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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. And to all you moms watching, happy mothers' Day! We'll hear how the First Lady is spending her Mothers' Day a little later, but first that debate over domestic spying. The news that millions of Americans have had their phone records collected by the National Security Agency made the cover of both Time and Newsweek today. And it's the first topic for our headliners, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and from Delaware, Democrat Joe Biden. Welcome to you both.

SEN. BIDEN: Thanks, George.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And let me begin by showing General Hayden right after he might with you, Senator Hagel, the day after these revelations came out.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (principal deputy director of National Intelligence and nominee for CIA director): (From videotape.) Everything that the agency has done has been lawful. It's been briefed to the appropriate members of Congress -- that the only purpose of the agency's activities is to preserve the security and the liberty of the American people. I think we've done that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Hagel, do you agree that everything the National Security Agency has done has been lawful?

SEN. HAGEL: Well, I don't know everything that the NSA has done. We will get into considerable depth on that question during the hearings this week before the Senate Select Committee on intelligence. As you know, we will have open hearings and then we will go into a closed hearing session where we'll be able to explore some of these things.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this revelation that they were collecting literally billions of American phone records. Do you believe that was legal?

SEN. HAGEL: I don't know. I talked to General Hayden about it on Friday. We didn't go into great detail. I withheld my questioning until the hearings this week. But we need to know exactly that that program is about. The American people need to be assured that their government is, in fact, following the law. Not just protecting the security interests of our country, but also the constitutional rights of individual Americans. We can do both. We always have done both. And I think this is going to be, George, a matter of moving into a 21st Century compact or law that allows our intelligence agency professionals to do their job, to protect the interests of our country within the framework of constitutional boundaries. Technology has overtaken our past laws and these new technologies have changed everything.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Biden, on this issue of the collection of the phone records, most experts agree that it probably doesn't violate the fourth amendment, that it's constitutional. But the question is does it violate some of our telecommunications and other privacy statutes? What do you think?

SEN. BIDEN: I think it probably does, but to be quite honest, that's split as well, George, but I think that Chuck has made the central point here. Technology has probably gone beyond the status of our existing laws and this administration has a pattern of excess. Rather than come to us and tell us how to amend the law to provide for them being able to do what they want to do, they go ahead and just go ahead without any congressional oversight of any consequence and without court oversight. And they basically say, "Trust us." And this administration has a pattern of excess, from its attitude toward torture to prisoners to treaties. And so there's not a whole lot trust. Although I like Hayden, but I don't know, man.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You called this a pattern of excess.

SEN. BIDEN: We just don't know what they're doing.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We don't know what they're doing, but we do know a lot of what they're doing. In the past, you've called the broader program of intercepting these al Qaeda communications, or potential al Qaeda communications as -- both "illegal" and "unconstitutional." If that's the case, and if that's your belief, why not move to stop funding for the program?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, because what you don't want to do is you don't want to stop everything. It's like the Vietnam war. I go there in 1973 and people would say "cut of funding." Yeah, you cut off funding, but then my roommate's sitting in a rice paddy and he has no weapons. I mean, that is a threat without much realistic power behind it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I see you nodding your head, Senator Hagel. A similar question on General Hayden. You say you're going to ask him serious questions about this collection of phone records. Do you believe his confirmation should be held up until we can assure you and other members of the committee that everything they've been doing is legal?

SEN. HAGEL: Well, there's no question that his confirmation is going to depend upon the answers he gives regarding activities of NSA. General Hayden, who, by the way, I support, I think is a consummate professional. I trust him. But the fact is --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though you're not sure that these programs are legal and he was the architect of the programs?

SEN. HAGEL: Well, let's don't bog him down into the underbrush here of the policymakers. One of the questions I want to ask is who set that policy? Now, the papers, the front page of The New York Times and The Washington Post this morning, for example, talk about how Hayden pushed back on the vice-president and the vice-president's people. The vice-president --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On a broader surveillance --

SEN. HAGEL: On broader surveillance. It was General Hayden who insisted on constitutional protections, working within the framework of the law, according to these stories.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So what does that make you think about the vice-president?

SEN. HAGEL: Well, he's not up before us at a hearing, but we'll, I suspect, get into those issues and I want to know what Hayden's role was.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So do you want to call, Senator Biden, do you want to call the vice-president up? I see you laughing there, but it's a pretty serious matter.

SEN. BIDEN: No, no. I is a pretty serious matter. But when you said, "What do you think about the vice-president? I -- (Laughs) -- anyway -- I don't have a comment.

SEN. HAGEL: Joe wanted to answer that question.

SEN. BIDEN: No, I don't want to take that one. Look, the vice- president of the United States seems to be the most powerful guy in this administration, setting policy. And I have the same information from my sources that Chuck has, in addition to the press, that Hayden has pushed back against the vice-president's further excesses. And I think Chuck is correct. He still is a general in the service of the United States government. His bosses and superiors are the president and the vice-president, among others. And so -- but I do think he has to say what the program is and he has to indicate whether or not, why he thinks it's constitutional or otherwise.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're inclined to support him?

