CIA Director John Brennan said Sunday that the U.S. government should continue spying on the phone conversations of American citizens. He added that the Patriot Act, which legalized such spying by the National Security Agency, has been an integral part of U.S. efforts to counter terrorism.

But key provisions of the Patriot Act expired at midnight Sunday. According to Brennan, a discontinuation of the bulk data collection program would make the country less safe -- and he urged that the expired provisions be renewed by Congress.

“Unfortunately, I think there’s been a little bit too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue, but these tools are important to American lives,” Brennan said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Brennan did not cite specific incidents but claimed that the programs had “helped stop attacks.”

Brennan said that the government had not abused its authority in conducting phone surveillance. Instead, the government used its authority to ensure the safety of the nation, he said. No matter how controversial the programs might have been, Brennan said, they worked in favor of the desires of the American public, Politico reported.

According to Brennan, it is an irony that most Americans expect the government to protect them. Even though there is a lot of debate in the Congress, the common people of the country still want the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies to do their jobs, he said.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican candidate for president in 2016, said Saturday that he would prevent any effort to extend the bulk collection programs. His opposition to the surveillance program is the backbone of his presidential campaign. Paul argues that such programs have never foiled any specific terrorist plot.

While the Obama administration does not dispute Paul’s arguments, it claims that the programs have been able to provide critical details regarding terrorist attacks. Obama administration officials said that the NSA would start closing down the bulk data program at 3:59 p.m. EDT Sunday. President Barack Obama said Saturday that it would be “reckless” and “irresponsible” to end the surveillance program.