CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript: Edward Snowden

Interview

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Aug. 1, 2013
Location: Unknown

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BLITZER: A lot of lawmakers here in Washington are outraged by Russia's decision to grant asylum to the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. One senator says it should be a game-changer in Washington's relationship with Moscow.

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BLITZER: As Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, is joining us now.

Senator Graham, thanks very much for coming in. Lots to discuss today. U.S.-Russia relations clearly at a very sensitive moment. You issued a statement after Snowden was released from an airport, allowed to be a free man in Russian, you said, "This is a sign of Vladimir Putin's clear lack of respect for President Obama."

What should the president have done?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think the president called Putin and said, "I'm requesting you to deliver this man back to our legal system." The attorney general wrote a letter. Making consequences of this decision more real to Putin might have helped.

But, you know, at the end of the day, I'm disappointed but not surprised. I'm not surprised at all that Putin did this, but it's something we need to take seriously. And I wish the president had made the consequences more clear to Putin.

BLITZER: The president is supposed to go to Moscow the day before the start of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in September. What do you think? Should the president still go, have his one-on-one meeting with Putin in Moscow?

GRAHAM: I would suggest not, because there's no meeting in the world like meeting the president of the United States. We're an exceptional country, and when the president sits down with another world leader, you elevate that leader just by default, if for no other reason. So I would hope the president would consider canceling this bilateral meeting with Putin, because I think it sends, really, the wrong signal about how seriously we take the Snowden episode.

BLITZER: Should the president still go to the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia?

GRAHAM: Well, Senator Schumer and I believe that we should ask for the summit to be moved. Again, when you're hosting the G-20 summit in Russia, that basically is a signal that everything is fine. Having the venue changed, I think, would be an appropriate step to take. I have a resolution for Senator Schumer to do that.

BLITZER: If Snowden is watching right now -- and we're being seen live in not only here in the United States but around the world, including in Russia -- and you look in the camera, talk to him. What would you say?

GRAHAM: You've gotten some people killed probably. No matter what your motives were, the results of your conduct has put some very brave people at risk. You've compromised our nation at a time when radical Islam is on the move. We need to find out what these guys are up to.

And you did a lot of damage to your country, and you put a lot of people who serve the country in difficult circumstances under the cover of darkness at risk, and you've got their blood on your hands.

BLITZER: Well, what evidence is there that he's put American lives at risk?

GRAHAM: Plenty.

BLITZER: Can you share some of that with us?

GRAHAM: No.

BLITZER: But you believe that Americans have already been killed as a result of this or will be killed?

GRAHAM: I think people have been compromised in terms of how they represent our country, the way they operate overseas has been compromised, yes. I'm very worried about sources and methods of the intelligence community being compromised. I'm very worried about the diminished ability of this program to detect terrorist attacks before they come to our shores.

Yes, there are people that have been put at risk by this young man.

BLITZER: Are they...

GRAHAM: Ask General Alexander. You don't have to ask me. Ask people who know.

BLITZER: Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the judiciary committee, he said that, if this program is not effective, it has to end, but he noted that a classified list of U.S. phone records, in his words, does not reflect dozens or even several terrorist plots, the section 2015 helped to prevent, let alone 54, as some have suggested.

In other words, he's suggesting that maybe it's not that big of a deal.

GRAHAM: Well, I think it's a very big deal. I think you'll agree with this. We know terrorists are out there trying to hurt our nation, inside and outside.

We do know that Anwar Awlaki talked to Major Hasan through the Internet, and the rest is history at Ft. Hood.

We do know that several of the recent attacks were inspired by radical Islamists overseas.

I can promise you, as I speak, there are active efforts to harm our country. And surveilling known terrorists and trying to find out who they're talking to within the rule of law is a necessary thing when it comes to stopping terrorist attacks. Boston is a good example.

If we had taken the Russian information more seriously, it would have been nice to have gone into the phone records of these guys and found out exactly who they were talking to and who they were -- what they were up to by getting a court order.

So I quite frankly disagree with Senator Leahy. We need this program more than ever, quite frankly.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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