updated 7/2/2006 1:59:26 PM ET 2006-07-02T17:59:26

MS. ANDREA MITCHELL: Our issues this Sunday: Partisan battles on Capitol Hill, Iraq, immigration, flag-burning, and a Supreme Court ruling against the president’s claim of wartime powers, all setting the stage for the November midterm elections. With us: the assistant Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky; and the chairman of the Democratic senatorial campaign committee, Chuck Schumer of New York. McConnell and Schumer square off.

Then, the president leads an attack on the media.

(Videotape):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it, and no excuse for any newspaper to print it.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: Leaks, freedom of the press and national security. Insights and analysis from Bill Bennett, radio host and author of “America: The Last Best Hope,” John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal and CNBC, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and William Safire of The New York Times.

And in our MEET THE PRESS MINUTE, 35 years ago this week the Supreme Court issued an injunction allowing The New York Times to continue publication of the classified Pentagon Papers. The man who leaked the Papers to The New York Times, Daniel Ellsberg, was a guest on MEET THE PRESS May 20, 1973.

(Videotape, May 20, 1973):

DR. DANIEL ELLSBERG: I’ve not met a lawyer in this country who could say clearly that the acts that I admitted doing—copying the Pentagon Papers, of which I had authorized possession, and giving those copies to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ultimately to the press—violated any law.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: But first, Senators McConnell and Senator Schumer. Welcome, both.

In a major rebuke this week to the White House, the Supreme Court ruled that the White House has to abide by the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice when handling detainees, and ruled that the military tribunals cannot be the course. Senator McConnell, in addition to this, The New York Times editors wrote in reaction, “The Supreme Court’s decision striking down the military tribunals set up to try the detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay is far more than a narrow ruling on the issue of military courts. It is an important and welcome reaffirmation that even in times of war, the law is what the Constitution, the statute books and the Geneva Conventions say it is - not what the president wants it to be.” Senator, in a broader sense, isn’t this a real rebuke and a repudiation of the broad authorities that the president’s been claiming since 9/11?

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): Well, first and most importantly, the decision did not require the president to release the prisoners at Guantanamo, nor did it require the president to close Guantanamo.

MS. MITCHELL: Correct.

SEN. McCONNELL: It said that in order to try these individuals by—an appropriate thing to do would be for the president to get the Congress to create military commissions, or there were two other options, both of which I think are clearly unacceptable. So what I think Congress will be doing is creating military commissions.

And second, a very disturbing aspect of the decision was that the Court held Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applicable to American servicemen. And this means that American servicemen potentially could be accused of war crimes. I think Congress is going to want to deal with that as well when it enacts these military commissions, and I think we need to do it soon. And so we’ll be dealing with that in the coming weeks.

MS. MITCHELL: You—do you have time? You won’t—you’re going off now—you’re off now on July...

SEN. McCONNELL: There’s nothing more important than the war on terror, and I think we will have to act on this very soon, either in July or in September, certainly in the next couple of months.

MS. MITCHELL: Senator Schumer, will this be a bipartisan effort? And can you agree on the fix?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I think it will. Look, let’s face it, Andrea, the world is a different place, and in this war on terrorism you don’t have set battlefields, you don’t have the enemy wearing uniforms. So to change things, that is a good idea. The problem is, this White House has felt it could just change things unilaterally against the Constitution, against the systems of checks and balances. Had they come to Congress a few years on this—a few years ago on this issue, my guess is they would have gotten most of what they wanted. But what’s happened here, because there is such a view that the president’s power is infinite and unchecked by anybody—first time ever a president has had those kinds of views—they keep running into brick walls—in this case, a Supreme Court that has generally been sympathetic to executive power. And so we’re going to have to not only look at this issue, we’re going to have to go back to the other issues as well, because this ruling undercuts some of the other things the president has done. But on giving the president what he needs, and giving our country what we need to fight the war on terror, there’s going to be agreement.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, let’s break it down here, because this ruling does indicate to some human rights groups that this applies to the prisoners in secret CIA prisons, to the prisoners in Afghanistan—beyond Guantanamo. Are we going to see a flood of habeas corpus petitions now, Senator McConnell?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, I think clearly we’ve got to act, and I’m pleased to hear that Chuck thinks that we may be able to do this on a bipartisan basis. I think it is important to note that this president hasn’t done anything with regard to enemy combatants that have been done—that hadn’t been done by previous presidents. The Court now has stepped into a—into the field and said we must create these commissions. Well, we’re happy to do that, and I’m hopeful it’ll be done on a bipartisan basis. But I don’t think we’re going to pass something that’s going to have our military servicemen subject to some kind of international rules.

SEN. SCHUMER: Of course not.

MS. MITCHELL: But we are signatories to the Geneva Conventions. Why shouldn’t our servicemen be...

SEN. McCONNELL: But the, but the, but the enemy is not a signatory to the, to the, to the Geneva Conventions, so why should these terrorists be subjected to something they’re not signatories to?

SEN. SCHUMER: The good news, Andrea, is that the Court, particularly Breyer’s decision, said Congress could change the rules. And we have to change the rules. I don’t think there’s disagreement on that.

SEN. McCONNELL: And we, and we will.

SEN. SCHUMER: Security and liberty have a tenuous and careful balance in this republic. It changes from time to time, and should. But the problem here, again, you’re right. They’re going to be hundreds of court petitions. This is going to create huge discombobulation. We’re going to be far worse off than if the administration had come to Congress originally and gotten this done. But this view—and I don’t agree with Mitch here—this view that the president has the sole right based on a—the use of military force doctrine, when none of this was even discussed or mentioned, is the wrong view, and the Supreme Court said it.

SEN. McCONNELL: Andrea, could I just...

MS. MITCHELL: Senator McConnell, should Guantanamo now just be closed?

SEN. McCONNELL: No. I, I...

MS. MITCHELL: Because it’s just been such a black eye diplomatically.

SEN. McCONNELL: What, what are we, what are we going to do with these people? I mean, we want them to free them so they can come kill us again? Look, I, I think the Congress is very, very likely to give the president exactly what he thinks he needs to continue to fight the war on terror. And it’s important for all of us to remember that we haven’t been attacked again here at home again since 9/11. That’s not an accident. That’s not an accident. The policies that we’ve pursued are protecting us here at home.

