NJ Gov. Chris Christie: Opposing NSA Surveillance Is A 'Strain Of Very Dangerous Thought'

from the because-protecting-civil-liberties-is-like-hugging-terrorists dept

New Jersey governor Chris Christie may be looking forward to a possible presidential run in 2016, which would at least partially explain his broadside attack on Justin Amash (of the “defund the NSA amendment“) and Rand Paul and their “strain of libertarianism” that’s now threatening established American institutions like domestic spying and fighting Wars on Stuff.

Christie invoked an old standby to criticize recent legislative activity like the narrow defeat of Amash’s amendment and Rep. Rush Holt’s recently introduced bill to repeal the PATRIOT Act.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.

“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”

Christie went on to characterize these debates as “esoteric” and “amnesiac.”

“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”

For starters, debates pertaining to the rights of millions of Americans are hardly “inside baseball,” indicating Christie isn’t familiar with the definition of the term he chose to deploy. As for being “amnesiac,” Christie might be best served with a blow to the head to jog his memory — many aspects of these programs were in place pre-9/11. The 9/11 attacks ushered in the PATRIOT Act, something hurriedly passed with bipartisan support. Now that the bipartisan movement (a.k.a. “strain of libertarianism”) is moving in the opposite direction, Christie suddenly feels this sort of cooperation is “dangerous.”

But the most depressing part of Christie’s rant is how completely rote the argument is, as Gene Healy at Reason points out:

[H]aven’t the arguments for unrestrained spying gotten any better over the last 11 years? Talk to the “widows and orphans,” visualize a smoking crater, and write a blank check to the Security-Industrial Complex?

At some point during any discussion of the NSA’s programs, defenders invoke an attack that wasn’t prevented and/or attacks theoretically prevented by this surveillance. Very occasionally another attack that wasn’t prevented is dragged into the mix (the Boston bombing), its rare appearance largely due to the fact that all of these programs failed to prevent the sort of terrorist attack we’re always being told the programs are in place to prevent.

Continually going back to the “9/11” well does very little to push the “discussion” forward. Defenders of the surveillance state obviously prefer it this way. If the discussion moves forward, the shortcomings of the programs are revealed and the abuses uncovered are left without a credible defense. Justifying future abuse using a past tragedy is nothing more than baldfaced attempts to guilt the public (and their representatives) into exchanging more liberty for security.

At this point, defenders like Christie are taking on the appearance of Sally Struthers stand-ins, dragging victims of terrorist attacks through smoking ruins, asking members of the public to donate some of their “excess” privacy in order to “ensure” a future free of further attacks. Obama has said he “welcomes” a debate on these issues, but then slams the door by calling legislative efforts like Amash’s counterproductive. Other politicians running flack for the national security agencies have made no such overtures, but tellingly, their reactions and justifications are largely the same.

This “strain of libertarianism” doesn’t threaten anything more than the growth of government and its intrusion into everyday lives of American. The fact that it has gone unchecked for so long is what’s actually “dangerous,” to use Christie’s words. To derail the discussion by continually invoking 9/11 is nothing more than a cheap form a manipulation.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “NJ Gov. Chris Christie: Opposing NSA Surveillance Is A 'Strain Of Very Dangerous Thought'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ninja (profile) says:

So we found the new buzzword. In the past if you got out of your home with your left foot you’d be called “Communist” with rage and mouth foaming. Now it’s “Libertarian”! As if those are somewhat bad by themselves.

It’s rather amusing! I can imagine the dissonance of some older folks who still live in the 1960’s along with a few younger but as clueless peeps yelling against Communism and Libertarianism at the same time 😉

JWW (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

People who call themselves libertarian are pretty pissed off. Also, most people who call themselves libertarian consistently vote for Republicans. I know that has been true in my case.

I used to think Christie might make a good President, but not any more. He’s lost my vote forever with this shit. Fuck him and the party he rode in on.

If there’s one way the Republicans guarantee a loss in 2016, this is it.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

How can the word libertarian be used as a negative description of any American? Liberty is, or at least was, one of your core values.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sure Obama welcomes debate on the issue. He just doesn’t welcome action on the issue. He wants a nice safe debate that goes nowhere and concludes in ignorance that everything’s a-okay , or dies without anything ever hitting committee, much less making it to the floor for a vote where people might vote according to what their constituents want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is why he didn’t use that as an example. It has nothing to do with ideals when a politician speaks. It is divisive language and one-sided crap all the way to the bank. Such is modern politics. Unless you go all in on one of the sides, no media will give you the time that is so crucial for getting recognition and the chance of reelection up. Being moderate is political suicide.

