The Washington Times - June 6, 2013, 11:35AM

Sen. Rand Paul said that it is “an astounding assault on the Constitution” for the National Security Agency to secretly collect telephone records from millions of Verizon customers.

The Kentucky Republican and likely 2016 presidential candidate suggested that the NSA’s data collection of Verizon customers, detailed in a report Thursday in The Guardian, a British newspaper, violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

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“The Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from evil, too, particularly that which always correlates with concentrated government power, and particularly executive power,” Mr. Paul said. “If the president and Congress would obey the Fourth Amendment we all swore to uphold, this new shocking revelation that the government is now spying on citizens’ phone data en masse would never have happened.”

The Guardian reported that the FBI was granted a highly classified court order that requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.The Obama administration and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, have defended the NSA.

A senior White House official said that this kind of information gathering has been “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”