MS. MITCHELL: But is this Court ruling a strong signal to the White House that it should now agree with Senator McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and, and others in your party who believe that it should go in—go along with the Geneva Convention in terms of rules of the road for our soldiers?

SEN. McCONNELL: I think Congress is going to be very reluctant to subject American military people to potential war crimes violations.

MS. MITCHELL: So John McCain is wrong on this?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, we’ll see. We’re going to have—we’re looking for the administration’s advice about what they need to fight the war on terror. My guess is that the Congress is very likely to give the president what he thinks he needs, the tools he thinks he needs to protect us here at home.

SEN. SCHUMER: I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I think that there will be a careful looking again at what certain due process elements are that the Constitution and the Supreme Court has required in the past. But giving the president the tool he needs, yes.

But there’s one other thing that ought to be done, Andrea, given the sweeping nature of this decision, not so much on the specifics of what can be done, but on how it ought to be done. I think—I’ve, I’ve sent a letter today to Attorney General Gonzales asking that they do a review now in light of this decision of all their other arrogations of power so we avoid this mess again two years later on these other issues, whether it’s wire taps or anything else, where the administration just said unilaterally, “We can do whatever we want.” That is not how the United States works.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, let me turn to another controversy, which is the battle over national security leaks. The House voted this week on a resolution condemning the publication by The New York Times and several other newspapers—particularly, though, The New York Times. Now, the resolution said, “The House of Representatives ... expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt, and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program.” Representative Peter King, a Republican of New York, said, “If there is another terror attack, the blood will be on their hands,” meaning on the editors and reporters of The New York Times and elsewhere. The president expressed anger over this. Let’s give a listen to that.

(Videotape, Monday):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: The disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We’re at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America. And for people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: Senator Schumer, on January 1, you said that—about an earlier leak regarding the NSA surveillance...

SEN. SCHUMER: Right.

MS. MITCHELL: ...that “Whenever classified information is leaked, there ought to be an investigation, because it could endanger our security.” So I would presume you now would agree with the president that this leak should also be investigated.

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, it certainly should be investigated, but the president and others have gone way overboard.

MS. MITCHELL: How so?

SEN. SCHUMER: How so? Look, we believe in a free press in this country. The press is often antagonistic or probing of people in power. We all don’t like that, but it’s part of America, and as a founding father said when they first wrote the Constitution, true to this day, that’s a good thing for America.

The—there are exceptions. One is if it harms national security. Now all of these statements by the president and others are jumping the gun. We don’t know if it’s harmed national security. In fact, I’ve been on the Banking Committee for six years. It is broad public knowledge, stated by administration officials...

MS. MITCHELL: Have you been briefed on this?

SEN. SCHUMER: I have not been briefed privately on this program, but we’ve had people come before the Banking Committee, publicly, from Treasury and other departments. And this is—the White House has made statements, others have made statements, that we monitor and track terrorist financing.

MS. MITCHELL: Well...

SEN. SCHUMER: It’s been successful, so that you look at the reports, the terrorists don’t use the banks as much. So to jump out front and just blast a newspaper that they may not like, that, to me, is totally wrong. It’s, it’s the guilty verdict first and then the trial. Mitch—Pat Roberts has called for an investigation, fine, let it be a fair...

MS. MITCHELL: The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

SEN. SCHUMER: Yeah. Let it be a fair and down-the-middle investigation. My guess: It will find that national security was not compromised a jot.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, let me pick up on that, because Treasury Secretary Snow took a group of reporters on a trip to Afghanistan and other parts of the world to show off how they were tracking terror financing. So, Senator McConnell, do they want to have it both ways? Do they want to brag about their success record in tracking this financing, and at the same time yell and scream about the reporters when they print the stories?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, look, I think the leaks are abominable and printing of the leaks is certainly troubling. You can talk in general about what we’re doing without revealing the specifics. And I think we all regret that the, that the Times and other publications chose to do that. And I think the president essentially had it correctly.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, let me show you a joint statement that was on the op-ed pages of both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times yesterday. The editors of those newspapers wrote, “... the banking articles ... did not dwell on the operational or technical aspects of the program, but on its sweep, the questions about its legal basis and the issues of oversight. We understand that honorable people may disagree with any of these choices - to publish or not to publish. But making those decisions is the responsibility that falls to editors, a corollary to the great gift of our independence. It is not a responsibility we take lightly. And it is not one we can surrender to the government.”

After that, in fact, The Wall Street Journal attacked The New York Times on its editorial pages Friday, so this was clearly a response to that, even though the Journal had itself published the same story about terror financing in its news columns, which is separate from its editorial pages. Senator McConnell, has the administration and its conservative supporters now embarked on a calculated campaign to demonize The New York Times and other newspapers, but particularly The New York Times, as a political calculus because it’ll help in the midterm elections?

SEN. McCONNELL: Look, newspapers are very, very important in our, in our country. The media’s important, and we have a free press, but the press is not responsible for our national security. That’s the responsibility of the president and the Department of Defense and the other agencies that look after us. And I think it’s important for the leaders of the principle outlets in the press in this country to be responsible. And I don’t this publishing of this kind of information is helpful, and nor do I think it is necessary in doing their job.

MS. MITCHELL: Senator Schumer?

SEN. SCHUMER: Andrea, let me say a couple of things. First, you asked about a double standard. There clearly is a double standard; it’s with the administration. They leak things they want to leak. And when the Plame leak came out, there was no outrage, there was no high dudgeon. In fact, regardless of the criminal standard which special prosecutor Fitzgerald is handling, it’s clear that there were leaks. There’s been no punishment, no outcry, etc. You can’t have it both ways and use leaks when you want to and don’t use leaks when you don’t.

But there’s a second point here. When it comes to difficult situations, and clearly Iraq now is one, and this administration has a penchant for diversion and scapegoating. And here’s the good news—the good news for America and, I think, the good news in many ways—they’re going to have to solve the problem in Iraq, they’re going to have to solve the problem in the war on terrorism where Afghanistan is deteriorating right now. And I think the American people are tired and see through these diversions. They want real solutions, they want real progress.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, let’s talk about real solutions, Senator, because Democrats are sharply divided over Iraq. Two weeks ago, only 13 Senate Democrats supported the Kerry-Feingold amendment by Senators Kerry and Feingold calling for an immediate withdrawal. You were not one of them.

