Fox News
August 21, 2013

Karl Rove: Privacy concerns face generation gap

Guests: Karl Rove

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 21, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: Tonight on the very same day that it was revealed the Obama administration's NSA spy program is far more invasive than originally suspected, new polling data has emerged indicating this unprecedented invasion of privacy is taking a major toll on the president's popularity.

Hi, everybody, I'm Monica Crowley in tonight for Sean. And we'll have much more on those brand new approval numbers in just a moment with Karl Rove.

But first, let's take a look at the explosive allegations that were leveled against the White House on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal. According to the newspaper, the National Security Agency's surveillance network has the ability to spy on 75 percent of all U.S. Internet traffic. In addition, quote, "It retains the written consent of e-mails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with internet technology."

But that's not all. According to newly declassified documents, the NSA was rebuked in 2011 by a secret court for collecting thousands of e-mails from Americans. And the agency admits those e-mails had absolutely no connection whatsoever to terrorism. Here's why the story is so critically important. Number one, NSA officials admitted to the journal that the systems' reach is so broad domestic communications are more likely to be intercepted than foreign ones.

Number two, this proves that the government's ability to spy on you and your neighbors is greater than we've all been led to believe.

And number three, chalk this up as yet another piece of evidence that the self- proclaimed most transparent administration in history is anything but.

Joining me now with reaction to all of this is former Bush senior adviser and Fox News contributor Karl Rove.

So, Karl, welcome. And I have to say, looking at the history of the American people's reaction to these revelations since Edward Snowden made them, I think most Americans have been supportive of this NSA domestic spying program as long as they thought that it was solely being used to track and stop terrorism.

And even though they had deep concerns about potential abuses of this, they were still generally OK with it until now. Now we find out that it's far more widespread than anybody thought and that there are big, serious and repeated problems with this program. I think the American people are getting increasingly upset, don't you?

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there is some concern. Let's come back to the substance of the issues that you raised earlier, but let's look at the data first. You're right, there's a new economist YouGov poll sampling the president's job approval before the NSA issue broke and today. And his job approval rating has declined four points among all voters. But among 18 to 29-year-old voters, there's been a 14 point swing, which is a pretty big swing.

And you can see it also in the individual numbers the reactions that people have to the Snowden incident themselves, what Snowden did, did it serve the public good? Those that are 65-years and older say, only 36 percent say, it served the public good. Sixteen percent among those that are 18 to 29. In fact, the younger you get, the more likely you are to think that it is serving the public good.

Should they pursue a criminal case? Eighteen to 29 year-old, only 44 percent say, yes. Fifty percent say, no. Every other age cohorts says, yes, the government out to pursue a criminal case against Snowden. And again, the older you get the more likely you are to say the government ought to do that.

So, there is, if you will, a generation gap on this privacy questions. And on the NSA, between older Americans and younger Americans. Which is sort of ironic in a way because younger Americans, you know, are willing to give up their privacy in their social networks, in a way that older Americans I suspect most of them don't find themselves as comfortable giving up their privacy as so many young people do.

CROWLEY: And of course, younger voters aged 18 to 29 voted for President Obama last time around by 60 percent. Five million more voters in that category voted for Obama than they voted for Mitt Romney. So, this is a huge slide among of the president's -- one of his most major constituencies, right?

ROVE: Right. Right.

But also remember this, of all the age cohorts, the age cohort that moved most against President Obama between 2008 to 2012 were younger voters. Mitt Romney picked up more voters among younger voters and he did among any other age cohorts compared to John McCain's performance in 2008, and was directly attributable to the economy.

Monica, I want to go to a couple of the points that you raised. I think it's important before we get too carried away by some of these things, The Wall Street Journal report doesn't say that they're examining 75 percent of domestic traffic, it's says it has the capacity to do so. There's a big difference between saying, you have the capacity to do something and saying you're doing it --

CROWLEY: Yes. But Karl, how do we know? How do we know? This is why I think so many Americans are really bothered by this. Because we haven't gotten a straight story from this president or anybody on his team.

ROVE: Right.

CROWLEY: First we heard, well, it's a limited program. Now we know that's not true. Then we heard there are no abuses. Now we know that's not true. Then we heard there's ironclad oversight between the FISA court and Congress, and now we know that's not true. So this president, his credibility on this has been shattered. And why should we believe anything that comes out of him?

ROVE: Yes, don't ask me to defend the president on this because I think he has made a horrific mistake by not stepping up when the Snowden leaks came and when other leaks have come about these programs and defended them and explained them to the American people. I think that's one of the reasons why his approval on this issue among younger voters in particular has dropped.

But for example, look, we do know this. We know, for example, that 56,000 domestic e-mails were captured over a -- for each of three years, 2011, 2010, 2009. We know that those e-mails were not supposed to be captured but they were.

But first of all, think about this -- 56,000 e-mails out of how many trillions of e-mails domestically sent during that same period of time.

Second of all, it was identified by the NSA that there was an algorithm, a mistak in an algorithm that was causing these e-mails to be captured and retained. Not examined, but just simply captured. They reported that to the FISA court -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act special court -- and the court ordered them to, A, fix the problem and figure out where it was so it wouldn't happen again.

And, B, to immediately destroy all of the records.

So, there are safeguards in the system. We as a public don't know all of what's going on in this but we do know that there's a system in place by which the intelligence agencies have to report these miss-steps, they have to report these things to the FISA court and the FISA court can order them, in this case, not only ordered them to make changes in the algorithms and to destroy these records, but it terminated the program.

CROWLEY: But Karl, you know, it seems that the system you just mentioned that's in place to try to prevent abuses has failed on multiple occasions. And now we've got thousands and God knows how many e-mail records, telephone records, texts being looked at. And look, here's the thing. I think the American people believe in stopping and preventing terrorism pretty much at any cost. If this program is in the right hands, no problems. The problem here is that it's potentially in the wrong hands.

You have a president who has repeatedly lied to the American people, "I'll cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. If you like your health insurance, you can keep it." All lies. You have an attorney general who has lied to Congress about Fast and Furious. He's lied to a judge to get a search warrant for James Rosen.

I mean, the point here is that this program is now in the wrong hands and so many people are worried about abuses.

ROVE: Well, look, again, don't ask me to defend the resident, don't expect me to defend the president. I think you laid out a good bill of particulars on him, and a good bill on particulars on Holder and week spent the rest of the program adding to that.

I would say this, this program is overseen by the National Security Agency. My experience was the individuals at that agency during my time in government was they were exceptionally honorable, decent people who were trying to protect America, and I have confidence in General Alexander and the people at the NSA.

I have no confidence in the Department of Justice, the top floor of it. I have no confidence in the West Wing of the White House, but I do have confidence in the Intelligence Agency of the United States.

Remember, these things that we now know about through the leaks by Snowden, we know because they were reports that were submitted to the appropriate authorities either within the NSA or within the FISA court to say, we have identified a problem. For example, one of the biggest problems, was it somebody mistakenly entered the area code for the District of Columbia when they should have been entering a country code, they entered 202 rather than entering 20. And as a result, it generated a several thousand records inside the United States that should not have been captured and it was the NSA itself that identified the mistake.

CROWLEY: And that's what we're worried about, Karl.

ROVE: Right.

CROWLEY: Karl, that's exactly what we're worried about here in this drip drip drip of --

ROVE: And reported it.

CROWLEY: -- public revelations that -- it's not helpful.

ROVE: And reported it.

CROWLEY: All right. Karl, thank you so much.

ROVE: You bet.

CROWLEY: Great to see you.

ROVE: You bet.

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