Sen. Mike Lee agrees with fellow Sen. Rand Paul on the fundamental premise that "it is wrong for the NSA to collect everyone's phone records," but unlike his Kentucky counterpart, Lee does favor the USA Freedom Act.
"I support the bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 338-88, but Sen. Paul doesn't," the Utah Republican told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" Thursday. "I think he probably would rather see these provisions of the Patriot Act expire all together."
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Lee, said he has introduced, along with Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, legislation that would "fix the problems and would end bulk data collection."
On Wednesday, Paul, a GOP candidate took to the Senate floor Wednesday to deliver a nearly 11-hour protest
against renewing the Patriot Act, which expires at the end of the month. The Kentucky lawmaker says the law, written after the Sept. 11 attacks, is a government intrusion on Americans' privacy.
His speech underscored the deep divisions over the National Security Agency's (NSA's) bulk collection of Americans' phone records, which was revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.
Lee explained that there is a major difference between the USA Freedom Act and the provision in the Patriot Act that allows for the collection of telephone metadata. The proposed new rule says a court order must be used to get phone records, if it is believed a number was used to contact a person involved in terrorism activities, while the Patriot Act provision allows all metadata to be collected for comparison against contacts with potential terrorists.
"They just can't go out and get everyone's number," Lee said of the planned law. "It has to be connected within two steps to a number involved in some type of bad activity.
He said he is not concerned that this type of collection will take too long, as there is technology that can be implemented within six months that enables the NSA to collect the information in real time.
"We have support from this from Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper," said Lee. "We have got support from this from the man who runs the NSA. And we've got support from the White House. We've got support from the ranking Democrat and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. This is the right thing to do and we need to get it passed."
Lee said he expects the new bill to pass on the Senate side, but "the best way of giving it the best possible chance in the Senate is for us to put the bill on the floor and have open debate and discussion, to allow members to offer improvements."
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