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Former Vice President Dick Cheney talks NSA surveillance program
Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 16, 2013 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Former Vice President Dick Cheney
The following is a rush transcript of the June 16, 2013, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
The NSA leaker, traitor or patriot?
Today, Dick Cheney weighs in on government surveillance.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: As to the individual who admitted to making these disclosures, he is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.
WALLACE: The feds pursue Edward Snowden who told The Guardian newspaper --
EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: I, sitting in my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, even the president if I had a personal e e-mail.
WALLACE: His disclosures renew a debate about the balance between security and civil liberties.
REP. JOHN CONYERS, D - MI: It is my fear we are on the verge of becoming a surveillance state.
SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: I want to catch terrorists as much as any American, but what separates us from them is the rule of law.
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA DIRECTOR: We are trying to be transparent -- protect civil liberties and privacy, but also the security of this country.
WALLACE: We'll ask former Vice President Cheney about the NSA surveillance programs. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.
Then, the White House says it will arm the Syrian rebels, after confirming Bashar Assad used chemical weapons.
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We have decided to take an additional step forward in providing dramatically increased assistance.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: Simply providing weapons will not change the battlefield equation. And we must change the battlefield equation.
WALLACE: We'll ask our Sunday panel if the lethal aide is a game changer or too little, too late.
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: Hello again, and happy Father's Day from Fox News in Washington.
For much of the eight years Dick Cheney was a heartbeat from the presidency, he was the driving force behind increased government surveillance as part of the war on terror. In the next segment, we'll ask the former vice president about the changing U.S. policy on Syria and the Obama administration scandals.
We want to begin by discussing the revelations about sweeping NSA data collection and the renewed debate about whether it's an invasion of privacy.
Vice President Dick Cheney, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It's good to be back, Chris.
WALLACE: Let's start with Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old private contractor who disclosed these programs to the world. Here's how he justified his actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOWDEN: Eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who was simply hired by the government. When you are subverting the power of government, that's a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: What do you think of Edward Snowden?
CHENEY: I think he's a traitor. I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had.
He was a contractor employee, but he obviously had been granted top secret clearance. And I think it's one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States.
WALLACE: We believe -- believe that Snowden is still in Hong Kong and apparently giving the Chinese information about alleged U.S. cyber hacking into Chinese computers.
Just a couple of questions: do you think he was a spy all along for the Chinese? Do you think he's using this information to try to buy asylum from the Chinese? And how firm should the U.S. government be with the Chinese about turning this guy back to us?
CHENEY: Well, I'm deeply suspicious obviously because he went to China. That's not a place where you ordinarily want to go if you're interested in freedom, and liberty and so forth. So, it raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this.
The other concern I have is whether or not he had help from inside the agency. That is to say, was there somebody else in NSA who had access to a lot of this stuff and passed it to him? That's presumably one of the things to look at in the course of the investigation.
But I -- I am very, very worried that he still has additional information that he hasn't released yet, that the Chinese would welcome the opportunity and probably willing to provide immunity for him or sanctuary for him, if you will, in exchange for what he presumably knows or doesn't know. So, it's going to be a continuing problem. I don't think this is just a one-off disclosure. I think there's a real danger here that he'll go beyond that.
And I have trouble believing that somebody in his position as a contract employee had access to the kind of things he's talking about.
WALLACE: So, you don't think he was acting alone?
CHENEY: I don't know. I think you have to ask that question.
WALLACE: Now, what about the U.S.-Chinese relationship. We saw President Obama meet with President Xi last weekend out in Palm Springs, supposedly trying to rebuild a relationship. How much should we put that relationship on the line to demand that they turn Snowden back to us?
CHENEY: Well, I think -- I think you need to be very aggressive about it. I'm not sure it will do any good. It depends, obviously, on whether or not the Chinese believes he still has value from an intelligence standpoint. I've got to believe they will work that angle first before they decide whether or not they're going to turn him over.
WALLACE: Since the leaks, there's been a lot of criticism of the NSA program from both the right and left. I want to focus on conservatives though -- people like Senator Rand Paul who says, "Fine, let the government target terrorists but leave law abiding Americans alone."
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: This is what we objected to and what our Founding Fathers partly fought the revolution over is they did not want generalized warrants where you could go from house to house with soldiers looking for things or now from computer to computer, to phone to phone, without specifying who you're targeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question: is Senator Paul wrong?
CHENEY: I believe he is. Two-thirds of the Congress today, Chris, wasn't here on 9/11 or for that period immediately after when we got into this program. And the reason we got into it was because we've been attacked -- and worse attack than Pearl Harbor. Nineteen guys armed with box cutters and airline tickets.
The worry is that the next attack, there will expect -- we then expected, not expected today, sooner or later, there's going to be another attack and they'll have deadlier weapons than ever before, that we've got to consider the possibility of a nuclear device or biological agent. We made the decision based on 9/11 that we no longer had a law enforcement problem, we are at war. And Congress, in fact, authorizes the president to use military force to deal with the crisis.