SEN. SCHUMER: Correct.

MS. MITCHELL: But as the party’s campaign chairman for the Senate campaign, doesn’t that amendment make Democrats look weak?

SEN. SCHUMER: Not at all. You know what our job is? Look, the president is commander in chief. The president, by the Constitution and everything else, is in charge of Iraq. He got us in there, he’s got to figure a way out. Our job, our job is oversight, our job is holding people accountable. So...

MS. MITCHELL: Wait a second, you’re going to the election...

SEN. SCHUMER: Right.

MS. MITCHELL: ...to, to the voters in November. Don’t you also have the job as campaign chairman for Democrats of presenting an alternative?

SEN. SCHUMER: Let me say this. I think what the American people want is for the Congress to hold the president’s feet to the fire. Now, we did present an alternative, the one that a vast majority of Democrats voted for, including some who voted for the other one, which said—it was drafted by Senator Levin and Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and it basically said we’re going to tell the Iraqis in a period of time—not public, you don’t want to set a specific deadline, that’s what the resolution didn’t like—that we are not go—this commitment is not open-ended and they better get their act together or they’re not going to keep us there.

But make no mistake about it, Andrea, a minority party in the Congress has a job. The job is one of oversight and accountability. We are not the commander in chief, we are not in charge of all of those things...

MS. MITCHELL: No.

SEN. SCHUMER: ...so to set guidelines, to set a general direction the way we did in the Reed-Levin amendment is correct.

MS. MITCHELL: But with all...

SEN. SCHUMER: I think what the American people are most upset about is the Republican...

MS. MITCHELL: ...but...

SEN. SCHUMER: ...Congress is not holding the president’s...

MS. MITCHELL: ...with all due respect...

SEN SCHUMER: ...feet to the fire at all.

MS. MITCHELL: But with all due respect, when we talk about the politics of this, Senator Chris Dodd, who has said he’s considering running for president, said that in fact the Kennedy—excuse me—the Kerry-Feingold amendment hurts rather than helps...

SEN. SCHUMER: Oh, I don’t buy that.

MS. MITCHELL: ...the Democratic Party. And this what Senator Feingold said to Tim last week about those, like yourself, who voted against it.

(Videotape, June 25, 2006):

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): I can tell you, the one thing I’m sure of, Tim, is the American people have had it with this intervention. They do want a timetable for bringing home the troops, and the fact that the United States Senate doesn’t get it shouldn’t surprise you.

MR. TIM RUSSERT: So the majority of the Democratic Senate is out of touch with the American people.

SEN. FEINGOLD: Yes it is, at this point. Those who vote against bringing the troops home don’t get it. They’re not out there enough, they’re not listening to the people.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: How do you go to the, to the people in November...

SEN. SCHUMER: Very...

MS. MITCHELL: ...when Democrats don’t have an agreed upon policy in Iraq?

SEN. SCHUMER: But we do. The, the vast majority of Democrats supported the Levin-Reed resolution which called for a year of transition and said, “Tell the Iraqis it’s not open-ended.” But, I would say this. The ball—if you’re talking about the election in 2006--is in the president’s court. All of the debates in the Congress, this resolution, that resolution, when—is—are not going to—are going to pale in significance before how things are going in Iraq. And the American people—every poll shows—and it’s common sense—hold the president responsible.

MS. MITCHELL: Senator McConnell, let me ask you about something that you said during the first month of the war back in April of 2003. “American success in Iraq showed that ‘arm-chair generals and New York Times reporters’ were wrong in their assessments of how difficult the war would be. ... Rebuilding Iraq will be much easier than rebuilding Afghanistan, he said, because Iraq has a well-educated population and the oil to finance reconstruction. ‘Iraq has the potential to be a jewel in the Middle East.’” Was that a miscalculation on your part, reflecting what the administration’s miscalculation was?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, certainly the, the taking of Iraq was what is expected. The aftermath has been much more difficult. And I think it’s gone—the fact that it’s gone on a while creates the kind of debates the Democrats are having among themselves over whether we get out by the end of the year or get out by next summer or begin to get out at some point. And people do become impatient.

But it’s important to remember, Andrea, the most important thing. We haven’t been attacked again here since 9/11. We’ve been on offense. We’ve invaded Afghanistan, invaded Iraq, there are democratic governments now in both places. Is it easy there? No, it isn’t. But these are the same kinds of people who attacked us here in the United States. They’ve not been able to do that again because the president made the fundamentally correct decision to get on offense, and we’ve gone after these people where they are, somewhere else, fighting them in places like Kabul and Baghdad so we don’t have to have them again in Washington and New York. I think that’s been a fundamentally sound decision and I think we’re succeeding.

MS. MITCHELL: Let me briefly turn to immigration. Gentlemen, there is now talk of a possible compromise which would have a two-step process where you would delay guest workers for two years perhaps, as long as that, but first do the border security.

Senator McConnell, you’ve been trying to support the White House, but is this something where you and the Senate Republicans could move toward the House position and come up with something before the end of the year?

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, I’d rather have a comprehensive bill than not, and I think it needs to tilt toward border security. We’re in the process of beefing up border security anyway through our appropriations process, whether or not we’re able to achieve a comprehensive immigration settlement. But we’re better to have this bill than not. And my, my preference is...

MS. MITCHELL: And Senator Schumer, I see you’re nodding in agreement.

SEN. SCHUMER: Yeah, I mean, the problem here, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, George Bush supported the bill that came out of the Senate.

MS. MITCHELL: But you, you’d rather have something than nothing.

SEN. SCHUMER: It’s a tough bill and it’s a fair bill. But here’s what’s happening. There’s a, you know, there’s a wing of the Republican Party that doesn’t want that bill. They tend to be more in the House than the Senate, and they’re trying to hold things up. They’re having these hearings. Well, we’ve had hearing, hearing, hearing.

MS. MITCHELL: But now it looks like we may short circuit that.

SEN. SCHUMER: The American people want a solution.

