Meet the Press   |  August 04, 2013

2: Intelligence gathering implications: MTP panel discussion

A Meet the Press roundtable debates the current global terror threat alert and the intelligence-gathering community's practices and policies.

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

>>> and we're back with the news that we just heard about these terror threats, specific information. former presidential candidate senator rick santorum . i'd come back to you to ask the same question i asked the senators. how significant is this? we know it's a big reaction. is it a big deal ?

>> i think it's a huge deal and i think it's a consequence of the policies of this administration . you look at benghazi and what happened there. we had an attack on our embassy. we've seen really nothing other than cover-ups. we haven't seen anything from this administration really go after the people who were responsible or the network behind it. and there -- i'm sure if you're looking at it from a terrorist perspective, you say, well, here's an administration that's pulling back, that's tim duncan , and the opportunity to go after additional embassies. so this is to me a direct consequence from what we saw in benghazi and the general program that this administration has, which is not being aggressive in confronting --

>> the critics of the administration 's drone program would say tim duncan in the face of terror.

>> i was going to say even the president's critics inside the cia have been surprised at his drone policy, bp surprised that he's adopted a lot of dick cheney and george w. bush 's approach in the war on terror . i will agree with rick on one point, and that is we do live in a post- benghazi world, especially when it comes to embassy protection. and there are a lot of families of people who were killed at benghazi that wish they'd gone on this sort of alert. so this is, this is, benghazi is the 800-pound elephant that nobody's speaking about on this matter. that's why so many embassies have been shut down. but i don't know that there would be a lot of people saying it's because of the tim duncan ti of barack obama but rather the mistakes made in benghazi .

>> look, drone policy is one policy. what we've seen is an administration that has refused to confront radical islam , that embraced the muslim brotherhood in egypt and now you see the consequences of that and what's happened there. they have not been -- they won't even use the word "terror." they have withdrawn politically from the engagement and fight. yeah, sure, they're going after bad guys with drone programs, but that is not a comprehensive policy --

>> but, rick, i have not, if you've watched my show, in the business of defending barack obama . but if you talk to people in the intelligence community , they will tell you that al qaeda is busted, it's broken, it's splintered. there is a reason right now that they're in yemen, because they've been chased out of afghanistan, they've been chased out of a lot of other countries. add kid is not any stronger today than it was when barack obama came into office and most people, conservatives in the intel community, will tell you that, in fact, it is weaker today than it was because the president surprised a lot of people.

>> i've seen --

>> the president surprised -- i've got to finish this. the president surprised a lot of people. he's adopted the policies of dick cheney and george w. bush in many, many instances.

>> right, but not the policies which i think really did risk america's image around the world and in a sense a lot of people would argue foment more terrorism and policies. the president has rolled back the rhetorical bluster we got used to during the previous administration but has actually amped up in terms of going after al qaeda directly. i don't think the administration that got osama bin laden , rhetorical bluster didn't bring oun osama bin laden , actual intelligence and aggressive maneuvers ron insana side of pakistan did. i don't think the former dictators in libya or in egypt would think that this president has been weak. i think what we've seen is a president who has tried to get the united states to conform and comport with the sort of moral standing that --

>> i don't think -- now i feel i need to counter on the other side, because the fact of the matter is barack obama has adopted policies that i think have actually been less targeted. he will fire drones into countries where we aren't even at war. when we had a plan, a policy, a program that would allow us to go and snatch terrorists out like khalid sheikh mohammed . bring them out without killing their 4-year-old daughters, without killing their grandmothers, without killing everybody in the general vicinity. and i've got to say, nothing that he has done has made us comport to international standards more than under george w. bush or dick cheney . in fact, you look at a lot of these countries, and america's approval ratings lower than they were when george w. bush left office.

>> i want to get to andrea. the level of specificity we heard from senator chambliss --

>> that was really something.

>> the level of alarm is what struck me.

>> he said this is the kind of chatter we heard before 9/11, which, be i the way, was a republican administration . so he's talking about a very serious intelligence threat, not specific in terms of whether this is going to be a car bomb or a suicide vest, but specific enough to warrant the closure of these embassies. the other thing that they're doing today, i'm told, is homeland security has ordered much tighter airport screenings on flights coming from overseas into the united states . and they do not think that this is related to the prison breaks. but you have to be concerned about the prison breaks in libya, iraq, and pakistan where all of these arrested terrorists are now on the loose.

>> so under diminished capacity .

>> 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 party .

>> joe scarborough , dan balz , who wrote "collision 2012 ," a terrific book about the 2012 campaign, said this about the feud we've seen this weekend, where it's goinging and looking ahead when i spoke to him for our "press pass" conversation.

>> rand paul 's views particularly on foreign policy are alarming to a lot of people in the republican party who are internationalists, who tend to be interventionists, believe a muscular foreign policy . what you've seen is the first of what is going to be to clearly be a long series about the party.

>> joe scarborough .

>> not just the republican party . hillary clinton has a much different world view . she's almost a neocon there. she has a much different world view than say pat leahy . there are going to be those battles going on in the democratic party . i think rick and i agree on a lot of economic issues. i think on foreign policy i'm a little closer to the rand paul camp. i would guess you're a little closer to the chris christie camp.

>> christie's closer to you.

>> crihristie's closer to me.

>> exactly. prepping for 2016 . i love t it! but a strong party has two wings. the republican parte can't doesn't win 49 states anymore like we did under reagan and nixon because we have one wing right now. we need neocons, realists, people that balance each other out. and we have it, but don't forget again, the democrats have it, too, because they're going to be electing somebody who -- if they elect hillary, who's closer to the view of a neocon --

>> how does this get the gop, rick, even in a different place than the party was "in depth" 2012 ?

>> i want to reiterate what joe said, which is the media has a fascination with how divided the republican party is and tends to ignore the divisions within the democratic party . i think they're very much as real on this issue, certainly on the nsa security issue, big division. big divisions here on -- look, these are very complex issues, and as joe said, it's -- it's a healthy debate because we're in a very transitional time in our nation's history. so i don't think it gets resolved. i think on the issue of national security we're going to be it rating ourselves forward on this.

>> talking about media fascination, i spent time with you in iowa. you had a successful run in the caucuses. you're heading back there this week to a summit. are you laying the groundwork for 2016 ?

>> i'm open to looking at the presidential race in 2016 , but got a little ways. we've got elections in 2014 first.

>> we've got more coming up here. we're going to take a break. the other big story we're following, of course, craving the spotlight. what makes politicians with personal scandals think they should actually stay in the public eye to work through this? more with our roundtable on that question right