And that puts you in the category of using your military assets, your intelligence assets and so forth to protect the country against another attack. And when you consider somebody smuggling a nuclear device into the United States, it becomes very important to gather intelligence on your enemies and stop that attack before it ever gets launched.
WALLACE: Let me ask you the question that Rand Paul and a lot of other people on both the right and the left are raising. Fine, if you find the bad guys, so you have reason to suspect, them, go after their numbers, go after their e-mails. But why do you have to vacuum up information on every law-abiding American in the country?
CHENEY: First, what information? The answer is phone numbers, and who contacted who. We don't have any names associated. It's just a big bag of numbers that have been collected.
WALLACE: He still says that's an intrusion.
CHENEY: Well, I don't believe it is. In fact, that's not private information. According to the Supreme Court, those are business records of the telephone company. You don't go into that box of numbers, if you will, to look for connections unless you break up some place a suspicious number. You capture Khalid Sheik Mohamed in Karachi, or bin Laden in Abbottabad and Pakistan. You look at their cell phones, you look at their rolodex in effect and see what numbers had connections back into the United States. And by preserving that database you are able to come back, check and see if they have been talking to somebody inside.
Now, as everybody has been associated with the program said if we had this before 9/11, when there were two terrorists in San Diego, two hijackers able to use that program, that capability against the target we might have been able to prevent 9/11. So, we're not -- the allegation is out there that somehow we've got all this personal information on Aunt Fanny or Chris Wallace or whoever it might be and reported through it. Not true, that's not the way it works. It's been explained by Mike Hayden who was involved in setting it up. By Keith Alexander who is a superb guy, both of them are now running the program that we have collected a lot of numbers, but they are business records and the phone companies, they have been determined by the Supreme Court not to be private individual records, the way they are oftentimes described by critics.
WALLACE: OK, let's assume that's right. Now, the question is being asked, why does this all of this have to be kept so secret? The terrorists clearly assumed we're trying to intercept their phone calls and intercept their e-mails. So why not let the American public know the outlines, the general program -- obviously, not sources, methods and how you go in and the algorithms and all of that -- but the blueprint, the outline of the program, so we as Americans can debate it?
CHENEY: Well, I have problems with respect to that concern. I understand people's concern about it. But an intelligence program that does reveal sources and methods which, in fact, is what you're talking about is significantly less effective because you're not just revealing it to the American people. You're revealing it to your targets, to your adversaries, to the enemy. There are reasons for secrecy in conduct of intelligence operations.
We set up this program back in the weeks after '01. We briefed members of Congress, chairmen and ranking members of the intelligence committees. We did it in my office, in the West Wing. Mike Hayden come in, George Tenet, I was there, and we'd give them the layout of what we were doing and what we were learning from it.
Eventually we did it for the elected leadership of the Congress, both parties, both houses. So, we had senior officials in Congress and eventually, obviously, the FISA courts, who read into the program, knew what we were doing and had in effect signed off on it.
I once asked a collected group, the big nine in the spring of '04 in the briefing. First we briefed them and said, do you think we ought to continue the program? They said absolutely yes. Then we said, do you think we ought to come back to the Congress and get additional legislative authorization? They said absolutely not, it will leak. Those were the senior leaders in the Congress at the time.
WALLACE: So what right do you think the American people have to know what government is doing?
CHENEY: Well, they get to choose, they get to vote for senior officials, like the president of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress. And you have to have some trust in them. You don't go out when you find an intelligence operation trying to collect data, and in effect tell the enemy what you're doing. It would be a dumb idea. It makes the program significantly less effective and it reveals to our adversaries crucial information that they shouldn't have.
WALLACE: All right, well, let me ask you about that, because top U.S. intelligence officials have released more information to try to explain and defend these programs. They have released it Saturday. Let's put some of it up on the screen. They say data from these programs help break up terror plots in the U.S. and 20 other countries. Last year, they say fewer than 300 phone numbers were checked against the huge database, and that all the data is destroyed every five years.
Given the leaks, given that information, do you think that provides useful information to our enemies?
CHENEY: I think it does. I mean, we have now laid out -- they have no choice. I don't quarrel with what they are now putting out; they are forced to put it out because an individual, in this case Snowden, took it upon himself to decide the United States no longer needed to maintain this secret. You cannot -- you can't operate that way. It just doesn't function. If you think about what we were able to do in World War II, reading Ultra, the Germans' coded communications. Vital in our success in that venture. We could have announced it to the world, could have had this kind of debate, but obviously it would have destroyed the ability to collect it. You are telling your adversary about your sources and methods and how it is we are reading their mail. And the same thing is true here.
