Rubio: Cruz voted to weaken US intelligence programs

Rubio: Cruz voted to weaken US intelligence programs

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up Press: Notorious RBG vs Notorious GOP MORE (R-Fla.), 2016 Republican presidential contender, took a shot at rival candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Monday night, saying Cruz worked to "weaken" surveillance programs that could thwart terrorists. 

"We're vulnerable. What happened in Paris could happen in a major American city," he said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington. "And that's why intelligence programs are so important."  

ADVERTISEMENT

Rubio said Cruz "in particular voted to weaken U.S. intelligence programs in the last month and a half." 

"The weakening of our intelligence gathering capabilities leaves America vulnerable, and that is exactly what's happened," said Rubio, who is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  

"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," he said. 

Rubio's campaign pointed to Cruz's support for the USA Freedom Act of 2015, which banned bulk collection of data of Americans' phone records and Internet metadata. 

Rubio also hit President Obama for his comments last week before the Paris attacks that ISIS was "contained." 

"This is a group that is not contained [but] growing in its capabilities [and] external operations," he said, adding the group has established a presence in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and were threatening U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Jordan. 

Rubio also said he is "increasingly convinced" the U.S. could not adequately screen Syrian refugees to the U.S.

"You allow 10,000 [and] one of them is a well-trained ISIS fighter, and you got a huge problem on your hands," he said. "What if we get one of them wrong, just one of them wrong?"

Rubio also said he would favor putting more U.S. special operations forces on the ground to fight ISIS, but that "the bulk of a ground force" would have to consist mostly of Sunni fighters and forces from Sunni allies, echoing a suggestion made by fellow Republican presidential rival and defense hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).  

"ISIS can only be defeated by Sunnis themselves," Rubio said. "Sunnis will have to be the predominant force on the ground."