All-Star Panel: Will NSA spying damage US credibility?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 24, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (via translator): Spying among friends does not work at all. That is what I said in June when he was in Berlin, in July and also yesterday on the phone. And this is in the interest of the German citizens. This is not about me specifically but about all citizens. We need trust among partners and this trust needs to be restored now.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: German Chancellor Angela Merkel clearly not amused by reports the NSA may have tapped her cell phone. We are back now with the panel.

The Edward Snowden leaks keep coming. Earlier this week it was that the NSA may have collected, hoovered up as many as 70 million French phone calls late last year, now that they may have intercepted Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, a supposed friend of ours, may have intercepted her cell phone calls. George, should would he be shocked by this or is this just what big countries do to both their enemies and friends?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Put me down as not shocked. Obfuscation is part of the job description of a White House spokesman so we have to parse their sentences carefully. So it was interesting when Mr. Carney today said the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor her phone calls, which left open the past, so he might have well have announced that we have done it.

But so what? The fact is we have come a long way technologically and perhaps morally since Secretary of State Stinson famously said "Gentlemen, do not read each other's mail." Well, they do and they listen to their phone calls, and she knows this, probably. And she also knows that Germany and France and all the rest are very dependent on American intelligence. So this is a case of, I think, more she has to be one way in public and mortar tolerant in private.

WALLACE: But, we have to say that the list is growing. And let's put up some of the names. Brazil's president postponed a state visit to the U.S. after reports the NSA intercepted her messages. And then there are also reports that the U.S. gained access to communications of Mexico's former president while he was in office. Juan, it may be standard operating procedure, but when it becomes public, it becomes messy.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Correct. And that's why Snowden's revelations are so damaging. They are hurting relationships, they are hurting networks. I mean, you think back, I think it's post World War II they had the spy-by agreement, the United States and four other countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and I guess most notably the British agreed not to spy on each other in this way.

But the fact is spying is part and parcel of international relations. As George just said, we may be a little better at it because we are more technologically sophisticated, but it's all understood that this is what takes place. So you have to be literally naive -- I mean you have to be the little girl with the curl to somehow think, oh you know, nobody else is looking. Nobody else would dare do that. That's rude.

WALLACE: So you really aren't shocked at the idea that we might be intercepting Angela Merkel's cell phone?

WILLIAMS: No, that was swept up. It wasn't as if they targeted Angela Merkel and said we want to know exactly what she is saying to her husband and her friends. That's not the case. This is a large sweep apparently, and her cell phone was among them.

But the larger point here is that you have to understand the damage being done by Snowden because it's not just these -- Snowden's revelations and what he may have given the Russians, he is still over there, what he may have given the Russians is damaging America's national security.

As part of our Tweet, the Panel feature, we got a tweet, which I'm going to ask to you answer, Steve. It's from Stephan Hart. "During his first campaign President Obama said he would change the negative way the world looked at us. Has he succeeded?" And, Steve, how would you answer that especially in terms of the revelations of NSA spying?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No, he has not succeeded. And I would say that the NSA revelations have done some damage, but much more damage has been done by the policies that he has affirmatively chosen and have little to do with the NSA scandal.

I have to say, I'm not at all scandalized by this particular aspect of this. I mean, of course we were listening in. We would be negligent if we weren't listening in. And what troubles me most is that Jay Carney says we won't be doing it in the future. That's what the NSA does to a certain extent. We know that the NSA is going to be listening in on our enemies and gathering intelligence. We want them also to be listening in on our spies. It gives us a strategic advantage, it allows us to compare what was being said in private. I think it's perfectly fine. I hope we won't make commitments that we won't continue to do this in the future because we should be doing this.

WALLACE: OK, Juan, the foreign minister of Germany called in the U.S. ambassador, this would usually be handled at a much lower level. They said this kind of thing is reserved for countries like Syria and Iran. But the foreign minister called in the U.S. ambassador to scold him. All just for show?

WILLIAMS: Of course, because you have to deal with the domestic political fallout, and the idea is that nobody should kowtow to the United States and nobody should say it's OK to spy on us, that they should view themselves as peers to the United States. You said this was a very uncomfortable carpet, I heard you say, Chris. I was thinking maybe they were bare-footed.

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