US intelligence community is 'drunk with power': Sudden GOP rock star Rand Paul wows college students at ultra-liberal UC Berkeley with an eye toward 2016

  • Kentucky senator blasted the CIA, NSA and Senate Intelligence Committee for working overtime to hide snooping programs from US taxpayers
  • NSA leaders are 'only sorry they got caught' when Edward Snowden leaked details of their surveillance programs, Paul said
  • Speech was on the campus of the liberal bastion UC Berkeley, the latest in a string of outreach appearances calculated to broaden his appeal
  • Asked if he's burnishing hie image in preparation for a White House run in 2016, he said only: 'Maybe'

Republican Senator Rand Paul walked into enemy territory Wednesday night – the often-dubbed 'People's Republic' of Berkeley, California – and castigated America's spying apparatus before an unlikely constituency of well-wishers: college students from one of the most liberal universities in the U.S.

About 400 crowded into a UC Berkeley auditorium to hear the Kentucky civil libertarian rail against a National Security Agency that shows 'sheer arrogance,' and whose leaders are 'only sorry they got caught' when leaker Edward Snowden spilled his guts.

'No one on the [Senate] Intelligence Committee was even contrite,' Paul recalled, jabbing also at his colleagues. 'Their only regret was that the program was no longer secret.'

'Your rights, especially your right to privacy, are under assault,' he told the audience, in between stretches of sustained applause.

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'If you own a cell phone, you¿re under surveillance,' U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told a capacity crowd at the Berkeley Forum on Wednesday

'If you own a cell phone, you¿re under surveillance,' U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told a capacity crowd at the Berkeley Forum on Wednesday

Will he or won't he? Paul says 'maybe' he'll run for president, but spent his time lecturing about the importance of siding with privacy over domestic government surveillance

Will he or won't he? Paul says 'maybe' he'll run for president, but spent his time lecturing about the importance of siding with privacy over domestic government surveillance

Referring to published claims that the Central Intelligence Agency spied on California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staffers, Paul said: 'I think I perceive fear of an intelligence community that’s drunk with power, unrepentant and uninclined to relinquish power.'

And appealing to college students' unalienable right to mobile phone calls and text messages, he laid a major applause line on the table during the 40-minute event.

 

'I am here to tell you that if you own a cell phone, you’re under surveillance,' he declared. 'I believe what you do on your cellphone is none of their damned business.'

Paul slammed both the CIA and the NSA, saying they had concluded 'equal protection means Americans should be spied upon equally.'

Asked by the event's moderator whether his outreach was part of a play for the presidency in 2016, the strategically coy senator uttered only one word.

'Maybe.'

'Part of it might be that,' he admitted. 'Part of it might be that. Part of it might be that the Republican Party – I’ve said they either have to evolve, adapt or die.' 

Paul is believed to be laying he groundwork for a White House run, attracting new constituencies with a shrewd personal-privacy message that crosses party lines

Paul is believed to be laying he groundwork for a White House run, attracting new constituencies with a shrewd personal-privacy message that crosses party lines

Ron Paul (R), the senator's father and a former Texas congressman, attracted legions of 'Paulite' fans on the 2012 presidential campaign trail; Rand may be able to mobilize a similar sleeping-giant groundswell of support

Ron Paul (R), the senator's father and a former Texas congressman, attracted legions of 'Paulite' fans on the 2012 presidential campaign trail; Rand may be able to mobilize a similar sleeping-giant groundswell of support

Paul compared his own GOP to the Domino's chain, which admitted in its 2010 'pizza turnaround' ad push that it had been selling mediocre crust.

'I think the Republican Party finally admitted it: "OK, bad crust, we need a different kind of party."' he quipped.

Since the beginning of 2013 Paul has tried to extend his appeal from the GOP's libertarian wing to what he calls 'liberty-minded' Americans of all political stripes. That includes students at the university once known for hosting anti-establishment protests, not Republicans.

