THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 10, 2013
Guests: Barton Gellman, Ron Suskind
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That`s exactly right. You were here to see it,
people. It just happened.
All right. Thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour.
We begin tonight with this very cool kid. Her name is CyFi. C-Y-F-I.
CyFi is obviously cooler than I am and probably significantly cooler
than you are as well. No offense. CyFi is the founder of something called
DefCon is an annual convention of sorts for computer hackers, for
people who see themselves as white hat computer hackers. See themselves as
the good guys in the hacking world.
The kids part of DefCon is called DefCon kids. And CyFi is one of the
founding kid hackers of that convention.
In 2011, CyFi figured out a vulnerability in mobile phone apps. She
found a bug called Time Traveler that exists in games that you play on your
cell phone. She says she found the bug when she started to get bored with
And in figuring out how to change the time configurator in the games,
she found some glaring weak spots in games that supposedly had been tested
for security by all sorts of official corporate types. She found the Time
Traveler bug in a game called "Smurfs Village". She found it in "Pocket
Frogs". She found it in "Zombie Farm". She found it and she fixed it in
And she did all of this when she was 10 years old.
When I was 10 years old, I was fighting a daily losing battle with
cursive. But CyFi was debugging cell phone apps.
And at DefCon kids in 2011, they held a contest for other young
hackers to try to do the same kind of work. It was a bug chasing contest
for computer code, essentially. Find it and fix it.
And they named the contest after her. AT&T, the big corporation, gave
the prizes for winning that contest at DefCon kids that year, because AT&T
is apparently one of those companies that`s smart enough to know it`s good
to have hackers try to help you if you have the choice.
You can see here in small letters on this logo there, see it`s CyFi C-
Y-F-I, CyFi zero day contest. That`s her contest.
Last year, her contest logo ended up on this shirt on this guy. This
guy is one of the most powerful people in the country. His name is Keith
He`s generally called "General Alexander" because he is a general in
the U.S. Army. People who wear the uniform for a living sometimes don`t
exactly pull it off when all of a sudden they have to appear in public not
in a uniform, so forgive him the tucked in t-shirt. But there he is.
General Alexander is the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. He is
the director of the National Security Agency which we sometimes forget is a
part of the military.
And last year, as part of his job, running cyber command and running
the NSA, he took off the uniform, put on the jeans and the t-shirt, and
spoke to CyFi`s DefCon kids.
He also talked to the grown-ups, to the white hat, good guy grown-up
hackers of DefCon. That was him in the hacker contest logo t-shirt tucked
into the jeans. Got up on stage at the hacker convention and he talked to
that room full of hackers because he, as head of the NSA, wants to hire
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA DIRECTOR: I think the third bullet down is
what we really want to do is innovate freedom. How we`re going to look at
where we take this next. This is a great opportunity for not only our
nation but for the world. And you know one of the things that I`m really
proud of saying is when you look at Vint Cerf and the others, we`re the
ones who helped develop. We`re the ones who built this Internet. We ought
to be the first ones to secure it. I think you folks could help us do
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The NSA general at the hacker convention.
The U.S. government has openly been trying to hire hackers for a while
now, especially for work in national security and intelligence. Before
General Alexander went to the hacker`s convention last year, the NSA put up
a special Web site for recruiting computer hackers. It said, quote, "If
you have a few, shall we say, indiscretions in your past, do not be
alarmed." Apply anyhow.
General Alexander in person at that convention told the hackers, "From
my perspective what you are doing to figure out the vulnerabilities in our
systems is absolutely needed."
CNN had a reporter in the back of the room who reported at the time
when he said, what you`re doing is absolutely needed, one of the hackers in
the back of the room then yelled back at the general, "Then stop arresting
us!" Complex, right?
Last week in competing bombshell scoops, first "The Washington Post",
and a few minutes later, "The Guardian", both reported on the existence of
a giant U.S. surveillance system at the NSA called PRISM. The system
vacuums up information from some of the largest Internet companies in the
country, stuff like your videos and your pictures and your e-mails, your
chats. So those things are not just traveling between you and whoever you
are corresponding with on purpose, they are in a sense being diverted into
the data caches of the U.S. government.
The stories came with classified slides, leaked from what looked like
NSA training materials, showing which Internet companies were said to have
customers` private data to flowing into this PRISM thing, and when that
flow of data began for each company. Classified slides leaked anonymously
to "The Washington Post" and to "The Guardian."
