Transcript for Roundtable I: Privacy vs. Security
General allen, you can't even tell us in an open session yes or no whether the national security agency intercepts the telephone conversations of american citizens in america. Sir, I believe that a discussion of our operations is properly held in closed sessions. The action that we do is very closely circumscribed. I heard your testimony. Don't repeat it. You made it very clear that you answer no questions. You don't know whether you're invading the rights of private citizens. You obviously are. This isn't a new debate. That was back in 1975. When the nsa was first discovered collecting information on americans. The debate back this week. We're joined to talk about it on the roundtable with george will, paul krugman, matthew dowd from abc, and greta van susteren and keith ellison. George? We're threatened by needles in a haystack. Very few needles and a large haystack. We're threatened not by a nation but a network. Network of terrorists to be invisible until there's a attack. When there's an attack we talk about who didn't connect the dots. In the data they're collecting the dots are the sophisticated algorithms. They try to reveal the dots. Before they can act on this there are two levels of judicial supervision. They need the foreign intelligence court to authorize looking at the pattern of usage of phones and internet. And another judicial review to look at messages, the content of what they're doing. Now, this is the case for it, the problem is, we're using technologies of information gathering that didn't exist 20 years ago, that are terribly important but terribly invasive. They require reposing extraordinary trust in the executive branch of government, which some of us think has recently forfeited. There was really good article written five years ago at the yale law school, he said that technology means we're going to be living in a surveillance state. There are different kinds of surveillance states. You can have a democratic surveillance state that tells you as much as possible about what you're doing. Or you could have an authoritarian state. That collects as much as possible and tells you as little as possible. We are kind of on the authoritarian side. Let me bring that to congressman ellison. You're a member of congress. The president said on friday that every member of congress has access to the information. You can first start out by explaining by a member of congress not on the committee n know about this program? I would say almost nothing. You can't bring your staff in there so we're moving around capitol hill at lightning speed, nearly every member of congress is, if you can't get any staff support, you got to go into that room and pour through documents. Are you allowed everything? I don't think I am. I'm allowed to see certain things. It's available if you make certain times and places to go see it. The fact is, no, I'm not aware of this program that was revealed today. I have no notes. We checked our e-mails and our noteses. So, I think it's a fiction. It's a fiction that everybody in congress knows. Nobody -- very few people in congress -- you voted on it without full knowledge? I voted against the patriot act. I voted against it because we don't know what we don't know. I take issue with george on secret? Maybe if we all know about it, and we all that it's a good idea, we live in a different society, we're supposed to have a transparent government. We should know it exists. There russ cameras in boston. Why can't we know their phones. If everybody knew that phone numbers are being maintained by the nsa, terrorists may be using pony express or smoke signals. Slow them down a little bit. Now, we're giving them a pass, give it fast through the internet. The second thing is, the accord that signs that gives and signs permission. There's 2012 letter, from the nsa to senator harry reid, there are 1,789 requests in calendar year 2012, of the 1,789 requests for authorization one was withdrawn by the government, all of the other ones were granted. They got the rubber stamped. They should have a public counsel arguing on the other side. Only government presents the arguments. Right. Look at what they do against -- with the warrant against james rosen. They present warrants that are questionable. George, I think there are a couple of points here. First is, the idea that the president stands up there and the administration stands up there, don't worry about this. We're not listening to your phone calls. So, it's okay. It's not much of an invasion of privacy. Anybody who understands -- I have a pretty good understanding of how data is collected on phone records. You can do a complete lifestyle analysis of somebody, and it's a deeper invasion of privacy. What they're saying is trust us on this. We're doing this. We're going to protect you. That's my second point on this. This is a balance between an erosion of civil liberties and the protection of public safety. What they're telling us is that there's a serious erosion of civil liberties. They say it's worth it to erode civil liberties in this way because it's going to protect you in a certain way. We're not going to tell how many of you are protected but trust we'll be able to do that. We're learning a little bit about this. Let me bring this to george will, almost 1500 reports from the nsa program made it into the president's daily briefing. They would indicate some use of this information. And we heard the chairs said at least