New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has never hid his disdain for whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying in an appearance on Fox News, "He's a criminal. He's a criminal and he's hiding in Russia and he's lecturing to us about the evils of authoritarian government while he lives under the protective umbrella of Vladimir Putin," and, he continued, "That's who Mike Lee and Rand Paul are siding with? With Edward Snowden? Come on."
Christie told New Hampshire voters earlier this month that he supported the bulk surveillance programs of the NSA, and that criticisms of violating civil liberties were a moot point.
"You can't enjoy your civil liberties if you're in a coffin," the New Jersey governor had said.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who joined fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul in opposing an extension of the Patriot Act last week, later said on CNN that the governor's comments "absurd," and added that "he should choose his words more carefully."
Christie fired back on Fox & Friends, calling Lee's remarks "typical of what they do in Washington, DC."
"When you don't know something about what you're talking about, you then change the conversation," Christie added.
When pressed on whether he agrees with President Obama on national security, Christie countered that he "agree[s] with the folks in the intelligence community who have kept us safe for the last 14 years now since 9/11."
"And the fact is all the different people who are expressing opinions on this in the Senate right now -- none of them have used the Patriot Act," Christie said. "None of them have prosecuted terrorists. I have."
The New Jersey governor has pointed to his record as a former U.S. attorney as evidence of this. One case that Christie prosecuted, a 2007 terrorist plot to attack American soldiers stationed at Fort Dix, involved six radical Islamists -- five of whom were convicted.
As he considers his own 2016 presidential run, Christie has positioned himself squarely in the hawkish national security camp, serving as a counterpoint to libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
"What I'd say to Mike Huckabee is, we used the Patriot Act in New Jersey to prosecute terrorists when I was U.S. Attorney," Christie said. "You have people just making things up that the NSA is just sitting and listening to people's conversations. They're not."
The New Jersey governor told New Hampshire supporters earlier this month that he supported the controversial NSA phone record collection program, despite a federal appeals court ruling that deemed it illegal. Christie has also called on lawmakers to pass a clean extension of some of the surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act.
When asked Wednesday whether Americans will have to choose between the Fourth Amendment and national security, the New Jersey governor simply said, "We don't."
"The Patriot Act hasn't led to us having to make that choice," Christie said. "We can protect our civil liberties and protect the homeland. We've been doing it now for 14 years."
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