And then, over the weekend, the person who said he leaked these slides
came forward and identified himself. This guy who rocked official
Washington by leaking the details of this very highly classified
surveillance program, he says he never graduated from high school. Got a
GED instead, joined the Army. He washed out after getting injured in a
He tells "The Guardian" that he then got a job working as a security
guard at a covert NSA facility at the University of Maryland. He says he
then got a job with the CIA working computer security which seems like
quite a leap from security guard to CIA computer guy. But reportedly his
computer skills, his Internet skills, in particular, put him on the fast
track in the intelligence world.
Then, he says the CIA posted him to Switzerland under diplomatic cover
maintaining computer network security. And then, he left government work
for life in the private sector, with high-paying jobs for at least two
different intelligence contractors doing the same kind of work he had been
doing for the government but now he was working for outside firms and
getting paid bank.
If you think about it, this guy has had one hell of a career
trajectory, right? From high school dropout to Army washout, to making 200
grand a year doing highly classified U.S. intelligence work for elite
agencies, all over the course of less than a decade. And all while still
just holding the title of technical assistant or something like that.
"The Washington Post" quotes one former CIA official saying that the
terms the self-described leaker used to describe his positions at the CIA,
at least, did not necessarily match the internal descriptions of how jobs
are described at the agency.
"The Guardian" made this video introducing the world to the man who
leaked the NSA`s documents, he was hiding in a Hong Kong hotel room, hiding
from the largest superpower on Earth because he, 29-year-old former
technical assistant, had just leaked that superpowers tippiest, toppiest,
top secret internet surveillance program.
If what happened here is what he says happened here, this rather
ordinary fellow apparently had access to devastatingly important, very,
very secret information from the government`s perspective absolutely could
not be leaked without causing great damage to the country. If it was so
secret, and so I important that it be kept secret, is it weird that he knew
about it? And how many other people know about it, too?
As far back as 2010, "The Washington Post" reported a third of all
people with top-secret clearances in the country don`t work for the
government. They work for contractors. In January, the director of
national intelligence reported that more than 480,000 contractors have top
secret clearance. Another 580,000 have confidential or secret clearance.
That means more than 1 million contractors now, people working for private
companies have clearance to see highly classified information.
After 9/11, the intelligence world changed. Not just by getting
massively bigger. It also changed in response to the diagnosis that part
of a reason 9/11 happened is because dots were not being connected.
Intelligence was too compartmentalized. Not enough people had access to
enough information to be able to see the whole picture, to see how things
related to each other.
So the intelligence community was changed so that more people can see
more stuff all at once. Have those changes made it so your average 20-
something guy with a clearance, and there are hundreds of thousands of
them, has the post-9/11 changes made it so the average grunt with a
clearance has access to way more stuff than your average grunt used to have
Before 9/11, would you have to be a more high-ranking person in order
to have access to this kind of stuff that just leaked? Does it make a
difference so many of the people with clearances now don`t work for the
government, itself, they work for companies? They work for contractors?
I mean, you can make your case either way, but the two most
consequential leakers of this generation are this guy, who was working for
a contractor, Booz Allen, and this guy, Bradley Manning, who was working
for the military. They both leaked. They were both pretty low-level guys
but they both had access to high-level information.
What is most notable and most similar about these two stories is not
who they were working for directly, but the fact that these guys were among
hundreds of thousands of Americans who have high-level clearances -- high-
level clearances that provided them as fairly low-level employees to access
to really highly classified documents.
How can somebody who`s a 22-year-old private first class or 29-year-
old technical assistant access documents about programs that are so
secretive their disclosure rocks the government to its core?
And if you have that many low-level employees all looking at
information about your vast invasive surveillance machine that the
government will not talk about in public, how safe do you think that
information is? It is almost the natural conclusion that one of them,
among the hundreds of thousands, is going to decide to leak in the belief
that what they`re doing is ultimately for the public good, or at least to
satisfy public curiosity.
And then, if you are that low-level employee with that access to very
highly classified supposedly super-consequential information, and you
decide to let this stuff be publicly known, how do you decide what to do
with it? If you`re so technically skilled, why not do it yourself? You`re
a computer guy. You`re maybe even a computer geek, and I mean that as a
term of endearment, why not post it online yourself?
Why go through an intermediary? Why go to the press? Why go to two
different media sources, as happened in this case? Why pick these
reporters in particular?
