Associated Press

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Eliminating the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records will make the U.S. less safe, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday.

The potential Republican presidential contender told patrons at Tommy’s Country Ham House that it “has made America weaker and has made America more vulnerable.”

Under a new law, the NSA will lose the power to collect and store phone records in bulk. The government still can obtain data connected to specific numbers from phone companies through court orders.

“Exactly what we want to count on,” Christie said sarcastically. “We want to put our national security in the hands of the phone companies.”

He added: “Come on. This could only be made up in Washington, D.C. Only in Washington, D.C., could they try to sell this and expect the American people are going to believe it.”

Christie has used the debate over the Patriot Act’s renewal to draw attention to his background as top federal prosecutor in New Jersey.

Christie also toured Greenville businesses, bumping into one former New Jersey resident after the next, and he greeted diners at Wade’s restaurant in Spartanburg.

He says he plans to decide this month whether to get into the nomination race.

The visit was Christie’s first in nearly five months to the state that holds the opening presidential primary in the South. Christie said he will be back often.

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