Meet the Press   |  January 19, 2014

Gates Weighs in on Privacy Priority

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Meet the Press to discuss the NSA's privacy standards and policies guiding surveillance.

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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