Last month he won the straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, and this month he topped the tally at the more moderate Northeast Republican Leadership Council.

In April 2013 he strode into a lecture hall at Howard University, the historically black college in Washington, D.C., and outlined a case for why young African-Americans shouldn't reflexively vote for liberals – despite being disproportionate beneficiaries of government entitlement programs endorsed by the Democratic Party.

He made a similar pitch in February at Simmons College in his home state.

Days later the interim president of the NAACP said during a C-SPAN interview that she would like Paul to speak with her group about his plan for rescuing the financially devastated city of Detroit.

'Berzerkeley': The campus where Sen. Paul spoke on Wednesday is known for its flavor of outspoken liberalism, but he drew consistent applause and a standing ovation from hundreds there

'Berzerkeley': The campus where Sen. Paul spoke on Wednesday is known for its flavor of outspoken liberalism, but he drew consistent applause and a standing ovation from hundreds there

Kumbayah, 164 edition: Joan Baez sang to hundreds of Berkeley students 50 years ago during a rally inspired by the radical group Students for a Democratic Society

Kumbayah, 164 edition: Joan Baez sang to hundreds of Berkeley students 50 years ago during a rally inspired by the radical group Students for a Democratic Society

He has outlined a program of 'economic freedom zones' where bankrupted and economically depressed cities could operate under dramatically lowered tax rates and broadly loosened government regulation, in order to revitalize commerce and stop mass-stampedes to the suburbs.

But Paul's chief message was that 'no one – no one should be allowed to invade your privacy.'

He announced that he would push for a new and independent congressional committee including members from both parties, with 'full power to investigate and reform those who spy on us in the name of protecting us.'

'It should watch the watchers.'

He took one slap at President Barack Obama, calling it 'ironic that the first African-American president has, without compunction, allowed this vast exercise of raw power by the NSA.'

'Certainly [former FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover's illegal spying on Martin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement should give us all pause.'

The comments below have not been moderated.

He is part of the US political establishment - he will do nothing to stop the spying.

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Usually when someone says wingnut it means that they don't have a good comeback.

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It's a shame that 99.9 percent of politicians give the rest a bad name..

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He is the best candidate to run against Hillary.

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The tea party supporters are going to support him regardless, but it seems he is trying to market himself better lately to independents. If you are not interested in supporting the tea party but think some of what he says makes sense, do yourself a favor and research some of his positions/actions over the past few years a bit. Although not quite on the same level as Michelle Bachmann, this guy is...a bit far right to put it lightly. He is certainly NOTHING like his father when it comes to his political positions, although it seems he's trying to convince those who supported Ron Paul that he is.

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The Patriot Act signed by Bush is what enabled the NSA and Obama supports it, but it is so much more convenient for a Tbagger to ignore this and blame Obama exclusively.

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Plenty of down votes without an intelligent reply is nothing more than a bunch of political losers peeing into the wind. Feel my breeze, yo!

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Really DM. Not letting my comment through. Pathetic. Tried twice now.

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By not having a Right to healthcare, is the same as not having a right to LIFE. And this my friends is Unconstitutional.

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Healthcare is not a privilege.

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Except for that pesky Supreme Court, whose job it is to decide what is and what isn't constitutional, disagrees with you oposssum.

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Buffoon...Aqua Buddha

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Put a Libertarian in charge and you deserve everything you will get as a result, America.

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2 of 4 repliesSee all replies

"Put a Libertarian in charge and you deserve everything you will get as a result, America." Yeah, liberty, freedom and self-determination are scary things.

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Really, you think so? We gave a poodle in the White House trying to turn us into European nanny state. We don't want that. From what I have read from your fellow countrymen your system is not working well. Perhaps you need to change. By the way have you ever had a Libertarian in charge?

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He can't do any worse than what we have now.

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Anybody would be better than Obama. The worst President in the history of the United States.

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Obama Got bin laden- something Bush admitted he couldnt do. Obama got us out of Iraq- something Bush admitted he wouldnt do.

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