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ROBERTS: And a lot of support for their neighbors in the region as well.
Thanks very much, Leland.
Joining us now to talk more about this, Republican Congressman Pete King of New York, member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees, and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Gentlemen, welcome to both of you. Let me start off the segment if I could by going back to the president on Martha's Vineyard, a little more of his reaction to Wednesday's bloodshed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure. I know it is tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what has gone wrong. We have been blamed by supporters of Morsi; we have been blamed by the other side, as if we are supporters of Morsi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Senator Blumenthal, the president -- and try to walk a fine line and a neutral line here -- appears to have alienated both sides.
What's your opinion of how he has handled this crisis?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.: I agree with the president that the people of Egypt have to decide their own future and this bloodshed, the violence in the streets, has to stop.
The practical reality is that most of the military aid for this fiscal year, 2013, has already been obligated and delivered.
In fact, all of it, except for about four F-16's and maybe some helicopters. So looking forward I think that the approach has to be to condition our future aid on specific steps toward the rule of law and return to democracy, respect for minorities and women and a more inclusive political process including the release of prisoners so that the aid is released in blocks that are conditioned on those steps. And I hope the president will support that approach, which is contained in the amendment offered by Senators Leahy and Graham to the Appropriations Subcommittee bill that will come to the floor.
ROBERTS: Congressman King, what are your thoughts on that?
Should the president, as Senators Graham, McCain and Rand Paul suggested, cut off all aid?
Or as you are calling in the Senate, as Senator Blumenthal suggests, make it conditional?
REP. PETER KING, R-N.Y.: We certainly shouldn't cut off all aid. There are no good choices in Egypt. The fact is there's no good guys there.
But of the two, I think there is more opportunity to protect American interests if we work with the military and continue our relationship with the military.
We have to have access to the Suez Canal. Al Qaeda should not be allowed to gain a foothold. The treaty with Israel should be enforced. It's -- I don't think that could be done with the Muslim Brotherhood. It possibly can be done with the military.
We should maintain our relationship with the military. I would be reluctant to be cutting off aid. Obviously we should use it as a bargaining wedge. We should lean on the military to the extent that we can.
But I would not want to undercut them and allow the Muslim Brotherhood to come back, because they have shown they are not capable of democracy. And I don't know if our immediate goals should be democracy per se. I would think a stable government would respect the human rights of minorities if that could be done, because after what we saw over the last two years, after the Arab Spring and in the chaos that ensued, I don't know if, at this moment in time, a democracy is actually in store for Egypt. They should work toward a democracy with a stable government, with respect for human rights. To the extent we can influence that.
ROBERTS: Do you agree with that, Senator Blumenthal, that perhaps democracy is not in the cards, at least immediately, for Egypt?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, democracy is in the eye of the beholder. As we know, our democracy is really unique in the world, we are the greatest nation in the history of the world because we have a unique respect for the rights of minorities and individuals, every individual. So we can impose our own vision of democracy on a country like Egypt. And I do agree that our strategic interests merit strong respect, according to air space over Egypt as well as the Suez Canal.
The insistence -- and we should make it even stronger -- that the Sinai be policed to end human trafficking and smuggling of arms. And officer, maybe as important as anything else, is closer consultation with some of our allies in the region. The Gulf States as well as Israel on what our approach to Egypt going forward should be.
And I think we will find that aid that we may withhold is compensated by aid that the Gulf States may provide, even exceeding the amount of aid that we were going to provide.
So I disagree with Senator Paul on eliminating aid, canceling it entirely and agree with Congressman King.
I do, by the way, agree with Senator Paul that the FISA court needs to hear both, sides that we have to have a special advocate. I'm very pleased that he's endorsed the concept. In fact, the specific blueprint that I have offered for a special advocate in the FISA courts, which also the president seemed to endorse in his statement last week.
ROBERTS: Well, since you bring it up, let me switch gears and go to the latest revelations about the NSA. NSA Director Keith Alexander was in Las Vegas at the end of last month, and again he gave assurances that the NSA is complying with the law and that there are appropriate checks and balances.
Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA DIRECTOR: I think it is important to understand the strict oversight that goes in, in these programs because the assumption is that people are out there wheeling and dealing and nothing could be further from the truth. We have tremendous oversight and compliance in these programs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Congressman King, you are a staunch defender of the NSA and its programs. You call the people who work there, quote, "patriots," but would also appear very clear that mistakes are being made and, in many cases, they are not, as they should be, reporting those mistakes.
