New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stressed Monday the need for increased funding and support to beef up the U.S.’s intelligence capabilities to prevent terror attacks, putting it this way: “You can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”
Christie’s comments came as lawmakers on Capitol Hill are raising civil liberties and national security concerns as provisions of the Patriot Act authorizing bulk data collection on millions of Americans are set to expire at the end of the month.
And Christie, who is considering running for the Republican presidential nomination, is clearly aligned with the national security hawks loathe to lose any intelligence tools.
“We have taken for granted, everybody, nearly 14 years of not attack in this country on a major scale. And we should not take that for granted,” Christie told an audience at a town hall forum in New Hampshire. “The thing that’s demoralizing to me is that there are I think so many sectors in our country who haven’t forgotten 9/11. Everyone will remember 9/11, but have forgotten what 9/11 felt like.”
And while “all these people are talking about liberty,” Christie said the 9/11 terror attacks truly stole Americans’ liberty.
“We acted differently, we conducted our lives differently. We were reticent. We were scared to do things as a people. That’s a stealing of our liberty too,” Christie said.
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Reform proponents – including GOP presidential candidates Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas who have called for an end to the NSA’s dragnet surveillance – have cited civil liberties concerns when it comes to the NSA’s bulk data collection program, arguing that the practice violates the Fourth Amendment.
And a federal court earlier this month ruled that NSA program illegal.
“There are going to be some who are going come before you and going to say oh no, no this is not what the founders intended. the founders made sure that the first obligation of the American government was to protect the lives of the American people,” Christie said. And we can do this in a way that is smart and cost effective and protects civil liberties.”
And he added, “You can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”
Several review groups have concluded that the NSA’s bulk data collection program was not essential to preventing any terror attacks, despite claims from some in the intelligence community that the program is an important tool to combat terrorism.
Christie’s stance is just another sign of a split Republican party on this issue, especially in the fray of current and potential Republican presidential candidates.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a still-unannounced presidential candidate, has called the continuation of NSA surveillance the “best part of the Obama administration.”Fellow Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio, who announced his candidacy last month, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who will formally announce his candidacy next month, have both called for the Patriot Act to be reauthorized this month.