What's different now is the threat, and the threat now isn't just overseas or just a foreign power. The threat now is terrorists coming back into the United States using deadlier weapons than ever before to launch an attack. We have to know what they are doing, we need to know who they are in contact with here in the United States. And what this program allows us to do, and the reason it's been set up and the way it's been operated was when we went to Karachi and captured Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, we could get his Rolodex and see who he was talking to inside the United States. When you had the two guys in San Diego who were future hijackers on 9/11, they were in contact overseas with their leadership overseas, as well as some of the rest of the organization here in the States. If we had been able to read their mail and intercept those communications and pick up from the calls overseas the numbers here that they were using in the United States, we would then probably have been able to thwart that attack.
WALLACE: Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama talked about what he called the false choice between liberty and security. And when this program was revealed last week, he said, well, I scrubbed a lot of what I inherited from you. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs. My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: How much has President Obama scrubbed what you guys gave him?
CHENEY: I can't -- I don't know. Obviously I've not been in the loop on classified information since I left the White House. But I, I guess one of the keys for me, Chris, is I know Keith Alexander. He's one of the finest officers--
WALLACE: Head of the National Security Agency.
CHENEY: Head of the National Security Agency. Now in charge of the program. I know Mike Hayden very well, he was his predecessor. Mike later became CIA director. I worked with Mike Hayden when we set this program up. He came to me, and -- he and George Tenet. And we said that there were additional things we could gather if we had more authority. And then I took it to the president and he signed off on it with some very strict limitations and restrictions on what we could do.
These men are as fine officers as you are going to find any place in the United States military. And I have met a lot of them over the years. I trust these guys implicitly with my life.
WALLACE: So what do you make of --
CHENEY: And what I make of what they are saying is they are to be believed. They are good, honest Americans, they're patriotic, but they also care very much about their responsibility to safeguard civil liberties.
WALLACE: What I'm asking is what do you make of the president suggesting, well, I had to scrub up what these guys left me?
CHENEY: I don't pay a lot of attention, frankly, to what Barack Obama says. I find a lot of it's in its (ph) various (ph) forms -- for example, IRS, Benghazi -- not credible. I'm obviously not a fan of the incumbent president. I don't know what he did to the program. The program obviously from what's now been released is still in operation. I think it's good that it is in operation. I think it has, in fact, saved lives and kept us free from other attacks.
WALLACE: One last question in this area. Some critics say there is a disconnect between the president defending this vast surveillance as he has since it was revealed, and his recent remarks in which he seemed to indicate that the war on terror is winding down. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Couple of questions. First of all, what do you think of the president suggesting where we are now in the war on terror, and as he put it we are at a crossroads. And doesn't it make it harder to justify this mass surveillance if the war on terror is winding down?
CHENEY: Well, first of all, he's wrong. It's not winding down. If you look at the part of the world now that's available as safe harbor, sanctuary for terrorists to plan and train and launch attacks against the United States. It now runs all across North Africa. All those places that the, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood have come to power. So the threat is bigger than ever.
Other problem we've got is the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Today we are all concerned about Syria. Think of what a problem would it be if the North Korean-built nuclear reactor were still in Syria and hadn't been destroyed by the Israelis six years ago. We would have a huge mess on our hands. But the problem, from the standpoint of terror is, bin Laden may be dead, but we have got al Qaeda and a lot of al Qaeda wannabes and al Qaeda affiliates out there operating. Benghazi is proof positive that al Qaeda is operating in this case in Libya. So he's just dead wrong on the status of the threat.
In terms of credibility, I don't think he has credibility. I think one of the biggest problems we have is, we have got an important point where the president of the United States ought to be able to stand up and say, this is a righteous program, it is a good program, it is saving American lives, and I support it. And the problem is the guy has failed to be forthright and honest and credible on things like Benghazi and the IRS. So he's got no credibility.
WALLACE: Guess what? We're going to take a break here, but when we come back, we're going to discuss Mr. Obama's decision to arm the Syrian rebels, as well as the scandals involving the IRS and Benghazi. Much more with Dick Cheney when we come right back.
WALLACE: And we're back now to continue our conversation with former vice president, Dick Cheney.
The White House announced late this week that it has reversed policy and that it is going to start sending the Syrian rebels small arms and possibly anti-tank weapons. But they also made clear what they won't do. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We don't at this point believe that the U.S. has a national interest in pursuing a very intense, open-ended military engagement through a no-fly zone in Syria at this juncture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Is it wise for the president to get involved at all in Syria at this point? Is this enough? And generally speaking, looking back, how do you think this president has handled Syria over the two years of the civil war?
CHENEY: I don't think it's been well handled. I will be the first to admit, it's a complex, difficult situation. I frankly think John McCain has got it about right. John and I don't always agree on everything. We have had our debates over the years, but I think John has pretty well nailed it. And now we are to the point where it's hard to understand that it's the use of chemical weapons that has triggered this result. As John said the other day, well, there were 93,000 people killed that were not affected by chemical weapons. Where was the concern then?
