: We actually just thought it was kind of funny. And, you know, they wanted to insult me, obviously, but we thought it was kind of funny. So we're doing a poll to ask how we should respond. And why did I have my fingers crossed? Was it because I was saying I love "The New Republic" and that was maybe not the truth? Or did I trust the president and maybe that wasn't the truth? So our people are having a lot of fun with coming up with reasons why my fingers might have been crossed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does it ever get under your skin getting jabbed? Everybody gets jabbed a little bit. We in the media get jabbed.

PAUL: Most of the time I take it well. I think if it's a personal attack on my character. If someone wants to accuse me of judging people not according to their qualities and say I would judge people in any other way, that's very hurtful. If they want to come after my family, that's hurtful. But if people want to make fun of me or do anything according to issues or say they oppose me, I think I have pretty thick skin.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you. Always nice to see you, sir.

PAUL: Thanks, Greta.