All In   |  June 12, 2013

Plot thickens in real-life spy story unfolding in the news

Chris Hayes talks to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald about Congressman Peter King's calls that he be prosecuted for publishing information from leaked classified documents.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening from new york, i'm chris hayes and thank you for joining us. tonight on "all in." our first guest is a journalist who should be prosecuted for breaking the nsa surveillance story. that at least the opinion of one prominent u.s. congressman . glenn greenwald of the guardian joins me in a moment. i don't remember agreeing to any of this when i clicked okay to those facebook terms of service . how do the giant tech companies at the heart of the nsa revelations recover from this. we'll discuss that coming up.

>>> during an extremely contentious house hearing today. one republican came this cross to going full todd aiken. republican male legislators talking about breaking again. we'll give you the grizzly details. we begin tonight with the unfolding spy novel that continues to play out in real life right before our eyes. today the battle lines over nsa leaks are being dramatically drawn, the rhetoric on all sides is heating up, and the stakes for everyone connected to this story are rising. after days of complete radio silence nsa leaker edward snowden surfaced today in hong kong with an explosive interview with the south china morning post , in which he charged the u.s. government has been hacking hong kong and china for years. telling the paper that he believed there had been 61,000 nsa hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in hong kong and on the mainland. he also explained why he's in hong kong . i am not here to hide from justice. i am here to reveal criminality. i have had many opportunities to flee hong kong . i would rather stay and fight the united states government and the courts because i have faith in hong kong 's rule of law. my intention is to ask the courts and people of hong kong to decide my fate. on the same day that edward snowden reemerged keith alexander had been slated to testify at a committee hearing on capitol hill . of course, he got a good grilling from members of congress eager for their first shot at public on the record answers about the newly exposed spying programs. under questioning from pat leahy of vermont, about how many terrorist attacks have been thwarted by the nsa's monitoring of telephone and internet records. alexander said he constant give the exact number. that's classified. what he did give the committee was a ballpark figure in the dozens. there is, of course, no way to independently confirm that number. that is part of the problem in all this. but i am guessing that general alexander chose those words under oath very, very carefully. as not to end up like his pal james clapper , the director of national intelligence , whose testimony back in march under questioning from senator ron widen looks really really really bad given what we all know now.

>> does the nsa collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of americans ?

>> no, sir.

>> it does not?

>> not wittingly. there are cases where they could -- inadvertently perhaps collect but not wittingly.

>> i think in poker that's called tell. if you just watched that, and thought that clapper was thinking extra hard on that answer, well, it's actually quite straining to come up with the least untruthful answer to a question you don't feel like answering truthfully.

>> i was asked when are you going to stop beating your wife kind of question, which is meaning, not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no. so i responded in what i thought was the most truthful or least untruthful manner by saying, no.

>> senator widen called for an investigation related to clapper's march testimony saying this job cannot be done responsibly, senators aren't getting straight answers to direct questions. but james clapper will almost certainly not be the only person who is going to be investigated because of the leaks and their aftermath. there is edward snow den, who could be facing criminal charges any day now. and there is now a member of congress calling for the prosecution of journalists involved in publishing the leaks. well, actually, let me amend that. a journalist, one specific journalist. after first calling for action against journalists yesterday, last night, republican congressman peter king was asked to clarify his position today on fox news. and clarify he did.

>> do you believe you stand by that. both greenwald and the washington post reporter?

>> i'm talking about greenwald . greenwald not only did he disclose this information, he has said that he has names of cia agents and assets around the world. and they're threatening to disclose that. that to me is a direct attack against americans , putting american lives at risk.

>> that green-week-old. glenn greenwald who peter king called responsible for a direct attack on the american people . that glenn greenwald who's been in hong kong breaking the story who has sent ripples throughout the entire american political system is, i believe, we have him joining me now, columnist on civil liberties . and we do not have him now. we are working out some technical issues. we do have him? great. awesome. there in your monitor staring back at us, we appear to have him on the phone. glenn greenwald , how are you?

>> good.

>> i want to get your reaction to peter king 's rhetoric in the past two days about prosecution. singling you out as someone who has a direct attack on america. i think he accused of you threatening to expose covert agents . he's been given a fair amount of air time over the last few days to attack you. i understand you've been traveling. what is your response to congressman kings accusations?

>> i don't think there are many people who take peter king seriously. i also think that most americans find instinctively impulsive the idea that journalists should be arrested and prosecuted for doing what journalists are supposed to do, which is reporting on what the united states government does in the dark. that said, he is the chairman of the house homeland security committee . and the obama administration has in the recent past flirted with the idea. and even embraced some theorys that would suggest you can be held criminally liable for being a conspirator with your source if you act as a journalist. it's not something i would dismislightly. what i thought was most remarkable is the entire framework that he offered, the ground on which he made his call from irs and prosecution was an outright fabrication. really a lie. i mean, he went on national television and accused me of having threatened to uncover and expose and publish the identities of covert cia agents as though i was lewis libby or something. i have never remotely suggested that i even have in my possession the identities of cia covert agents , i do not. nor have i ever threatened i would publish those, i never would. it wasn't just that it was an extremist piece of advocacy on his part, it was that it was based in complete fiction.