It's not clear to me what the mission is here, or that they understand what the (inaudible). Is it strictly humanitarian? Is it geostrategic? Does the United States have a vested interest in the outcome? And are we in fact potentially involved in some kind of proxy war with the Soviets or the Russians, excuse me, who are supporting Assad?
I think it is important that Assad go down. I think my instinct would have been to support the opposition sooner, where you had an opportunity, if you cared about it, if it was in fact in the national interest, you had an opportunity earlier to provide support without having to get American forces directly involved. And they took a pass. Now they are going to do it, but the question is whether or not they are a day late and a dollar short.
WALLACE: And what about no-fly zones, what about stand-off strikes on Syrian airstrips and things to reduce their or eliminate their air superiority?
CHENEY: Well, Jack Keane said the other day on this network, I heard him --
WALLACE: Former general.
CHENEY: Former general. Jack is a close friend of mine, a great guy. That from a military standpoint of being able to accomplish something objectively that might well provide success, the no-fly zone is what he would recommend. That's not without potential cost, obviously. Syria has a fairly sophisticated anti-air capability. Sophisticated ground-to-air missiles. And so it's a problem. Btu again, I think it's important for the administration to come back and specify what is the U.S. national interest here? And it seems to be, if the only reason you're going is because now you have evidence that they used chemical weapons and killed 150 people with chemical weapons, is that our national interest? And I'm not sure that they have got it straight in their own minds what the objective is.
WALLACE: Let's talk about Benghazi, which you raised in the last segment. There is a general principle in the military, no one left behind. But back after Benghazi, then secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, said that that wasn't possible during -- given the specific circumstances during the terror attacks in Benghazi. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on. Without having some real-time information about what's taking place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Given the circumstances that night and what we have been told about the deployment of forces, was the decision by the president and the Pentagon not to send U.S. forces during those seven hours to try to rescue our people on the ground, was that an appropriate decision or not?
CHENEY: I don't think it was. My experience was, especially on 9/11, Chris, especially in that part of the world, where we anticipated that al Qaeda might well try to mark the anniversary, if you will, of 9/11 with an attack, especially on a location where they had an enormous amount of intelligence that said the -- the consulate is in danger. You get the broadcast. The first thing that comes out of the embassy is the ambassador saying we are under attack. We should have been on the step before that ever happened. We were always prepared, had groups and organizations, teams ready to go operate at the drop of a hat and practice exactly that kind of operation.
I found it difficult to reconcile. Leon, and I like him, he's a good man, but to reconcile his statement that we couldn't have done anything. They could have been ready before the crisis ever developed. So they could respond on short notice. Sigonella is an hour away.
WALLACE: That's the--
CHENEY: It's an air base.
WALLACE: -- air base (inaudible).
CHENEY: In Sicily. It's a NATO base. And they've got, if you're not going to be ready in Libya, of all places, then where are you going to be ready for them? The military has the capability, and apparently they did not use it. And I think that was a bad call.
WALLACE: What do you think of the president's decision to name Susan Rice to be his national security adviser?
CHENEY: Well, she appears to have been part of the cover-up. That one of the things here that concerned him was really a political issue. The whole notion that this was a terrorist attack, which it was, undermined the narrative that they'd solved the terrorism problem. We got ben Lazi (sic) -- bin Laden terrorism problem solved. So she went out and peddled the party line that had been put together I guess over at the State Department. But I think that was a huge mistake. What she did was a huge mistake. I think she lacks credibility. And she doesn't need to be confirmed. She can go in there as the national security adviser. I just question whether or not somebody whose judgment was so flawed that they took what was apparently very bad information and peddled it as aggressively as she did.
WALLACE: Let's turn to the IRS targeting of conservative groups with the name Tea Party or Patriot or 9/12 in their name. Employees in the Cincinnati office who had been interviewed by a House committee are telling conflicting stories as to whether this was generated in Cincinnati or whether it came from higher-ups in the IRS in Washington. There is so far no evidence, no hard evidence of any involvement by Treasury or the White House, at least so far. As someone who's been around this town a while, what do you make of the IRS scandal?
CHENEY: I think it's one of the worst abuses of power imaginable when you think of the power of the IRS. And it clearly was used for political purposes, to go after a particular category of organizations. Happened to be conservatives, my side of the political spectrum. But regardless of who it was, that is a kind of gross abuse of power that everybody is legitimately concerned about.
I think that I have trouble believing two guys in Cincinnati dreamed this scheme up. I just don't think that's true. I want -- I don't often talk about it, but I was involved in the wage price control program back in the Nixon years. I was the director of operations of the Cost of Living Council. And one of the things I had to oversee were 3,000 IRS agents who were out trying to enforce wage price controls. It was a very professional organization. They worked hard to take the rules and regulations written by the Cost of Living Council and the policy types and implement them out in the field.
I have trouble -- it was a long time ago -- but I have trouble believing that the professionalism that I had observed in that organization would be doing that. Some guys on their own picking out a political class to go after, that they would do that without -- without doing--
WALLACE: Mrs. Cheney is giving you a call.
