Another Paul adviser, who asked not to be identified, argued as Stafford did – that the senator will “win converts” to his side for being consistent on the issue, and that such a position will play well in, say, an early state like New Hampshire.

But among many neoconservatives, Paul’s legislation was met with disgust.

“It’s obvious that this is a seriously complicated issue with very real implications for U.S. national security,” Michael Goldfarb, a former Weekly Standard deputy editor, said in an interview.

“And it’s fundamentally unserious to come out 24 hours, not even, after this is revealed publicly and offer your legislative fix that is totally overbroad and completely shuts down the government’s ability to mine data in this manner,” said Goldfarb, who worked on McCain’s 2008 campaign.

“Is it possible that the government overreached here? Sure,” he said, adding the program could be due for “tweaks.” “[But] is Rand Paul doing anything but trying to exploit this and demagogue it? It may put people in a tough spot … it may be clever politics in the moment, but is it good policy?”