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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript: Surveillance Programs

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BOB SCHIEFFER: And to continue this discussion joining us now Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee; and in New York Congressman Pete King, who is on both Intelligence and the Homeland Securities Committee. Let me just start with you, Congressman King, up there in New York. You heard what General Hayden said. Do you think that the reforms the President announced on Friday are necessary? You came down pretty hard on him. You said this is-- the problems we have here is just a failure by the President. What did you mean by that?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R-New York/Intelligence Committee/Homeland Security Committee): Well, what I mean is I fully support the NSA program. It's been effective. It's done an outstanding job. General Alexander, who is head of the NSA, is a true patriot, and I applaud the President for continuing the NSA program. What I am very critical of him for though is basically he's been silent for the last two months. He's allowed the Edward Snowdens and the others of the world to dominate the media and that now we have so many people who actually think the NSA is spying on people, is listening to our phone calls, is reading our e-mails and to me he would just-- for some reason-- you had Dutch Ruppersberger out there, Mike Rogers is out there. I was doing what I could do, Saxby Chambliss, all defending the program. The President should have been out. He's commander-in-chief. We're in war. We're in a very desperate war with al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates and the President of the United States as commander-in--chief had the obligation to be aggressively and effectively defending his program and he really didn't do it and even the other day when he was at the news conference and I agree with General Hayden. I think the President wants to keep the program going but I just thought there was too much equivalency there. I think he should have denounced Snowden, you know, he is not a patriot. He's a person who's been indicted for espionage in time of war. And that this program has so many misconceptions, so many misperceptions out there, and I think that's partly because the President who has the bully pulpit did not use it during the last several months when people in my party, Dutch's Party, people in Congress were, I think, being very irresponsible. I think the vote on the House floor was irresponsible. I think that much of the stuff that's being said on television by, you know, prominent politicians saying that the government is listening to their phone calls--that's all nonsense.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: But it spread a paranoia in the country. The President should have been out there sooner.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's bring Congressman Ruppersberger in here. I thought it was interesting. General Hayden said he-- he calls Edward Snowden a defector.

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D-Maryland/Intelligence Committee): Well, I think.

BOB SCHIEFFER: He said, well, he wouldn't go so far as to call him a traitor, but a defector, which I think was comment, interesting.

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Well, when you work for the intelligence community, first thing you take an oath not to violate classified information. This individual now has said that he went in for the purpose of getting information. He turned his back on his country and where did he go once he got this information? He went to China and then he went to Russia. So that speaks for itself. Bottom line, we need to move forward with this. I think any-- anyone who is working in the intelligence area, including the President, understands that this program helps protect us. It really might have protected us from 9/11 attack because we didn't know that one of the terrorists was in San Diego in the United States, and if we would have known that, it might have helped.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what about-- do you think any reforms are necessary?

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Yes, and this is the reason. We in politics have to deal with perception, not just reality. And we need to do better in educating our public so they are not fearful that we, the government, are violating their privacy. That's very important. And Chairman Rogers and I, Chairman Feinstein and Chambliss, we all in the Intelligence Committee, went to the White House--and I applaud the President for bringing us there--and talking about how do we educate the public? That we need this program and the President understands that to protect us.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you at this point feel that the agency has invaded anyone's privacy?

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Absolutely not.

BOB SCHIEFFER: They are not.

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: There are checks and balances that we have. We have congressional oversight which we need to do and we continue to do. We have the court oversight. We have those checks and balances in our country. Better privacy rights than anyone. And during the whole time that this program has been in effect there has not-- there have been some mistakes, but not one intentional violation. And-- and-- so this speaks for itself but we have to do more and Nancy Pelosi and I feel very strongly that we need to educate our members. Since the Snowden event, we've had General Alexander come to Congress, briefing both the Republican caucus and the Democratic caucus. He's been there on three occasions. Anyone who wants to come has the ability to come. Now remember, we specialize in intelligence and we work this every day, but people who are on the Education Committee, on the Budget Committee, on the other committees they have their work, too. But we have opened it up. It's unprecedented that the amount of hearings that we have, classified hearings, so members if they want, they are not required can get this information.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Congressman King, let me ask you about one of the things that the President talked. He-- he talked about putting this so-called privacy advocate into that the FISA Court, the secret court that tells the National Security Agency, gives it permission to wiretap people's phones and things of that nature. In a real world is that practical because it occurs to me that some of this may be depend on split-second decisions, I mean, if we find out the country is under imminent attack, can you actually sit there and-- and have a long argument about the pluses and minuses of this, or do you have to leave that to later?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Bob, I agree with what you just said. I think it would be very impractical to have it done. Now maybe on some general policy issue where the court is going to make a decision, perhaps, you could bring in an advocate. But, no, on day to day, life-and-death decisions I believe absolutely not. And also I think we should keep in mind and somehow people say this is secret, this goes against all our traditions. Grand jury proceedings are secret. There is no adversary lawyer allowed into a grand jury room and also any other-- whether it's drug cases or organized crime cases, child pornography cases, the government obtains warrants from judges without advocates being there for the other side. This is a legitimate role of government, and when we're talking about life and death and having lived in New York through 9/11 I know what life and death means. We cannot afford to have this become a debating society. We need decisions made quickly, yes or no, up or down, because lives are at stake.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you, I'm sorry--

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Sure.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --Congressman Ruppersberger, you wanted to add something?

