The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee accused Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) of forcing the temporary expiration of NSA surveillance powers to boost his run for the White House.
“The need for investigators to collect intelligence on known or suspected terrorists can’t be overstated. Our national security—not to mention the safety of all Americans—is at stake,” Feinstein said in a statement Sunday.
“That’s why it’s so irresponsible for one senator to prevent action to extend and reform three key counterterrorism tools for his own political gain,” she said. “Holding critical national security programs hostage to raise political donations is outrageous, but that’s where we stand today.”
Paul’s campaign sent out a mailer near midnight “after successfully forcing the NSA’s bulk data collection program to expire.”
“While some will use fear and intimidation tactics, I believe there is nothing that prevents our intelligence community from continuing to safely guard our nation, while also respecting our Constitution,” Paul said in the email.
Feinstein said the expiration of the “lone wolf,” roving wirtetap and business records provisions are all a loss for national security.
“At a time when the threat of terrorist attacks at home and abroad is higher than ever, it’s unconscionable that these national security tools can no longer be used, particularly since the reason is to advance the political ambitions of one person,” the senator said.
Some blame was reserved for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), though.
“It’s also unfortunate that legislation to extend these authorities was left to the last minute. The June 1 deadline has been looming for months, and the ability to reauthorize the provisions was put in jeopardy by delay,” Feinstein continued.
The Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), told ABC earlier this month that the programs should continue as “we’ve had absolutely no incident of anybody’s privacy being intruded on.”
“We can’t stay at this alert level 24/7, 365 days a year, but it’s important that we respond to any potential uptick in terrorism. The intent is there,” Burr said. “There are individuals in this country that are under surveillance. But the reality is, there’s no specifics, just like Garland wasn’t specific, but we did know about the individual. We had no reason to suspect exactly what the attack might have been.”