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MSNBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript - NSA Surveillance and Immigration Reform


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GREGORY: Senator Tom Coburn, you're following events this morning. How important is it at this juncture to get Edward Snowden back to the United States so that he can face justice? Because what's clear is that he is not only seeking to avoid that but that he plans to stay in hiding and continue to leak information to bolster his own case for being a whistleblower and not a criminal and to continue to try to press the debate here on this issue.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK): Well, I don't know that-- that we're going to have a lot to influence that, David. I think the more important thing is what is-- is NSA, how well is it looked at? It's-- it's the most over sighted program in the federal government. I'm known as a pretty good critic of most of the programs of the federal government. I believe that this is a well run within the constitutional framework of its guidelines and that we, in fact, if you-- if we could talk about everything, which we can't, which is one of the problems with this, Americans would be pretty well satisfied. The other thing that I think is, is that if you look at the institutions that are trusted in this country-- and we have a real waning of confidence in the institution of government. When you look at the-- the scale, Congress is on the bottom and the U.S. Army is on the top. And our military has done a great job running this program within the confines of the program as it was set out in Congress. And also, just to counter what Senator Durbin said, we don't listen to anybody's phone calls. We don't-- we don't go and monitor the phone calls until we have a connection with a terrorist. And that's-- that's the key point with which you can even go to access this. So it's a whole different story than what has been blown out of proportion of what actually happens.

GREGORY: All right. Congressman Sanchez, you've been critical of these programs. You heard Glenn Greenwald this morning saying that there-- that it's not as targeted as you may think, that the government is, in effect, sucking up information from e-mails and from phone calls that goes way, way beyond the Patriot Act. There have been Republicans who have said this, James Sensenbrenner, that goes beyond the Patriot Act. How concerned are you?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CA/Homeland Security Committee): Well, as you know, I have not voted in favor of any Patriot Act or any of the FISA Amendments or anything else that goes with it particularly because I have been concerned in this area. You know, I mean the Supreme Court has been pretty straightforward about the Fourth Amendment. They've let it err on the sense of national security. It's the Congress actually who can rein it in, but it's the Congress who's actually allowed it to be much broader and have collection happen. And my biggest point is that not everybody in the Congress is given access to what is really happening. And so when our American public says, hey, we don't know about this and why are you doing this, I mean, maybe we can't tell everybody in our nation, but you would think that 435 members of the House and a 100 senators should have access and ability to understand what the NSA is doing, what all the other agencies, intelligence agencies are doing. And actually have a good debate and maybe it has to be behind closed doors, but certainly with all deference to-- to our chairman here, he may have information, I doubt he has everything and knows everything, but certainly I am limited even when I ask.

GREGORY: What about-- what about Snowden? Do you think, as Glenn Greenwald does, that it's preposterous to charge him with espionage? Is that your view?

REP. SANCHEZ: Clearly under the laws that the Congress has set and that the Supreme Court under its prior rulings he has broken the law. I mean, that's where we are.

GREGORY: You'd like to see him brought to justice here in the United States?

REP. SANCHEZ: I am very worried about what else he has and what else he may put out there. I am worried about our national security.

GREGORY: Chairman, let me bring you in on this. Senator Schumer saying this morning that there are some indication that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, had advanced knowledge of Snowden's flight and his travel plans. What are the ramifications of that if it's true?

REP. ROGERS: You know I-- it wouldn't surprise me. I don't have information to that effect, but it wouldn't surprise me. Putin has been playing a thorn in the world's side in Syria. We think that they may not be playing honest with their adherence to the nuclear treaty. They're very aggressive around the world trying to regain their influence. They've modernized their nuclear fleet. Listen, Russia is a country that wants to get back on the world stage and I don't think they really care if they do it in a way that's in the best interest of good citizenship around the world. This shouldn't surprise us. They have a very aggressive intelligence operation in the United States. I'm sure they would love to have a little bit of coffee and a few conversations with Mister Snowden. That's why this is so serious and why we need to be so aggressive about making sure that people understand the difference between somebody who betrays their country and gives secrets away that will protect American lives at the expense for whatever he hopes to gain in the company of the Russians, in the-- in company of the Chinese Intelligence Services, in the company of what you can only imagine is Cuban and Venezuelan Intelligence Services, as well.

GREGORY: Senator Durbin, Howard Dean, a progressive, who ran for president, of course at a time when there were progressives meeting out west this weekend in the Netroots conference. He said something on Thursday that I want to show and get your reaction too. This is about what the president ought to do. He said, "I think the American people are willing to give us some privacy-- give up some privacy in exchange for safety, but I think the president has to essentially ask our permission… This reason this country works is because we are governed with the consent of the governed… I think the American people support the president, but he's got to go on television and explain what the program is, why he thinks we need it, and what it has accomplished." Do you think the president needs to do more now to keep Americans onboard with what we're doing?

SEN. DURBIN: Well, the president's already started that. He had the first meeting with the Civil Liberties Oversight Board which has that specific responsibility within the federal government. There should be more activity, more statements by the president, and engage the public. To go back to Senator Coburn's point, I never said that they had access to the conversations, only to the phone records. But it's still a significant piece of information about each of us. David, we live in a world where people are tweeting every random thought that comes into their head and going to Facebook every night and disclosing things about their personal lives. We are sacrificing giving up voluntarily our privacy, the public sector and private sector gathering information which could limit our privacy. And it's time for a national conversation, where should we draw these lines?

GREGORY: I want to switch gears. I've just got a couple of minutes left. Again, I appreciate you all bearing with me the fact that this breaking news has come up. But Senator Coburn, let me get your views on immigration right now at a critical time, as we're heading toward a vote, as the Senate is moving on this, the House will take it up, what do you think in the end we're going to end up with, if anything, on immigration reform?

SEN. COBURN: Well, my hope would be that we have a cogent border security plan, that we solve the-- the difficulty of those living in the shadows, that they can come out, and that we don't ask the American people to trust us but we actually put out a cogent plan that actually solves the problem--border with walls but also with doors, much like Reagan had espoused, and a way to where we continue this grand experiment where we have a mix of everybody coming here to better their families, better our country, and secure and enhance both their freedom and ours.


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