MS. MITCHELL: Senator Schumer, as you well know, in Connecticut your colleague and friend and former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman has a heated primary race on his hands against anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. Now let me show you a bit of a new ad that the Lamont campaign is airing, which morphs Joe Lieberman with pictures of President Bush.

(Videotape):

AD ANNOUNCER: Joe Lieberman on the Iraq war:

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: (With George W. Bush’s face) We are now at a point where the war in Iraq is a war of necessity.

AD ANNOUNCER: Joe Lieberman may say he represents us, but if it talks like George W. Bush and acts like George W. Bush, it’s certainly not a Connecticut Democrat.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: OK, as campaign chairman, will you now, today, commit to supporting whoever wins that Democratic primary in Connecticut where he is now facing that tough challenge?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, let me say this, Andrea. Harry Reid, myself, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, in this primary, are supporting Joe Lieberman. And we’re doing everything we can to help him. I’m not going to speculate on what happens after the primary, because we believe Joe Lieberman is going to win, and it—I’m not going to undermine my candidate by speculating about what might happen afterwards. We think he’s going to win and we’re supporting him in the primaries.

MS. MITCHELL: You’re supporting him even though his position on the war is completely contrary to most, most Democrats?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, again, the Democratic Party is united in holding the president’s feet to the fire on oversight, but...

MS. MITCHELL: But why won’t you commit today to supporting Joe Lieberman, the former vice presidential nominee?

SEN. SCHUMER: Because...

MS. MITCHELL: You’re basically saying that you will support the Democrat, whoever wins?

SEN. SCHUMER: I am saying that we are supporting Joe Lieberman in the primary...

MS. MITCHELL: But only for the primary.

SEN. SCHUMER: ...and we’re not going to speculate about things afterwards because that undermines your candidate. We’re supporting Joe. He’s going to win.

MS. MITCHELL: Are you suggesting that you might not support the Democratic winner?

SEN. SCHUMER: As I said, I am not going to speculate on the future because we’re for Joe Lieberman in this primary.

MS. MITCHELL: We’re talking about what the definition of “is” is here, but...

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, there you go.

MS. MITCHELL: So, Joe Lieberman up through the primary, and then he’s on his own?

SEN. SCHUMER: We’re not speculating after the primary.

MS. MITCHELL: What if he runs as an independent?

SEN. SCHUMER: We’re not speculating after the primary. It doesn’t make sense. When you have a candidate you’re supporting, you don’t say, “What happens if he doesn’t win?”

SEN. McCONNELL: Andrea?

MS. MITCHELL: Yes.

SEN. McCONNELL: Could I just say, this illustrates the nature...

SEN. SCHUMER: I’m sure you’ll want to. Weigh in.

MS. MITCHELL: Weigh in on this one.

SEN. McCONNELL: ...the nature of the Democrats’ problem. Joe Lieberman voted against all of their cut-and-run proposals. All of them. He supports the president in his war on terror and in the Iraqi chapter of that, and it creates a real dilemma. The Democrats are obviously totally divided on the issue of how to handle the war on terror.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, let me help you get off the...

SEN. SCHUMER: But, Andrea, wait, I don’t agree with that. If you look at every poll, who do the American people have more faith in in terms of Iraq? It’s the Democrats. Who do the American people—do they want to see a change in direction in Iraq? Absolutely.

MS. MITCHELL: But, Senator...

SEN. SCHUMER: And I think they respect the fact that Democrats do have divisions and are debating this, and not just marching in lockstep to whatever the president does, because they’re not happy with what the president is doing, and that’s going to help us.

SEN. McCONNELL: The debate that Chuck and I are having—this debate that Chuck and I are having is likely to be the big issue in the fall campaign. We’re going to have this debate with the American people.

SEN. SCHUMER: (Unintelligible).

MS. MITCHELL: Speaking of debates and rivalries, Roll Call Newspaper reports, Senator Schumer, that you and your fellow New York senator, Hillary Clinton, have such an intense rivalry that this week you and Harry Reid, your majority leader—your Democratic leader, rather—tried to exclude her from a news conference to announce one of her pet issues. Is it that intense, the rivalry between you and Hillary Clinton?

SEN. SCHUMER: No, it’s absolutely journalistic chatter. Ted Kennedy’s been our leader on minimum wage. Hillary Clinton came up with a great idea: tie minimum wage to the pay increase and Harry Reid—and Harry Reid...

MS. MITCHELL: So why didn’t you—why didn’t you schedule the news conference when she could show up?

SEN. SCHUMER: ...and Harry Reid—as we did, and she showed up. And then we had another one where she showed up. Harry Reid, as our leader, has done a very good thing here. He has said that as a party, we’re going to support Hillary’s idea that there be no pay raise until there’s a minimum wage increase, and we’ve had two news conferences. We—with Hillary, Ted Kennedy, Harry and myself. It’s worked out extremely well.

MS. MITCHELL: Let me cut to the chase here. If she announces that she’s running for president...

SEN. SCHUMER: Is that what...

MS. MITCHELL: ...will you do what is customary and support your fellow New York senator for president of the United States?

SEN. SCHUMER: Hillary Clinton is running for the Senate of the United States of New York. She is doing a great job running; we spent all day Friday together going through the flood-torn areas...

MS. MITCHELL: Will you support her for president if she chooses to run for president?

SEN. SCHUMER: ...and she is focused on New York, and what—I will wait till after she wins for the Senate to decide what to do.

MS. MITCHELL: But if she announces that she’s going to run for president, will you support her?

SEN. SCHUMER: Well, let’s let her announce first.

MS. MITCHELL: All right. Well, we’re going to have to leave it right there.

Thank you very much.

SEN. SCHUMER: Thank you.

SEN. McCONNELL: Thank you.

MS. MITCHELL: Senator Schumer, Senator McConnell, and happy Independence Day to both of you.

SEN. SCHUMER: Same to you.

MS. MITCHELL: And coming next, freedom of the press vs. national security. Our roundtable with radio host and author Bill Bennett, William Safire of The New York Times, Dana Priest of The Washington Post, and John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal. All coming up on MEET THE PRESS.

(Announcements)

MS. MITCHELL: Our round table on balancing press freedoms and national security, after this brief station break.

(Announcements)

MS. MITCHELL: Welcome all.

