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Christie: Paris 'intelligence failure' rooted in limits to surveillance

Christie: Paris 'intelligence failure' rooted in limits to surveillance
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Global intelligence officials’ failure to detect this month’s deadly attacks across Paris may be in part due to increased scrutiny on government spying, New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieNJ governor's approval rating slips to 57 percent: poll Never underestimate Joe Biden Biden and Trump both have trouble with the truth — and so do the media MORE (R) claimed on Tuesday.

“It’s not a coincidence that this happened in the aftermath of restricting these programs and, remember, also demoralizing the intelligence community,” the Republican presidential contender said in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The more than half-dozen men who killed 130 people during the Paris attack “didn’t get together at the Taco Bell 15 minutes before and put this thing together,” Christie said, noting the high degree of apparent coordination.

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“That means it was an intelligence failure.”

Christie appeared to cast blame for the failure on both a global aversion to government surveillance following the 2013 leaks from government whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the Senate’s controversial report last year blasting the CIA’s past use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

“That awful report that came out from the Senate Democrats at the end of last year was a complete political instrument that did nothing more than demoralize American intelligence officers all around the world,” Christie said.

“You cannot continue to do that and expect those people are going to put themselves in harm’s way and do the dangerous, dirty work that needs to be done to get this information if you continue to demoralize them and put them at risk and continue to take tools away from them at the same time.”

The Senate report, which was authored by Democrats on the Intelligence Committee but also backed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) among others, accused the CIA of misleading its overseers in Washington while carrying out a brutal campaign of waterboarding, “rectal rehydration” and other interrogation methods that have since been outlawed. The practices are widely referred to as torture.

Top intelligence officials, who said it was one-sided, fiercely opposed the report.

The curbs on intelligence powers, meanwhile, were hotly debated in Congress earlier this year, following months of outrage from Snowden’s 2013 leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA). A key program — the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records — is set to expire this Sunday.

Intelligence officials, including CIA Director John Brennan, have been quick to blame Snowden for spilling the government’s secrets to the world, thereby helping terrorists evade the eyes of the U.S. Multiple officials have claimed that the terrorists who carried out the Paris attacks communicated through encrypted message systems that have proliferated since Snowden’s leaks, however they have been unable to point to proof for that claim. 

Christie, who has seized on the Paris attacks to highlight his national security background as U.S. attorney in the years after 9/11, blasted lawmakers Tuesday who supporting reforming the NSA. Two of his opponents in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.), voted for those reforms.

“I’ve used the Patriot Act,” Christie said.

“Congress and the president made a grave mistake not only in restricting the NSA’s ability to do their work but also, at the same time, in demoralizing the spirit and degrading the conduct of the government’s intelligence officers and law enforcement officers,” he added, appearing to also refer to concerns that extra scrutiny on police has discouraged officers from stopping crime. The director of the FBI has attested to the so-called Ferguson Effect, even as the White House has dismissed it.

“This has led to a diminution of the effectiveness of our intelligence community and it sled to a loss of spirit in out law enforcement community.”