- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie on Friday accused rivals Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul of weakening defenses against terrorists when they voted to rein in the controversial NSA phone-snooping program.

“It’s because the president and Republicans by the way in Congress, like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, have made us weaker by taking the authority away from our intelligence community to gather information, [that we’re] a more weaker, a more vulnerable country,” Mr. Christie said on WHO news radio in Des Moines, Iowa.

Mr. Christie, who is governor of New Jersey, said the necessity if NSA collecting metadata on phone calls in search of terror suspects was underscored by the attack Wednesday in San Bernardino that killed 14 and wounded 21, which increasingly looks like radical Islamic terrorism.

“I’ll tell you this,” said Mr. Christie, “if a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California, is a target for ISIS, then that means every place in America is a target for ISIS, and we better get ready.”

“Folks in this country need to understand that our intelligence, and our law enforcement community need to be empowered to be able to protect us,” he said. “This president and Senator Paul and Senator Cruz amongst others have taken that authority away, and it’s just not right.”

Mr. Paul, of Kentucky, and Mr. Cruz, of Texas, voted this year for legislation that ended NSA’s bulk collection of phone records. The program had been under scrutiny for infringing on civil liberties after it was exposed by spy-secrets leaker Edward Snowden in 2013.

The legislation was a compromise that required the phone companies to store the data and make it available to the feds for examination on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Christie has polled near the bottom of the pack of Republican presidential candidates, but he has experience a modest surge recently in the early-voting state of New Hampshire.

As the campaigns increasingly focus on terrorism in the wake of the attack on Paris and in San Bernardino, Mr. Christie has touted his experience as a federal prosecutor who handled terrorism cases after the 9/11.

“We need to protect the homeland. Homeland security is the single most important responsibility of the president of the United States,” Mr. Christie said. “If you cannot protect the lives and the safety of the American people, you will be a failure as a president, and we’ll be a failure as a nation.”

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