Well, first the firestorm over leaks. For years the president and the Treasury have been trumpeting their success in following terror money.

So, Bill Bennett, what is the harm in what The New York Times and other newspapers did last week in publishing their stories?

MR. BILL BENNETT: Well, there are a lot of people who are saying there’s a lot of harm. Ask the undersecretary of the Treasury, Stuart Levy, who is very upset about it. Ask the secretary of the Treasury, departing secretary, Secretary Snow. Ask Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission. They’re not exactly Bush camp followers. Tom Kean said in an interview, he said a very successful program, which has been very successful, successful in the war against terror, has been lost, compromised because of this.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, isn’t it true that, in fact, this program was hinted at in the 9/11 commission report, and both NBC analyst Roger Cressey, who is a former national security official, and his fellow former NSC officer Richard Clarke said that no harm was done. Let’s look at what they wrote in The New York Times about this. “Wildly overblown ... are the Bush administration’s protests that the press revelations about the financial monitoring program may tip off the terrorists. ... They want the public to believe that it had not already occurred to every terrorist on the planet that his telephone was probably monitored and his international bank transfers subject to scrutiny. How gullible does the administration take the American citizenry to be?” Bill Safire...

MR. BENNETT: Well...

MS. MITCHELL: ...does the press have an obligation...

MR. BENNETT: ...is that it? Is that it for me?

MS. MITCHELL: No. No. Stand by. I want to ask Bill Safire to weigh in on this.

MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: Well, here we are...

MS. MITCHELL: Bill, does the press have an obligation to print or not in this case? And were they giving away state secrets?

MR. SAFIRE: Look, I don’t speak for the Times. I’ve been in the Times for 30 years disagreeing with Times editorial policy right down the line. On this one, I think they did the right thing. Here we are on Independence Day weekend, 230 years ago, celebrating what was the resistance to a king who said “We’re going to hang you for treason.” And here we have a Long Island congressman, happens to be named King, who’s saying “treason” and “put these reporters in jail.” I think there’s a big fundamental thing going on here now, and across the board, of “get the press, get the media.” And, look, I used to write speeches for Spiro Agnew, I’m hip to this stuff, and, and I can say that it gives you a blip, it gives you a chance to get on the offensive against the, the darned media. But in the long view of history, it’s a big mistake.

MS. MITCHELL: But is the...

MR. JOHN HARWOOD: This is what I don’t get. The people who killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, who murdered Danny Pearl, my colleague at The Wall Street Journal, commit atrocities every day in Iraq, are evil, but they’re not stupid, and I don’t understand the logic that says all of a sudden they’ve discovered something they didn’t know. September 24, 2001, President Bush walked into the Rose Garden and announced, “We’ve developed a strategy, we’re putting banks and financial institutions around the world on, on notice. We’ll work with their governments, freeze or block terrorists’ money. We’re going to work with the United Nations, the EU, the G8 to follow this money.” How...

MS. MITCHELL: But, John, what Bill Bennett would say to you is that they didn’t know about the so-called SWIFT program, they didn’t know the specifics. Bill...

MR. HARWOOD: Well, where hat did we, where hat did we think? Did they say “We’re looking for money”?

MR. BENNETT: Well, why did they, why did they get caught on 2003 rather than two years earlier when the program was announced? I know we have an air marshals program, but I don’t know which marshal is on which plane. Yeah, we established a democracy, we, we opposed a king, we have a president of the United States. The founders, let me go back 200 years, James Wilson said “The press will be free. No prior restraint on the press. However, when they err, when they are irresponsible, they should be held accountable.” Now, you put Richard Clarke up against Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean. I’m sorry, Richard Clarke has a thing against this administration, that’s pretty clearly known. Tom Kean said a—the details of a valuable program were lost.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, he worked for a while in this administration.

MR. BENNETT: Lee Hamilton said the same thing, Jack Murtha—these, again, are not cat’s paws of this administration—begged The New York Times not to run this piece.

MS. DANA PRIEST: You know, Andrea, the administration...

MS. MITCHELL: Yes, Dana?

MS. PRIEST: Every time there’s a national security story they don’t want published, they say it will damage national security. But they—for one thing, they’ve never given us any proof. They say it will stop cooperation, but the fact is that the countries of the world understand that they have to cooperate on counterterrorism. And just like the banks that did not pull out of the system, other countries continue to cooperate, because it’s a common problem.

MS. MITCHELL: But, Dana...

MR. HARWOOD: Have you heard...(unintelligible)...are pulling out from this system? I don’t think so.

MS. MITCHELL: Dana, let me point out that The Washington Post, your newspaper, was behind the others but also did publish this story. And a story you wrote last year disclosing the secret CIA prisons won the Pulitzer Prize, but it also led to William Bennett, sitting here, saying that three reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize—you for that story and Jim Risen and others for another story—were, “not worthy of an award but rather worthy of jail.” Dana, how do you plead?

MS. PRIEST: Well, it’s not a crime to publish classified information. And this is one of the things Mr. Bennett keeps telling people that it is. But, in fact, there are some narrow categories of information you can’t publish, certain signals, communications, intelligence, the names of covert operatives and nuclear secrets.

Now why isn’t it a crime? I mean, some people would like to make casino gambling a crime, but it is not a crime. Why isn’t it not a crime? Because the framers of the Constitution wanted to protect the press so that they could perform a basic role in government oversight, and you can’t do that. Look at the criticism that the press got after Iraq that we did not do our job on WMD. And that was all in a classified arena. To do a better job—and I believe that we should’ve done a better job—we would’ve again, found ourselves in the arena of...

MS. MITCHELL: But, we’ve now had a steady drum beat from the White House all week about this, as you’ve pointed out. Here’s what the president and the vice president have been saying on the stump at campaign events.

(Videotape, Wednesday):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Last week, the details of this program appeared in the press. There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it, and no excuse for any newspaper to print it.

(End videotape)

(Videotape, Monday):

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging.

What is doubly disturbing for me is that not only have they gone forward with these stories, but they’ve been rewarded for it—for example, in the case of the terrorist surveillance program—by being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding journalist. I think that is a disgrace.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: John, is this policy of trying to use the press as a whipping boy going to work to excite the conservative base and to turn voters out in the midterm elections?

