Jeb Bush praises Obama for continuing NSA metadata surveillance

Former Florida Governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush (Reuters/Brian Snyder)
​President Barack Obama isn’t likely to hear many kind words from Republicans looking to succeed him in office. However, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is praising him for continuing a controversial surveillance program.

Considered a frontrunner for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, Bush recently said that Obama’s decision to keep in place the National Security Agency’s ability to monitor metadata – information such as when a phone call was made, who it was made to and how long it lasted – has helped keep the United States safe.

Bush made the comment on Tuesday while appearing on “The Michael Medved Show,” a nationwide radio program, after he was asked what the “best part” of the Obama presidency has been.

“I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced,” Bush said.

“Advancing this — even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it – there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation, I think of our national government is to keep us safe. And the technologies that now can be applied to make that so, while protecting civil liberties, are there. And he’s not abandoned them, even though there was some indication that he might.”

The legality of the NSA’s surveillance program has been hotly debated in the US ever since revelations by former government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. Critics of the program argue that it violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, but supporters say it is crucial for combating terrorism.

Provisions in the USA Patriot Act that provide the NSA with the authority to gather metadata are set to expire on July 1, though it’s unclear if lawmakers will decide to repeal or reform that ability, or simply renew it altogether.

Elsewhere in the program, Bush agreed with Medved that Obama helped the GOP reclaim control of Congress over the course of two midterm elections, but dismissed the idea that racism is fueling the president’s critics.

“I think it has to do with Obamacare, Dodd-Frank [which installed new regulations on Wall Street], a tepid economic recovery, declining median income in the sixth year of a recovery,” Bush said. “This is a deeply pessimistic time and the president’s overreach is really the cause for this.”