Meet the Press   |  June 23, 2013

2: Roundtable examines NSA scandal, immigration reform

A panel of experts discuss the NSA scandal and provide insights and analysis on the politics behind the immigration battle on Capitol Hill.

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

>>> we are back with all this breaking news about edward snowden with our roundtable. former white house press secretary , now political contributor robert gibbs , republican strategist mike murphy , the democratic mayor of atlanta kasim reed , former chair and ceo of hewlett-packard, carly fiorina , and our nbc news political director and chief white house correspondent, chuck todd . welcome to all of you. chuck, this is something of an embarrassment and certainly a concern for this administration that thought it had an extradition -- an agreement worked out.

>> it is. when you're hearing pit peete's reporting about what happened and this political back-and-ft. worth hong kong , clearly the u.s. government has to figure out is there going to be retribution against hong kong , what is the fallout over that? and let's not pretend now he's this moscow, he's not coming back anytime soon. and the ability to get that done, i saw first hand this relationship between the united states and russia specifically between president obama and president putin , it's cheap to say it's cold war -like, but it's cold. it is a relationship that is chilly. so the idea that somehow moscow's going to be cooperative with the united states and the u.s. government wants that, it's not going to happen. in many ways, putin always looks for little ways he can stick a thumb in the u.s. government 's eyes and this is a way to do it.

>> robert gibbs , you've been in the middle of these delicate situations before when you were inside the white house . not a lot of great options right now.

>> no.

>> you have somebody perhaps going to a place it would be difficult to get him from and who is working with journalists like glenn greenwald and others to put out information that will continue to shed light on these programs and push the debate.

>> yeah. there's no question these are a lot of bad options. as chuck said, i don't think landing in havana or caracas is going to increase our likelihood that mr. snowden will be flying on a government plane back to the united states anytime soon. i think to build off of what senator durbin said, i think, you know, it is incumbent upon this administration and this white house to have a more robust conversation about these programs. i don't know that this is a huge debate that's taking place outside of the beltway, but it is obviously one this morning that's raising inside the beltway and a greater discussion as much as you can about transparency and about what these programs are and what they aren't. i will say you listen to a lot of the coverage and you would think we had literally millions and millions of fbi agents listening to every single call that every single american is making. that's simply not true. having that discussion actively with the american people is an important thing to do.

>> part of the tactics of this and part of the debate is frankly around journalism. glenn greenwald referenced it when i asked him a question about whether he should or will face charges, which has been raised. i want to acknowledge there is a debate on twit they're goes on online about this even as we're speaking. here's what greenwald tweeted after his appearance this morning. who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have david gregory to do it? i want to directly take that on because this is the problem for someone who claims to be a journalist, objecting to a journalist raising a question which is not actually embracing any particular point of view. that's part of the tick ticks of the debate here when, in fact, lawmakers have questioned him, there's a question about his role in this, "the guardian's" role in all of this. it is actually part of the debate. rather than going after the questioner, he could take on the issues and had an opportunity do that here on "meet the press." what is journalism, mike murphy , and what is appropriate is actually part of this debate.

>> absolutely. the great irony to me in all this is so-called whistle-blowers can only go to almost rogue nations to hide, because then with rule of law, he would get extradited. he's a felony and a fugitive. it's a bad sign from hong kong with its own system of law. that's up in smoke today and will have repercussions in our relationship with the chinese. so we'll see what happens. he may wind up on the run in caracas, but it's clear he's a felony and a fauj tif and he will not have a good life now.

>> kasim reed , mayor of atlanta , you're outside the beltway dealing with issues like the economy and government regulation and implement take of obama care. you heard it from glenn greenwald this morning and are hearing it from edward snowden , they want to keep a debate athrive get people focused on what they believe is not just controversial but actual abuse.

>> well, here's where we are. what we know is we have a president that wants to have a path for law-abiding citizens to be removed from this process. all these members of congress, put a bill on the floor. all the chatter and debate we've been listening to can be addressed by putting a bill on the floor. but the reason people won't put a bill on the floor is because with that bill would come responsibility. and the fact of the matter is both presidents, bush and obama, have done a pretty significant job, strong job of keeping this country safe. if you're a house member or senator that puts a bill on the floor to address these issues, you know what, you're going to own it.

>> right.

>> and if thu yao think of how the country felt on the day of the boston bombings, that horrific incident, amplify that times 20 or 50, which are the number of terrorist incidents that we have been able to instrument because of these kind of programs. so they need to be reined in, but these folks making these commentary from the cheap seats should put a bill on the floor.

