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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Government run amok?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. You should reject these voices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a born free American woman, wife, mother and citizen, and I'm he telling my government that you have forgotten your place. 

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 6, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: President Obama last month at Ohio State University advising students to reject warnings about government tyranny. And a member of a local Tea Party chapter saying she experienced just that from the IRS. And we are back now with the panel. 

Well, the massive collection of phone records may not be new, but it is just in the last few weeks that we have learned about the IRS targeting conservative groups, about the Department of Justice snooping on reporters. Charles, when you put this all together is this just the world we live in? Or are we getting closer to big brother? 

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Well, I think it depends on who is in office. I don't think it is a function necessarily of our new technology and all this. You can restrain yourself or you cannot. The IRS scandal is not a necessary product of big government. It was a deliberate attempt to harass and hurt the conservative organizations. 

The way that Rosen was treated -- James Rosen here -- when they went into his e-mail with essentially false information given to a judge, is targeting. So I don't attribute it to government in general. I think it has to do with an administration that reviles its enemies, marginalizes them, and tries to ostracize them and to consider them beyond the pale. And thus, the implication if you are working in the bowels of the IRS -- Washington or in Cincinnati, well, fair game. 

I think one of the reasons you have had this firestorm over the NSA, which I think is rather in innocuous, is because if you are going to give the government the leeway to collect all that information, and I think if you're living in a world of terrorism you have to, you have to have a modicum of trust in the people who administer it that it will be done openly, fairly, and in a way that is even handed. And once you get the impression from the IRS, from the AP scandal, the other scandals and the fact that this administration stonewalls and barricades a lot on other issues like Benghazi, then you have lost that trust and then the NSA stuff becomes really scary. 

WALLACE: As we saw, Kirsten, from the strong response when Rand Paul took to the Senate floor for 13 hours to protest the administration's position on the use of drones, people are worried about government getting too intrusive and threatening our privacy. In fact, I want to put up that Fox poll, as you can see 68 percent of Americans believe government is out of control. Kirsten, do you think this when you take all of these, the new stuff, the old stuff, all this stuff, do you see it gaining traction, a growing concern about big government and kind of a big brother? 

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Definitely. And I think part of it is because people feel the Obama administration, the president came in and said he was going to be so transparent, and everything we learn about seems to be through leaks versus him coming out and saying we need to do this because we live in a dangerous world. 

I think the NSA program, as long as it's using FISA is totally on the up and up. There's nothing wrong with it. I think most Americans probably understand it. But the fact that there is just this constant drip, drip, drip of the government doing things that we don't know what they are doing and we have to sort of process this and figure it out I don't think really helps them. And also, I don't know how accountable these people are. You have someone at the IRS who leaked the tax returns of a conservative organization. Have they found that person? Has that person been punished or fired. There doesn't seem to be any interest, and so you have to wonder, oh now they have all this information. Are there going to other people who are going to leak our personal information? 

WALLACE: I want to pick up on the point that Charles was making. You have stuff that a lot of people, I think – as you saw with everybody from Saxby Chambliss to Dianne Feinstein, which is quite a broad political spectrum, say this is just fine and understandable and that helps to protect America. But when it gets tarred with the same brush as the IRS and the snooping on reporters, do legitimate things that might protect us take a different color? 

HAYES: This is exactly, I think, the problem. You've seen in the case of the IRS and the case of the DOJ, the James Rosen investigation, those are abuses of power. And it is what gives people pause when you talk about things like the NSA program. That is a potential abuse of power.  And if it were to be abused it would be tremendously invasive and problematic abuse of power. I don't think we're there yet. The NSA program, at least as it relates to the Verizon part of it, is operating basically as it was designed. 

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: But, in 15 seconds -- is there a danger of a backlash where legitimate  –

HAYES: Absolutely.

WALLACE: -- surveillance may somehow be tarred because of the fact we've had these other scandals? 

HAYES: Absolutely. I don't think there's any question of that, and for one reason in particular. President George W. Bush ran the government every day talking about the War on Terror and the need to do everything legal to thwart the terrorist threat. President Obama announced two weeks ago we are no longer under serious threat Al Qaeda, and yet these programs persist and in some cases appear to have been broadened and expanded. 

WALLACE: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see what happens when Hollywood gets its hands on a Washington scandal.

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