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MSNBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript - National Security

Interview

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GREGORY: All right, Glenn Greenwald, I really appreciate you coming on this morning and for your views. Thank you very much.

Joining me now, Democratic Senator from Illinois, the Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin; Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn; Republican Congressman from Michigan, the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers; and the Democratic Congresswoman from California, Loretta Sanchez. Welcome to all of you. I want to go through some of the hot topics on Capitol Hill right now and move through some of these things. But I've got to start here with this breaking news. And let me go with you, Chairman Rogers, reaction to what you've heard in to the developments this morning.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI/Chair, House Intelligence Committee): Well, it's concerning. Obviously, what appears to be as of today that he is flying-- will-- will catch another flight from Moscow, many believe to Cuba. We know that there is air traffic from Moscow to Cuba, then on to Venezuela. And when you look at it, every one of those nations is hostile to the United States. I mean if he could go to North Korea and Iran, he could round out his government oppression tour by Snowden. So you think about what he says he wants and what his actions are, it defies logic. He has taken information that does not belong to him, belongs to the people of the United States. He has jeopardized our national security. I disagree with the-- The Reporter. Clearly, the bad guys have already changed their way. Remember, these were counterterrorism programs essentially, and we have seen that bad guys overseas, terrorists who are committing and plotting attacks on the United States and our allies, have changed the way they operate. We've already seen that. To say that that is not harmful to the national security of the United States or our safety is just dead wrong.

GREGORY: And Greenwald mentioned the FISA opinion, some eighty pages long. He doesn't have the opinion but he's-- he's got documents supporting it essentially saying that the government overreached, went beyond its authority, and-- and in fact, he says, we can establish illegality as opposed to what I suggested to him, which was-- it was a judicial review and then a change was made. What do you say?

REP. ROGERS: This is obviously why the program works. There is judicial review and there is judicial pushback, and rightly so. This is the problem with having a thousand-piece puzzle, taking three or four pieces and deciding that you're now an expert on what that picture looks like. You're going to get it wrong. They're getting it wrong and it's dangerous. So what happened was the court looked at it and said because of a technical difficulty, you're collecting more information than you're allowed to collect. You have to fix it. They came back, they stopped collection, they went back, they reviewed it, they figured out how to correct that. That's exactly the kind of thing you want to do. And by the way, it was reported to Congress as well. We reviewed it. We agreed that they had over collected, and we also agreed the-- the mitigation, the way that they tech-- used technology to make sure they weren't collecting certain bits of information was adhered to. That's the way you want a classified system to work when you're not trying to tell the bad guys how we do things.

GREGORY: Before I bring everybody else in, what lengths should this administration go to track Snowden down? The diplomatic route as Pete Williams reported on could be very difficult if he ends up in Venezuela. You're chairman of the-- the House Intelligence Committee. What should this administration do?

REP. ROGERS: They should use every legal avenue we have to bring him back to the United States. And, listen, if he believes that he's doing something good--and by the way, he went outside all of the whistleblower avenues that were available to anyone in this government, including people who have classified information. We get two or three visits from whistleblowers every single week in the committee, and we-- we investigate every one thoroughly. He didn't choose that route. If he really believes he did something good, he should get on a plane, come back, and face the consequences of his actions.

GREGORY: Is he gone? Do you think he's gone? Not to return?

REP. ROGERS: I-- I don't-- I'm not sure I would say gone forever. I do think that we'll continue with extradition activities wherever he ends up and we could-- should continue to find ways to return him to the United States and get the United States' public's information back.

GREGORY: Let me bring in Senator Durbin, and we-- this is obviously being reported widely on Twitter this morning, Senator, as you can understand, WikiLeaks tweeting that he has just landed in Moscow. Edward Snowden has just las-- landed in Moscow. So, he's gone from Hong Kong and on his way potentially to Venezuela, perhaps somewhere else. Specifically react to Glenn Greenwald who says this administration is criminalizing investigative journalism, criminalizing the release of information that could really contribute to a healthy debate about this kind of surveillance, and that Snowden is not guilty of espionage.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL/Assistant Majority Leader): Well, listen, every president of both political parties, first responsibility is to keep America safe, period, but to do it within the confines of the constitution. And that's exactly the debate we're engaged in now. I've been a critic of this bulk collection for years. I've offered amendments in the judiciary committee and on the floor. I believe that it should be restricted. I don't think it currently is-- is serving our nation because it goes way too far. If there's a suspect in the city of Washington with some linkage to a terrorist, will we collect the phone records of everyone who makes a phone call in area code 202 for five years? If there's a reasonable and specific suspicion, we should go after those who are thought to be complicit in any act that could jeopardize America. Having said that, though, this administration has an awesome responsibility to keep us safe and when it comes to classified information has to take care that we don't jeopardize the lives of Americans, our troops, our allies and friends around the world by releasing these sorts of things in a public fashion.

