Meet the Press | January 19, 2014
>> and we're back. now to the debate over government spying. i spoke with the head of the senate intelligence committee , democrat from kat dianne feinstein as well as the chair of the house intelligence committee , both the intelligence chairs. republican from michigan mike rog persons it was their only interview together since obama's important speech on friday. senator feinstein is, chairman rogers welcome back. good to have you both. so the future of spying it seems to me is very much like the president's. do you view this as a big victory, chairman rogers .
>> i thought the most important victory was the president standing up and saying the program did not have abus. this wasn't sinister. it was legal and proper. some of the suggestions how to move forward i have some concerns with, but i thought it was an important really an important role for the president to play. i wish he would have played it seven months ago but i was glad to hear it yesterday.
>> so edward snowden whatever you think of him leaks these documents, the information about these programs. and senator feinstein , that esa big hugh and cry but basically the president says these programs are here to stay. and critics of the speech as i've been reading this em seem to say very little will change. barton gelman says, "obama placed restrictions on access to domestic can phone records collected by the national security agency but the changes he announced will allow it to continue or expand the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, americans and foreign citizens alike." that doesn't seem like a lot of privacy protection.
>> well, i would ed disagree with mr. gelman. i think that what the president has said is that he wanted to maintain the capability of the program, that as chairman rogers said, it has not been abused or misused and it is carried out by very strict lit vetted and professional people. now, what he said is, by march 28th , i'm asking the attorney general to come back to me with some suggestions and probabilities of how the data might be stored by others in the government. and i think that's a very difficult thing because the whole purpose of this program is to provide instantaneous information to be able to disrupt any plot that may be taking place. and you know, i think a lot of the privacy people perhaps don't understand that we still occupy the role of the great satan. new bombs are being devised. new terrorists are emerging. new groups. actually, a new level of viciousness. and i think we need to be prepared. i think we need to do it in a way that respects people's privacy rights .
>> let me make one other point. when you look at what companies collect, the government does not seem to be a major offender at all.
>> but isn't the difference, of course, chairman, that it's only the government that can deprive you of your liberty. you know, google or amazon, you still have to click to acquiesce and not even know they have a lot of that personal information . the government seems to want total awareness. that's where even in the name of security a lot of critics say sorry, that is an invasion of privacy and that is going overboard . edward snowden himself in the " washington post " said the following about what he thinks is lax oversight. the issue was basically what entitled snowden to take on the responsibility of being the oversight. the whole question who elected you inverts the model. they elected me the overseers. he named the chairs of the senate and house intelligence committee , both of you, dianne feinstein he said elected me when she asked softball questions in committee hearings. mike rogers elected me when he kept the programs hidden. the fisa court elected me when this he decided to act on things they were never intended to do. each level of responsibility that should have addressed this abdicated their responsibility. so i'll start with you chairman rogers . will anything change?
>> first of all, i couldn't disagree more. that's like having the janitor at a bank who figured out how to steal some money deciding matters of high finance . this was a thief who we believe had some help who stole information the vast majority had the nothing to do with privacy . our army, navy, air force , marines have been incredibly harmed by the data that he has taken with him and we believe now is in the hands of nation states .
>> what help did he have? who helped him do you think in is.
>> well, there were certain questions we have to get answered where a, first of all if it was a privacy concern he had, he didn't look for information on the privacy side for americans . he was stealing information that had to do information to do with information how we deal to keep americans safe. some of the things he did were beyond his technical responsibilities raises more questions. how he arranged travel before he left, how he was ready to go. he had a go bag, if you will and how he accessed.
>> what high level do you think?
>> let me just say this. i believe there's a reason did he hand ended up in the arms of an fsb agent in moscow. i don't think that's a coincidence.
>> you think the russians helped ed snowden ?
>> i believe there's questions to be answer there had. i don't think it was agee whiz luck event that he ended up in moscow under the handling of the fsb.
>> that's a significant development.
>> i said we have questions we have to answer. as somebody who used to do investigations, some of the things we're finding we would call clues that would certainly indicate to me that he had some help and he stole things that had nothing to do with privacy . just real quickly though, real quickly, the oversight that is conducted, that's what's the interesting thing about this. with all the disclosures we find out holy mackerel, the court's involved. both the senate and the house committees are involved. there was plenty of oversight of the programs, and it was very restrictive. only 288 times that they even used the business records in 2012 .
>> so senator feinstein , is there any chance that some of your colleagues who disagree with you will be successful in shutting down the program, the bulk collection of this mate data?