The writer for "The Guardian" on these stories is Glenn Greenwald.
He`s been a guest on this show multiple times. I`ve known Glenn for a long
time. He`s a longtime national security blogger who`s been very critical
of surveillance and of secrecy. He`s a civil libertarian absolutist and
one of the most eloquent ones we have.
Mr. Greenwald has been outspoken in support of whistle-blowing in
general. He`s been particularly outspoken about Bradley Manning.
The writer for "The Washington Post" in these articles is Bart
Gellman, Barton Gellman. He has a reputation for major scoops about
national intelligence. That history, and I think this may be important,
has led him to be attacked as a reporter. Him to be attacked not as a
leaker, but as somebody who will publish information that the government
maybe does not want published.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a special word for people who provide
information to the enemy of their country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What word is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What word do we use? Traitor. Traitor.
BARTON GELLMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I really resent accusations that
we`re not patriots or that we are indifferent to the security of the United
States if we publish things that the government says are secret.
I think what I do is every bit as patriotic as what a soldier does or
what an intelligence officer does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If you were looking for safe journalistic hands for your
story to publish information that the government did not want published,
you can see the appeal of talking to that reporter, right? I should
mention that from that clip, from "Secrecy" from that movie, the man who`s
calling Barton Gellman a traitor in that film is the former chief of
information security at the NSA.
Barton Gellman, "The Washington Post" reporter who has to defend
himself against NSA chargers that he`s a traitor, he won the Pulitzer Prize
in 2008 for reporting on Dick Cheney`s influence over national security
policy. He won a Pulitzer in 2002 for reporting on 2009 and the start of
the war on terror.
That whole nonsense before the Iraq war about the aluminum tubes that
Saddam could only be using for a nuclear program, Barton Gellman is the one
who broke the news that the White House knew those aluminum tubes were not
necessarily nuclear at all, even when they were saying publicly the
The Connecticut librarians being given those national security letters
ordering them to turn over information on people using the library, that
was a Bart Gellman scoop.
The strategic support branch, a secret CIA-like agency inside the
Pentagon answering directly to Donald Rumsfeld, that was a Barton Gellman
Barton Gellman was the one who broke the news that bin Laden had been
present at Tora Bora and the Bush administration concluded he escaped from
the battle there.
In March 2002, six months after 9/11, it was Bart Gellman who broke
the news that the Bush administration was making senior officials, senior
federal officials do bunker duty, making them live and work secretly
outside of Washington to ensure continuity of government in case of an
attack on Washington.
On 9/11, the news it was Vice President Cheney, not President Bush who
ordered the shoot-down of hijacked civilian planes, that news was broken by
And now, he`s got this new one.
Joining us now is Barton Gellman. He`s currently on assignment for
"The Washington Post" and also contributing editor-at-large for "Time"
magazine, and he`s a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.
Barton, thanks for being here.
GELLMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first in all of the voluminous reporting on
your reporting, are there things about your story that are widely being
reported wrong or poorly?
GELLMAN: Well, the reaction is problematic because you have a lot of
people going around saying that this is nothing different than any other
kind of warrant, this is a normal subpoena, it goes to a court, they find
probable cause. And then and only then does the government go into the
servers of Facebook or Google or Microsoft and extract information.
And that misses something very, very big which is that there are
secret opinions in the surveillance court which meets only in secret and
issues opinions that are only classified that say that rather than having
to specify a phone number or an e-mail, those are defined as a facility
under the FISA law. You can now define the facility for which you`re
permitting a search to be the entire server, an entire network switch over
which all library of Congress passes every 14 seconds on the fiber optic
cables. That`s the facility that you can search. And the judge certifies
this once a year, again, based on evidence and findings that no one else
gets to see.
And so, the problem here is there is a mass systemic quality to this
surveillance, and we have to trust the U.S. government when it says we`re
very careful to ensure that we`re not targeting Americans and we`re not
using their information appropriately. There`s no check.
MADDOW: In terms of the way the companies that are named in that one
particular slide, the way the companies have responded. They have
responded with seemingly pretty carefully worded, pretty vehement denials
that they knowingly have nothing to do with this. What do you make of the
way they have responded and does their description of their own behavior
comport with what you understand about the program?
GELLMAN: They have excellent lawyers, and they`re very -- they`re
very well drafted, these statements, or they are addressed to something not
terribly relevant. Apple said, for example, at one point, we`ve never
heard of PRISM.