>> the never would cen sense you just said there, this is to me an important point in all this. i think because we have the hangover of wikileaks, which was -- you've defended quite strenuously, and been an advocate for bradley manning and julian assange and protecting the important role they played in stirring a debate. it was both disclosure, and i think even bradley manning himself would say he didn't have the ability to read and vet every one of the 850,000 documents. these scoops have been much more thoroughly vetted by edward snowden and yourself and other journalists at the guardian. my question is, the prism slide, one of the most blockbuster revelations. the guardian put four and a fifth slide up. what are we to make of the fact that 36 of those slides have not been disclosed. what does that say about the way you are approaching this work. about what secrets can and should be put before the public and which ones shouldn't be?

>> i think this is the critical point. i hope everybody walks away understanding -- and first of all, i think there's a serious question about the extent to which bradley manning did read the documents he exposed. from the very first moment that i ever spoke with edward snow den, he was emphatic about the fact that he was not turning over to us all of the documents he could get his hands on. he had very carefully spent months looking at them, examining them, figuring out which ones the public should see, and said he wasn't going to turn those over. he then, when he gave it to us, said, i don't want to you dump these documents, i want you to engage in a rigorous standard, journalistic assessment of what is in the public interest and what would cause harm. i want you to be very careful and judicious about figuring out what it is that the public should know in terms of how journalism functions. he didn't want the accusation to be made validly that he was trying to harm the united states or we were, and he was very clear about the fact that had he tried to -- had his intent been to harm the united states , he would have sold the documents to foreign adversaries, he would have covertly passed them to foreign adversaries. he has given us all sorts of documents, the vast majority of which we have decided not to publish, either they're not relevant or they would just cause gratuitous harm without informing the public. everything we have revealed is in the public interest . things the u.s. government is doing that the public didn't know but should know. and yet none of it can even remotely or conceivably be said to harm national security . terrorists have already known for years that the u.s. government is trying to monitor and sur veil their publications. we told american citizens things theyen did the know about what their government is doing but should know.

>> let me ask you this question about snowden . i understand a lot has been made of him as a character, and people are somewhat frustrated with that. broadly speaking, the point here is the policy and what the government is doing, not edward snow den. that being said, it's a remarkable compelling story. from a human drama level. as someone who sat down with him, has talked to him, in light of the interview he gave today to the english language paper in hong kong . do you have a sense of what the game plan here is? it just -- what he has done is either depending on your point of view, remarkably foolish or courageous. he is really out on a limb right now.

>> you know, chris, honestly meeting him and talking to him and the first thing i did was, on the first day i met him, i spent five straight hours cautioning him as relentlessly as i could, to have an understanding of what he's thinking, who he is, what he was really doing. it was one of those extraordinary experiences in my life, one of the most informative. it was really remarkable to look at somebody who had sao rationally assessed the choice they had made. one they knew was likely to result in their imprisonment for decades if not life. and yet who genuinely concluded that his conscience compelled him to step forward and disclose that the nsa has been systematically lying to congress. they've been deceiving the american people , they're building this worldwide spying apparatus, he felt the need to do that outweighed his own personal self-interest. that said, he also knows that the u.s. government is the most powerful entity on earth, that it considers him to be the number one most wanted individual. they intend to, if they get their hands on him, basically destroy his life. and although i haven't discussed specifically with him what his plans are, he knows he is holding some cards given that he had access to top secret information on the part of the most secretive agency in the world and intends to figure out how best he can protect himself. that's my guess as to what he's doing.

>> in terms of the revelations that we've gotten so far, and they fall into a number of different categories, i do want to ask you, before i let you go, there's been some push back on the reporting, particularly about the prism program, and there's another program that comes from those power point slides that use the phrase directly from the servers, direct access . and there was push back by the tech companies who are listed in those slides saying we didn't give any direct access . there's question about what that phrase means or could mean. and i just want you to clarify your best understanding of what the reality is about the nexus between how the nsa is working with these private tech companies.

>> sure. we've published four stories so far. the only one about which there has been any question raised is the one that the -- the only one the washington post also published is the prism story. our story was written differently than the way the post wrote theirs. our story was the following, we have documents, a document from the nsa that very clearly claims that they are collecting directly from the servers of the internet giants. that's the exact language that this document used. we went to those internet companies before publishing and asked them and they denied it. we put into the story prominently that they denied it. our story is that there is a discrepancy between the relationship, the private sector and the government has in terms of what the nsa claims and what the technology company claims. what is definitely true. and follow-up by the times has proven this, there have been all kinds of negotiations about back door access. they have agreements to share data with the government. i don't think anybody knows at this point what the nature of the arrangements are. the reason we published our story and presented it as this discrepancy is because whatever the tech companies and companies are doing, should be done in public. we should know what agreements they've reached. we should know what the government has asked for and what they're negotiating with now in terms of access. what we do know for sure, is that the government has a program that targets the communication over these companies, huge numbers of people around the world used to communicate with one another. we think there should be accountability and transparency for whatever those exact agreements are.

>> thank you for joining us tonight.

>> thanks for having me, chris.

>>> democrats, military sexual assault bill has been struck down in the senate by a democrat. more on that, co sponsor of the bill, senator barbara boxer coming up. anagement started