KING: Well, John, I totally disagree with that and I fully disagree with what Senator Rand Paul said. That was just a grab bag of misinformation and distortion coming from him. The fact is, John, look at this: take Rand Paul's own numbers. He said there's billions of phone calls being collected. It is not really true. But assume he is being right for once.
Billions of phone calls being collected, you juxtapose that with 2,800 violations which were self-reported by the NSA, which do not violate anyone's rights. You are talking about 1,900 of them being foreigners. And when they came to the U.S. because the foreign mobile phone, it wasn't immediately transferred over the way it was supposed to be.
No Americans' rights were violated with that.
The others were records for more than five years by accident, self-reported by the NSA. To me it's scandal, is when a government agency is somehow using information to hurt people, to go after them. Whatever mistakes were made were inadvertent and if you have a 99.99 percent batting average, that is better than most media people do, most politicians do. And I have a tremendous respect for General Alexander and the NSA. And this whole tone of snooping and spying that we use, I think it's horrible. It is really a distortion and a smear and a slander of good patriotic Americans.
ROBERTS: But hang on for a second here. You said that everything was self reported by the NSA. The documents that were leaked at the end of last week clearly show that many of these violations were not appropriately reported, at least not to the foreign intelligence surveillance court, whose members also complain that they do not have the power to initiate investigations into non- compliance.
So is there a problem here?
KING: No, there's not a problem. The fact is, it worked. If you have 99.99 percent compliance and you have self reporting errors, this came from an internal report, which then becomes part of an overall IG report. So I'm on the Intelligence Committee. I am satisfied that we are told what the NSA is doing. But, John, who else in government --
ROBERTS: Did you know, Congressman King, all of what was reported at the end of the week?
KING: It was all available. And there's nothing there that bothers me. Quite frankly, that shows that the system works. And it works. We should be proud of it.
ROBERTS: All right.
Senator Blumenthal, anything in that report, anything in the reports that came to light at the end of the week that bother you?
BLUMENTHAL: There is a lot that bothers me and I share Congressman King's respect for the brave and dedicated men and women who do our intelligence and national security work.
The problem -- and there is a real problem -- is with the system. It is a black box. The FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court is a secret tribunal, issuing secret opinions, making secret law and a lot of it completely unavailable to members even of the Foreign Intelligence Committee.
BLUMENTHAL: So, I believe there need to be changes in the FISA court. So it can better uncover and scrutinize an oversee potential abuses, and I would establish a special advocate who would be responsible in effect for representing the Constitution. No delay or lack of security, because there would be preclearance, and warrants would be issued as much as they are now, as rapidly as presently goes on. But, also a change in the method of selecting the court to represent greater diversity and greater transparency in the operations to the extent possible. So, I think we are at a critical juncture, a turning point because there needs to be continued surveillance and intelligence gathering, but the trust and credibility of the system is gravely at risk and that is why we need these transparency and accountability reforms.
ROBERTS: Congressman King, it's clear this is going to be a big topic of discussion when Congress returns after the Labor Day weekend. Nancy Pelosi said in response to the disclosure at the end of the week, "The press reports with the National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times a year and reportedly sought to shield required disclosure of privacy violations are extremely disturbing."
Do you think she is just way off in left field here?
KING: I think she is wrong. I wish she (inaudible) more carefully, but let me just say, this raises a larger issue. Where it is up to the president to come forward and defend it. I mean I'm not here, Mike Rogers, a number of us are defending the program. This is the president's program. The president of the United States should be much more aggressive in defending and should be out there, and that's why a lot of these distortions by people like Rand Paul who don't know what they are talking about, are able to take hold. because the president has been relatively silent. I think he's spoken twice on the NSA, once back in May and once ten days ago. He should be out there addressing the nation on this, going into detail, and if there have to be reforms, fine. Let's address them. But in an intelligent way. And Senator Blumenthal, I fully agree with his tone, with his attitude, and I think that those are -- that's an area we can discuss. What bothers me, John, is that people we talk about stooping and spying and someone acting -- some corrupt operation going on here. If there are mistakes, let's try to correct them. If we can do something within the court without giving away secret information, let's have an intelligent debate on that, getting it from people like Rand Paul.
ROBERTS: All right, Congressman King, you have declared your desire to potentially run for president in 2016. So, if successful, maybe you will have a chance as president to defend the NSA program. Congressman King, thank you ...
ROBERTS: Thanks very much for joining us today. We can see you.
KING: Thank you, sir.
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