OK. So you don`t know the code name. You know that the gentleman
from the NSA and FBI came up to your door and asked you to make some
arrangements. Somebody else on Facebook had a very interesting statement.
Joe Sullivan, chief security officer there, I know him. He`s a good
guy. And he wrote, when the government comes to us to ask for information
about an individual, we review is carefully and make sure of probably cause
and blah, blah.
He didn`t say they don`t come to us and ask for the whole thing
GELLMAN: He just talked about when they come for individuals.
So, they were all essentially designed to be evasive. One reason we
know that is that the U.S. government has confirmed the outlines of the
program in the course of commenting on it or in the course of asking us to
withhold certain things from publication.
MADDOW: Could the companies, could any of the companies say no? And
is it substantively important that Twitter is not on the list of companies
that are described as taking part in this program?
GELLMAN: I find it very interesting that twitter is not on the list.
Now, it`s a younger company and so it wasn`t as big and important in the
early days of this program as it is now.
But Twitter also has a reputation deservedly for fighting hard for
user privacy and in particular in one case when it was a recipient of a
national security letter which you`re not supposed to -- and there were
certain sealed orders against Twitter. Twitter fought in court for
permission to notify the users so that they could object to the subpoena
before the judge ruled. That`s highly unusual for a company to do.
I don`t know that that`s why Twitter is not in this program, but you
can look at it this way --according to the law, the attorney general has
the power to compel a company to participate in this program and if the
company drags its feet, it can go to the FISA judge, the secret
surveillance court and get an order to compel.
However, nobody wants to do that. I mean, when you have these sort of
giants -- you have a giant clandestine program, you have very large,
powerful but also highly regulated company, neither one of them really
wants to have a fight. So, there`s a prolonged negotiation. The companies
have a lot of room for maneuver.
So there`s a five-year gap between the time that Microsoft joins and
the time that Apple, which is the last of them join. Apparently, Dropbox
is said to be coming soon on these slides.
So, clearly, there are technical issues they have to solve, but there
are ways that the companies can negotiate the access and the conditions.
MADDOW: Do you think that disclosing the contours of this program in
a way that you have interferes with the ability of this program to continue
or helps anybody who wants to evade this form of surveillance evade it?
GELLMAN: It`s a matter of public record already that U.S. government
asks U.S. companies to cooperate when it`s collecting intelligence about
foreign threats and foreign communications. The U.S. government has said
that all along.
The most highly classified thing in this briefing, as far as the draft
of the briefing was concerned, and he said it three different times, these
companies are very important to us, we can`t do anything that would harm
them. And what he meant was: reputational harm, market harm, harm to their
And to me, when something is classified for the reason that, companies
are doing something which the public would strongly disapprove of, is
exactly the wrong reason to classify something. It is a strong reason to
think it is something we ought to bring to light.
MADDOW: Barton Gellman, contributing editor at large for "Time"
magazine, currently on assignment for "The Washington Post", and a fellow
at the Century Foundation and a very, very busy man. Thank you for helping
us understand this.
Will you stay in touch with us as this unfolds?
GELLMAN: I will, indeed. And you know that guy who called me a
traitor, I had him come to my Princeton class I taught on secrecy and we
had a great time.
MADDOW: And did he recant?
GELLMAN: He said, maybe traitors aren`t all bad.
MADDOW: Very good. And then he killed you.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Last year, President Obama took a trip for the Summit of
Americas. In preparation for that trip, 55 members of the Secret Service
were sent to Colombia two days before the president got there, to prepare
security for his visit.
This is where they stayed. Lovely place. It has fancy pools. It has
green gardens. Fountains. Balconies.
Lots to see. Lots to do. And a little time to kill in this magical
What happened in Colombia before the president got there for that trip
was something out of the movie "The Hangover" except it did not include
Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper or a baby. It rather included the
president`s Secret Service.
The relevant settings for understanding the course of that night
include a fancy local strip club called the Hard Rock Cafe, and a pop
excuse me, a fancy local strip club, the Hard Rock Cafe, and popular disco
bar called Tu Candela. And then, there was the hooker situation.
Back at the fancy hotel after a negotiation of terms and some services
rendered, there was apparently a dispute between two guys from the Secret
Service and the young lady they had brought back to the hotel with them.
She ended up complaining to the local police. The police ended up
contacting the U.S. embassy and that ended up with not just them but other
Secret Service agents getting outed for also bringing paid lady friends
back to the hotel, as well as for some rather epic drunkenness.
