Marco Rubio knocks his GOP rival Ted Cruz, says Cruz helped harm US intelligence programs

MIAMI – Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Wednesday kept up his critique of rival Ted Cruz on national security, saying the Texas senator worked with Democrats to “harm our intelligence programs” by restricting the federal government’s bulk phone records collection program.

Rubio criticized his GOP rival during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Among GOP presidential candidates, Cruz was the only “yes” vote on a bill Congress approved last June that killed the National Security Agency’s disputed bulk phone records collection program and replaced it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies’ hands.

Dubbed the USA Freedom Act, it was opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said it undermined American security.

Rubio voted against it because he said it weakened “U.S. national security by outlawing the very programs our intelligence community and the FBI have used to protect us time and time again.”

On Wednesday, Rubio told Hewitt that Cruz “was part of that coalition that worked with the Democrats … and the ACLU, to harm our intelligence programs.”

Both the Republican-controlled Senate and House overwhelmingly approved the bill. In voting in favour of the bill at the time of its passage, Cruz said it struck “the right balance between protecting our privacy rights and our national security interests.”

In his radio interview, Rubio said he and Cruz get along and that they share a lot of views, but that on “some of the defence issues we’ve parted ways.”

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, Rubio said he and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas are trying to reinstate the meta-data collection program “so that this country does not lose a valuable tool on the war on terror.”

Cotton has proposed the Liberty Through Strength Act, a bill that would delay the Dec. 1 implementation of the USA Freedom Act until the Obama administration can certify that the new NSA collection system is as effective as the current system.