Megyn Kelly takes down Rand Paul on the Patriot Act

John has flagged Rand Paul’s ISIS whopper — the claim that Republicans are to blame for the rise of ISIS. When Republicans controlled the White House, ISIS was, as John says, little more than a dream in the minds of a few fanatics. The dream was realized not because of Republicans, but mostly because President Obama reversed President Bush’s policies and prematurely withdrew American forces from Iraq.

But Rand Paul’s struggles with the truth aren’t confined to ISIS. During the debate over renewing the Patriot Act, Paul has wildly exaggerated the extent of the intrusion of privacy that occurs under the Act.

A few days ago, Megyn Kelly called the Senator on this. She told Paul:

Your critics accuse you of overstating the case. For example, one of the things that you’ve said is that the NSA is spying on all your phone calls. And that’s not true, and it doesn’t have cell phone data in almost any case.

Paul responded:

That’s actually not what I’ve said. I’ve been saying the NSA is collecting all of your phone records, and by connecting the dots of your phone records, they can determine your religion 85 percent of the time, who your physician is most of the time, what medicines you have. They can even tell when you go to the doctor, by interference, maybe what kind of procedures you’re having at your doctor’s office.

To this nonsense, Kelly replied:

How? The Wall Street Journal had a report that said the NSA is collecting records of at most 20 percent of U.S. calls. And in general, they do not look at cell phone records.

In other words, Paul’s claim that the NSA is collecting all of our phone records is bull. As for “connecting the dots,” Kelly added:

This program, this is what the critics outline– you get no names, no addresses, no personal identifying information, that the NSA doesn’t know you exist. They just have phone numbers and only look further if the terrorist calls the number.

Instead of defending his statements of alleged fact, Paul invoked the Constitution:

The Founding Fathers didn’t like the idea of general warrants: warrants that didn’t have specific names on them, that were not individualized, that didn’t have any suggestion of suspicion, and that weren’t signed by an independent judge. That’s what the Fourth Amendment is about.

Paul’s constitutional analysis is shaky, as Andy McCarthy argues. But the point I want to stress is that Paul had to back away from his claims about the nature of what NSA is doing under the Patriot Act because these claims are false.

Nearly all major politicians at times exaggerate and/or misstate things. But the Patriot Act is a bulwark against terrorist attacks on our homeland. Thus, it is hugely irresponsible to attempt conjure up claims about invasions of privacy that aren’t occurring in order to scare Americans into supporting restrictions on the government’s ability to collect information on terrorists.

Concern over privacy in the context of the Patriot Act has become Paul’s signature issue, particularly since he is now reluctant to show his full isolationist colors. The issue is worthy of legitimate debate.

But the debate isn’t legitimate when the main debater willfully disregards the facts. Rand Paul’s irresponsibility in the realm of national security should disqualify him for consideration for the presidency.

Below is Kelly’s interview of Sen. Paul.