MR. HARWOOD: Well, Republicans certainly think so. They—if you’re a Republican in the White House or in Congress, would you rather talk about immigration, gas prices, the estate tax, all the things that you can’t get done right now, or would you rather go after The New York Times, the Supreme Court on the Guantanamo ruling—we’ll talk about that later—and make hay and say “They’re tying our hands in the war on terrorism”? It’s obvious they’d rather do the latter, and they love this discussion. They’re going to love it even more if Congress takes up legislation on Guantanamo.

MS. MITCHELL: This is, this is clearly not something new. Let me show you a tape from 1992.

(Videotape, October 22, 1992):

PRES. GEORGE BUSH: Here’s my favorite bumper sticker of all, “Annoy the media, re-elect Bush.”

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: And the Democrats, of course, also do this. This is how the Boston Globe covered a Howard Dean-for-president campaign rally back in 2004. “Dean ... told a crowd of supporters [that his campaign] was ‘a struggle between us and the Washington politicians and the established press.’” Bill Safire, what does this remind you of?

MR. SAFIRE: It reminds me of a piece that I did back in the Carter administration where I wrote that Billy Carter, the president’s brother, was overheard talking many times with the Libyan Embassy, and the White House got very excited about that. Why? Because they said the Libyans didn’t know that we had a tap on their embassy. Now, that struck everybody in Washington as totally foolish because for the last 50 years, every single embassy in this town is bugged. Now here’s the president saying, “Who knew that—the details of this program?”

MS. MITCHELL: Let me refresh all of our memories about something else that happened. Take a look at this piece of film.

(Videotape, September 16, 1970):

VICE PRES. SPIRO AGNEW: In the United States today we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: OK. Now whose alliterative phrase was “nattering nabobs of negativism,” Mr. Safire?

MR. SAFIRE: Well, Mr. Agnew was kind enough to credit me with that afterwards because I’m an alliteration nut.

MS. MITCHELL: This was when you were the speechwriter in the White House.

MR. SAFIRE: Right. And I was on loan to Agnew for that speech. I didn’t write the Des Moines speech, Pat Buchanan did that, where he really zapped the press. And again, the Nixon administration in that case got a leg up. And people said, “Hey, yeah, we’re angry at not just Nixon. We’re angry at the Congress and we’re angry at the media.”

MR. BENNETT: Can—may I—can I, can I...

MS. PRIEST: Still, the point is the tension between the media and the government is long-standing. And that’s to be expected. And in fact, all these—many of the people getting up to lambaste the media now are also people that we talk to with our stories, to vet our stories, to say, “What is it in this story that you’re most concerned about?”

MS. MITCHELL: You mean, to hold things back?

MS. PRIEST: To hold things back. In the prison story, we talked with the administration. No one in the administration asked us not to publish the story. In fact, people said, “We know you have your job to do, but please don’t publish the names of the countries where the prisons are located.” So there is a reasoned dialogue that often goes on between the media and the government behind, behind all this.

MS. MITCHELL: That was not the case with the NSA surveillance stories.

MR. BENNETT: That’s correct. Can I say something?

MS. MITCHELL: Please.

MR. BENNETT: Because I’m being quoted and talked about. I’m right here.

You know, I’m right here. I can, I can make my own case.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, please weigh in.

MR. HARWOOD: (Unintelligible)...Bennett

MR. BENNETT: All right, now you’ve got, you’ve got, you’ve got three people on one side, you’ve got me on the other side. Let me just, let me just state my position.

It’s not time to break out the champagne and the Pulitzers. This is not about politics, not from my perspective. It’s about the United States of America and the security of the United States of America. The difference is, the government was elected. People may not like the Bush administration, but they were elected and they are entitled to due consideration on these matters. The American people, in fact, believe in a free press, as I do, and I don’t believe in prior restraint of the press. But the American people are saying, if you listen to them in very, very large and consistent numbers—and an awful lot of people across the board are saying this—is four times now, four times in eight months, Dana Priest’s story, the National Surveillance Security Agency monitoring story, the USA Today story about data mining. “Oh, sorry,” they tell us on Friday, “We maybe got that wrong. Our sources were wrong.”

MS. MITCHELL: Well, wait a second, the story wasn’t wrong. The—what they apologized for is that one of the companies, or two of the companies...

MR. BENNETT: Two of the companies.

MS. MITCHELL: ...did not have contracts.

MR. BENNETT: Big, big part of the story.

MS. MITCHELL: But that the—but that the information...

MS. PRIEST: Yeah.

MS. MITCHELL: ...was still being...

MS. PRIEST: The program was still valid.

MR. BENNETT: But they—a big part of the story...

MS. MITCHELL: But the fundamental part of the story was...

MR. BENNETT: ...big—big—big part of the story they got wrong. All right, check your facts when you’re running a front page...

MS. MITCHELL: I have.

MR. BENNETT: ...when they’re running front page, USA Today needs to check its facts. And now, and now, and now this story on the SWIFT. And now people are saying, is there a competition here?

MS. MITCHELL: Which no one has denied.

MR. BENNETT: No, no one has denied it except the people at Treasury and again, Tom Kean, are saying this thing has now destroyed the capacity of our program. Again, the difference is the government of the United States was elected to protect our security. It isn’t always in the service of security to leak. Katharine Graham, in The New York Times today, Katharine Graham cites a very interesting example in 1983 where she said the press went too far. It reported about secret communications between Syrian terrorists and their Iranian—their Iranian bosses, which led later, she said, to the deaths of 240 Marines. This can happen. We are in war. This is classified...

MS. PRIEST: You know, I heartily appreciate your talking on behalf of all the American people because when...

MR. BENNETT: ...it’s—it’s not—I’m not. I’m talking about a lot of the American—wait, let me finish. Let me finish.

MS. PRIEST: ...my stories ran I received several—many, many people thanking me because they thought that they went—including...

MR. BENNETT: You don’t want to be—you don’t, you don’t want to put this to an opinion poll.

MS. PRIEST: ...including four-star...

MR. BENNETT: You do not want to do this on an opinion poll.

MS. PRIEST: ...including active-duty four-star generals.

MR. BENNETT: Can I, can I just...