CHENEY: Yeah, right.
WALLACE: That's a first time on "Fox News Sunday."
CHENEY: But that they would do an example. Like we've seen here with respect to the way they've operated. And I think I personally believe I cannot conceive of a situation in which it didn't come from higher up.
WALLACE: The other scandal now is the Justice Department raising the possibility of prosecuting Fox News' James Rosen for his role in revealing what seems to have been national security classified information. Back in 2006 -- I love the way you're checking to see --
CHENEY: Turning it off.
WALLACE: I thought you were checking to see who was calling.
CHENEY: No, making sure it didn't go off. My apologies.
WALLACE: Hope it's not another Sunday show. No problem.
CHENEY: No, no.
WALLACE: Back in 2006, there were reports that you raised the possibility of prosecuting a New York Times reporter. James Risen -- not Rosen -- but James Risen, for breaking the story that the Bush administration had ordered and was engaged in warrantless wiretaps.
First, is that true? Did you consider the prosecution of James Risen of the New York Times? And secondly, what is your general philosophy about whether or not reporters can, should, are liable for criminal prosecution for exposing national security secrets? CHENEY: I was not advocating prosecuting Risen. I did think that the New York Times violated the law because there is indeed a provision that says it is a felony offense to publish information about communications intelligence in the United States. It's never been enforced. But it's a felony calling for a sentence of ten years to do that.
WALLACE: Should have prosecuted the New York Times?
CHENEY: I urged that we ought to investigate. And either the law is the law or it isn't. It's never been enforced. Nobody had the nerve to actually go after the New York Times. But it's on the books.
And I thought in this case obviously -- now admittedly, I'm a hard rock on some of these things. And it's probably wise that others said, no, no, we don't want to prosecute the New York Times. But there is a provision of law. It's very clear. It is publication of communication intelligence, and it has never been enforced.
WALLACE: But you think it should be.
CHENEY Well, either that or take it off the books. But it was not aimed at the reporter. It was specifically the New York Times had been asked by the president of the United States, with the publisher and the editor and the Washington bureau chief in the Oval Office, as he asked them please not to publish this, it is going to do enormous damage to our national security, and they went ahead and did it anyway.
WALLACE: Finally, your health.
CHENEY: Yes, sir.
WALLACE: You got a heart transplant 15 months ago.
WALLACE: Couple of questions. One, what are you able to do now that you were not able to do before the transplant? And secondly, and I guess I don't expect you to get warm and fuzzy, but I am going to try to put you on a psychiatrist's coach for a moment. What does it mean to you in a deeper sense to have this new lease on life, literally?
CHENEY: Yeah. Well, it's nothing short of a miracle, Chris. Obviously I owe a deep debt to the donor and the donor family.
I was near death three years ago. I was in end stage heart failure, liver and kidneys shutting down, and on an emergency basis they went in and planted a pump in my chest. It was battery operated. That kept me alive for 20 months and that got me to the transplant. And I wake up every morning now with a smile on my face, thankful for the gift of another day I never expected to see.
WALLACE: Mr. Vice President, it is always a pleasure to talk with you, sir.
CHENEY: Good to see you.
WALLACE: Happy Father's Day.
CHENEY: Thank you. And you, too.
WALLACE: Many more to both of us.
CHENEY: All right.
WALLACE: Up next, we'll ask our Sunday panel whether the plan to arm the Syrian rebels will do anything to level the playing field in that deadly civil war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: For us to sit by and watch these people being massacred, raped, tortured in the most terrible fashion, meanwhile the Russians are all in. Hezbollah is all in. And we are talking about giving them more light weapons? I mean, it's insane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator John McCain strong at his criticism of the president's decision to arm the Syrian rebels as much too little, much too late. And it's time now for our Sunday group. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, former Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman. GOP mastermind Karl Rove, I changed you from guru Rove and Fox News political analyst Juan Williams.
Well, Brit, "The Wall Street Journal" has an editorial this weekend. Well, let's put it up on the screen. It's headlined "Dabbling in Syria," "Obama arms the rebels, but not enough to defeat Assad and his patrons." Do they have a point? Is the president dabbling?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the worry is that what -- the situation is so advanced in a bad way. That it would take a lot more than what he's apparently prepared to do to change the complexion of that conflict. Which, in turn means that all the big talk about red lines and so on may be for naught, even if he tries to do something. And that in turn means that the word of the president of the United States who presides over the great superpower of the world, and when it comes to an issue like this isn't worth much. Because he isn't prepared to back it up with effective action. I think that's a loss for him. I think that's a loss for the country if that's how it plays out.
WALLACE: Congresswoman, even Bill Clinton this week was turning on President Obama in a private event with John McCain he was quoted as saying that the president would look -- President Obama would look like, a quote, "total fool" -- Clinton's words -- if he paid too much attention to the polls and didn't get involved in Syria. Did this president wait too long?
