OTR Interviews

Obama achieves the impossible: He unites the far left and the far right

'Second Term Scandals': Mass collection of phone, Internet data confirm president's ardent opponents' fears, leave diehard supporters feeling betrayed

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 7, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what this program is about. As was indicated, what the intelligence community is doing I guess looking at phone numbers and durations of calls. They are not looking at people's names and they're not looking at content.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama defending his administration's dragnet, sweeping surveillance programs targeting the phone records of millions of Americans and intercepting data from the nation's largest internet companies. But how will the president's explanation sit with Americans? ABC News political director Rick Klein joins us. He says no one is listening. Love to believe him, but the DNI Clapper under oath told Democratic Senator Wyden said they didn't have it. And we have other problems where they're slippery with the story.

RICK KLEIN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, ABC NEWS: And Americans have learned and inordinate amount of information in the last 48 to 72 hours about what are government has been doing. We didn't know this. The president said he welcomed this debate. We haven't had the debate.

VAN SUSTEREN: He doesn't like the leaks, but he welcomes the debate. But we wouldn't be able to get the debate without the leaks.

KLEIN: That's right. People may go to jail over the leaks, exactly.

The way this is being received right now, the president has managed to unite the far right and far left. Liberals and libertarians suddenly agree. The issue will be the middle. I don't know where it is yet, because you hear members of Congress, and there seems to be general support along the people who are most briefed on this issue, on the intelligence committee.

But people now know something about the federal government, and the details of which were not known before. We had no idea this was going on with regard to the phone companies. We had no idea this was going on with regard to electronic communication. So this will take time to digest. The president welcomes the debate. He'll get it, because there will be members of congress, the public responding to it, and it will take some time to play out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oversight hasn't been particularly good. Look at the IRS. How much confidence duty American people have? Oh, good, Congress has oversight on the intel gathering when they've done a lousy job on the IRS and on many other things. What kind of confidence to the American people have?

KLEIN: I made contact with members of Congress today who were just as surprised as we were to hear this news over the past couple of days. There's a big issue on oversight of intelligence, because if you did have a concern, sitting on the intelligent committee, like Senator Wyden did and Senator Udall, they couldn't even tell their legs about their concerns because the way the information is walled off.

Now, the president says all three branches of government are involved, including the judicial, the executive, the legislative. There's no question this program was legal and it was carried out with that knowledge, but they didn't all know about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But even judges make mistakes. Judges make decisions at the lower full, what's constitutional. But by the time it gets up to the Supreme Court, it's reversed. If they're hiding it, the American people can't possibly --

KLEIN: The order leaked this week, it's going to be declassified in 2038. That's when we get to see the order in its entirety. There isn't oversight because this stuff is all walled off.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the political ramifications, or are there none because it involves both parties?

KLEIN: You have support from both parties. I think a lot of members of the public, if you watch "Homeland" or "24" you probably assumed this was happening. People seem to be willing to cut the government a good amount of slack when it's about terrorism, keeping Americans safe. This isn't the IRS story where you had rogue agents in there. This is an actual legal program.

VAN SUSTEREN: It didn't stop the Boston bombing, and they were tipped about the Tsarnaev brothers by the Russians. They weren't following their computers and their phones. It's not an airtight program that's going to protect us.

KLEIN: Certainly that, but there are members of Congress say it has prevented actual attacks. They haven't provided details. I'd love to know the details of that because I think that has to be part of the full debate. It's not enough to say we need this because we need to keep people safe.

VAN SUSTEREN: Scaring us into agreeing to it.

KLEIN: That would be carte blanche for anything, obviously. And just saying trust us, we're the government, that phrase I think means a little less than it did even a few weeks ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rick, thank you.

KLEIN: Thanks, Greta.