The Biggest Argument of the GOP Debate Came Down to One Key Issue

August 6th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

At the first Republican presidential debate on Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to task over his opposition to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. Moderator Megyn Kelly asked Christie to clarify what he meant when he said that Paul's efforts to end bulk data collection "made America weaker and more vulnerable."

The question prompted conflict between the presidential contenders—a conflict that seemed to capture the conservative divide over national security concerns, with one side supporting the expanded powers of the NSA and other intelligence organizations and the other side resisting the exercise of unchecked power.

"Do you really think you can assign blame to Sen. Paul just for opposing the bulk collection of people's phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?" Kelly asked, sounding somewhat skeptical about the suggestion.

"Yes I do," Christie responded frankly. He went on to say that he, Christie, was the "only one on stage who has filed applications under the Patriot Act," a measure that was introduced by the Bush administration following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and dramatically expanded the powers of the NSA and related agencies.

Paul was not convinced by the governor's argument, contending that Christie was mistaken about the rationale behind his opposition. "I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans," Paul said. "I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights."

The senator broke out in a heated defense of his stance on NSA surveillance programs. He stated that he sought only to ensure that the information of innocent American citizens was not inadvertently collected by the intelligence agency—that he wanted oversight, not an overhaul, of the programs used to detect terrorist threats.

"Get a warrant!" Paul shouted when asked how he thought such regulations could work. "Every time you did a case, you got a warrant from a judge. I'm talking about searches without warrants, indiscriminately of all Americans' records, and that's what I vow to end."

For more coverage of the Republican debate, check out these links:

Donald Trump's Remarks on Women Raised Eyebrows in the First GOP Debate

The One Shocking Issue That No GOP Candidate Mentioned in the First Debate

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