Anonymous Coward says:

So one day it’s communists are evil and should be pushed aside.

Now it’s libertarians because now the government has gone all out communist propaganda spy state and being called on it.

Libertarians were their god damn bed fellows not a couple months ago when they were trying to kill health care and whatever “Government overreach” bull crap attacking liberals calling them communists.

They just flip flop stomping on different people’s feet back and forth trying to have it every way possible.

No healthcare because it’s overreach and stomping on the constitution, but flying in the face of the fourth amendment? Fuck who cares about that. We’ll impeach the black guy because something to do with an embasy or some such nonsense, promoting healthcare?! double impeach! But shitting on the constitution? Hell that’s a fine upstanding fellow, lets defend him and not even talk about impeachment!

Anonymous Coward says:

Look, don’t be unfair to Christie.
He’s a politician and has to appeal to voters.
The majority of US voters are cowards and anything that looks, feels, sounds or smells of anything that might expose them to even imaginary danger will sink a political career faster than a very very fast thing.

Christie is talking to his cowardly base and the cowardly floating voters just as Obama and the Dems are appealing to their cowardly base and the cowardly floating voters.

The only solution is for the US to increase the percentage of non yellow bellies in it’s electorate and that sure isn’t going to happen anytime within the next century.

The lifeblood of the US is poisoned with fear, probably not just purely irrational fear, but added to the fear that after what the US has done all over the world people must want to do the same things back to them.
The classic fear of the bully in other words and like that classic fear, there may even be something to it.

Alt0 says:

Re: Coward

I could not help noticing the use of the word coward not less than five times posted by …yep an anonymous coward.

Tell me that if Romney was elected we wouldn’t be having this same discussion or McCain before that. Tell me Mr. Coward, who would you have us “cowardly” voters elect? (cause I sure didn’t see any more choices on the ballots when I voted.)

The two party system is FAIL, being its all a Chinese menu at this point (one from column A one from column B). In order to affect any real change in our government people have to start ordering from “off the menu”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Coward

You get to elect your representatives.

You get the opportunity whether you like it or not to take responsibility for who you elect and what they do.

Whether you take on the responsibility for it or not, you are responsible.

So don’t whine to others going “but it’s all a mess and I don’t know what to do, please tell me what to do oh wise one”
It’s your mess, you damn well take responsibility and clean it up and stop whining.

You’re like Obama whining to the rest of the world back in his first term that they weren’t doing enough to help him to close Guantanamo Bay.

Why have the citizens of the US allowed wars against people who did nothing to you, because of fear.

Why have US citizens allowed massively expanded powers for acronymic agencies, because of fear.

How is all US politics conducted – in an atmosphere of fear.
Obama is a Muslim, Kenyan Communist.
A healthcare system like almost any other in the rest of the western world would mean Death Panels.

I could put any name I wanted on this and it wouldn’t make me any more identifiable or my point any more or less valid.

BTW try a survey of people from anywhere on the planet and you’ll find the connection between US and cowardice to crop up far more often than not.

So step up and do something or shut up and sit back down.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Coward

You get to elect your representatives

So what? We get to select from a pre-chosen slate of people who, in terms of how willing they are to “represent” us, are all roughly the same. These people get to operate in a system where they cannot do a whole lot on behalf of the people even if they genuinely want to.

You get the opportunity whether you like it or not to take responsibility for who you elect and what they do

Please explain how we can take responsibility for what our “representatives” do. If they don’t do as we want, what can we do about it? Don’t answer “vote them out,” as that’s a false choice — voting them out just means voting in someone else who will do the same things.

Whether you take on the responsibility for it or not, you are responsible.

I cannot be responsible for what I cannot control. The problem isn’t the people we’re electing — the problem is the system itself.

try a survey of people from anywhere on the planet and you’ll find the connection between US and cowardice to crop up far more often than not.

And that’s a totally valid connection. The US, as a nation, is being destroyed by its own cowardice.

So step up and do something or shut up and sit back down.

Speaking out is an important part of “doing something,” so your call to shut up and sit down makes no sense. But that aside, what do you suggest we do?

Aside from what we’ve been doing — which is a lot more than you seem to think — the only other action I can think of is revolution. And I’m still of the opinion that things haven’t gotten so bad that revolution is the lesser evil.

Joe Dirt says:

Re: Re: Re: Coward

“BTW try a survey of people from anywhere on the planet and you’ll find the connection between US and cowardice to crop up far more often than not.”

