Who would have guessed?
Bush, Christie rise in defense of Patriot Act
Likely Republican presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Chris Christie on Friday heartily endorsed the Patriot Act and the permission it gives the government to collect phone records in bulk, mocking those who deride the intelligence overhaul passed after the Sept. 11 attacks as an encroachment on civil liberties. "There is ample evidence that the Patriot Act has been a tool to keep us safe, ample evidence," Bush said at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. "There is no evidence of anyone's civil liberties being violated because of it." Christie, who served as a U.S. attorney before being elected New Jersey governor, told the same crowd that the Patriot Act helped him as a prosecutor to win convictions of defendants tied to the 2001 attacks. "I'm the only person in this national conversation at the moment who has used the Patriot Act, signed off on it and convicted terrorists because of it," he said.
The forceful defense of the law came as Congress struggled to meet a deadline to renew or replace a portion of the law known as Section 215, which allows the National Security Agency to collect phone records in bulk and the FBI to obtain a wide range of records that agents deem relevant to terrorism investigations. Earlier this week, Christie said law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear from such surveillance efforts, while at multiple campaign stops, Bush said the law, signed by his brother, former President George W. Bush, is necessary to "protect the homeland," adding that an extension of Section 215 "is definitely part of a comprehensive strategy for foreign policy." "I do know, because I've checked with a lot of people inside and outside of government, that there's no evidence, not a shred of evidence, of violations of civil liberties because of the Patriot Act," Bush told reporters in Salem, New Hampshire, on Thursday. In oversight reports issued since at least 2003, the Justice Department inspector general has identified dozens of incidents it blamed on the FBI in which demands issued under a separate section of the Patriot Act were unauthorized or improper.