Jeb Bush spoke up in favor of the National Security Agency on Tuesday, saying he would support expanding the intelligence agency if he were successful in his presidential campaign. He also criticized tech companies for not doing more to help intelligence and law enforcement agencies access encrypted data, the Associated Press reports.
“There’s a place to find common ground between personal civil liberties and NSA doing its job,” the Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor said. “I think the balance has actually gone the wrong way.” Bush shared his opinions on encryption and the NSA at a national security forum hosted in South Carolina.
Bush was critical of tech companies like Apple and Google, which instituted encryption into messaging services on iOS and Android devices late last year. Bush said that making encryption more accessible to consumers had a negative effect on law enforcement efforts. “It makes it harder for the American government to do its job while protecting civil liberties to make sure evildoers aren’t in our midst,” Bush said.
The GOP hopeful added that he would pursue “a new arrangement with Silicon Valley in this regard.” He acknowledged that consumers are pushing companies to provide encryption, but said that satisfying customers and earning money “should not be the be-all-end-all” when companies make the decision to encrypt data.
Bush also opposed a June vote by Congress to end the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA. The NSA justified its collection of phone records under the Patriot Act, a law instituted by Bush’s brother, George W. Bush, during his presidency. The phone records collection program was exposed to the public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, and was declared illegal by an appeals court this year. However, Bush claimed there is “no evidence” that the program violated Americans’ civil liberties.