So, the president`s big trip to the Summit of the Americas is
basically total overshadowed, and remembered now for the Secret Service`s
drunken, carousing, and perhaps criminal cheapness when it comes to paying
for sex while on official business.
That was last year. That was the Secret Service scandal in Colombia.
Today, a new chapter. Today, CBS News published what it said were
excerpts from a draft inspector general report. This, too, is about
hookers on foreign trips. But in this case, the hooker patrons were not
the Secret Service protecting the president. It`s alleged to be the
security detail that was protecting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
CBS citing eight recent investigations including one into the charge
that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s security
detail, quote, "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign
countries. Problem, the report says, was endemic."
Oh, wait, there`s more. Another one of the internal State Department
negotiations was, quote, "The case of a U.S. ambassador who held a
diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public
"The State Department inspector general`s memo refers to the 2011
investigation into an ambassador who, quote, `routinely ditched his
security detail`, and inspectors suspect this was in order to solicit
sexual favors from prostitutes."
This ambassador was reportedly summoned to D.C. where he was
reportedly scolded by an undersecretary and then permitted to return to his
post. No word on how much the scolding by the undersecretary set him back.
The overall context here, the reason a memo or a draft report is being
leaked here is because investigators from the diplomatic security service
are saying that investigations like these were blocked or quashed by
higher-ups in the State Department. Beyond the alleged hookers issue with
the ambassador and the alleged hookers issue with the Hillary Clinton
security detail, there`s also a reported investigation into allegations
that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual
assaults" with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards.
"Engaged in sexual assaults" is weird language, I know, but that`s in
quotes from this supposed report.
There was another reported investigation into an alleged underground
drug ring operating near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, supplying State
Department security contractors with drugs.
The inspector general`s office so far says it doesn`t comment on draft
reports. The State Department today said we take allegations of misconduct
seriously and investigate thoroughly. The department`s spokesperson
saying, "The notion we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a
case, any case, is preposterous. Ambassadors would be no exception."
State Department says all the cases mentioned by CBS today were
thoroughly investigated or still are being investigated, but honestly, with
this much this salacious now circulating essentially un-rebutted, this is
certainly not the last you will hear of this one.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: The president of Iran has been in a helicopter crash. He`s
fine. He survived it. The "Sun" tabloid in Britain took the opportunity
of the crash to refer to him in print as, quote, "The pint-sized tyrant."
"Sun" always keeping it classy.
But the way this helicopter crash is being reported on beyond the
tabloids is a little bit bizarre. And maybe a little bit important. And
only one of a bunch of really weird things going on in the strangest
election in the world right now outside of the crazy Republican ticket
that`s running in Virginia.
So, that`s coming up. Helicopter crash and all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Taking a very sensitive classified
program that targets foreign persons on foreign lands and putting just
enough out there to be dangerous is dangerous to us, it`s dangerous to our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Leaking this information is dangerous to our national
security. That was Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, top
Republican on House Intelligence Committee, making the case that the mere
disclosure of these surveillance programs over the past week essentially
endangers the effectiveness of the programs going forward. If you talk
about the stuff, we can`t do it anymore.
That specific argument is now being made on a bipartisan basis.
Republicans and Democrats alike, not necessarily voicing outrage about the
program, itself, some of them are, but most of them aren`t. Most of them
are mostly outraged that we`re talking about the programs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: For me, it is
literally, not figuratively, literally gut wrenching to see this happen
because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities.
The damage that these revelations incur are huge.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via telephone): This person is
dangerous to the country. The fact that he has allowed our enemies to let
our sources and methods are is extremely, extremely dangerous.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We ought to be careful that we don`t -
- we are not discussing practices that we employ that would help the enemy
evade our detection and apprehension.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s a reason why
these programs are classified. If every step that we`re taking to try to
prevent a terrorist act is on the front page of the newspapers or on
television, then presumably the people who are trying to do us harm are
going to be able to get around our preventive measures. That`s why these
things are classified.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: President Obama and Senator John McCain rarely agree on
anything, especially as it relates to national security. But on this, they
If you talk about this program, if you reveal the details of
surveillance programs like this, essentially you rendered those programs
ineffective. The bad guys know what we are doing, so doing it doesn`t work
anymore. Is that true?