>> i don't believe so. the president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability. he wants to look for other than the government holding the material. so i think we would agree with him. i know a dominant majority, everybody virtually except two or three on the senate intelligence committee would agree with that. he wants to make some changes in the fisa court that you have to have the approval of the court before you query. that the amicus concept involving a panel would come into being. but the important thing to me is the president very clearly said, we need this capability to keep people safe. now let me say one thing about mr. snowden . i heard him on television say that he went there with the intent to scrape our systems. that he obtained a scrape tool. and he began to scrape over i believe a two-month period as much as he could get ahold of. this isn't somebody who comes upon something and says, this isn't the right thing for the government to do. i want to go out and talk to people about it. he came there with the intent to take as much material down as he possibly could.
>> do you agree with chairman rogers that he may have had help from the russians ?
>> he may well have. we don't know at this stage. but i think to glorify this acting is really to set sort of a new -- a new level of dishonor. and this goes to where these data, this mate data goes because the nsa are professionals. they are limited in number to 22 who have access to the data. two of them are supervisors. they are vetted. they are carefully supervised. the data goes anywhere else. how do you provide that level of supervision.
>> so is it critical then to get to the bottom and will you investigate who might have been involved and whether there was any link to the russians ?
>> absolutely. absolutely.
>> that investigation is ongoing.
>> sure. but you have to remember, al qaeda has changed the way they communicate based on this. that puts our soldiers at risk in the field. that's a real dangerous consequence. nation states have started to make changes that concern us greatly. we're going to have to rebuild whole aspects of operations from our army, navy, air force , marines that will cost billions and billions of dollars because of the information he stole and gave which we believe is now in the hands of nation states who are doing something with it. there's no honor in that.
>> all right. we'll leave it there. senator feinstein , thank you very much for being here it, chairman rogers thank you, as well.
>> thank you.
>>> i wanted to get a different perspective from a privacy advocate also part of that digital privacy movement and an out spoken critic of government spying. alexis ohanian is the co-founder of red dit. the users post anything from articles to images to random questions and thoughts. stories then become popular with a six up or down vote from users. he's also the author of the book without their permission how the 21st century will be made not managed. he joins us now. welcome to "meet the press."
>> thank you for having me.
>> i think of this as a bigger debate about the future of privacy in america and what i just heard dianne feinstein say is we're going to having to give up some privacy because we still operate as in the space of the great satan. she said we face a new level of viciousness. so to you and others who are opposed to these programs, she's saying that's got to be more important.
>> yeah, and to me that is a false choice . in fact, i remember hearing president obama campaigning on the false choice , the bush administration was positioning when they were trying to do this very same thing. i think it's really important for us to realize that it's possible for us to have security while also not overstepping our right to privacy .
>> can we do it without -- i mean, as i've listen toed to you and others who oppose these programs, the thing is the bulk collection. it's all the mate data. if the government committed to having a huge database with our information, now, look, there has not been evidence of abuse even if you think that mere act is abusive, the collecting all of that data.
>> indeed. but i would not liking to have that hanging over my head . i think it is absolutely possible for the nsa to do their job without the bulk collection of america 's phone records. and i think if these leaders believe that to be true, then they would encourage or at least be looking forward to a proper congressional investigation. the sort of thing that will actually get us some answers that has subpoena powers that has the ability to sift through and actually give the american people the transparency we deserve.
>> but aren't we living, even snowden talked about in that a child growing up today is not going to really understand what the concept of privacy is. but don't you also turn toward some of the leading tech companies in the world that were started here in america , amazon and google, and look at what they're doing to compromise our privacy , not onlien compiling data but sharing that data, selling ta data? is that just as much of a concern as what the government's doing? oo.
>> i think you pointed it out earlier. there are certainly platforms that we go into knowing that we are sort of giving up our privacy because we're sharing some tweet with the world. but there are plenty of others where we go in with an expectation of privacy . that's a contract we have with our service providers . i think one of the strongest points that hasn't been made yet is the fact i believe forester estimated about $180 billion is going to be lost in revenue because countries and citizens around the world no longer want to do business was american companies because they no longer trust that their private data is safe. that's -- i'm an entrepreneur, i'm an investor. there's real business costs on top of the very important civil liberties costs.
>> no doubt a younger generation you have americans too is going to be looking at this politically, and this is going to be a big issue in our politics, don't you think?
>> absolutely. and mark my words, i think as mr. elseburg recently pointed out in a red dit ama, i believe history will look back on edward snowden as a whistleblower.
>> and that debate's going to rage on, as well. alexis ohanian, happy to have your perspective.
>> thank you for having me,