Cruz hits back at Rubio in surveillance fight

Cruz hits back at Rubio in surveillance fight
© Getty Images

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE’s presidential campaign hit back at Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden MORE (R-Fla.) on Friday, in an escalating fight over the nation’s intelligence powers.

Cruz's team is demanding that Rubio retract criticisms he made in an appearance earlier on CBS “This Morning” against Cruz for supporting surveillance reform this summer.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cruz’s camp is refuting Rubio’s claim that the reforms would bar the National Security Agency (NSA) from gathering phone records about people “who carry out an attack to see who they were coordinating or talking to.”

The reforms, which went into effect last weekend, prevent the spy agency from sweeping up millions of Americans’ phone records in bulk. However, the NSA is able to gather records about targets of a terror investigation from private phone companies, so long as the agency obtains a court order first.

The records contain metadata that include the numbers involved in a phone call, when the call occurred and how long it lasted. They do not contain information about what was discussed.

Legislation reforming the NSA, called the USA Freedom Act, “preserves America’s ability to track down, kill or prosecute America’s enemies, particularly those who have carried out attacks,” Cruz’s national campaign chairman and former CIA officer Chad Sweet said in a statement. “In fact, it strengthens our hand in fighting terrorism by giving our intelligence services access to more information, ending the blind spot when persons who are being monitored enter the country, and increasing penalties for providing material support to terrorists.

“And it does all this without warrantless collection of the phone records of millions of law abiding Americans.”

Rubio’s comment “is beyond the pale,” he added, “and Rubio should correct the record immediately, instead of attempting to instill a false fear among Americans.”

The rebuke is the Cruz’s campaign strongest counterstrike yet against Rubio, who has repeatedly hammered the Texas Republican over his support for NSA reform this summer.

On Friday, Rubio indicated that Cruz and fellow presidential opponent Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) tried to undermine the nation’s “robust intelligence gathering capabilities” by pushing to reform the NSA seven months ago.

Cruz’s position has largely been seen as a weakness, amid a new focus on terrorism in the GOP presidential debate. The issuse is taking center stage amid the growing reach of the Islamic State and Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet Friday’s pushback is evidence that his campaign intends to dig in.

The two candidates are neck and neck in recent polls, and appear to be rising towards the top as former neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s support steadily erodes. Still, national polling puts them both significantly behind billionaire Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE, who has maintained a steady lead in the race for months.