Washington (CNN)The chief Republican sponsor of the Senate bill to reform the Patriot Act slammed fellow Republican Gov. Chris Christie for saying "You can't enjoy your civil liberties if you're in a coffin."
Sen. Mike Lee: Christie 'should be ashamed' for coffin remark
Utah Sen. Mike Lee called those comments "tantamount to political pornography" and said Christie "should be ashamed of himself."
"That's absolutely ridiculous. It's absurd," Lee told CNN's Carol Costello, referring to Christie's comments. "And if Mr. Christie wants to play a part in the national discussion regarding privacy and security he should choose his words more carefully."
Christie is strongly opposed to reforming the National Security Agency's bulk data collection program, insisting it is essential to preventing the next major terrorist attack.
The NSA collects telephone metadata on millions of Americans on a daily basis and stores that information for five years under that program and the House overwhelmingly approved a reform bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, last week.
But Lee and his fellow proponents of that bill in the Senate are still waging the fight for reform in the Senate, where top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are arguing the same points as Christie.
"I would ask Mr. Christie how many lives has it saved? I would ask Mr. Christie how many acts of terrorism have been thwarted simply because the NSA is collecting telephone data on what your grandmother calls, - on calls that she makes or calls that she receives?" Lee said.
Reviews of the NSA program by a presidential advisory group of top intelligence, privacy and constitutional experts found no instance in which the surveillance program was "essential" to thwarting a terrorist attack.
"At a minimum any security benefit that could be achieved through this program could also be achieved through the type of program that the USA freedom act would put in place," Lee said.