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 »
ALSO VICE-CHAIR OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM
Trump Taps Rep. McMorris Rodgers for Interior Secretary
49 minutes ago
BREAKING
RESULTS NOT NECESSARILY TO BE PUBLIC
White House Orders Review of Election Hacking
57 minutes ago
THE LATEST

President Obama has called for a "full review" of the hacking that took place during the 2016 election cycle, according to Obama counterterrorism and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco. Intelligence officials say it is highly likely that Russia was behind the hacking. The results are not necessarily going to be made public, but will be shared with members of Congress.

Source:
AT ISSUE: BENEFITS FOR COAL MINERS
Manchin, Brown Holding Up Spending Bill
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are threatening to block the spending bill—and prevent the Senate from leaving town—"because it would not extend benefits for retired coal miners for a year or pay for their pension plans. The current version of the bill would extend health benefits for four months. ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday afternoon moved to end debate on the continuing resolution to fund the government through April 28. But unless Senate Democrats relent, that vote cannot be held until Saturday at 1 a.m. at the earliest, one hour after the current funding measure expires."

Source:
PARLIAMENT VOTED 234-56
South Korean President Impeached
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

The South Korean parliament voted on Friday morning to impeach President Park Geun-hye over charges of corruption, claiming she allowed undue influence to a close confidante of hers. Ms. Park is now suspended as president for 180 days. South Korea's Constitutional Court will hear the case and decide whether to uphold or overturn the impeachment.

Source:
CLOSED FOR INAUGURAL ACTIVITIES
NPS: Women’s March Can’t Use Lincoln Memorial
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Participants in the women's march on Washington the day after inauguration won't have access to the Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service has "filed documents securing large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration festivities. None of these spots will be open for protesters."

Source:
×
×

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