JANE HARMAN, D – CA, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think so. By the way, I disagree strongly with what the vice president just said about Susan Rice. But I agree with his comments about the need for a strategy around what we are doing in Syria. The president let Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor, announce what we are going to do. This is something he should have taken for himself and he should have explained Syria against what else is going on in the Middle East and what we did in Libya. And I do think we should be doing this. I gather that in Jordan where we're going this week, we're going to leave a few F-16s behind just in case something more comes of this strategy. And I'm worried a little bit about John McCain's idea about some form of no-fly zone. Because there are chemical weapons on the ground. But I do think being aggressive in Syria is going to help us get to the peace table with Russia and to persuade the Iranians and the North Koreans that we mean what we say.
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we are two years too late. I mean two years ago in August President Obama said it was time for Assad to go. And we have done little to make him go since then. And as a result our credibility in the region is deeply damaged. Light weapons might have had a big impact two years ago. I'm dubious that how much of an impact it will have now. Though, we don't know all of what might be brought into the battlefield. The Gulf States have indicated willingness to supply heavier weapons to the rebels. But this is -- I'm with Brit on the question of the American credibility. We had the announcement that the Iranians are sending 4,000 Revolutionary Guards who may already be on site. Hezbollah in -- out of Lebanon has opened -- has helped open several new fronts inside the country. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard are talking about creating a front in the Golan Heights by attacking Israel. American action two years ago might have made for a more stable situation today. I'm frankly concerned if -- that it is way too little and way too late.
WALLACE: Well, let's pick up on that one. Because a lot of people are calling this halfway measures. No no-fly zone, no air strikes to degrade the air advantage that the Syrians have. No anti- aircraft weapons at this point. No anti-tank, although that apparently is a possibility. Just this thing called small weapons and ammunition. What can he accomplish with that at this late day?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it becomes a forced multiplier, is the word from the White House. And it's a very interesting word, because as Jane Harman said the president didn't own this. This is coming from Ben Rhodes, his top assistant there on this issue.
But the idea would be ...
WALLACE: Stop it right there. What do you make of that? The fact that the president doesn't come up announce this change in policy and lets a deputy national security person.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think Senator McCain picked up on this when he said the president shouldn't be looking at the polls. Because if you look at the polls the American people do not want the United States to get involved in another war in the Middle East. I think that's pretty clear. And we are in fact in this era pulling out of two wars. And I think the whole notion of investing in the United States, and that's where our focus should be and jobs. That the clear polling stuff. But the idea of forced multiplier here is key. The idea of leaving the Patriot missiles as well as the F-16s in Jordan. The idea of going to Northern Ireland and reaching out now to potentially, to Russian leader Putin and talking to him about what this means in terms of the Middle East threats to not only Jordan with all the refugees, but to Israel and making it clear to the Europeans that the United States is playing a lead role, that the United States isn't disengaged but acting as a leader and the United States will not allow the rebels to lose. Once you say that by sending these weapons you change the tone of a conversation. You open this to negotiation.
HUME: Number one, I hope you are absolutely right and what he does, does change everything. But the worry is that it doesn't. Look. If the United States wants to have credibility on these issues, think of -- let me go back to the question that Chris asked you. We hear from Ben Rhodes, a relatively invisible figure.
HUME: An important one on the National Security Council, but not from the president himself. You mentioned the polls. Every president is constrained by that and should be, by public opinion. But on these kinds of foreign policy issues where it involves engagement of one kind or another in a military conflict, the polls are seldom at the outset are going to be in favor of people in this country or reverse to that. So, what the -- this is an area where presidents have to lead. They lead by what they do and they lead by what they say. Let's go back to the first Gulf war. Does anybody think that when Iraq invaded Kuwait there was any serious sentiment in the United States in favor of American military involvement? Of course, there was not. But that President Bush came out and said, this will not stand. I remember, I was covering the White House at the time. I couldn't believe he said it. I couldn't believe, but as he led, opinion turned around. And by the time that the conflict was engaged, opinion was ...
WALLACE: Let me -- wait, wait, wait. Let me just interrupt for one second, because I want to bring in Congresswoman Harman. And you mentioned trying to get to an international conference. The president is going to be at an international conference starting tomorrow, the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland. The White House is talking about -- he'll get on the same page with the British and the French who have actually been out ahead of us on this. But he's going to meet with Putin and persuade him to have a negotiated settlement. If you look at the situation on the -- you really think he's going to persuade Vladimir Putin to give up on Assad at this moment?
HARMAN: Well, so far we've got nowhere, but let's remember Bosnia. That's what I was going to bring up under Bill Clinton where we were involved actually in an air campaign and bombing. And that got us to the table (inaudible) and that led to a negotiated settlement.
WALLACE: But we're not doing either of those.
