- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that the ongoing conversation on the balance between civil liberties and homeland security is a “false debate,” saying hopefully that the country will “get sober” and re-institute the National Security Agency’s phone-snooping program.

“It’s a false debate,” Mr. Christie said. “It’s a false debate. The idea that anything that was going on during the eight years of the Bush administration was either illegal or extra-constitutional is absolutely false.”

“This is the debate for theater,” he said. “This is a debate to raise money, to cut their little speeches from Capitol Hill, put it on the Internet, and then raise money by scaring people into thinking the government’s listening to your phone calls or reading your emails.

“We never were,” he said. “And when we get sober and we re-institute the NSA program, we won’t be doing it then, either. And under a President Christie, that is exactly what we’ll do.”

The NSA program, which collected metadata from Americans’ phones, ended this week after Congress passed the USA Freedom Act earlier this year. Mr. Christie has been a frequent critic on the issue of 2016 GOP presidential rivals Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who voted for the USA Freedom Act, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who said he wanted to see it go even further.

Mr. Christie had been asked about the balance between homeland security and civil liberties during a question-and-answer part of his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum.

“Paris was an intelligence failure,” Mr. Christie said. “You think these guys got together 15 minutes before the attack at a Taco Bell … and planned that attack? There were multiple folks involved living in multiple countries with specific planning, and we didn’t catch them.”

He said “no one” knew the Wednesday shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead was coming, either.

“You know, if you listen to the debate in Congress, what they’d have you believe is that we were listening into your phone calls with your wife and reading your emails with your children, through the NSA metadata program,” he said.

“What we’ve done by taking away that ability is to stop us from being able to connect the dots,” he said.

Mr. Christie said that in his experience as a prosecutor, “terrorists don’t wear sandwich boards saying ‘I’m a terrorist and I’m plotting to kill Americans.’”

“The way you find out is through the use of that data and the use, under the Constitution, protected by the Fourth Amendment,” he said. “And that’s what was done every day by U.S. attorneys, myself and others across the country.”

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