NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript: National Security Agency and Spying

Interview

By:  Pete King
Date: Oct. 27, 2013
Location: Unknown

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DAVID GREGORY: Andrea Mitchell, thank you very much. Appreciate you being here. I want to turn now to Republican Congressman Peter King. He's been an outspoken voice in the Republican Party on some of these big foreign policy issues. Congressman, welcome.

REP. PETER KING: Thank you, David. Thank you very much.

DAVID GREGORY: Let's talk about the spying. I mean, there's a view in some quarters-- it's interesting. It's bringing together kind of the liberal left and the libertarian right that believe that U.S. spying is out of control. Is it undercutting America's reliance on allies for cooperation on anything from economic reform to chasing terrorists? Does it have to be reined in?

REP. PETER KING: Now, first of all, David, I think the president should stop apologizing, stop being defensive. The reality is the N.S.A. has saved thousands of lives, not just in the United States but also in France and Germany and throughout Europe. And, you know, the French are someone to talk. The fact is, they've carried out spying operations against the United States, both the government and industry.

As far as Germany, that's where the Hamburg plot began which led to 9/11. They've had dealings with Iran and Iraq, North Korea, the French and the Germans, and other European countries. And we're not doing this for the fun of it. This is to gather valuable intelligence which helps not just us but also helps the Europeans in--

DAVID GREGORY: But, I mean, we were apparently bugging Angela Merkel's phone from the time that she was an opposition leader in Germany back in 2002. Again, I understand why this is done. I cover these issues. But I think a lot of people who are watching this right now are thinking, you know, what is it we're doing? You mentioned the Hamburg plot. I mean, yes, we share intelligence with Germany. They're allies in this fight, not someone to be looked at so skeptically.

REP. PETER KING: Well, first of all, we do share intelligence, and we've saved many lives in Germany because of the intelligence we've given them. And we're not doing this to hurt Germany, but the fact is, there can be information that's being transmitted that can be useful to us, and then ultimately useful to Germany.

So I think that, again, this is out there. Snowden put it out there. And it bothers the hell out of me that people in my own party, such as Rand Paul, Justin Amash, people on the left also are coming together and somehow they try to exalt Snowden? This guy is causing tremendous damage to the country. And, again, we shouldn't be on defense.

And I think the president-- quite frankly, the N.S.A. has done so much for our country and so much to help this in his term, he should be out there-- he's the commander-in-chief. He should stand with N.S.A. He should go out and visit Fort Meade and be there with General Alexander--

DAVID GREGORY: All right, what--

REP. PETER KING: --and the troops there.

DAVID GREGORY: Why don't we have a bigger debate then in Congress? I mean, we really haven't had a debate in Congress since 2001 to say what's appropriate use of executive power, what's appropriate, you know, spying that goes on? Drones came up big this week and the collateral damage from drones. What are the powers that a president should have to fight terrorism? It seems like Congress doesn't really want to have that debate because they're afraid to do it because they don't want to look weak. Finally some are saying, "Let's push the debate out into the open."

REP. PETER KING: Well, I'm not afraid of anything. But, again, if we go too much in the open then we let the enemy know what's going on and we create problems. The idea is you have to have a strong defense. We have to have strong spying, if you want to call it, strong surveillance.

And as far as the use of drones, the fact is, every war there is collateral damage. Unfortunately innocent people are killed. But the efforts that the U.S. takes to protect innocent lives I say is unprecedented. If you want to go back to Dresden and Hamburg and what happened in World War II, where thousands and thousands of civilians were killed, the fact is this has kept Americans alive, it's also helped people in the Middle East.

So I think we should stop being apologetic about drones, tell Rand Paul to stop doing overnight filibusters on people being killed with drones at Starbucks. We should be standing by our military, standing by the intelligence agencies. And I said the president should go out to Fort Meade. If he can find the time to go to Junior's Cheesecake with Bill de Blasio, he can find time to go to Fort Meade and stand with General Alexander. We have stop being so defensive.

DAVID GREGORY: I want to touch on something else in Andrea's piece quickly, which is what would you say to reassure the Saudis and other Sunni Muslim regimes who believe that the U.S., by not doing enough no Syria, by opening up talks with Iran, are essentially turning their back on traditional alliances and empowering Iran? And, again, it's important to point out the Sunni/Shiite split within the Islamic world is huge right now and that's why the Saudis are so concerned.

REP. PETER KING: Rewards and consequences of actions. When the president had his apology tour in 2009, the way he was treating Israel in 2009 and 2010, and now is that terrible policy in Syria where he vacillated back and forth. He led the allies in one direction; went in another. Listen, I'm not an apologist for the Saudis, but I understand why they are very distrustful of the president right now. I can understand why Israel is very distrustful.

Again, I think he's got to be firm. He's got to be consistent. What he did in Syria was indefensible because it sent so many mixed signals and caused people to lose faith in our country, which would be the wrong thing, because we are still a pillar of strength in the country. But the president, again, is too apologetic. And by almost going overboard toward Iran and sort of dismissing Israel, just sort of leaving the Saudis out there and, again, being so inconsistent. I think we're going to look back on Syria, the mixed signals he sent on Syria over that two-, three-, four-week period, it's going to have lasting damage.

DAVID GREGORY: All right. They would argue, the president would and others, if in the end the Syrian regime is de-fanged of its chemical weapons, if there's success in the end without using military force, that that should be deemed as a success. That debate will continue, but I'm out of time for now. Congressman, good to have you as always.

REP. PETER KING: Okay, we'll do that again. Right. Thank you, David.

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