HARMAN: Well, we're not doing them yet. And I have some reservations about the air campaign because of the chemical weapons. But we have to show the Russians that we are tough. And we haven't shown that yet, and I'm hoping that John Kerry who seems very aggressive on this and really a fast start to Secretary of State, will be at the G-8 meeting, I assume. He will be. And we will ...
HARMAN: No, when -- no, but his negotiation with Lavrov is critical there, his counterpart.
WALLACE: The Russians foreign minister ...
HARMAN: The Russian foreign minister ...
ROVE: The Russian (inaudible) they have no intention to carry as long as -- as long as they know ...
HARMAN: But Karl, they don't want if -- they don't bank on Bashar staying. If they think Bashar is going to fall, they will intervene. This is a great reset moment for Putin.
ROVE: They have spent the last ...
ROVE: They have spent the last two years arming Assad and keeping him in power. And they are going to continue to do it.
HARMAN: I agree with that.
ROVE: We -- and the Iranians are in, and Hezbollah is in. And we are kidding ourselves if we think there is going to be a magic moment in Dublin to where ...
HARMAN: Well ....
ROVE: ... Belfast, excuse me -- where the Irish ancestors of President Obama are going to give him the blarney to bring (inaudible) along.
HARMAN: Oh, OK.
WALLACE: All right, on that note, we're going to take a break here. But when we come back, inside the secret NSA Act. Did Edward Snowden help us understand what our government is up to or did he compromise our security?
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WALLACE: Check out FoxNewssunday.com for behind-the-scenes features, Panel Plus and our special Monday preview of the week ahead. You can find it at foxnewssunday.com. And be sure to let us know what you think. Stay tuned for more from our panel.
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REP. MIKE ROGERS, R - MI, CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This is, a, incredibly damaging and, b, there should be no notion in anyone's mind that this person is a traitor to the United States of America.
SEN. MIKE LEE, (R ) UTAH: We know that eventually when people are given too much power in government they will abuse that authority for nefarious purposes, sometimes for political purposes. And that's not OK.
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WALLACE: A taste of the debate that's going on inside both parties about the wisdom of the government sweeping surveillance programs. And we're back now with the panel. So, Congresswoman Harman is the top Democrat on House Intelligence. When you were on Capitol Hill. Where do you come down on the basic idea of these NSA programs and how do you respond to the critics on both sides who say it's just too intrusive on millions of Americans who are minding their own business?
HARMAN: I actually think this is one of the rare and true victory laps that Congress can take because Congress is the place that amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008 to bring these programs clearly under the law and it works with a foreign intelligence surveillance court, which is composed of 11 federal judges who rotate in and out. Full disclosure or, you know, massive disclosure to Congress. And then an executive branch which can't do anything unless the courts approve and Congress oversees. So, this is the separation of powers and there are some folks in Congress who disagree with the breadth of this program. I think it should be debated. Maybe it can be narrowed. But it has been sunsetted. All these provisions that relate to this. The business records provision and the FISA amendments and renewed by Congress every three years. And it protects our country. And I do agree with Mike Rogers that this compromise, this leaker potentially has really hurt us in national security terms.
WALLACE: Karl, let's talk about the Republicans. There is also a debate within the Democrats. But I'm asking you about the Republicans. How do you feel about so many Republicans from Rand Paul to Mike Lee to James Sensenbrenner, who was one of the authors of the Patriot Act, all saying that this program is too intrusive?
ROVE: Yeah, well, look. I respect that. If you see, you can be a civil libertarian and there are civil libertarians of both parties who feel that way. But you've got to be consistent. If you don't like this program, which we now know was accessed 300 times last year, then you've got to be against local law enforcement being able to access routinely business records of the telephone company and their local investigations as well.
ROVE: You cannot turn on a cop drama on television where there is not somebody who's pinging somebody's cell phone or taking look at the phone calls made from some, you know, some landline of -- or telephone booth to help solve some crime on television, and it is routinely done and in a large scale at the local law enforcement level. The difference is that apparently this program holds onto these records for five years. We don't know how long most -- you know, each individual phone company may keep its records available to the local law enforcement. And this one requires a warrant to be able to search the record of any American. You can -- you can monitor the foreign communications without a warrant. But in order to then search this database, you have to have a warrant issued by one of these FISA court judges. That's not what happens routinely with the local law enforcement which can just simply get the local phone company to run a trace on a phone or give you the connection of a phone number. How many times have we sent the police to that hotel on Route One because we searched that phone record? You've got to be consistent.
WALLACE: Have you ever been in that hotel on Route One?
WALLACE: I'm a little concerned about the (inaudible) thing.
ROVE: As I recall it was somebody named Wallace who was then ...
ROVE: A well-known drug dealer or something.
WALLACE: Oh yeah. Then there is the man who disclosed the secrets. Private contractor Edward Snowden, 29 years old, apparently holed up in Hong Kong. And we are told giving the Chinese a lot of information. We don't know if it's true or not about U.S. cyber hacking of Chinese and Hong Kong computers. Juan, what do you make of him?
