Jeb Bush has openly declared his support for putting the National Security Agency (NSA) in charge of civilian data, corporate cybersecurity and the internet, in what would amount to a major expansion of the national intelligence apparatus.

In the Republican presidential debate hosted by Fox Business Network in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Thursday, the candidates debated surveillance as part of a wider focus on national security.

After declaring that the Obama administration “failed us completely” in regards to cybersecurity, Bush said: “We need to put the NSA in charge of the civilian side of this, and we need more cooperation. You have to keep asking to decrypt messages.”

On a subject that raised passions among the seven men on stage and the audience watching, Marco Rubio of Florida attacked another serving senator, Ted Cruz.

Rubio said: “I never believed Edward Snowden was a good public servant the way that Ted Cruz once said that he had done a public service for America.”

Attacking the Texan for voting for the USA Freedom Act to rein in government surveillance, Rubio charged Cruz with praising Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who in 2013 leaked documents on NSA surveillance to media outlets, including the Guardian.

He said: “Edward Snowden is a traitor, and when I’m president, and we get our hands on him, he will stand trial for treason.”

“I appreciate you dumping your oppo-research folder,” Cruz said. “At least half of the things Marco said, are flat out false.”

Chris Christie said the USA Freedom Act had gone too far.

“The intelligence community,” the New Jersey governor said, should be given “the funding and the tools that it needs to be able to keep America safe.

“And this summer, we didn’t do that. We took it away from the NSA, it was a bad decision by the president. Bad by those in the Senate who voted for it and if I’m president, we’ll make our intelligence community strong, and won’t have to keep everybody out, we’re just going to keep the bad folk out and make sure they don’t harm us.”

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