Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is putting his weight behind controversial spying programs at the National Security Agency, setting up a battle within the Republican Party ahead of the 2016 presidential race.

In a major foreign policy address at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Wednesday, the likely presidential candidate praised the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone data, which critics call a massive invasion of privacy.

“This is a hugely important program to use these technologies to keep us safe,” Bush said.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand [how] the debate has gotten off-track,” he added, while maintaining that program rules “do protect our civil liberties.”

The defense of the program puts Bush at odds with the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Paul, who is expected to announce his own bid for presidency later this year, has long been a vocal critic of the NSA, and last year sued the Obama administration over the spy agency’s phone records program.

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