Alex Witt | June 23, 2013
>> white house . i'm joined by charlie savage who's been on the front edge of reporting on this story. charlie, we have new information that we've just received in. wikileaks is reporting that snowden is heading to ecuador . why would he want to go to ecuador ? what's your reaction to this information?
>> ecuador is a democracy but it's also somewhat distant from the united states government and it's shown an interest to grant asylum to julian assange and hold him up in their embassy in great britain. it makes sense that ecuador would be a place where he might try to head. especially since wikileaks is helping him now. we know also that the ambassador to russia from weak door was seen in the whose could you airport so these early reports that he was going to venezuela seem to be wrong and ecuador seems pretty clearly his destination at this point.
>> snowden has been absorbed by this. how does that change how he's been perceived by the public?
>> there are enough people around the world who are interested in bringing the information to light. a team of sophisticated people. he's not alone now in that sense. that will help him a great deal as far as whether that changes public opinion of him, i don't see why it would or not. he's already been in that mold of the sort of radical transparency not unlike private manning before him.
>> in terms of hong kong 's decision to let snowden leave the country freely despite the u.s. request not to, his latest leak claims that the nsa hacked into chinese phone records and text messages, particularly at several universities. do you think that that factored in at all in hong kong 's decision not to extra diet him?
>> it certainly is the case that his -- he's not -- not just this latest one but he was telling the south china morning post about nsa hacking activities in hong kong and mainly in china and that sort of made him somewhat of a celebrity in china. my colleague in hong kong is reporting that this created a situation where it was difficult for the chinese government , both hong kong and main land, to send him back to the united states because of public opinion there and that they didn't want, however, to have this diplomatic problem either of a protracted extradition 2350fight. they were probably quite glad to help him get out. his passport was canceled on friday.
>> that is an issue that one of our guests brought up a few moments ago. you're suggesting that it was done. something we should look into. we heard from general alexander a short time ago who said this morning that the leaks have caused irreversible damage to the u.s. but glen greenwald scoffs at this. is there any real evidence of damage to our ability to gather counter terrorism intelligence?
>> you have to disaggregate what he has leaked. we think all of his records are out now. some of what he has disclosed is new information, new details, the overseas surveillance and everyone knows that they engage in it. the prism program, for example. that's embarrassing when spying comes to light but it's not surprising. i don't think china, for example, wasn't be aware that u.s. government was trying to spy over there just as it's trying to spy over here. nevertheless, it creates a diplomatic incident when it's brought to public light. one of the revelations showed that the u.s. government was collecting logs of every american's phone calls and storing them, billions of communicatio communicatio communications, and we didn't know that. we had some hints that maybe the bush administration was playing around with meta data some years ago but it wasn't clear what had happened to that program. that revelation has come out now so the question of whether the american people will continue to support that program knowing that every time they dial the phone the government's keeping a record of that, whether their adversaries will no longer feel safe and will take steps to hide their communications, that's the more interesting revelation. it's still playing out.
>> now you've written books about executive power , which you've called return to the imperial presidency . a lot of his critics are saying he looks a lot more like his predecessor, george bush , than he would like to believe. what's your perspective on that. so he a lot more like george w bush than he set out to be?
>> i think that is one of the most interesting questions of our times as obama becomes bush, and i think the way to answer it, what does it mean to act like bush? does it mean to violate civil liberties from the perspective of a group like the ac thlu or does it mean to act unilaterally without court oversight in defy defiance of the second term? by the second administration a lot of his counter terrorism had been normalized. congress had passed law bringing statutes into alignment with what the government was doing and so the rule of law complaints about bush's programs had drained away. the civil liberties complaints remained in place. that was the architecture that president obama inherited and we now know has continued quite robustly, even expanded in some ways. so he would argue, look, acting like bush means violating the law. i am not doing that. critics of the aclu means having an expansive security state, you are doing that.
>> charlie savage , thank you so much for your perspective.
>> thank you.