>> carly fiorina , you know, i think it's important because what congress has failed to do is actually have the gut to have a debate. if you want to debate these things, then don't pass the patriot act in perpetuity. don't give the president authority to wage a military campaign without coming back and saying, hey, maybe we ought to review this. but mike, who ran the nsa, was on last week, and he made the point these programs cannot operate in the dark. they have to be politically sustainable. here's what he said last week.

>> i think it's living in this kind of a democracy we're going to have to be a little bit less effective in order to be a little more transparent to get to do anything to defend the american people .

>> your thoughts.

>> well, mike hayden was a great nsa leader and he's a great friend, and i agree with both him and the mayor. i think there is a moment of the opportunity here. when we get past the specific of edward snowden , there is a moment of bipartisan opportunity to step back and say, how is it that we should be holding these vast complicated agencies accountable? i actually think the irs and the nsa scandal have something in common. whatever you think, you don't need to think the president politically mote valted the irs and you don't need to be against the nsa program to raise the profound question of when you have such vast bureaucracies. how do we hold them accountable? how does congress meet its oversight responsibility? how do the american people come to trust government again knowing that big bureaucracies actually are held in check somehow and we have a bayway way of determining that the people working in them are not abusing power but are ethical. that's an important debate.

>> chuck, the glenn greenwald issue and the debate under way this morning.

>> there is a culture of transparency. we live with it now, this culture of are social media . government institutions have been slow to respond. i think when the country changes culturally government should respond to the cultural change in the country and when it comes to transparency and to what the government's doing, how much information we as a governed people expect to have, we expect to have more information, not less. we expect this. so i think this is the case with the president in particular, but congress has also failed to respond to the country culturally. this issue of journalism and whistle-blowers, i'm hesitant. on one hand, i do think that the justice department was overbearing on what they did with a number of these folks, what they did with the associated press and snowden . i've had people who are uncomfortable having phone conversations now with different sources, even on the smallest of levels. so in that respect i understand the skittishness on the other hand. on the other hand, you know, glenn greenwald , you know, how much was he involved in the plot? it's one thing as a source, but what was his role -- did he have a role beyond simply being a receiver of this information? and is he going to have to answer those questions? there is a point of law. he's a lawyer. he attacked the premise of your question. he didn't answer it.

>> two big points to this. one, it's never been easier in human history to be a whistle-blower than now. so there's a legitimate path there. the other point people have to understand --

>> i disagree. the path within government stinks. it is not a protected path.

>> we disagree on that. the digital world has changed everything. the internet is an incredible tool for outlaws and terrorists. it's not surprising the security for the state is trying to compete with that. sending your cat photo around the world in a nanosecond changes everything online. government is struggling with how to not let that be a free channel for bad people to use as a tool and on the other hand not be ubiquitous in shattering privacy.

>> robert, one of the things chuck wrote about this morning was the notion of being leaderless in washington. one of the struggles for the leader of the government, the president, is finding his voice on this. he has spoken but rather cryptally about the utility of these programs and his view about it. is that a problem?

>> well, one, it is hard to talk about these programs without being in some ways cryptic because, as you heard michael hayden talk about, the more transparency that we give -- and we do need to give a necessary amount in order to sustain these programs politically and in public opinion -- but you have to be careful as to not just talk about what mike talked about, which is give terrorists basically the playbook for how we're monitoring their communications. but, you know, i think it is important to have this debate. we do have to have something that in the end comes out of this that is politically sustain sustainable. and you saw it beginning this week with the current head of the nsa talking about the plots that have been disrupted. i do think, again, an honest conversation about what is and what isn't being collected so that, like i said, i don't turn on the tv and i hear people talk about literally there must be the millions and millions of fbi agents that are listening to every single phone call in this country. not only is that --

>> be responsible --

>> not only is that -- right. not only is that not happening it's incapable of happening.

>> i do think one of the reasons it's important to step back and kind of begin to talk about some of these profound questions, distrust is created when people can't square the circle. so on the one handle you hear people say, oh, we've disrupted 50 terrorist plots, and on the other hand boston happens, we were warned about this person twice, and yet somehow that occurred. and we know that terrorists get on the internet all the time and get a how-to book to do all kinds of things. soy think people are having trouble reconciling what appears to be a lot of oversight with something like boston . and in the end, as we all know, it's human nature . if you don't know something, you assume the worst. american people have woken up to the fact that they don't know a whole lot about what government is involved in.

>> let me --

>> -- in five days.

>> but they also kill and wounded many.

>> absolutely, but over ten-year period i would take the hand that the united states has had and the diligence that law enforcement has displayed since 9/11 and it is essential to americans that when something terrible like that hams those individuals this be brought to justice. all of these measures were necessary as it relates to --

>> let me -- i've got to get a break in here. i want to come back with our roundtable, talk about the immigration fight. also another big story this weekend, paula deen . her apology. what it means for her future after using racist l