MS. PRIEST: Some people think that the administration has gone too far in some of the counterterrorism measures they’ve taken, and that some of the things that we were—are revealing are creating a debate that could not have happened before.

MR. BENNETT: Yeah, and the shutting down of prisons...

MS. MITCHELL: Bill Safire...

MR. BENNETT: ...and countries that say...

MS. PRIEST: The prisons have been moved. They have not been shut down.

That’s a big difference.

MR. BENNETT: That’s a different...

MS. MITCHELL: Bill Safire, weigh in here.

MR. SAFIRE: Let me respond to what Bill, to the point he’s making, that who elected the media to determine what should be secret and what should not?

MS. MITCHELL: Which is the fundamental point.

MR. SAFIRE: Right. And the answer to that is, the founding fathers did. They came up with this Bill of Rights beyond which the constitutional convention would not move unless there were a First Amendment to challenge the government...

MR. BENNETT: Right.

MR. SAFIRE: ...just as the American founding fathers challenged the British government. Now it’s not treasonable, it’s not even wrong for the press to say we’re going to find out what we can and we’ll act as a check and balance on the government. Sometimes we’ll make mistakes. Sometimes the government will mistake.

MR. BENNETT: Is it wrong for the government to go after the press when the press has gone too far?

MR. SAFIRE: Sometimes we—sometimes even the Supreme Court admits to making mistakes.

MR. BENNETT: Can—should the press be held responsible if it’s going too far?

MR. HARWOOD: (Unintelligible)...about public opinion.

MR. BENNETT: Should the press be held responsible if it’s gone too far?

MS. MITCHELL: John Harwood:

MR. SAFIRE: Free speech helps everybody.

MR. BENNETT: Judy Miller went to jail for 85 days.

MR. HARWOOD: Now, let me...(unintelligible).

MR. BENNETT: And there was not a big hue and cry about that, was there?

MS. MITCHELL: (Unintelligible).

MR. SAFIRE: There sure was for a moment.

MR. HARWOOD: Let me...(Unintelligible)...just for a moment.

MR. BENNETT: From few people, not from a lot of people.

MR. SAFIRE: There sure was for...(unintelligible)...The New York Times stuck to their...

MS. MITCHELL: Wait, wait, wait, wait, one second here.

MR. HARWOOD: I’m going to agree with Bill Bennett for one moment.

MS. MITCHELL: Please.

MR. BENNETT: One moment.

MR. HARWOOD: I believe that public opinion is much closer to Bennett on this point than some of the other members of the press in the discussion. After Dana wrote her story about secret prisons we asked in our Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, “Do you think the administration has gone too far in handling terror suspects overseas, or is it taking the right approach?” Fifty-five to 30 the American people said they’ve taken the right approach.

MS. MITCHELL: But the press is never popular, and most notably now.

MR. HARWOOD: Exactly so, and the American people are not overly concerned at this moment about the finest points of civil liberties on this. Secondly, I accept that Bill Bennett is not motivated by politics in his views on this. However, when you talk privately to Republicans on the Hill, why did we have a debate for a couple of days on the Hill about this resolution that had no force of law whatsoever about The New York Times? They’ll tell you it was politics. They love having this discussion. They want it to go on as long as possible.

MR. BENNETT: Well, we’re still talking about basic right and wrong here. And is there any question that people—I think I’m the only one here who signed a nondisclosure agreement when I was—when I was director of national drug control policy, maybe some of you have—it’s a pretty serious matter. People who signed those agreements in government have violated the law, they have violated their oath, they have done so by talking to Dana Priest, talking to Risen and talking to Lichtblau.

MS. MITCHELL: Let, let me...

MR. BENNETT: We need to get after those people, and one way to get after those people is to talk to the reporters who—with whom they spoke.

MR. SAFIRE: Oh, you’re saying “get after them.” That means threatening reporters, and threaten them with contempt and put them in jail.

MR. BENNETT: Absolutely, absolutely.

MR. SAFIRE: And that’s wrong.

MS. MITCHELL: Bill, what, what...(unintelligible)...let me ask, Bill...

MR. BENNETT: Why is that wrong, Bill? Why are they above the law?

MR. SAFIRE: Because they’re affected...

MR. HARWOOD: Because it’s a big step toward tyranny, which is what we’re supposed to be withholding.

MR. BENNETT: It isn’t a step toward tyranny. And what about the AIPAC, guys? Is that a step toward tyranny? They’re being prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Isn’t that more a step toward tyranny?

MS. MITCHELL: Bill—Bill Safire, let me ask you a question about The New York Times. There are a lot of people who believe The New York Times, in doing this latest story, is motivated by an anti-Bush animus. Is The New York Times making a decision that is political rather than editorial?

MR. SAFIRE: The New York Times, like The Wall Street Journal, has a wall of separation between its editorial voice and its front page and its news coverage. And that’s always been the case. Now, does it always stay exactly the same? When you drive right down that road, is it always right? No, it changes. But in this case, I am certain, I’m really certain, that the editorial position of The New York Times about the war—which I completely disagree with—did not affect its coverage of the,of the news.

MS. MITCHELL: Let me, let me show you a Wall Street Journal editorial—a very unusual editorial—that was in the paper on Friday. It said that “The problem with The New York Times is that millions of Americans no longer believe that its editors would make those calculations in anything close to good faith. We certainly don’t. On issue after issue, it has become clear that The Times believes the U.S. is not really at war, and in any case the Bush administration lacks the legitimacy to wage it.” John, I don’t want to really put you on the spot here, but I am. Your paper’s news columns also ran this story, and here you have this editorial. It really is a really sharp conflict.

MR. HARWOOD: Couple of points on that. First of all, that editorial wasn’t kidding when they said there’s a separation between the news and the editorial pages at The Wall Street Journal.

MS. MITCHELL: That’s for sure.

MR. SAFIRE: Same with us.

MR. HARWOOD: Secondly, there is a very large gap between the ideological outlook and philosophy of The New York Times editorial page and The Wall Street Journal editorial page. There is not a large ideological gap between the news staffs of those two places, and why would there be? Some of the top people of The New York Times were hired from The Wall Street Journal. What I found shocking about the editorial was the assertion that The New York Times did not act in good faith in making that judgment. I don’t know anybody on the news staff of The Wall Street Journal that believes that. I certainly don’t.

