Jeb Bush Defends NSA Mass Surveillance as ‘Hugely Important’

“The debate has gotten off track,” the 2016 White House hopeful said during a speech in Chicago.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Detroit Economic Club February 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
Feb. 18, 2015, 9:13 a.m.

Former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wed­nes­day offered a vo­cal de­fense of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s mass col­lec­tion of U.S. phone call data, say­ing the pro­gram is “hugely im­port­ant” to keep­ing Amer­ic­ans safe from ter­ror­ists.

Dur­ing a for­eign policy speech in Chica­go, the likely Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for pres­id­ent said the mass sur­veil­lance is an es­sen­tial in­gredi­ent in the fight against those seek­ing to do harm to the United States.

“That re­quires re­spons­ible in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing and ana­lys­is, in­clud­ing the NSA metadata pro­gram, which con­trib­utes to aware­ness of po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist cells and in­ter­dic­tion ef­forts on a glob­al scale,” Bush said. “For the life of me, I don’t un­der­stand [how] the de­bate has got­ten off track, where we’re not un­der­stand­ing and pro­tect­ing — we do pro­tect our civil liber­ties, but this is a hugely im­port­ant pro­gram to use these tech­no­lo­gies to keep us safe”

Bush has been largely quiet about gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance since the Ed­ward Snowden dis­clos­ures began in 2013, and he has not com­men­ted in de­tail about the is­sue since launch­ing a pres­id­en­tial ex­plor­at­ory com­mit­tee late last year. The new re­marks align Bush closely with Marco Ru­bio, an­oth­er Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an and likely 2016 hope­ful, and open up con­sid­er­able dis­tance between Bush and a host of oth­er sus­pec­ted GOP con­tenders.

Last month, Ru­bio called for a per­man­ent ex­ten­sion of the pro­vi­sions of the post-9/11 USA Pat­ri­ot Act that provide the leg­al au­thor­ity for the NSA’s bulk col­lec­tion of U.S. phone re­cords.

But oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans with an eye on the White House have staked out not­ably di­ver­gent policy po­s­i­tions on gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance.

Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky has called for the end of the NSA’s do­mest­ic drag­net sur­veil­lance pro­gram and has in­dic­ated he will try to block reau­thor­iz­a­tion of those core pro­vi­sions of the Pat­ri­ot Act later this year. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, mean­while, was one of just four Re­pub­lic­ans to join with Demo­crats last year in back­ing the USA Free­dom Act, a bill that would have es­sen­tially ended the bulk metadata pro­gram. The meas­ure fell two votes short of ad­van­cing, fail­ing to over­come a Re­pub­lic­an-led fili­buster.

Bush’s po­s­i­tion un­der­scores a grow­ing di­vi­sion with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party between for­eign policy hawks and liber­tari­an-minded con­ser­vat­ives who bristle at the idea of gov­ern­ment pry­ing in­to the private lives of cit­izens. It is sure to rankle the tea-party wing of the GOP, which has ex­pressed con­tin­ued out­rage at the scope of the sur­veil­lance pro­grams re­vealed in the Snowden files.

Bush’s com­ments are also timely, giv­en that Con­gress must act in some fash­ion be­fore those core sec­tions of the Pat­ri­ot Act sun­set on June 1 of this year. Al­though not dir­ec­ted spe­cific­ally to re­form ef­forts on Cap­it­ol Hill, Bush’s speech sug­gests he would op­pose any ef­fort to tinker or lim­it the NSA’s cur­rent spy­ing au­thor­ity.

Wed­nes­day’s speech also ap­pears to leave little day­light between Bush and New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, who has de­fen­ded gov­ern­ment spy­ing by in­struct­ing its crit­ics to sit down with the fam­il­ies of vic­tims lost in the Septem­ber 11, 2001 at­tacks, and ree­valu­ate their stance. Christie is a po­ten­tial threat to Bush in shor­ing up sup­port among the GOP’s es­tab­lish­ment base.

Pri­vacy ad­voc­ates have re­peatedly in­sisted that the NSA’s bulk col­lec­tion of phone metadata — the num­bers, time-stamps, and loc­a­tion of a call but not its ac­tu­al con­tent — has no track re­cord of thwart­ing ter­ror­ist plots or keep­ing Amer­ic­ans safe. Pres­id­ent Obama has pushed for a trans­ition to end the pro­gram but has said he will only do so with ap­pro­pri­ate le­gis­la­tion from Con­gress.

What We're Following See More »
ALL 100 SENATORS
Dem Senator Calls North Korea Briefing “Sobering”
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
LOFTY GOALS
White House Proposes New Tax Plan
12 hours ago
BREAKING

The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.

Source:
EMERGING BUDGET FRAMEWORK?
Dems Proposes Obamacare-for-Defense Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."

Source:
WHITE HOUSE BLOCKING DOC REQUEST
Michael Flynn Remains A Russian-Sized Problem
1 days ago
BREAKING

The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.

Source:
SENATE JUDICIARY HEARING
Sally Yates to Testify on May 8
1 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login