The one’s making this connection have no problem calling the U.S. cowardly, until it comes time to ask for help with everything from surviving a war (France, Great Britain, Australia, Poland, Korea, The Philippines, most of the EU), to fiscal support (Pick just about any country and you will find the US giving them money and other subsidies.)

The U.S. may be a lot of things… Bully, gullible, shameless, na?ve, and idealistic come to mind… but cowardly isn’t among them.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Coward

The US response to 9/11 was, in every respect (governmental and domestic) cowardly.

That we’re still in the process of gutting our society in an effort to be “safe” is a strong indication that this cowardice runs deep to the bones.

I know you may not agree, but to most people (and especially to most of the world), we look like rather huge cowards who happen to have a big gun.

Anonymous Coward says:

?And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.?

And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 10, 2001. That’s the America I want back, and I don’t blame “the terrorists” for what I’m feeling now. I blame our power hungry government who have long lost sight of what their job truly is. I want the same Constitutional rights now that I had 12 years ago.

Christie can go to hell along with every other money grabbing, Constitution destroying politician this country has. They must all be voted out!

Anonymous Coward says:

He’s right. Free thought has ALWAYS been dangerous to the establishment. That is why they work so hard to try to suppress it. And he should be nervous about that.

As far as his claims of amnesia goes. No we do not have amnesia. We can remember perfectly well when our Constitution meant something more than a vestigial part of our history. Our memories work perfectly fine. And rest assured, the indiscretions of the establishment are not something that we will simply forget.

TaCktiX (profile) says:

What is this, I don't even...

I can’t believe that he’s actually serious. Upholding the Constitution is what all of Congress and the President should do, and it is well within our rights to call foul if they are not. No amount of “terrorism”, “security”, or other stupid buzzwords is going to change that.

And to insult my recollection of September 12th by saying that the wholesale stripping of the entire Bill of Rights from US citizens and the mangling of the built-in separation of powers is acceptable? I would rather be as “unsafe” as I was on September 10th if it means that I am still able to expect my rights to exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

the best way of getting the mind changed on this and others that think total surveillance is ok, is to put them under total surveillance, unbeknown to them for a period of 6 months and see what they do, where they go, who they talk and message, when they do that, where from and where to. when all that his movements and conversations etc are flushed out into the open, for everyone who wants to to look at and comment on, maybe he will change his opinion. until someone who is in favour of continuous invasion of their ‘privacy’ actually encounters it and sees the difference it makes to their movements and their lives, they think it’s fine for ‘fred up the road’ to know what he was up to!

Wally (profile) says:

A thought or two about NSA serveillance.

I think Chris Cristie raises a good point. Part of the issue with totally getting rid of the NSA serveillance on US soil is that when you really look at how the NSA didn’t share data with the FBI, you can see how 9/11 could have been prevented.

Am I for complete and utter abolishment of all NSA surveillance programs? No. Admittedly I’m not, but only because of the track record of the NSA lacking transparency in the first place. The problem I have with the current attitude is that most people are going to translate “oh let’s dial it back a bit and rework it so we don’t stomp on civil liberties”, into “we need to have no spying whatsoever”.

Chris Christie isn’t for the current spying. She, like I, is seeing what the public wants, and watching Comgress overdo the language of the laws they create. After all, the PATRIOT Act is the exact result of overreaction which entails overdoing everything to the Nth degree. When the public asks for something, Congress is known to be very gunho. When we ask them to dim the lights…they will turn off the electrical feed to your house. It’s that type of overreaction that is the true danger right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A thought or two about NSA serveillance.

The Amash Amendment wouldn’t have defunded the entire NSA or even have ended all of their surveillance programs. It simply removed federal funding for any program that collects telephone records data under section 215 of the Patriot Act without a specific warrant issued based on probable cause the way it always was. That was it. No other program under the NSA was even touched by it. It’s those like Christie that are claiming that this was all about ending all surveillance whatsoever as a means to try to paint the critics as radical left wing fanatics bent on destroying the governments ability to keep the nation secure.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: A thought or two about NSA serveillance.

“The Amash Amendment wouldn’t have defunded the entire NSA or even have ended all of their surveillance programs. It simply removed federal funding for any program that collects telephone records data under section 215 of the Patriot Act without a specific warrant issued based on probable cause the way it always was.”

You’re right, I however have a problem. The main argument under section 215 is that the phone records were actually meant for non-US citizens who have. The “warrantless” use of collecting phone data on foreigners calling to and from US soil was the main focus. The issue is somewhat different. PRISM changed that because of the way the FISC interpreted section 215. Either way, it got skewered into “collect all foreign and domestic data”. This is the rubber stamping that Mike and other writers are complaining about.