in two cases the program helped stop an attack. Without revealing methods and sources we have to make this public. I actually agree entirely with greta. Pat moynihan wrote a great book on secrecy. He said it makes the government stupid, because it hides secrets from itself. Second, it encourages paranoia. Because people don't know what's going on. Conservatives ought to understand secrecy is government regulation, government regulation of information and they ought to be skeptical about it. But all six of us, already this morning, have left a digital trail. We used a credit card, cell phone. It's constant. The notion of revealing this is telling the terrorists something. Only if the terrorists haven't watched a single tv thriller, right? Everybody knows. As greta said, they can't go to the pony express. There are limits of what they can do. They're in a network, they have to communicate and they're in a bind. We need to review the law. I think it casts too wide a net. And we ought to remember the way -- the best way to protect the american public is to act -- active police work that follows up leads that actually exist. Just figuring out what somebody's phone calls are in, anyone who's not even connected is not worthwhile. If it is, somebody needs to make a case why they need this information. I think we passed this law when we were very much afraid for a legitimate reason, it's time to come back and introduce privacy. It shows how much different candidate obama and senator obama was and what he said and what he's done as president of the united states. I can say all this, as president, forget everything i said, forget everything that i criticized george w. Bush for, and the government, forget everything I said we're going to make government transparent, oh, by the way, everything george w. Bush said, I'm going to put on steroid because that's going to protect the public. Couldn't that be an honest coincidence? Yes. Then say it. Keep in mind, be careful what you say as a candidate and as president. I think it's the nature of the job, the executive is going to go up the line. It's the responsibility of the legislature to balance -- do you think congress has done their job? No, I don't. I think we need to peel it back and we need to make sure we're considering the constitution when we write these kind of laws. This is where the irs scandal metasized into a national scandal. The nsa information-gathering this would really be a problem if we had the government that unleashes the irs on political opponents. Oh, come to think about it, we do have that kind of government. Therefore the willingness to trust the executive branch is m minimum and should be. I mean, back in -- I don't know what year it was -- you said, beside terrorism the administration's argument that because of the president is the commander in chief he's the sole organ of the nation in foreign affairs. You were talking about george w. Bush at that time. My only problem is, you can't make this is an obama problem, this is an executive problem. I didn't mention obama. I'm saying, in fact, today, the executive branch -- we'll find out. We'll have hearings about this. The executive branch ought to be feared. This country was founded on a revolution primarily against executive prerogative. No argument on that. The whole issue is the credibility of the government. Who can trust the government? We just saw senator feinstein do the most incredible two-step defending mr. Clapper. She should have said, look, i can't defend it. Ask him, he said it. She started back pedaling. Just stand up and have the courage to say. When president obama changes his mind on things -- I was a candidate I thought this. In the oval office, I now understand. Have a little credibility. And say the obvious. The problem is, greta, and we talked about it, everything in washington is viewed through a partisan lens. If george w. Bush did something and democrats didn't like it, it's bad. If barack obama does something and republicans don't like it, it's bad. Even things that barack obama -- maybe it's time to stop. I agree. Maybe someone should have the courage, look, I'm not going to blame the last guy and move forward. I think one of the things you see is people defending the program -- rogers and senator feinstein. We don't know about it. We could haven't had this debate. That's the bigger issues. It's been a big secret. Maybe we would have agreed on the program or not. It's kind of an open secret. Hasn't it? We do know about it for the last six years. It was the first revelation, that phone records were being looked at. You know, the thrust of this thing is disturbing to me. The scope in a way of this thing, if they gather 3 billion items of information, less threatening than borrowing ten. You have to rely on the algorithms. I would like to focus on people who there's reason to believe there's danger. And the reporters who do open it up are now going to be prosecuted. The experience with james rosen has left many in the industry feel little raw. No question. Let's move on. We learned that susan rice, the u.N. Ambassador has appointed national security adviser, replacing tom donilon. Here's the president talking about it. A patriot who puts her country first, she's fearless and she's tough. Her brother is here, who I play with occasionally. It runs in the family, throwing the occasional elbow but hitting the big shot. I'm confident that we got an experienced, effective and energetic u.N. Ambassador in waiting