By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Saturday that Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is “wrong” on his efforts to end post-Sept. 11 surveillance laws used against suspected spies and terrorists.
Bush, a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, called for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act enacted under the presidency of his brother George W. Bush.
“What I admire most about my brother was he kept us safe,” Jeb Bush said at a Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser. “And I believe people will respect him for a long time because of that.”
Without action by midnight Sunday, a number of tools that permit law enforcement to pursue and investigate suspected terrorists will expire. Paul, a senator from Kentucky, has said he will use his right to delay a final vote and let the powers lapse once midnight arrives.
“We do not need to give up who we are to defeat” terrorists, Paul said. “There has to be another way,” he said Saturday in a statement and on Twitter, pledging to force the expiration of an “illegal spy program.”
Bush told reporters before the event that he does not consider the collection of domestic phone metadata a violation of civil rights.
“I respect Senator Paul on this, but I think he’s wrong as it relates to the conversation that your two great senators are focused on” starting Sunday, he said.
“I know what will happen if there is an attack on our country,” he said. “A lot of people say where were you?”
Tennessee Republican Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander said they support reauthorizing the surveillance program.
“As long as it fits within the Constitution, I want to make sure we know everything we can know about people who are trying to damage us and hurt our country,” Alexander said.
Bush agreed, saying “the Patriot Act has kept us safe, plain and simple.”
“The metadata program has kept us safe, plain and simple,” he said. “There’s been no violation of civil liberties.”
Bush declined to respond to Paul recently blaming foreign policy hawks in his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group.
“I’m going to try to stay out of trouble tonight,” he said. “I think that’s my answer.”
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