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I see that young people in the country are just thrilled with Ed Snowden. They have made him into a hero, a martyr. But to me, this guy is no Daniel Ellsberg. Not at all.
WALLACE: You need to explain to the young people who ...
WALLACE: Yes. The Pentagon thing. WILLIAMS: You're hurting me, buddy. Yes. But I mean the Pentagon -- he was the one who orchestrated the release of the Pentagon papers to Neil Sheehan at "The New York Times." But, you know, the difference here is this was not about revealing corruption or lies by government or anything like that. He was revealing secrets that had to do with effective programs to battle terrorists. In this age of anti-terrorism. So, to me, I think this is a guy who took an oath when he said that he was going to work as a government contractor for NSA and he broke that oath. So, I don't think that's a martyr or a hero. I think that's more in the category of traitor. He should be extradited, and he should be prosecuted. If the point is that we need a debate -- yes, we need a debate about secrecy and the balance between civil liberties and national security. That's the debate, I think, should have taken place with far more energy back in 2002 when we passed the Patriot Act. And I think there was only one senator who voted against it, and I think that was Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.
So, you imagine, to me, at that time, there was such emotion. Yeah, we need to fight terrorists. But we sacrifice some civil liberties. Now to go back and say, oh, you know what? We aren't sure. We didn't know about it. Baloney. We knew about this all along. We have known about it clearly since 2006. Everybody knows about it. And to pretend -- oh, gosh, we didn't know, this is a shock. I mean that's ridiculous.
WALLACE: No, no. Last word, Brit.
HUME: Much too much of a fuzz has been made about Edward Snowden, because I think it turns out that what he -- what was true about what he revealed wasn't new. In fact, I was reading this morning a quite lengthy "USA Today" story from May of 2006, which laid this whole thing out. NSA, telephone records, massive gathering of them and so on to be searched later. And so, the whole thing has been in the public domain. And his claims about what he could do from his desk and reading the emails and all of that? That has much doubt has been cast on that. So, what was -- a lot of what was new about what he said wasn't true. So, you put those two things together and I think this is a much ado about not very much and much ado about not very much of a guy. Now, because he didn't reveal anything that wasn't known that was true and apparently, a lot of what he said it was -- it wasn't true. So my view is, we should not be paying so much attention to Edward Snowden.
HARMAN: I disagree with ...
WALLACE: I'm glad that you said just something at the end of the program.
HARMAN: Whistleblowers should be protected, but this was no whistleblower. This guy was dangerous. Also, there may be more records for him -- more than ...
HUME: That was -- we knew about this since 2006.
WALLACE: So, much hard did it do?
HARMAN: There may be more records that we turned over if he really used a thumb drive.
WALLACE: That's it.
HARMAN: This is a wake up call for our clearance process. This guy got into the system because he was a security guard ...
WALLACE: 83,500 employees of contractors have top secret clearance. A half of million.
HARMAN: Well, and he was in one of the most important jobs. I think the people who are these -- I.T. administrators, who are in charge, even if they are at 29, ought to be federal employees and there out to be supervision over them. And this guy was one inch ahead of the sheriff in about five jobs.
WILLIAMS: You know what ...
HARMAN: And the system didn't catch him. He should have been blinking red.
WILLIAMS: Apparently -- apparently he (inaudible) in China and he's saying that he knows about protocols used. The U.S. hacking Chinese institutions and the like.
HARMAN: We don't know if that's true or not.
WILLIAMS: We don't know -- but the Chinese -- the Chinese ...
WILLIAMS: Why is he doing business with the Chinese? Is he a spy for the Chinese?
HARMAN: Who knows?
ROVE: It may be a clever disinformation ...
HARMAN: That's right.
ROVE: ... to send him into the Chinese system to mislead them as to our capabilities and abilities.
ROVE: No. I agree with Brit. This guy -- I want him prosecuted. But this guy is a minor player. This stuff is largely out in 2006. Both programs were largely described and public (inaudible).
WALLACE: All right. Thank you, panel. See you next week. And don't forget to check out Panel Plus where our group picks right up with the discussion on our Website, foxnewssunday.com.
And make sure to follow us on Twitter@foxnewssunday. Up next, we hear from you.
WALLACE: And time now for the mailbag. And you have plenty to say about the NSA surveillance programs. Brenda Buckhannon writes on Twitter, it needs to be more targeted to a criminal element with a search warrant. Not a massive garnering of all records. Not right." On our blog "Wallace Watch," Al D. from California writes, "The issue is that people do not trust the federal government at this point. The Obama administration has shown it is partisan and doesn't appear to respect the constitutional limits." And a mix of opinions on Facebook. This one from Ken Grambell -- this is to protect us. And this guy that let it out is a traitor. But Laura Rodriguez says if it helps stop terrorist attacks like 9/11, I'm all for it. I sure have nothing to hide." And that's it for today. Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there. To my kids, be sure to call your old man today. Have a great week. And we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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