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Rand Paul: U.S. Should Spend More Time Monitoring "People Who Speak Arabic"

"What we ought to do is maybe spend more time on people who speak Arabic, people who are looking at public avenues and public access to see who are the ones talking and might want to harm us."

Posted on December 4, 2015, at 5:43 p.m. ET

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said on Friday that the United States government spends "billions of dollars scooping up" Americans' phone records when it should be focusing more of its resources on Arabic speakers.

"We spend billions of dollars scooping up all the phone records of millions of Americans and sending them to Utah, to a multi-billion-dollar science-fiction sort of headquarters there, to house all these records, when in reality what we ought to do is maybe spend more time on people who speak Arabic, people who are looking at public avenues and public access to see who are the ones talking and might want to harm us," Paul told radio host Dave Price.

Paul made the comment in response to a question about how to prevent shootings like the one in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday. Paul's campaign did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News on what Paul specifically meant when he said "people who speak Arabic" and " people who are looking at public avenues and public access."

Paul said in the interview that, "Sometimes, there is no answer" to the question of preventing shootings, but added that, despite being a "great advocate of privacy," he was in favor of "targeted surveillance" and the "individualized search and seizure of records" after obtaining a warrant.

"I would say that targeted surveillance — I'm not against surveillance. I'm not against looking at records," Paul said. "So if you call me up and you say, 'We have evidence that this gentleman is communicating with a guy who we know advocates for violence, and know advocates for killing Americans, and this is a radical Imam and we are watching this guy because we have suspicion,' I'm for that. And if we know that this man is talking to this person in San Bernardino, that's suspicion. Then you go to a judge."

He argued the country also needs "to control our borders," and said his Republican presidential rival Marco Rubio was "the weakest of the weak on defending the border."

"And so the thing is, is you've got people like Marco Rubio, saying, 'Oh, he's strong on national defense,'" Paul said. "Well, he's the weakest of the weak on defending the border. And if you don't defend the border, you really can't defend the country. And so we've had multiple attempts throughout a several year period to convince Marco that you've gotta defend the border if you' re gonna defend the country. And at every turn he's opposed increasing the strength of border security."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.