NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) fired up a supportive crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday with a staunch defense of civil liberties.
Speaking on his hallmark issues, such as the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance tactics and targeted killings of Americans overseas, Paul argued that President Barack Obama was "shredding the Constitution."
"As our voices rise in protest, the NSA monitors your every phone call. If you have a cell phone, you are under surveillance," Paul said. "I believe what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business!"
The standing room-only crowd seemed to hang on to every word. When Paul raised what he called the "profound constitutional question" of whether a single warrant could be applied to millions of Americans' phone records, the audience screamed, "No!"
When Paul asked how history would remember Obama -- under whom the NSA's spying methods have turned into an international controversy -- the crowd laughed.
"I don't question President Obama's motives, but history will record his timid defense of liberty," Paul said.
Although the speech did not deviate in any way from the issues Paul typically spends his time on, the crowd's response signaled the growing importance of civil liberties among conservatives -- particularly the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.
There were numerous instances when the audience erupted into cheers or thunderous applause. At times, people rose from their seats to applaud Paul -- particularly when he mentioned his 13-hour talking filibuster against CIA director John Brennan over the Obama administration's drone policy.
"He shamefully signed it while promising not to use such a power," Paul said of Obama's targeted killings of American terrorists overseas. "A great president though would have risen to the occasion … a great president would have taken pen in hand and vetoed this abomination."
"A great president would have protected us from the prying eyes of the NSA," he continued. "A great president would have said, I will not abide it. The Constitution will not abide."
While many of his colleagues at CPAC focused on Obamacare and the national debt, Paul's broader message was that the Fourth Amendment is more at risk now than ever before. What good would it be to strengthen the economy and create jobs, he argued, if Americans lacked their basic freedoms?
Paul, who is likely to run for president in 2016, concluded by reminding the crowd that he had chosen to defend their liberties.
"I took a stand. I filibustered," he said. "I sued the president."
The crowd, several of whom were sporting "Stand with Rand" t-shirts, gave Paul a standing ovation.
Samantha Lachman contributed reporting.