U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) during a Q&A session that was part of the Wall Street Forum criticized U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) over what Rubio deemed to be America’s weakened capability to gather foreign intelligence. Last week the two candidates sparred over immigration.
We are vulnerable. What happened in Paris could happen in a major American city at any moment, at any time — not that there’s a specific threat that I’m going to share or know about, we just know that this is true. That there is, in fact, elements that seek to strike us here in the homeland and have the capability to do so. It’s just a question of whether they can carry it out. And we have disrupted plots.
And the danger is multi-faceted. It is external operators who could be sent here, or have been sent here, for a specific purpose. And it’s also lone actors. This is the other facet of the external operations of ISIS. Lone actors that gain inspiration and tactical advice online, from publications put out by ISIS about how to conduct an attack to inflict maximum casualty. And you’ve said efforts like that as well. And that’s why our intelligence programs are so important.
I think it’s a distinctive issue of debate in the presidential race. At least two of my colleagues in the Senate aspiring to the presidency, Senator Cruz in particular, have voted to weaken the U.S. intelligence programs just in the last month and a half. And the weakening of our intelligence gathering capabilities leaves America vulnerable. And that is exactly what’s happened. We have weakened the U.S. intelligence gathering capability through a combination of disclosures by a traitor, Edward Snowden, and also through the weakening in our own laws of important programs that now are being phased out, and as a result, will cost us the ability to gather actionable intelligence against elements operating in our territory.
The Rubio campaign pointed to a vote by Cruz on the USA Freedom Act in June where he voted yes to the bill along with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV).
The campaign also pointed to an interview with Hugh Hewitt in July where Cruz boasted about being a co-sponsor of the bill.
HUGH HEWITT: “Now Senator Cruz, I’m not sure, I can’t recall if you voted against the collection of metadata or for the ending of it, but if it existed, we could be right now connecting dots with Abdulazeez. Would you fill me in on how you voted on that and whether or not this sort of situation makes you want an even more robust collection of the metadata, not searching of it, but collection of it for days like this on the day after attacks like yesterday’s?”
CRUZ: “Hugh, not only did I vote for the USA Freedom Act, I was an original co-sponsor of it. I agree with the policy. I think it is entirely possible to protect our national security and at the same time respect the 4th Amendment right of law abiding citizens. But what the USA Freedom Act does is it ends the federal government’s bulk collection of phone metadata of law abiding citizens, of your phone metadata, of my phone metadata, but it preserves the tools for law enforcement and the National Security Agency to with specific evidence, whether it is an Abdulazeez or a Nidal Hasan or someone else to then get judicial authorization to seize their phone metadata and follow the evidence. And I’ll tell you, the National Security Agency told the Senate that they believe the USA Freedom Act will be more effective in tracking down the connections of terrorists than was the existing program.”
HEWITT: “Okay, we disagree on that, we’ll come back to it another time.”
The revelation by Edward Snowden that the NSA was collecting metadata from cell phone carriers in the United States sparked national outrage and prompted demands that the Patriot Act be revisited. U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against the USA Freedom Act because he believed it didn’t go far enough.