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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript - NSA Surveillance


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CROWLEY (on-camera): Under fire for two weeks now, the NSA is defending their data collection programs. In a three-page document sent to Congress and obtained by CNN, the spy agency argues that in recent years, the programs have disrupted dozens of terror plots in more than 20 countries, and despite having collected billions of phone records, that's so-called metadata, the database was accessed fewer than 300 times last year.

Joining me now, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Congressman Mike Rogers. Thanks for being with us, congressman. Let's start out by asking about these plots. We are -- we know that NSA is going to try to put out some information about plots that have been disrupted. We know the New York subway plot was one. Can you give us any more specifics at this point?

ROGERS: Well, we know that there are dozens of them, and the reason they're being careful is we want each of the instance that will be provided, hopefully, early this next week, to have very -- to be as accurate as we can and not disclose a source or a method of how we disrupted the attack exactly. We don't want to draw a road map for the folks who are trying to kill Americans here at home and plotting overseas to kill Americans at home.

But I do think it helps because, as people get a better feeling that this is a lock box with only phone numbers, no names, no addresses in it, we've used it sparingly. It is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch, and the executive branch, has lots of protections built in, that if you can see that just the number of cases where we've actually stopped a plot, I think Americans will come to a different conclusion than all the misleading rhetoric I've heard over the last few weeks.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I want to play you something from Senator Mark Udall. As you know, I'm sure, he's a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he was talking about these two programs, particularly, the collection of the billions of the metadata on these phone records. And here's what he had to say about disrupting terrorist plots.


SEN. MARK UDALL, (D) COLORADO: It's unclear to me that we've developed any intelligence through the metadata program that's led to the disruption of plots that we couldn't have developed through other data and other intelligence.


CROWLEY: Do you agree with that?

ROGERS: No, I don't. You know, I'll use the Zazi case, the bombings, the plot to blow up trains in New York. A terrorist overseas phone number was obtained, and they plugged it into this database. And remember, there's no names and no addresses in it. So, they have a known terrorist that had a phone number that appeared to be domestic here in the United States.

So overseas, looked like he was talking to somebody in the United States. They plugged that number in and found two connections, one in, I believe, was San Diego and one in New York City. Now, again, no names, no addresses. So, they take that and say, that's concerning when you have a known terrorist communicating in a network that looks in these two places.

They handed that over to the FBI. The FBI conducts its investigation just to determine who owns those phone numbers, by the way, which is a whole other series of protections built in, and that's how they determine the individual in New York, who, by the way, they discovered later was under at least preliminary investigation by the FBI.

Without the ability to plug that number into that database, if those numbers didn't exist, we would never be able to know the connection between who he was talking to in San Diego and who that guy in San Diego was talking to in New York. Now, some might argue, well, I don't care. I just don't want those phone numbers without names and without addresses in a lock box at all.

Then, we need to say, well, what is the consequence of not having that information? Was that plot worth it? Was stopping -- and some estimates are as high as a thousand people killed if the plot had been successful in New York.

CROWLEY: So, you think there would be more terrorism --

ROGERS: And I argue with all the privacy protections --

CROWLEY: Is what you're arguing --

ROGERS: I think it's harder to catch them, for sure. Yes. I think it's harder to catch them if we don't have something like this.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you. Separate and apart from these two programs -- so, this is a broader question. Can you assure Americans that the phone calls of people around whom there is no suspicion whatsoever are not being listened to and are not being recorded by anyone in the U.S. government?

ROGERS: Yes, that's absolutely true. It's against the law for the NSA to record and monitor U.S. -- Americans' phone calls. It's against the law, and the law is very clear on this. And think about what would have to happen here.

And again, a lock box of only phone numbers, no names, no addresses, it would mean that the NSA have to conspire with the FBI, would have to conspire with both parties in Congress on the intelligence committees and the oversight functions in the executive branch to do something beyond what the law very narrowly allows. I just -- I find that implausible.

CROWLEY: OK. I ask you that because there was a suggestion in a hearing this week with the FBI director that in a secret session, someone from NSA had, in fact, said that an analyst at NSA could listen in on a phone call without a warrant, without going to FISA, again, separate and apart, I think, from either of these two programs. But you say it is not happening at all under any program. ROGERS: No. And I can't tell you how strong we need to make this clear. The NSA is not listening to Americans' phone calls, and it is not monitoring their e-mails. If it did, it's illegal. It's breaking the law.

CROWLEY: Right. And it's not recording them either?

ROGERS: I could go get a warrant on a criminal case, yes, absolutely.


ROGERS: But that's very, very different. And I think they think that there's this mass surveillance of what you're saying on your phone call and what you're typing in your e-mails. That is just not happening. And it's important, I think, for people to understand because there's all this misinformation about what these programs are.

That's why I hope coming out and talking about how they've disrupted plots in this very narrowly, very tight program will show Americans, hey, listen, they protected our privacy. They followed the rule. They have a court order. I mean, they're doing this right, and it is protecting the United States from terrorist attacks being plotted from overseas. This is an important program to continue.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to Edward Snowden. Where is he right now, do you think?

ROGERS: Well, I think he's somewhere in China. And again, what's concerning here is somebody who started collecting information that he didn't have access to. Some of it he did. Some of it he did not. He went even beyond that. He was not able to get in certain places that he was trying to get.

And there's a lot of questions we just don't know the answers to. One is, he said he wanted to go to Iceland and seek asylum, but for months, he made preparations now we know later to go to China. And now, he's telling the Chinese newspapers what the United States --

CROWLEY: So, what do you think that means?

ROGERS: Well, listen, I'm an old FBI guy. I think you have to ask a lot of hard questions. You know, why did he make preparations to go to China for months? Why did he grab information that was well beyond the bounds of what he said he was disclosing for the purposes of privacy protection? By the way, he didn't even get that right.

CROWLEY: You're suggestion is that he was spying for China? That's your suggestion, right? Either they knew it or he was doing it anyway.

ROGERS: I'm just saying that there's a lot of questions we don't have the answers to, and it goes beyond the bounds of him trying to claim that he's a whistleblower, which he is not. A whistleblower comes to the appropriate authorities with appropriate classifications so that we can investigate any possible claim. He didn't do that. He grabbed up information. He made preparations to go to China, and then he collected it up, bolted to China, and then decided he was going to disclose very sensitive national security information, including, by the way, that benefits the Chinese and other adversaries when it comes to intelligence relationships. I just find that that -- that doesn't comport with the story, and it certainly doesn't comport with the story that the media is portraying about some have called a hero. I think he's betrayed his country, and he should be treated just like that.

CROWLEY: As a final question, I want to turn to some home grown politics here and ask you about your decision not to run for the Senate. Why did you make that decision? ROGERS: Well, a couple of reasons. One, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, that is a huge responsibility. It takes time to learn the programs, understand the programs. Some of them are very complicated and technical. I would had to really slow down my ability to be chairman to run for the Senate.

And I just felt I'm making an impact here, and it's important for national security to have some consistency in the chairmanship to make sure we're doing things right. And then, you have the second -- you know, the political bucket which was looking exceptionally good for a Senate run.

And then, the personal, I have, you know, a young high schooler who has a couple more years left, and I just thought it was awful important that I spend that time with him versus running in the next two years for the United States Senate.

So, all of that together, I think, led to a great decision. We're very, very happy, my family and I, with the decision of staying in the House and continuing to serve as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

CROWLEY: Sounds like it boils down to you really like your day job. Thanks so much, Congressman Rogers. We appreciate your time as always.


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