GREGORY: Senator Tom Coburn, you're following events this morning. How important is it at this juncture to get Edward Snowden back to the United States so that he can face justice? Because what's clear is that he is not only seeking to avoid that but that he plans to stay in hiding and continue to leak information to bolster his own case for being a whistleblower and not a criminal and to continue to try to press the debate here on this issue.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK): Well, I don't know that-- that we're going to have a lot to influence that, David. I think the more important thing is what is-- is NSA, how well is it looked at? It's-- it's the most over sighted program in the federal government. I'm known as a pretty good critic of most of the programs of the federal government. I believe that this is a well run within the constitutional framework of its guidelines and that we, in fact, if you-- if we could talk about everything, which we can't, which is one of the problems with this, Americans would be pretty well satisfied. The other thing that I think is, is that if you look at the institutions that are trusted in this country-- and we have a real waning of confidence in the institution of government. When you look at the-- the scale, Congress is on the bottom and the U.S. Army is on the top. And our military has done a great job running this program within the confines of the program as it was set out in Congress. And also, just to counter what Senator Durbin said, we don't listen to anybody's phone calls. We don't-- we don't go and monitor the phone calls until we have a connection with a terrorist. And that's-- that's the key point with which you can even go to access this. So it's a whole different story than what has been blown out of proportion of what actually happens.

GREGORY: All right. Congressman Sanchez, you've been critical of these programs. You heard Glenn Greenwald this morning saying that there-- that it's not as targeted as you may think, that the government is, in effect, sucking up information from e-mails and from phone calls that goes way, way beyond the Patriot Act. There have been Republicans who have said this, James Sensenbrenner, that goes beyond the Patriot Act. How concerned are you?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CA/Homeland Security Committee): Well, as you know, I have not voted in favor of any Patriot Act or any of the FISA Amendments or anything else that goes with it particularly because I have been concerned in this area. You know, I mean the Supreme Court has been pretty straightforward about the Fourth Amendment. They've let it err on the sense of national security. It's the Congress actually who can rein it in, but it's the Congress who's actually allowed it to be much broader and have collection happen. And my biggest point is that not everybody in the Congress is given access to what is really happening. And so when our American public says, hey, we don't know about this and why are you doing this, I mean, maybe we can't tell everybody in our nation, but you would think that 435 members of the House and a 100 senators should have access and ability to understand what the NSA is doing, what all the other agencies, intelligence agencies are doing. And actually have a good debate and maybe it has to be behind closed doors, but certainly with all deference to-- to our chairman here, he may have information, I doubt he has everything and knows everything, but certainly I am limited even when I ask.

GREGORY: What about-- what about Snowden? Do you think, as Glenn Greenwald does, that it's preposterous to charge him with espionage? Is that your view?

REP. SANCHEZ: Clearly under the laws that the Congress has set and that the Supreme Court under its prior rulings he has broken the law. I mean, that's where we are.

GREGORY: You'd like to see him brought to justice here in the United States?

REP. SANCHEZ: I am very worried about what else he has and what else he may put out there. I am worried about our national security.

GREGORY: Chairman, let me bring you in on this. Senator Schumer saying this morning that there are some indication that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, had advanced knowledge of Snowden's flight and his travel plans. What are the ramifications of that if it's true?