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: No-- no, I'm fine.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I just want to ask both of you about this. These embassies that we closed last week are now opening today. There was some criticism of this decision to close them that maybe there may have been an overreaction to that. Do you-- do you think that was--

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Absolutely, not. No, there was strong intelligence information, and any time an American is put at risk in the world or in our homeland, we have to deal with it. We have to be cautious. It wasn't just one incident. There is corroboration it's-- it's occurring and there was strong intelligence, especially in Yemen, you know, we have done a good job in Afghanistan and Pakistan, dealing with the core of al Qaeda, but al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula is getting stronger and their focus has been the United States. If you recall, awlaki who was brought to justice, targeted on the United States; the shoe bomber; the cartridge bomber; and they keep focusing on the United States. So we have a lot of work to do. And it's not just us. It's also our allies who are working together on these issues. Do you think they overreacted, Congressman King?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: No, Bob, I don't. I agree with Dutch. The intelligence that I saw here was at least as powerful as anything I have seen since 9/11. Probably, the closest to this would have been the liquid explosive plot out of London in 2006. But this was very credible. It was corroborated and it spoke of a massive attack and to me it was the right thing to do. Now, I think we should stay on this. If we do get through this without there being an attack, I do think we have to be more aggressive. We should be doing more interrogating to try to-- to head these off in the future. But, no, the President did the right thing. And I think we should try to put partisanship aside here-- and I've been very critical of the President on certain aspects. I have-- when it comes to this, we can't be critical of Benghazi because there was not enough protection and now to say we're being critical because there's too much. It's best to opt to secure American lives, especially in this situation. This was really out of the ordinary. In an-- in an extraordinary world, this was the most extraordinary I've seen in at least the last seven years, and I think--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well--

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: --Dutch would agree with that.

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: Yeah. I would.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Can-- can either of you give me a little more detail on-- on why you thought it was so serious, Congressman Ruppersberger

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: I can only say. Look, we can't give out sources and methods but we say that we got a lot of intelligence from high levels in al Qaeda, both with their leadership and also in the Arabian Peninsula. We also just got other sources of information. We check corroboration, and, clearly, the people of al Qaeda and the terrorists and jihad, they'll be-- they are out there planning every day to kill us, and that's why it's so important that we do the best we can. The best defense against terrorism is intelligence. We have men and women who work at the NSA, work at the CIA. They get up every morning thinking they're helping their country. They do it pursuant to the law and we have checks and balances but we have to do better and we will. We will have some more legislation but we're not going to hold people's hands behind their backs and say that you can't do this, you can't do that. But we have to do it pursuant to the law and deal with this perception. And I'm happy that the President has made this an issue.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Congressman King, what was it, if you can say, that convinced you that this was the most serious thing since what we were finding out about in the days after 9/11? Is there any specific thing?

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Yes, there were several. This was not a case of connecting the dots. This was clear, explicit intelligence, and evidence, and that's as far as I can go. But if I could add on to what Dutch said, these people in the NSA are patriots. It's probably what's annoyed me the most over the last several months is people casually using words like "spying," "snooping." What is the NSA up to now? Does anyone really think that General Alexander wants to snoop on Americans or is listening in on private conversations? I think that has really demeaned the whole political dialogue and that's why I wish the President be more outgoing before this war and defended the NSA a lot more than he did because this has really been a slander on the thousands of good men and women who every day dedicate their lives for our country. And, particularly, General-- General Alexander, who is as patriotic as anyone I has ever met in government or anywhere. And this is-- there is too much loose talk here. Again, every time I hear snooping and spying, it just drives me crazy. Because we know, Dutch and I know-- know what these men and women are doing and they're absolutely dedicated patriots.

REPRESENTATIVE DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER: You know I just want to point out, Peter and Chairman Rogers, that we have a very bipartisan committee in the intelligence committee. We have far left, we have far right. But we work together as a team because the stakes are too high. And-- and that's a very important issue. Peter, I thank you for being on with us today and I agree with a lot of your points.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Thank you, Dutch.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thanks to both of you.

REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING: Sure. Good.

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