- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday said America is now weaker than it was before the expiration of the National Security Agency’s phone-snooping program and ripped into “endless speeches on the floor of Senate” during the recent debate over surveillance.

“The moves by the Congress this week, led by members of our own party, to weaken America, to me was a national disgrace,” Mr. Christie said at a “Politics and Eggs” event in New Hampshire. “America today is weaker and more vulnerable than we were two weeks ago.

“We should have this national conversation on this, and we should have it robustly, and you can be guaranteed the fact that I will,” he said at the event hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and New England Council. “Because giving stem-winding speeches on the floor of the United States Senate is not leadership. Raising money off of those speeches is not leadership.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential rival for Mr. Christie in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential presidential nomination, was the leading opponent of extending the NSA’s bulk data collection under the Patriot Act, holding the Senate floor for more than 10 hours to speak in opposition.

Last week, the Senate passed and President Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which requires the data to be housed with phone companies, rather than the government. Mr. Paul had opposed that measure as well, saying it didn’t go far enough, but is claiming a partial victory in the broader fight.

“If Congress has complaints about this, good: use your oversight authority, instead of giving endless speeches on the floor of the Senate, convene your committees and conduct oversight over our intelligence community and our law enforcement community and hold them to task,” Mr. Christie said Tuesday. “I want them to absolutely comply with every inch of the law.”

He described former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed the program in 2013, as a “treasonous criminal.”

“It is an astonishing time, and those of us who aspire to leadership need to speak out — and not just in minor platitudes like ‘well, on the one hand, I want civil liberties protected; on the other hand, I want the homeland protected,’” Mr. Christie said. “Sound like about 14 of our candidates? Make them take a stand. What do you believe about what was done the last two weeks in Washington, D.C.? Because believe me, everyone: this is a conversation that won’t end. And one that shouldn’t end.

“The first and most important responsibility of the president of the United States is to protect the lives of the American people, and unfortunately I believe our national leaders have made that more difficult over the last two weeks,” he continued.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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