REP. ROGERS: You know I-- it wouldn't surprise me. I don't have information to that effect, but it wouldn't surprise me. Putin has been playing a thorn in the world's side in Syria. We think that they may not be playing honest with their adherence to the nuclear treaty. They're very aggressive around the world trying to regain their influence. They've modernized their nuclear fleet. Listen, Russia is a country that wants to get back on the world stage and I don't think they really care if they do it in a way that's in the best interest of good citizenship around the world. This shouldn't surprise us. They have a very aggressive intelligence operation in the United States. I'm sure they would love to have a little bit of coffee and a few conversations with Mister Snowden. That's why this is so serious and why we need to be so aggressive about making sure that people understand the difference between somebody who betrays their country and gives secrets away that will protect American lives at the expense for whatever he hopes to gain in the company of the Russians, in the-- in company of the Chinese Intelligence Services, in the company of what you can only imagine is Cuban and Venezuelan Intelligence Services, as well.

GREGORY: Senator Durbin, Howard Dean, a progressive, who ran for president, of course at a time when there were progressives meeting out west this weekend in the Netroots conference. He said something on Thursday that I want to show and get your reaction too. This is about what the president ought to do. He said, "I think the American people are willing to give us some privacy-- give up some privacy in exchange for safety, but I think the president has to essentially ask our permissionÂ… This reason this country works is because we are governed with the consent of the governedÂ… I think the American people support the president, but he's got to go on television and explain what the program is, why he thinks we need it, and what it has accomplished." Do you think the president needs to do more now to keep Americans onboard with what we're doing?

SEN. DURBIN: Well, the president's already started that. He had the first meeting with the Civil Liberties Oversight Board which has that specific responsibility within the federal government. There should be more activity, more statements by the president, and engage the public. To go back to Senator Coburn's point, I never said that they had access to the conversations, only to the phone records. But it's still a significant piece of information about each of us. David, we live in a world where people are tweeting every random thought that comes into their head and going to Facebook every night and disclosing things about their personal lives. We are sacrificing giving up voluntarily our privacy, the public sector and private sector gathering information which could limit our privacy. And it's time for a national conversation, where should we draw these lines?

GREGORY: I want to switch gears. I've just got a couple of minutes left. Again, I appreciate you all bearing with me the fact that this breaking news has come up. But Senator Coburn, let me get your views on immigration right now at a critical time, as we're heading toward a vote, as the Senate is moving on this, the House will take it up, what do you think in the end we're going to end up with, if anything, on immigration reform?

SEN. COBURN: Well, my hope would be that we have a cogent border security plan, that we solve the-- the difficulty of those living in the shadows, that they can come out, and that we don't ask the American people to trust us but we actually put out a cogent plan that actually solves the problem--border with walls but also with doors, much like Reagan had espoused, and a way to where we continue this grand experiment where we have a mix of everybody coming here to better their families, better our country, and secure and enhance both their freedom and ours.

GREGORY: Congresswoman, is whatever's being debated on terms of border security in the Senate, is it enough to affect what's going to happen in the house? If you look at the experience of the farm bill here, are you going to be able to overcome conservative opposition to the idea of reform in a pathway to citizenship to get meaningful reform?

REP. SANCHEZ: Well, that's really Speaker Boehner's job to get his votes out of his conference. But I believe if you're going to look at 30 billion dollars more into border security, I mean, that's-- that's not been put aside, this whole issue of border security, because we'll have the money to do that. The whole issue that's it's an economic drain, we just found out this week, hey, it's about 900 billion dollars in the positive. So I believe from three standpoints, we need to get this done and now is the time. We need to get it done from a homeland security perspective, we need to get it done because it's better for our economy, and we need to get it done because it's about traditional American family values, keeping our families together. These are families that are deacons in our church, PTA moms, little league coaches. They are part of our American fabric, already.

GREGORY: All right. We're going to leave it there. Again, I appreciate it. Other topics that I wanted to cover including the economy and more on immigration, but we've run out of time and, especially, with this Snowden news. Chairman, Congresswoman, thank you. Senators, thank you both. Look forward to having you back on soon to talk about some of these other issues. We're going to come back here with our political roundtable. It's been a rough ride for the president of late to have these controversies surrounding the IRS and, obviously, the NSA surveillance stories just to name a few. And we're only five months past the inauguration. Is this second term now starting to slip away? We're going to talk about the politics with our roundtable, Former Press Secretary for the President, Robert Gibbs; Republican Strategist, Mike Murphy; the Democratic Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed; Former Chair and CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina; and NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd here, as well. We're coming back right after this.

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