in samantha power. She knows the u.N.'S strengths and weaknesses. George, consolation perhaps, but susan rice will now be the national security adviser. The president is really drawing the ranks close in as the second term goes on. Yes, and in these two people he has two advocates of humanitarian intervention. As far as I can tell, they favor humanitarian interventions in libya that are untainted with any connection with the national connection. With regard to ms. Power, it seems to be the only good ambassadors to the u.N. Are those who have fundamental contempt for the institution. They made a difference because they had an adversarial stance to the board. An atrocity prevention board, they convene around a table and they say let's prevent an atrocity. A feel-goodness about this. I don't think that translates into policy. I think the president is going to be well served by both and the whole controversy involving susan rice and the whole libya thing, I think she was sort of an unfortunate victim in some of the way the rhetoric was thrown around and i think she's going to do a fine job. I actually -- you know what, the president described ambassador rice as a patriot, fearless and tough. I'm sure she is. But what we need is someone who will ask questions. We have to hope. But it would have been better if he chose somebody who would have stand up why are you saying that? To me this is a perfect example of what's gone wrong in washington. I think samantha power is very competent and qualified. And ambassador rice is very competent and very qualified. But just because you can appoint somebody doesn't mean you can appoint somebody. To me, this is basically at a time, when we not to lower the bitterness, get this screaming and yelling, he sticks a stick in the eye of many republicans, by the way, the people that you don't trust I'm going to put in these two key positions. This is even more in your face, george. It says that we're not going to let you approve this. We're going to put them in charge of an agency -- that we learned in the last few days -- I will not be bullied. You guys tore this person up for no good reason. I'm going to show that doesn't actually work. I think strength comes from to reach over to the other side. And get something done. This guy has reached, reached -- not really. L, friday we saw thecc1: New jobs numbers. 175,000 jobs created last month. Unemployment ticked up just a bit to 7.6%. It seemed to be exactly what the stock market liked. What is your read on what this means on the economy? We are in this kind of sour equilibrium. I mean the economy is growing. Jobs are being created. 32 straight months of job growth. The economy is growing. You know, if the growing population, it's a growing workforce, the shares of adults employed. We're just creeping up. There are more than 4 million people who have been unemployed for more than six months, still that's an incredible by past standards. This is a terrible, terrible economy. The fact that we think of the jobs report like friday's as being a good report just shows you how depressed our expectations have become. Wall street thought it was good because it was so bad. The federal reserve would not stop printing money. The purpose of which is to pour into equities seeking high returns. And trickle down to the american people. Congressman ellison, it seems like it's taken all of the air out of any effort to get a deficit reduction deal. This year w the deficit coming down, health care costs coming down, the economy growing. Not much happening? I'm afraid you're right. We're not focusing on the sequester, which I think is responsible for our lackluster job numbers. We cut 14,000 public employees in this last round. And the numbers are going to keep coming in regard to the sequester. I think we were ready to have a much stronger recovery. Housing is coming back. People are feeling better. Kids are starting to head households again. And the sequester -- we shouldn't be looking at this positive jobs growth. We should be looking at it, as gosh, we might have been ready for takeoff here and we have the sequester killing us. What disturbs me the economy is like a there-legged stool. The rich, the middle-class and the poor. We aren't digging into the inner city and not going to the huge poverty at the bottom. Obama care is actually a huge anti-poverty program. But the problem -- we still matter here. But the problem is, whether for humanitarian purposes or just selfish purposes, as the poor class grows, it's a bigger problem for the middle class and the wealthy. 90% of this country have had no real movement in their financial situation. More than 90% in 15 years. 15 years. And the part of the thing we haven't really faced is, are we in this new normal in the economy where 500,000 jobs, increase in average wages, are a thing of the past? Do government institutions meet where we are as a 21st century nation? Because 95% of the country is not benefiting. You go back to 1979 there hasn't been any real -- george, let me say, there is a very positive trend. You have all of these low-wage fast-food workers, new york, chicago, all over the country, who are literally going on strike even at 8 bucks an hour to try to demand an increase in pay. So, as you know, congress is not raising american wages. We're stuck, ordinary americans -- wait until the health care hits those fast food places. Got to take a break. We'll be right back with more
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