Meet the Press   |  August 04, 2013

MTP roundtable: Looking for patterns in the era of 'Big Data'

A Meet the Press panel discusses the usage of technology to gather intelligence and surveillance practices and priorities in protecting the homeland.

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

>> let's put this in a broader context. one of the debates we're having about these surveillance programs is we are far enough away from 9/11 that we ought to look at the means we are using to try to track these threats, and our programs may have helped in the intelligence stream here. part of this debate goes back to something that we found in our "meet the press" archives. back in 1975 , senator frank church warning about the potential of enhanced government capability to monitor communications. this is what he said then.

>> in the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the united states government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. now, that is necessary and important to the united states as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. we must know. at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the american people . and no american would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything -- telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. there would be no place to hide.

>> rick santorum , is this the debate we should be having?

>> well, here's the debate we should be having. we have an enormous capability with technology and improving and analyzing of big data. everyone talks about big data. well, guess what haul of these meta data -- information about who's calling who? it's big data. it's terabytes, a huge amount of data. the question is we can't use human intelligence to review that. but what's happening and what's going on in nsa and other places is the developing algorithms and other things to be able to analyze it, not looking at a particular thing but looking for patterns, looking for things that would be helpful, which is not an invasion of privacy, it's an analyzing of something that is, again, enormous amount of data trying to find patterns to see if we can draw conclusions from it. i don't see that as interfering with anybody's privacy. i see that as using the technology that everyone else is going to be using.

>> is it a concern, joy ann, that we entrust the government to, you know, stay away , not bother us with stuff when they're look for terrorists, but fear is until such a time that they might have a different point of view, a different imperative and they've got all this data? and that makes a lot of americans uncomfortable at a time when the administration is trying to defend these programs.

>> well, i think one of the things that's the most alarming about what we learned from edward snowden is the extent to which we have contractors, people who are not even work directly with the nsa but a company, a private for-profit entity that also has access. let's say a contractor like edward snowden, the potential to get at this data and access it is alarming. i think a lot of americans would want to rein that in. we have to understand we are the source of the thing that people most fear. we are sharing so much data with private companies from google to facebook, et cetera , sometimes more data than we give out in our irs returns. the government can either blind itself to it, pretend it isn't there, or subpoena and try to access it, but we also need to deal with privacy with these corporations, the amount of data they are backing up and holding on to really indefinitely.

>> andrea, this is harder to fight. it's going to be an even bigger political fight. we saw that play out with rand paul and chris christie this week, which is within the republican party saying, hey, we need to take a look at the extent to which we want to be a security state in the face of this threat.

>> and the white house is certainly, as senator durbin was indicating, that 90 minutes meeting, ten senators and congress leaders in there for 90 minutes with the president of the united states , that was a crisis meeting to say, we have to narrow this. five years, is that too long? should we hold these data for two years? should we force the telephone companies to do it rather than the government? they see the political blowback in the white house as well as now, as you point out, the fight that's emerging within the republican