If there’s one thing Jeb Bush likes about President Barack Obama’s presidency, it’s the continuation of the NSA’s controversial spying program.
Bush, the former Florida governor likely to jump into the 2016 GOP presidential race, on Tuesday called the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and internet metadata —the “best part” of the Obama administration.
“I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using, you know, the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced,” Bush said on the Michael Medved radio show on Tuesday. “Even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation I think of our national government is to keep us safe.”
The program has come under heavy scrutiny after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the NSA’s domestic spying programs, including the agency’s collection of phone call, email and internet data on tens of millions of Americans.
Critics have argued that the domestic data collection program is unconstitutional and a violation of civil liberties, but Bush insisted the program has enough civil liberties protections.
Obama made some changes this year to how the NSA collects and holds the data, but the program remains largely intact nearly two years after Snowden exposed the program that many lawmakers said was ripe for reform.
The program was authorized under the authority of the post-9/11 Patriot Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush and was aimed at bolstering the U.S.’s homeland defenses against terrorism.
But one of the law’s co-authors, Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, became one of the first to slam the NSA’s bulk data collection, questioning the program’s constitutionality and asserting it should not have been authorized under the Patriot Act. He has since introduced a bill to rein in the program.
Bush won’t be alone in the Republican field to support the program, but he’ll also take heat from the likes of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who both announced presidential bids in the last month and have looked to narrow the surveillance program.
Both senators, who will compete for libertarian-leaning voters in the GOP primary, have pushed to reform the program.