Privacy and the NSA

Charles Krauthammer on President Obama saying the NSA is not abusing authorities


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: Continuing now with Charles Krauthammer once again joins us from Washington. Last week President Obama said this.


OBAMA: The men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They are not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your e-mails.


O'REILLY: So do you believe that, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I would say that it is generally true. I'm not sure it's 100 percent true. People are human. You often have a bad apple. We know about Snowden. Snowden is the guy who uncovered the keys to the kingdom. Misused information and one way or the other helped it get into the hands of the Chinese and the Russian secret services. So we know that there can be bad apples there.

I would just say though, for a person that's been around for 10 years. I haven't heard of any egregious cases of someone having their stuff listened in to and look we know what happens when that happens. We have a half a century experience with Eastern Europe, with places like Cuba. When they listen in, there are consequences.


KRAUTHAMMER: They call you and you lose your job. Your kids are harassed. I mean there is all kinds of stuff. Is there ever a single case of that? Not that I know of.

O'REILLY: But here is what worries me -- yes here's what worries me and you brought it up. You get a rogue guy like Snowden, all right, who is hired by the NSA -- National Security Agency. He works for another firm and he comes in and he is savvy, he's tech savvy, he knows how to do hack into wherever he wants to hack into. If the NSA is compiling all this data you may have been looking at he couldn't possibly look at it all but they compile it -- all right text, e-mails, whatever. Maybe they have phone call transcriptions.

A guy like Snowden can go in there, he can go and he could say I want to get O'Reilly or I want to get Krauthammer, all right? And I want to -- I'm going to zero in on -- try to find out if their numbers, and say you got our phone numbers if they have anything stored. And then if they do I'm going to hack in and get it that worries me, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: And it worries me, too. But you know what I also worry about? A second 9/11. I worry about a chemical attack. I worry about a nuclear attack. You have to weigh these. And I would rather run the risk of that happening and you have to admit it is, let's not pretend. Let's be honest about this. If you collect all this information, there is a -- there is a chance of abuse. Absolutely.


KRAUTHAMMER: There is very little evidence of abuse in 10 years. I believe in the good faith of the people who are there. And also on the evidence of the last 10 years there have been a lot of breaches. Almost all of them inadvertent and they all go to the FISA court and they get corrected. Now but you've got to make a decision, Bill. If you don't collect the dots you can't connect the dots.

O'REILLY: Ok and one more question and I only have 60 seconds. I mean look, it is a decision about personal privacy versus national security.


O'REILLY: The President gives a speech he says well I'm cleaning up a lot of the stuff. Do you believe him?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I believe that he and the people under him, the people who run the NSA, in the NSA are of good faith. They're not lying but there is a possibility of a rogue agent or of mistakes and this is a human factor. You've got to accept it you've got to make a fundamental decision. And I believe I would rather air on the side of security, given the risk of weapons with mass destruction. With terror around the world that we see exploding every single day in towns all around the world. Given that, I'm willing to take the very small risk to my privacy.

But it's a real one. I can see -- and I respect those who would go the other way. It's an argument we have to have.

O'REILLY: But I don't think the President did anything fundamental here it was kind of smoke and mirrors. He is going to keep everything intact.


O'REILLY: He's not going to do much.

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