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Rand Paul: Chris Christie has a ‘learning problem’ when it comes to security and surveillance

·White House Correspondent
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DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took a shot at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during an interview with Yahoo News chief Washington correspondent Olivier Knox on Thursday.

The senator and presidential candidate claimed Christie has a “learning problem” that is preventing him from understanding Paul’s positions on national security and government surveillance.

The pair memorably clashed at the Republican presidential debate on Aug. 6 over the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs. Paul has been a staunch opponent of the NSA’s controversial mass surveillance programs, while Christie has argued that Paul’s opposition to the program makes the U.S. more vulnerable to a potential terrorist attack.

“Use the Fourth Amendment! Get a warrant! Get a judge to sign the warrant!” Paul said at the debate.

In his conversation with Knox, Paul argued Christie doesn’t understand how to fight terrorism while respecting civil liberties.

“Some will respond and say, ‘Well what about terrorists? Does that mean you don’t care about terrorists?’ And I tried to explain this to the governor from New Jersey on the stage, but I think I’m having a little bit of a learning problem — learning curve,” Paul said. “You can use the Fourth Amendment and still get terrorists.”

The interview took place at Digital Democracy: The Yahoo News Conference on Technology and Politics at Drake University.

Paul also said he opposed the FBI’s push to ban phone and email encryption and “without question” would allow Americans to obtain technology to protect their communications if he is elected president. He argued it is hard for people to trust that the government won’t monitor them without obtaining proper warrants. Paul also suggested that creating a technological “backdoor” to facilitate government surveillance programs would make Americans’ Internet activity vulnerable to our “enemies.”

“The head of the FBI came out with this recently, he says, ‘Oh, we’re going to ban encryption.’ And it’s like we want to build a backdoor into Facebook and a backdoor into Apple products,” Paul said. “A backdoor means that the government can look at your stuff, look at your information, your conversations. … The problem is, is that the moment you build an opening — and I’m not an expert on coding or anything, but the moment you give a vulnerability to a code that someone can get into your source code, not only can the government, but so can your enemies, so can foreign governments.”

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Paul went on to outline the approach he believes government should adopt with communications and technology companies.

“I don’t think we want to … say we cannot have encryption or build openings,” Paul explained. “I think we need to do the opposite. We need to let the marketplace develop where we try to keep the government out of our affairs.”

Paul described a hypothetical scenario to show how he thinks law enforcement should operate.

“The police in Iowa today, if we have a rapist that we think is in a house in a neighborhood here near the university, the police don’t go breaking the door down unless they saw him run in there and someone’s yelling and screaming. They don’t break the door down. They wait on the curb and the police obey the Fourth Amendment every day all across America, even for terrible people — rapists, murderers. They stand on the sidewalk and they call a judge. … You want the checks and balances and you don’t want a judge that says, or a government that says, you can look at everyone and everyone’s house in Des Moines.”

Knox asked Paul to elaborate on his comment that Christie was having trouble understanding his perspective.

“People think it’s an either/or: You have to really let us look at all your records or you won’t be safe,” Paul said, later adding, “I’m not against looking at records. I’m not against having an NSA, frankly. I’m not against having an FBI.”

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