For those who don’t know, in the pre-9/11 days, the FBI handled all domestic wire taps….and with a warrant. The NSA, with its wonderful “Never Say Anything” attitude, handled all calls coming into the US through its ANCHORY program. ANCHORY had no provisions of transparency because it was assumed that the NSA would cooperate with the FBI….then the USS Cole incident happened. During the investigation, it was determined that the NSA was withholding vital information from the US Navy…which could have prevented the incident.

Then almost a year and a month later 9/11…once again the NSA withheld the data from the FBI and the FAA…once again, this could have been prevented.

The point I carry is that the NSA, at one time, refused to hand over the data without a warrant. That’s the reason Section 215 exists in the PATRIOT Act. It forces the NSA to share its data when probable cause is warranted. Saying you’re going to bomb something or someone and discussing detaed plans on how you’re going to execute your plan is probable cause to be recorded.

Due to FISC’s interpretation, there is warrantless spying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: A thought or two about NSA serveillance.

The NSA not sharing information with other government agencies has nothing to do with this. That’s a red herring. This is not inter-governmental communication. This is about wholesale collecting of citizens personal information without probable cause in direct violation of the 4th amendment of the Constitution. And if you actually read the text of the Amash Amendment, it specifically said that funding for the collection of data that wasn’t in violation was NOT prohibited by the provision. In other words it was designed specifically to target the weasel word twisting of the language of the law that they were using to violate the Constitution. That’s all. Claims that it was an attempt to defund the NSA or kill all surveillance programs are simply gross exaggerations put forth by those who support the establishment aimed to foster FUD.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Idiot

Maybe he’s talking about the immediate call to up NSA spying. September 12, 2001 was a very surreal day. We had congressmen at that time demanding more serveillance in the wake of their emotions. That’s never a good way to make a law. It’s kind of like playing on a Halo server where an 8 year old is admin and he kicks people or bans them when he looses or people insult him about his age….he’s governing the server based on emotions.

It is always a danger to hastily make laws in the wake of a tradgety because the focus is always on the short term and nobody thinks about the future except how up prevent a second tragedy. The PATRIOT Act was definitely created in such a way.

Anonymous Coward says:

?I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don?t,? he said. ?And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.?

I seem to remember there being a whole speech by Bush on how we won’t be scared or intimidated or the terrorists have won….

… a decade plus later, we’re trying to add more survellience to protect us from the scary and intimidating terrorists!

Who has amnesia Christie?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

” a whole speech by Bush on how we won’t be scared or intimidated”

Yeah but you have to remember that came after he first ran away and hid in a bunker.
True it was way more comfortable than Saddam’s and true Saddam didn’t run to his at the first sign of trouble but the clear message was given that cowardice was the first instinct of the president.His re-election meant that huge numbers of people in the US were okay with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

He wants to run for president…and supports the NSA dragnet which inherently means he does not support the constitution…when the president’s job is to uphold the constitution? I’ll stick with Wyden or Paul, if one of them runs. Let’s leave Christie in NJ where he doesn’t get to make too many privacy decisions.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


?I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don?t,? he said. ?And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.?

It’s Christie who has amnesia. His memory goes back to September 11 and then stops. He’s forgotten all of the history before that, which shows is that the state and federal governments have abused these types powers every time they have had them.

Jasmine Charter (user link) says:


You know, living in NJ… I like Chris Christie. He’s been really good for us, in my opinion.

But his stance on NSA spying is HORRIBLE. MANY things would make life easier for law enforcement – tracking chips embedded in everyone, audio and video surveillance in every house, etc.

Just because something make life easier for law enforcement, doesn’t mean it’s right… or Constitutional. The original settlers mostly came to the “colonies” to escape governmental oppression of some sort. The writers of the Constitution thought it was so important to limit what government could do, that they limited the government to specific things and then re-iterated that in the Bill of Rights.

Idiots who think over-reaching “intelligence” agencies are good really are stupidly naive. Giving the government – who is NOT benelovent – any more power over you (ie. information) is a HUGE mistake. The government is run by mostly power hungry despots who do their best to get into positions where they can lord over people – sad, but true – not everyone – but most.

If you get in their way, they will smack you down with whatever tools they can. Just look at the last election cycle – tax records released to the press on certain candidates, bogus IRS liens on candidates, IRS targeting conservative groups which in essence prevented certain candidates from receiving as many donations, etc.

I know from working with the government and working for them (as a contractor), that they are NOT smart, they are NOT in it to help others and they WILL use whatever they can to burn their “enemies” to a cinder.

