All-Star Panel: Suing the president over NSA snooping

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 12, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: On behalf of myself, Freedom Works, and everyone in America that has a phone, we are filing suit against the President of the United States in defense of the Fourth Amendment. We will ask the question in court whether a single warrant can apply to the records of every American phone user all of the time without limits, without individualization.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe that the program as it exists is lawful. We're not alone. It has been found to be lawful by multiple courts. And it receives oversight from all three branches of -- of government, including the Congress.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: All right, let's talk about it with our panel. Senator Rand Paul, possibly a 2016 contender, sounding a lot like it, issuing a lawsuit, filing a lawsuit against several members of the administration, most notably the president. A.B., he says if you have a phone, basically you could be a plaintiff in this class action.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: And that's technically true. And it's going to have a lot of appeal to disaffected Democrats and Republicans, independent voters, libertarian leaning voters, and particularly young voters who believe that they can go on the Internet and do whatever they want and no one is ever going to trace anything that they are doing because they have the right to privacy.

So Rand Paul is very shrewd. Of course, you said he sounds like 2016 contender.  He sounds more like one than any of the wannabes that we watch day in and day out. He's very shrewd at making sure he stays in the news and finds a way to appeal to that sector of the electorate that he hopes he can bring under the Republican tent and particularly attract to his candidacy. He has done a number of things to do that. I think Rand Paul versus Barack Obama is another good way to could it. There are certainly who believe that this is outrage and it's illegal, and I think he will attract a lot of attention.

BREAM: Well and as the Justice Department noted today, they said, "We remain confident that the program is legal as at least 15 judges have previously found." And in December we got the ruling from the one federal judge who said no. He called this Orwellian in nature. That was federal judge Richard Leon who said, you know, it looks pretty unconstitutional.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Leon was fairly unrestrained in his judgment. There is one district court that says as he did, obviously, and the one that said the opposite, that it is constitutional. Look, this case was going to end up in the Supreme Court as is because of the conflict between the district courts. So in some sense what Rand is doing is superfluous. But it is brilliant showmanship.

He is utterly sincere in this but he's also shrewd and clever. When "Game Change" three comes out in 2017, what they will write about this is that Rand Paul saw an opening when Christie stumbled over the bridge-gate and he shot himself up into the lead if you like, or at least the most prominent of contenders, and he has done it now with three events, the filibuster on the drone attacks, this thing which I'm not sure how smart it is which is to attack the Clintons on Lewinski, but now a third item, which is the most important because a lot of the loss of Obama's popularity is NSA among liberal young. It's not just conservatives and ObamaCare and independents. And that is exactly the constituency that Rand is looking at in opposing Obama, especially on NSA.

BREAM: And Steve, of course, it brings up questions about other potential lawsuits on the Hill. With all the modifications to ObamaCare and other things that the House -- there is a move afoot there to get a House resolution going that would allow the House to sue based on the fact that this is their work product being modified. When asked by one news outlet, Speaker John Boehner's spokesman said we are examining all our options. Do you think now that this lawsuit has been filed others will step up? We know Senator Ron Johnson has a different lawsuit going as well.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, I think it encourages legislators who feel helpless to otherwise make their case to do something like this. I think this has more likelihood of success, this Rand Paul, this new lawsuit, because of the standing issue. It's much likely – much more likely to be able to point to people who have phones, as he did today, and say, look, this effects them.  We have standing, whereas that argument I think is a little more difficult in Congress.

I mean, it's clearly a political stunt. Nobody should be under any allusions that this is anything more than that. Even if the case moves, there are similar cases. This is already happening somewhere. So it's totally -- it's not partially superfluous. It's totally superfluous. And it might elevate him in a certain sense, but didn't he already occupy that ground anyway? I think he did. It's not like somebody else was going to come up and take over worried about NSA crowd among Republicans and maybe young Democrats.

I think there is a political downside potentially, and that is if we have another attack. Now, proponents of this program have had a difficult time saying point A to point B, you know, we he have stopped this attack because of this. But, at the same time, if there is a major attack here on U.S. soil, that's going to be hard to explain.

BREAM: One of the things that Judge Leon said in his ruling was that he -- I believe it was him. He didn't see the connecting of the dots, that the administration hadn't been able to show that this metadata collection had stopped anything. But you are right, very big potential downside.

Alright That's it for the panel. Stay tuned. Spinning bad news is basically an art form here in Washington, but it's not exclusive to the nation's capital. Up next, find out who else is taking spin to all new heights.

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