SEN. BIDEN: My inclination is, if you got -- if he stonewalls, I'm not going to be able to. I mean, if he comes up before the appropriate committee, the Intelligence Committee, he does not respond, that would make it could be very, very difficult. But as a man, I think he's a first-rate person. I know him as a man of honor. A guy I respect more than anyone else. I've met Bobby Inman, former NSA director in years past, has nothing but positive things to say about him. And that means a lot to me. So with him, personally, it appears as though the stories I've heard is that he has pushed back. That is positive. Now, what he's pushing forward, that's another question. We have to know that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me turn, then, to immigration. President Bush set to give an Oval Office address tomorrow night. His first Oval Office address that's not about war and one of the proposals he's considering, Senator Hagel, is increasing the number of National Guard troops being sent to the border. I want to show you what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said about that.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-California): (From videotape.) I think that the Bush administration and the federal government should put up the money to create the kind of protection that the federal government is responsible to provide. Not to use our National Guard, soldiers that are coming back from Iraq, for instance, and to have spend now a year and a half over there and now they're coming back. I think that we should let them go to work.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: He's against sending in the National Guard. Where do you stand?

SEN. HAGEL: Well, I want to listen to the details and I want to listen to the president. But I would say this. I think we have to be very careful here. That's not the role of our military. That's not the role of our National Guard. Let's approach this in a long-term way where we fix the problem. That's a short-term fix and I'm not sure that's a very wise fix. Let's start with the fact whether we even have the capacity, what the Governor is talking about. We've got 75 percent of the equipment of National Guards all across this country is in Iraq. We've got National Guard members on their second, third and fourth tours in Iraq. We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times. What in the world are we talking about here, sending a National Guard that we may not have any capacity to send down to protect borders. That's not their role. I'll listen to the president, but I've got a lot of questions about this.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're very skeptical?

SEN. HAGEL: I'm skeptical.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, I don't think there's any problem with sending the National Guard, as a matter of principle, but I agree with Chuck and the governor that this is a president who refused to increase the end strength of the Army, which means we rely more upon the National Guard. They're spread all over the place. And what we should do is we should move now and pass the immigration bill. We put 12,000 border guards down there now and the bill that I'm supporting calls for another 2,500 a year till we double the number. In the meantime, there may be needs where we need a stopgap immediately. But you have to understand, we have stretched these men and women so thin, so thin, because of the bad mistakes done by the civilians in the military here that I don't know how they're going to be able to do it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Biden, you've also endorsed, I believe, the compromise that Senator Hagel and Senator Martinez have worked on which will also create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the United States. It looks like that's going to pass the Senate after you guys debate this over the next couple of weeks, but the House seems to be dead-set against it. Will you insist that path to earned citizenship has to be in any final conference report that comes before you?

SEN. BIDEN: Absolutely. I may be on that so-called conference, to us the inside term here. And I think it's absolutely and positively essential that we do this wholesomely, that is, deal with all the pieces, not just the enforcement side. And my belief is if the Senate moves on this, and I congratulate Chuck on his leadership there, I think we can get that done. I can't believe the House is going to stonewall that.

SEN. HAGEL: May I just add one other thing to this? Joe said something very important and most Americans, I'm sure, aren't following this closely. Within the framework and the specifics of the legislation that we'll be taking up again next week, part of the bill that came out of Joe's committee, including the Hagel-Martinez compromise edition, there are vast new resources that we are talking about and border patrol-control money, equipment, that is really the long-term, as well as short-term fix for border security. No one questions the need for border security. But we're back to this question of the National Guard. When you start -- if that's where the president is going with this, inserting your military and your National Guard into a -- whether it's short-term, long-term, whatever, that takes us away from trying to resolve this on a bigger, longer- term, more permanent basis. There are resources, huge new resources in this legislation. That's the way to fix it, not further stretching the National Guard.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Everybody is worried -- majorities in both Houses for this increase in resources, but you still have that problem in the House of Representatives, the majority leader, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a majority saying they don't like your path to earned citizenship. They call it "amnesty." Can you get -- I mean, can you see the Republicans in the Senate approving a bill that doesn't include that earned citizenship.

SEN. HAGEL: Well, first of all, I know what amnesty is. Amnesty is what Jimmy Carter issued in 1979 for those people who fled the country versus serving your country in uniform. Unconditional. Amnesty. Come back, all is forgiven. And by the way, I supported that. That's amnesty. This is not amnesty. That's number one.

Number two. If the House leadership or those who don't like the Hagel-Martinez compromise, the Senate compromise, the Senate bill, then offer then an alternative to what we do with the reality of the fact that we have 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. The House bill doesn't deal with that. Sure, it's easy to criticize. Come forward with your bill then. Your alternative. What are you going to do? Not just secure the border. Of course we secure the border. But give me an alternative as to how you fix this problem.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there's your challenge. We've just about out of time. A quick question for each of you. Will there be a comprehensive immigration bill passed and signed by the president before the election? Senator Hagel?

SEN. HAGEL: 50-50.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: I think a little more than even. In other words, yes, I think it's more likely than not.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys are very close on that. Thank you both very much.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.


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