In 2001, the Bush administration had a dilemma. It was just after
9/11. They had the technological know-how to conduct widespread
surveillance on phone calls and e-mails, but they thought that something
stood in their way. A law from the 1970s said if you want to something
about that, gobble up that information wholesale, you have to go to a
special court and get approval.
The Bush administration decided not to do that, because doing it would
risk revealing the program. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron
Suskind revealed in his book "The One Percent Doctrine", the thinking was
that going to the court or trying to alter the 1978 act would somehow
expose with leaks or just with questions that we would have to answer for
what our systems capabilities were. So, we just went ahead.
The Bush administration went ahead with the program, forget the court,
and eventually the program was disclosed to news outlets like "The New York
Times" and "USA Today" through various leaks though they skipped the extra
dangerous step of trying to make it all seem legal.
But guess what happened after it got exposed. Guess what happened
after the news broke in those papers about what the administration was
doing. The program just continued. They just kept doing it.
Public disclosure did not forever destroy that program`s e
effectiveness. They didn`t close up shop and go home. Oh, now people have
heard that we`re doing it. They went on with the program. Maybe with a
little more oversight attached to it, but they didn`t stop.
Does describing programs like this hurt them? Has it ever over all
the times things like this have been leaked over the past decade?
Joining us now is Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,
senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics, and the author of many best-
selling books including the aforementioned, "One Percent Doctrine."
Ron, thank you so much for being here.
RON SUSKIND, JOURNALIST: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: Do we know whether or not disclosing this program`s details
SUSKIND: Absolutely. We have a lot of experience here. There have
been instances way back in `01, `02, `03 where certain things were
disclosed. It probably did do some damage.
But the fact is, on balance, that terrorists, the people who we`re
after, understand a great deal about this. Many of their troops, many of
their numbers have been caught by it, this nexus of email,
telecommunications and financial data, this tripartite nexus.
And so, when they say, my God, we`re handing a weapon, to the
terrorists. We`re telling them how we do it, the terrorists are very
clear, anyone even with a passing interest in this realm of terror
understands exactly how this process works because it`s been published many
times in many places, in my book, in other books, in the newspapers. And
that`s certainly a main issue that they need to be concerned about. How do
we get caught? How do we evade them?
And so, this whole notion that they say time and again, oh, gosh, now
we`ve handed a weapon to the terrorists, now they know how we do it is
actually pretty hollow and I think they kind of know that.
MADDOW: It seems like we`re getting two arguments. One, this program
has been irreparably harmed by discussing the details of it. And, two,
this program is very, very effective, we just can`t tell you how.
Seems like those are great -- neither of those is an argument for we
should be doing this. And we are now as a country having an argument about
whether we should be doing this, because we didn`t know to argue about it
before because we didn`t know for sure it was happening. We all suspected
Do you feel we were having a reason debate that`s well-informed?
SUSKIND: Well, I think right now what`s happening is people are
coming around again and again. So, it takes a while. It`s taken the
American people I think a while for their eyes to adjust, if you know what
I mean, to saying, wait a second, this is how it works. I`m leaving a data
trail wherever I go. And that data trail is one in which they don`t really
care about me because I haven`t done anything problematic, but I am leaving
a path for them to decide if they so see fit that I`m a problem, a problem
for the U.S. government.
Dick Cheney way back said, if you haven`t done anything wrong, you
have nothing to worry about.
Well, that`s a kind of a reversal of the way our systems of laws work,
of innocent until proven guilty.
And ultimately the accuser here is not so much an individual as a
computer algorithm that says you made a phone call or a phone call seems to
be attached to you, a server, a community of calls that you`re a part of.
And thereby, it`s almost like, you know, you start with the lottery subset
and next thing you know you`re at the 7-Eleven where they bought the
Well, you`re at the 7-Eleven where that lottery ticket was bought and
you may be in that group, and all the while you don`t know that you`re in
the last cut of 20 people that the U.S. government`s interested in. All
this happens invisibly.
Now, the FISA court has a role. We`ve talked about that. But on
balance, much of this is operated by a kind of a vast activated matrix to
say this is interesting to us, whether it`s a keyword search, you`ve said
something in a phone call, whether it`s a type of phone call that`s being
made. Whether it`s a connection between a charge, an American Express
charge, where a phone call`s made in a particular place. Or overseas,
connected to America.
I think what`s interesting, though, is that people don`t care nearly
as much as I think most folks thought they would.
MADDOW: Right. Yes.