Don’t give them one more inch they they need.

Digger says:

Hey Christie - STFU - 9/11 did not change the Constitution, period!

So Christie, tell me, how many terrorist plots have all this TREASONOUS activity by the Federal Government saved us from?

I’ll tell you the answer, 0 – Zero – Zilch – Nada – Zip.

Not a single one – it doesn’t have anything to do with counter terrorism and everything to do with Nazi style “papers please” every 3 feet you walk down the street (or in this case, information highway).

You say the activity isn’t treasonous? I call bullshit. It violates the constitution, therefor it’s treason.

Anyone actively supporting/implementing these activities are traitors to the people – you know – those (in your words) petty little pissants that the government is actually beholding to.

That simple little line at the beginning…

By the people, of the people, for the people.

“We the people” are the bosses, not some nazi-style treasonous constitutional terrorist running the ABC entities, courts and government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hey Christie - STFU - 9/11 did not change the Constitution, period!

“You say the activity isn’t treasonous? I call bullshit. It violates the constitution, therefor it’s treason.”

It’s treason because it violates the people of the United States, not the Constitution. It’s ILLEGAL because it violates the Constitution.

PlayNicely says:

We need to stop our daily complain-a-thon and replace it with an act-a-thon.

We are at a stage where we seriously have to devise strategies on how to turn this around. Not just hypotheticals. Not just bemoaning the passivity of our fellow citizens. Not atrophy our ability to exercise our rights by receding into cynicism. Organize! We need to speak with friends, family members and coworkers. We need to convince them that this has gone too far. That our pet issues are not important anymore when the constitution can be so blatantly and openly ignored. Forget healthcare and how that makes Obama a nazi. Forget gun gontrol. Forget fiscal policy. Teach your younger friends and family members critical thinking. Teach them to recognize logical fallacies, faulty arguments and rhetoric tricks. Teach them to see through propaganda and empty political communication. Do this whithout pushing any hot-button-issue, just talk about the mechanisms of deception and self-deception.

We must not vote red team or blue team anymore, because as has become painfully clear, both are part of the problem. Both are ruled by authoritarians and lobby interests and both are happy to gerrymander and fool you out of your effective vote. Do not make the mistake to accept the surveillance state because it comes with a number of your preferred policies. It is like accepting 1,000 $ in exchange for full access to your bank account. Call for the abolition of first-past-the-post (it can be mathematically shown to degenerate into a two-party-system with high entry hurdles). Vote third party, create incentives for competent people to join a third party or founding their own.

Start using strong encryption everywhere. Help your friends use it too. Don’t fall for the incentives that make you offer lots of personal information (like payback-schemes, insurance discounts for healthy living or voting-machines for convenience). Avoid services like facebook, skype and google. If you are an engineer build tools to replace them and make them trivial to use. Do not accept jobs that make you a cog in the surveillance machine, well-paying as they may be. If you are a researcher do not develop data-mining and face-recognition systems, however civil and benign a purpose they may serve, they will be part of your own future shackles.

We also have to show presence on the streets, on a broad platform. This is about the surveillance state: Do not put off sympathizers by pushing other issues, however important they may seem. We have to create pressure, perhaps by striking, certainly by civil disobedience. While i am not calling for violence some laws will be broken. There will be even more laws – they will be treating peaceful protesters like terrorists. Yes we will have to sacrifice wealth, and in some cases a significant amount. Yes some protesters will get hurt, locked up or even killed.

But we have to turn this around. If we don’t a dystopian society awaits our children. It won’t be as openly repressive as past dictatorships. It won’t be like old-fashioned fascism or communism. It will come in the form of a supposedly benign totalitarian oligarchy that will still adorn itself with formally being a republic. It won’t need as much in-your-face repression. It will have far more effective and subtler means to control you. It will still destroy lives, but public opinion will never be on the side of the victims anymore, not even in secret. It will know everything about you but you won’t even think that’s a problem anymore. It will sense and steer your political opinions before you have even formed them. It will still benefit an elite minority at the expense of everyone else and it will take away everybody’s means to oppose it (including the elite that benefits from it).

And remember: That it seems like there are too many issues to tackle and that every organized effort gets bogged down in the bureaucracy are deliberate tactics. There are paid shills all over the popular internet forums using both trolling and seemingly thoughtful discussions to stifle criticism. Your side-tracked discussions and waste of time by replying as well as your cynicism and misanthropy are their purpose, as these lead to inaction. We will need to be persistent. We must not give up.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...