MS. MITCHELL: Let’s turn to Guantanamo and the Supreme Court. What is the political fallout, John, from the Guantanamo decision? Is this something that can actually work in the administration’s favor, because it pits the Court—according to the talk show hosts the last couple of days—on the side of al-Qaeda?

MR. HARWOOD: It’s embarrassing, internationally. It isolates the United States. It’s a setback for the administration’s philosophy. Politically, I think they could come out ahead on this in part because, as we just heard Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer say, the U.S. Congress is going to take up, very soon, legislation giving the president this authority. That’s a good subject for Republicans to be on.

MS. MITCHELL: Dana, what is it costing us diplomatically? Guantanamo.

MS. PRIEST: Huge, which is, which is the point on—not just on Guantanamo but all of these programs. You know, we are covering the war on terror. It’s a classified war. How—what—why are we covering it? Because we want to figure out whether the government is going to achieve its strategic goals, which is to defeat terrorism and to compete in the realm of ideology. It’s not just the tactical questions. And on Guantanamo, this has cost us a lot internationally as a defender—a primary defender—of human rights. And you have to take those things into consideration when you’re trying to win a war.

MS. MITCHELL: Bill Safire, should the administration take this as a cue to just shut Guantanamo, or accept the John McCain approach now, towards...(unintelligible).

MR. SAFIRE: No, I think the administration should follow what the—the guideline that the Supreme Court has suggested, which is go to Congress and, and get some kind of solid guidelines on what should happen.

Wonderful thing here—really a wonderful thing the last week. Here’s a Supreme Court, which put George W. Bush in the presidency only six years ago, now pulling him up short and saying, “Hey!  You got to get some oversight, you got to get some congressional backing before you can do this kind of thing.” And as you just saw in the beginning of this program, these two senators who disagree about so much pretty much signaled, “You bet we’ll”—first, we’ll hear from the president, and he’ll backtrack and he’ll say this is what kind of a military commission we need, and they’ll keep Guantanamo, they’ll keep the most dangerous terrorists there, and we’ll have these military commissions, and this’ll set a good pattern for the next president and, hopefully, not the next war.

MR. BENNETT: (Unintelligible)

MR. HARWOOD: Andrea, the other thing this does politically is underscore the arguments of conservatives of why it’s important to change the Court. You had Scalia, Thomas, Alito, siding with the administration, and the administration was saying we need some more conservatives.

MS. MITCHELL: The last word to you, Bennett. We only have about 15, 30 seconds.

MR. BENNETT: Yeah, I agree with Bill Safire. It’s in Congress’ court now, and they need to act on it. But I don’t agree with Bill Safire that the press has a right not to give testimony in a criminal trial. They are not above the law. And when you show your Pentagon Papers case, please read Black—Justice Blackman’s decision. He said, “No prior restraint. But if people get hurt, if people get killed as a result of this, the press is responsible.”

MS. MITCHELL: So the issue is whether people are hurt by something that had arguably been previously disclosed.

MR. BENNETT: That’s correct.

MR. SAFIRE: I disagree completely.

MR. BENNETT: You’re not above the law.

MR. SAFIRE: I will respect...(unintelligible).

MS. MITCHELL: OK. Well, we are going to have to leave it there. Happy Independence Day on these themes of July 4th and our founders. Thank you all.

And coming next, our MEET THE PRESS minute. Reflecting that landmark Supreme Court decision 35 years ago balancing national security and freedom of the press.

TEXT:

Supreme Court, 6-3, upholds newspapers

on publication of the Pentagon report;

Times resumes its series, halted 15 days

(Announcements)

MS. MITCHELL: And we are back. On Sunday morning, June 13, 1971, the front page of The New York Times featured a photo of a smiling President Nixon escorting his daughter Tricia on her wedding day. But the middle of the front page contained a story that, through a strange chain of events, would lead to a landmark Supreme Court case on press freedoms and eventually to the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s own resignation.

TEXT:

Supreme Court, 6-3, upholds newspapers

on publication of the Pentagon report;

Times resumes its series, halted 15 days

MS. MITCHELL: The headline read, “Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U.S. Involvement.” The person who leaked the classified Pentagon Papers to The New York Times was defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg. He appeared on MEET THE PRESS several years later, and on that occasion he spoke about the case that changed history.

(Videotape, May 20, 1973):

MR. SANFORD J. UNGAR: Mr. Ellsberg, whatever else you may have accomplished or not accomplished by disclosing the Pentagon Papers, many people, I believe, including you, felt that your trial would help establish some ground rules or answer some questions about the security classification system, government secrecy, freedom of the press. Do, do you think its done so, or did the way it end just leave all those questions just hanging in the air as much as they were before?

DR. ELLSBERG: I don’t think they’ll ever again try to convince an American jury that historical documents of the kind in the Pentagon Papers, even if they are stamped “Top secret,” could damage the national interest, and thus come under the espionage laws.

MR. DAVID KRASLOW: Mr. Ellsberg, wise men made the point centuries ago that liberty without order is anarchy. If every person with official access to classified information took it upon himself to decide what should be made public, how could orderly government be maintained?

DR. ELLSBERG: That’s a constant problem; it can never be an easy one. They’ll never be able to reveal such things without risking their jobs if their superiors don’t want it revealed.

MR. LAWRENCE E. SPIVAK: Because of our involvement in Vietnam and because of what has happened at the Pentagon Papers and, and the Watergate case, a great many of our youth have lost faith in our institutions. Have you?

DR. ELLSBERG: I never did, and I’m glad to say right now I have never had more hope. Not based on faith, but on evidence of what I see these days that our government is functioning. Our government is not the president. The government is not the executive branch. Those other branches of government are functioning to protect us from abuses by the executive branch, and they have never functioned better in our history.

(End videotape)

MS. MITCHELL: And we’ll be right back.

(Announcements)

MS. MITCHELL: That’s all for today. Tim Russert will be back next week at a special earlier time, 8 a.m. Eastern, right before the Wimbledon finals. Check out our Web site during the week for air times in your area, mtp.msnbc.com. Have a wonderful July 4th, a safe weekend and if it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.

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