Meet the Press   |  January 19, 2014

Gates Expands on Privacy, Memoir

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Meet the Press to discuss the president's recent NSA speech and remarks he made in his new memoir.

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

>>> i'm back now and i'm here with former defense secretary robert gates . he was head of the cia. he's been making news all week with his new memoir "duty." this is his first interview since obama gave the speech on spying and refors that he's proposing. you've had a good sense of humor about this brace but you had a serious fall. are you doing okay.

>> i'm doing fine though. inconvenient. you said in the book i remember at one point whether it had to do with torture or what's called enhanced interrogation techniques, you thought there should have been a top to bottom review of all the security measures put in place since 9/11. do you think the president has the balance right in what he's talking about now, which is you've got to have a these programs but we'll try to make your privacy a little bit more of a priority?

>> i actually do. i this i that acknowledging the importance of these programs and that they are valuable, that they help protect america, i think is very important. figuring out, trying to figure out some ways to provide some reassurance to americans that these programs are not a danger to their privacy, to their civil liberties i think is also important. i'm not sure that you know, we'll see whether the congress and executive branch can do something about hog holds the metadata. i think that's a more complicated problem that may seem to be the case on the surface. but i will tell you, i think that along with the balance in the president's speech, i think that the intelligence committees particularly under dianne feinstein and mike rogers , very different political philosophies have done a terrific job in overseeinging this.

>> but do you have -- do you acknowledge that without these leaks which you know were very dangerous as the president said, we wouldn't really be having this kind of transparent debate. and that congress wouldn't now the be having a real transparent debate whether this is a good or a bad thing and whether privacy is too compromised by it.

>> i think that the important thing is, after all of the leaks and after all the publicity, you have the chairs of the intelligence committees on the hill say nothing wrongdoing has been found. president saying this. no wrongdoing. no abuses. this is all about something that might happen in the future.

>> uh-huh.

>> and what kind of restrictions do you put in place. so i think that you know, as i said about reviewing some of the post 9/11 issues, i think there's always value in going back and looking at these programs, but you don't need a series of leaks that are terribly damaging to the united states to do that.

>> a lot of your memoir and some of the criticism inside the administration you've talked about a lot. one of the things that really struck me was how how emotional being secretary of defense was for you and how responsible you felt for our soldiers sending them into harm's way. and you write about that sentiment at that time even perhaps raps influencing your judgment in a way that you would prefer it had not. here's something you write in the book during world war ii general george marshall once told his wife i can't afford the luxury of sentiment. mine must be cold logic. sent mplt is for others. icy detachment was never an option because of the nature of the two wars i oversaw, i could afford the luxury of sentiment and at times it overwhelmed me. you talked about weeping every night writing condolence letters.

>> yes, i began i think in early 2008 , to tell the troops in iraq and afghanistan and also the young people at the service academies that i had come to feel responsible, personally responsible for them as though they were my own sons and daughters . and by the end of four years plus, i began to think that my priority, my opposition to our intervention in libya, my opposition to military engagement elsewhere i kept saying, can i just finish the two wars i'm already in before we go looking for another one and i began to feel that you know, my concern, my priority was protecting the troops and that that might be affecting my on the activity in advising the president where they might need to be used.

>> is that much emotion, that much sentiment the wrong thing for a defense secretary or does it help you keep your priorities straight?

>> well, i don't know. all i can say is, that spouses over the years of those who have been wounded or even deployed and serve tell me how much it meant to them to know that somebody in washington cared that much about their own son and daughtering

>> a couple of quick ones i've been saying all morning i wanted to ask you about the future of war. here is what you said back in 2011 at west point. in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big american land army into asia or into the middle east or africa should have his head examined as general mcarthur so delicately put it. does that mean to say that you think iraq and afghanistan will never truly be won, will never be seen as a victory?

>> i think that one of the other things that i write in the book is that if you look back to the korean war , there are very few instances where we have been militarily engaged in a major conflict where we have come out with what we saw as a victory as clear-cut as in world war ii or in the first gulf war in 1991 . whether it was korea or vietnam or iraq or afghanistan , there is not a conclusion to these conflicts that end in a victory parade . and the other aspect of in that i think is important as we look at the future of war is that as i put in the book and as i said often as the secretary of defense, in the last 40 years, our record in predicting where we would use military force next even six months out is perfect. we've never once gotten it right. from grenada under president reagan to haiti, panama, the balkans, against iraq twice, afghanistan -- libya twice, you name it, we didn't know six months ahead we were going to be in those places in those kinds of conflicts.

>> this is "meet the press." i think a lot. about politics. and you write about hillary clinton quite favorably, her pragmatism, her judgment. you were often in agreement with her on national security matters. you have said in other interviews you think she would be a good president. you are a republican. could you imagine voting for her?

>> well, i -- i think where i am now is that i think, it's clear in the book that i have a lot of admiration for hillary. i don't think that having a republican, that the democrats welcome having a republican handicap their 2016 race.

>> but you're not going to get off that easy. you can still vote for her and not handicap her. you don't want to answer that.

>> i'm going to be evasive.

>> but you do think she would be a good president?

>> i think -- i worked with her in the national security account arena for two and a half years. i have a lot of respect for what she did. and the way she conducted herself as secretary.

>> i think that's about as good as i'm going to get. mr. secretary, thanks so