MADDOW: I think that we`ve started to realize, I mean, this is an
argument that was actually made with some eloquence by the guy who says he
is the leaker saying, you know, the Internet is a TV that watches you.
That this is a device and a tool that you get more out of when you give it
more about you. And so we`ve decided to hand everything over. Essentially
so that we can get more out of this tool that we all use each day.
MADDOW: Does that mean that we are inured to the idea that anything
we do online, anything that has any digits associated with it at all,
should ever be seen as something that is personal to us?
SUSKIND: I think people intellectually understand that they`re
leaving a data trail. I think we still feel like independent and
autonomous people moving through the world without anyone watching us.
On balance, that`s true, but what`s created is an enormous digital net
in which you are identifiable, and I think those two things, I`m part of
this vast digital matrix and I`m an independent person who`s anonymous,
those two things are in conflict. I think right now, you`re seeing a
moment where much of this that`s already been reported is being reported
essentially again and people are going, no, wait a minute, let me think
I don`t know if it`s going to change behavior or not. I think we`re
waiting for that now. But it`s certainly not something that the community
of those who wish to do us harm did not know about.
MADDOW: That`s right. And the thing that I -- the thing that for me
is intellectually orienting here is if we had been asked to make a decision
on this before doing it, would we have decided to do it? Because it
happened without us deciding, at least a lot of us knowing we were deciding
and that`s the terms on which these debates should happen.
SUSKIND: Well, maybe going forward that question will be proffered in
some other fashion. As they move forward, because there will be next
chapters of next generations of exactly this sort of surveillance activity
I`m sure to come.
MADDOW: Ron Suskind. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The One
Percent Doctrine." and other books -- always good to have you here.
SUSKIND: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: The most junior member of the United States Senate is this
man, Jeffrey Chiesa. Senator Chiesa has been a senator for roughly five
hours now. He was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden this afternoon. He
was appointed to the seat by his longtime friend, New Jersey Governor Chris
The Senate seat was previously held by Frank Lautenberg who passed
away last week at the age of 89. A special election to permanently fill
the seat that Senator Chiesa is now warming will be held in October. In
October on a Wednesday and not 20 days later on New Jersey`s regularly
scheduled Election Day on a Tuesday in November.
That special election date is because Governor Chris Christie wants
that November day to be his election day and his alone. Doesn`t need any
energized Democrats raining on his parade by turning out to vote in an
The deadline to enter primary to run for the Senate seat was today at
4:00 Eastern. Here`s Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey delivering
petitions to get his name on the ballot today for the Democratic Party.
Also throwing hats in the ring on the Democratic side, Congressman
Rush Holt. Also the speaker of the New Jersey assembly, Sheila Oliver.
And also, the very profile, very popular mayor of the state`s largest city,
Newark Mayor Cory Booker. So that`s the Democratic field.
As of today it`s official, nobody else can get in. It`s those four:
Frank Pallone, Rush Holt, Sheila Oliver and Cory Booker.
On the Republican side this is interesting. You have the former mayor
of Bogota, New Jersey, who is a serial campaigner Tea Party guy named Steve
Lonegan. He ran in the Republican primary governor`s race twice and lost
both times. His competition on the Republican side a woman by the name of
Alieta Ecks. She`s also a self-described Tea Party candidate.
So if you want to know who is going to be the next senator from the
great state of New Jersey after this placeholder guy, we still don`t know,
but the Republican field is not exactly a constellation of bright political
stars. And the Democratic primary ought to be a good fight. Between four
accomplished serious-minded Democrats who are all pretty well regarded and
who all have real jobs in politics.
On paper on the Democratic side for that Senate seat, it is a great
fight. It is a great fight on paper until you look at the other part of
the paper that has the poll numbers on it. A Quinnipiac poll out today
shows that in the Democratic field Mayor Cory Booker leads by, wow -- he
leads Frank Pallone by 44 points, leads Rush Holt by 43 points.
Sheila Oliver just got in the race last night, too late to be included
in this poll. So, we`ll have to see once they start polling on her as
well. But 53 percent to 9 percent and 10 percent?
This race is starting as a blowout. We`ll have to see if it tightens
MADDOW: The current president of Iran has had the job for the last
eight years. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he`s known around the world for
defending Iran`s pursuit of nuclear weapons and denying the Holocaust and
hugging Hugo Chavez`s mom -- controversially hugging Hugo Chavez`s mom.
The hard liners at home were not happy about that hugging.
