Making the case for a more active U.S. presence overseas, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for a larger military and a boost in defense spending while defending the government's intelligence-collection efforts, in a speech Monday setting forth his foreign policy approach.
The likely Republican presidential contender also used an appearance in New Hampshire to criticize President Barack Obama's handling of the surging Islamic State group and the emerging nuclear deal with Iran.
"Iran might not have the bomb right now - but their influence is absolutely radioactive to the world," the New Jersey governor said. "So we need to contain it with our moderate Sunni Arab allies, while at the same time rolling back the shadow of ISIS," he said, using another acronym for Islamic State.
Christie, who served as a U.S. attorney before he was elected governor, also sought to distance himself from the crowded Republican field by offering an unapologetic defense of the U.S.'s intelligence-collection efforts.
He took aim at former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked thousands of documents to journalists. Among Snowden's revelations: NSA had for years been secretly collecting millions of Americans' phone records. Christie has previously said that program should continue.
"When Edward Snowden revealed our intelligence secrets to the world in 2013, civil liberties extremists seized that moment to advance their own narrow agenda," he said. "They want you to think that there's a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids. They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of the Bourne Identity or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more.
"Let me be clear - all these fears are baloney," he said.
"When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy," Christie added.
More than 300 House members last week voted to end one provision that Snowden revealed, the bulk phone records collection program and replace it with a system to search the data held by telephone companies on a case-by-case basis. The supporters of ending the program include Democrats and Republicans, and even the NSA doesn't object to having private companies store the data.
Independent reviews have found that the bulk collection program did not foil a single terrorist attack.
The speech was the third that Christie has delivered in recent weeks in the early-voting state as he lays the groundwork for an expected campaign. His previous speeches focused on overhauling Social Security and lowering taxes on individuals and corporations.
Christie has been working to try to re-establish his place in the top tier of likely candidates after the fallout from the George Washington Bridge scandal.