Meet the Press   |  December 29, 2013

Edward Snowden’s legal adviser discusses latest developments

The ACLU’s Ben Wizner discusses whether Snowden is looking for an amnesty deal and the latest developments surrounding the former NSA contractor.

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>>> president obama and the u.s. intelligence world were rocked this year by the leaks from edward snowden . here's this week's front page of the " washington post ." snowden was interviewed for hours by barbara gellerman and he said, quote, the mission is already accomplished, i already won. the questions remain for key plans in 2014 . snowden 's key adviser in the united states ben wizner joins me now. ben, good to meet you.

>> good to be here.

>> what happens legally when he says, mr. snowden , i've already won. there was a ruling in the u.s. district court that concluded t

the following: no doubt the bulk telephoney met adata collection program vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from or within the governments counter punch. the cost of missing such a threat could be horrific. the bulk telephone metadata is to reconstruct and eliminate al qaeda 's terror network. so here's a district court judge disagreeing with another district court judge . if it's going to go to the supreme court , the u.s. court of appeals has to do something. is this where it's headed?

>> it is, but let me say this district judge is not just agreeing with another district judge, he's also disagreeing with a panel that included a former counterterrorism adviser concluded they had seen no evidence that the bulk telephone metadata program had been uniquely successful had stopped any kind of attacks. so there is a dispute about whether this is effective or even legal. but yes, i think we always expected that there would be differences of opinion in the lower courts. there is no question that it's time for the supreme court to weigh in and to see whether, as we believe, the nsa allowed its technological capabilities to outpace democratic control.

>> one of the key claims is this is an abusive program. this is an abuse of government authority . i can understand the argument that there is the potential for abuse by this kind of bulk collection. what is the actual abuse that's occurred?

>> well, this is a general warrant . this is what the framers of the constitution were worried about when they said that the government needed to have individualized suspicion before it collected records from the american people . what the nsa has done is they flipped that on its head. they said, we're going to collect everything now because we can and we think it will be relevant to some investigation in the future.

>> the supreme court said that was okay. your data between you calling someone else, just the data, not the content, that that's not private.

>> the supreme court said that was right about one person, not all people. the nsa is collecting the telephone records of every american. but i want to go back to that " washington post " headline where mr. snowden said, i won and mission accomplished . he didn't mean that the mission was accomplished. what he meant was that what he had set out to do was to bring the american public into the conversation, to bring open federal courts into the conversation, to bring the whole congress into the conversation. he did his part. it's now up to the public and our institutional oversight to decide how to respond.