Meet the Press   |  June 23, 2013

Senators: Snowden jeopardized national security

Assistant Democratic Leader Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee Sen. Tom Coburn, weigh in on the latest with the NSA leak scandal.

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

>> senator tom coburn , you're following events this morning. how important is it at this juncture to get edward snowden back to the united states so that he can face justice? because what's clear is that he is not only seeking to avoid them but that he plans to stay in hiding and continue to leak information to bolster his own case for being a whistle-blower and not a criminal and to continue to try to press the debate here on this issue.

>> well, i don't know that we're going to have a lot to influence that, david. i think the more important thing is what is nsa, how well is it looked at? it's the most oversighted program in the federal government . i'm known as a pretty good critic of most of the programs of the federal government . i believe that this is a -- well run within the constitutional framework of its guidelines and that we, in fact, if we could talk about everything, which we can't, which is one of the problems with this, americans would be pretty well satisfied. the other thing that i think is, is that if you look at the institutions that are trusted in this country -- and we have a real waning of confidence in the institution of government -- when you look at the scale, congress is on the bot bottom and the u.s. army is on the top. and our military has done a great job running this program within the confines of the program as it was set out in congress. and also, just to counter what senator durbin said, we don't listen to anybody's phone calls . we don't go and monitor the phone calls until we have a connection with a terrorist. and that's the key point with which you can even go to access this. so it's a whole different story than what has been blown out of proportion of what actually happens.

>> congressman, you've been critical of these programs. you heard glenn greenwald saying this morning it's not as targeted as you may think, that the government is, in effect, sucking up information from e-mails and phone calls that goes way, way beyond the patriot act . there have been republicans who have said this, james sensenbrenner , who says it goes beyond the patriot act . how concerned are you?

>> as you should show, i have not voted in favor of any patriot act or any of the fisa amendments or anything else that goes with this particularly because i have been concerned in this area. you know, i mean the supreme court has been pretty straightforward about the fourth amendment. they've let it err on the sense of national security . it's the congress actually who can bring it in, but it's the congress who's actually allowed it to be much broader and have collection happen. and my biggest point is that not everybody in the congress is given access to what is really happening. and so when our american public says, hey, we don't know about this and why are you doing this, i mean, maybe we can't tell everybody in our nation, but you would think 435 members of the house and 100 senators should have access and ability to understand what the nsa is doing, what all the other act sis, intelligence agencies are doing, and actually have a good debate and maybe have to be behind closed doors , but certainly with all deference to our chairman here, he may have information, i doubt he has everything and knows everything, but certainly i am limited even when i ask.

>> what about snowden ? do you think, as glenn greenwald does, that it's preposterous to charge him with espionage? is that your view?

>> clerly under the the laws that the congress has set and that the supreme court entered prior rulings he has broken the law. i mean, that's where we are.

>> you'd like to see him brought to justice here in the united states .

>> i am very worried about what else he has and what else he may put out there. i am worried about our national security .

>> chairman, let me bring you in on this. senator schumer saying this morning that there's some indication that vladimir putin , president of russia , had advance knowledge of snowden 's flight and his travel plans. what are the ramifications of that if it's true?

>> you know, it wouldn't surprise me. i don't have information to that effect, but it wouldn't surprise me. putin has been playing a thorn in the world's side in syria. we think they may not be playing honest with their adherence to the nuclear treaty. they're very aggressive around the world trying to regain their influence. they've modernized their nuclear fleet. russia is a country that wants to get back on the world stage and i don't think they care if they do it in the best interest of good citizen around the world. this shouldn't surprise us. they have an aggressive intelligence operation in the united states . i'm sure they would love to have a little coffee and a few conversations with mr. snowden . that's why this is so serious and why we need to be aggressive in making sure that people understand the difference between somebody who betrays their country and gives secrets away that will protect american lives at the expense of whatever he hopes to gain in the company of the russians, in the company of the chinese intelligence services , in the company of what you can only imagine is cuban and venezuelan intelligence services as well.

>> senator durbin, howard dean , a progressive who ran for president, of course, at a time when there were progress i was me meeting out west in the conference, he said something on thursday i want to show and get your reaction to about what the president ought to do. he said i think the american people are willing to give up some privacy in exchange for safety but i think president has to ask our permission. this country works because we are governed with the consent of the governed . i think the american people support the president but he has to go on television and explain what the program is, why he thinks we need it, and what it has accomplished. do you think the president needs to do more to keep americans on board with what we're doing?

>> well, the president's already started that. hae he had the first meeting with the civil liberties oversight board which has that specific responsibility within the federal government . there should be more activity, more statements by the president, and engage the public. to go back to senator coburn's point, i never said that they had access to the conversations, only to the phone records. but it's still a significant piece of information about each of us. david, we live in a world where people are tweeting every random thought that comes into their head and going to facebook every night and diggs closing things about their personal lives. we are sacrificing giving up voluntarily our privacy. the public sector and private second tar gathering information which could limit our privacy. it's time for a national conversation . where should we draw these lines?