The last time Ahmadinejad was re-elected there were giant protests for
months, a widespread belief that the only way Ahmadinejad got re-elected
was by rigging that vote. But rigged or not, Ahmadinejad stayed president.
He has been infuriating the West as Iran`s president for the past eight
But this week we get a new one. Iran holds elections to pick a new
president at the end of this week. And yes, everything having to do with
Iran is very geo-strategically important and very serious and it matters
who they pick.
But honestly, the sheer politics of this election they`re having are
amaze balls. The debates, three so far, that itself is not weird. Obama
and Romney had three debates, too. But every one of the Iranian debates
has lasted more than four hours.
And it was at one of these four-hour marathon debates in the second
half toward the end of the four hours, when the moderator decided to change
things up a little bit. We`re going to try something new, lightning round.
At the end of four hours the moderator decided to switch to yes or no
questions. One-word answers only. It`s going to be awesome. Who`s with
me? I said who`s with me?
Nobody was with him. The candidates totally shot him down and refused
to go along with that part of the debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AREF: Really? Passing a test? What kind of a tests do you expect us
MODERATOR: It is not a test.
AREF: Yes, it is.
I will still here out of respect for the dear people of this country.
But I will not answer any of your test questions.
REZAEI: You know that I am a patient person, I can withstand much.
from the beginning, I have been wondering, where this debate is going. You
are harming the people watching at home and you are insulting the eight of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Talk about taking on the moderator, right? Ignoring the fact
that all the candidates were rejecting the whole yes or no questions thing,
the moderator nevertheless pressed on with the yes or no thing and tried to
force them into it. Here`s how that went.
(BEGI8N VIDEO CLIP)
VELAYATI: This question cannot be answered with a yes or not
JALILI: The question is not complete.
AREF: I have no opinion.
MODERATOR: You insist (ph) our question is wrong?
GHALDAFI (ph): The question is wrong.
VELAYATI: In my opinion, the question is wrong.
MODERATOR: Doctor? In your opinion, the question is wrong also?
HADDAD: I do not see this question as a good question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bad question. Wrong. Bad.
So we`re somewhere in the third or fourth hour of this debate. The
candidates are clearly very displeased with the format. If you`re the
moderator here, obviously you know the thing to do now is to give them all
a Rorschach test.
The moderator switched from yes or no questions to pictures. He held
up eight different pictures, and the candidates had to talk about their
feelings about the pictures. There was a farm, a ship, a picture of heavy
traffic, a hospital.
One of the candidates responded that the picture of a farm made him
think about a farm. He also said that the picture of the hospital made him
think about Iran`s obesity epidemic. Iran has an obesity epidemic. Iran
is just like us.
Also, Iran is just like John Boehner. Just as Republican House
Speaker John Boehner and other American politicians have endeared
themselves to even their political critics by crying a lot in public, it
turns out Iranian politicians are crying a lot in this election as well.
This is one of the presidential candidates getting so choked up in a
TV interview that the station had to abruptly cut to commercial. Another
one of the candidates decided to make a long campaign video that was mostly
just images of him crying. His own campaign video is him sitting alone in
a theater watching things that made him sad and then cry and then they
filmed him crying and released that as his vote for me campaign ad.
It should also be noted that crying in public has kind of tried and
true appeal in Iranian politics right now. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself, he
has a reputation in the west as a pugnacious guy but for a domestic
audience, he likes to be seen as a frequent crier. And to top it all off,
in the lead up to this week`s voting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in a
Ahmadinejad, the current president, the guy whose election sparked all
the protests a few years ago, the guy who`s really deeply controversial at
home, the guy who certain elements of the current Iranian government are
not pleased with, last week, he was in a helicopter crash in the northern
part of Iran. He`s fine. Nobody died.
But the media reports on the Ahmadinejad helicopter crash put air
quotes around the word "accident." As in President Ahmadinejad just
survived a helicopter crash. It`s reported to have been an accident.
Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, yes, right.
Again, though, he`s fine. The media apparently thinks he was set up.
And the debates all last four hours. And the candidates sometimes mutiny
on the moderators and there are Rorschach tests for the candidates to
respond to, and there`s a lot of fake crying for positive political effect,
including well-produced long campaign videos that are just good the crying.
The Iranian elections are turning out to be amazing, even before we
find out if they`re going to be rigged again this time too. Voting is on
Friday. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. Thanks for being with us on this fine
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONELL."
Thanks for being with us.
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