New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continued his strong defense of the Patriot Act on Wednesday, criticizing Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul for coming in on the side of "criminal" NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
"He's a criminal and he's hiding in Russia lecturing to us about the evils of authoritarian government while he lives under the protective umbrella of Vladimir Putin?" Christie, who plans to announce his presidential campaign intentions in June, told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" program.
"That's who Mike Lee and Rand Paul are siding with?"
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Last week, Lee, a Utah Republican, called Christie's support of the Patriot Act
"ridiculous," saying he should be "ashamed of himself" for expecting people to choose between privacy rights and security. Further, Lee said that if the governor wants to "play a part in the national discussion regarding privacy and security, he should choose his words more carefully."
On Wednesday, Christie fired back at Lee, saying he is not ashamed of his stance on the Patriot Act and its provision for the collection of telephone metadata.
"I agree with the folks in the intelligence community who have kept us safe for 14 years since 9/11," the governor said. He added that, unlike people in the Senate who are talking about the act, none have actually used it, while he did use it while he was a federal prosecutor trying 9/11 cases in New Jersey.
"They talk about it from a speculative perspective; I talk about it from a real life perspective," Christie said. "Nobody that's in this national conversation right now has the practical experience I've had."
And Christie denies that lawmakers need to choose between the Fourth Amendment and national security.
"The Patriot Act hasn't led to us making that choice," said Christie. "We can protect our homeland and our civil liberties. We've been doing it for nearly 14 years."
While opponents say they want to see an example of how the collection of metadata has prevented an attack, Christie said he wants to see "just one" time when the act violated a person's civil liberties.
"You have people just making things up that the NSA is sitting and listening to people's conversations," said Christie. "They're not. And the fact is, we want them to be connecting those dots."
And if there is another attack, Christie said, the same people opposing the Patriot Act will be the ones calling the FBI and CIA to testify about what went wrong.
"What we need to do is to make sure that we explain to everybody in our country why this is important," said Christie. "I fear that this kind of debate is showing the kind of complacency that's going on post-9/11."
Also on Wednesday, Christie said President Barack Obama should be "much more aggressive" in bringing allies together in the Middle East to fight against the Islamic State.
"If you're going to be serious, stop talking about it and start acting," he said. "You have to act with allies that we develop in the Middle East as well. We've seen the failure of policies when we don't work in concert."
Christie also gave quick opinions about the many people running for the 2016 GOP nomination, and said he agrees with a decision by Fox News to limit the number of candidates speaking in the first debate.
He also gave quick thoughts on some of his potential challengers. Carly Fiorina is a "very bright woman who has had a lot to say," said Christie, and that he personally knows Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and likes him.
Further, he said that ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave him good advice on Superstorm Sandy, and he likes him and does not believe he is spending money to scare others from running in 2016.
He also said he has been friends for a long time with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and campaigned for him in 2010; and that he's a personal friend of Donald Trump, who he first met 13 years ago when he was a U.S. attorney.
"He has been friends with me for a long time," Christie said of Trump. "He is a smart guy who is never boring."
But Christie had little to say about presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, as "I don't think Mrs. Clinton has said much worthy of comment."
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