All-Star Panel: Impact of Sen. Paul's attacks on gov't surveillance

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 27, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Do you feel like you could tell -- take Rand Paul in here and show him around and straighten him out?

GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA DIRECTOR: Absolutely. Well, at least show him the facts.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: I don't want to take all the credit for ending this, but I think our lawsuit had something to do with bringing the president to the table.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: NSA Director General Keith Alexander and Senator Rand Paul still disagreeing about the government's metadata program to collect call records on all Americans. And we're back now with the panel. Well, as we saw in Bret Baier's interview with General Alexander, Rand Paul's criticism of the NSA and the metadata program specifically has certainly gotten their attention over at the NSA. Are you surprised by that, Judge?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: No, no I'm not surprised. Politically I'm not surprised because Rand Paul is about to assemble a unique and unusual coalition of people, young people, African-Americans and computer geeks that normally wouldn't vote Republican that are resonating well to his message.

But the NSA is so unpopular, General Alexander said many things to Bret Baier, one of which is we are defending our way of life. General, it is not our way of life for the government to be spying on everybody's phone call and everybody's e-mail and everybody's text messages. That's resonating. And that's what's causing the NSA to rethink what they're doing. The president's proposals don't change anything. The NSA has equal access without having to show probable cause, without having to identify the target, even if these so-called changes become the law.

WALLACE: Let's talk about the political aspect of this, because Senator Paul clearly, and a I think he has the courage of his convictions, that he clearly feels this is a way to broaden his appeal out of the Tea Party, out of the conservative base to young people, to libertarians, to a lot of people who are concerned about the government surveillance of all Americans in one way, shape, or form. Do you think, Juan, this is helpful to Rand Paul specifically in trying to win the Republican presidential nomination?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I do, because I think it sets him apart in a way that allows young people in specific to identify with him and with the party. And it touches on, I think, a very civil libertarian streak in the party that has to do with the notion of going back to fundamentals, sort of to basic Founding Father rights. And in that regard, I think it helps him.

Now, I will say I disagree with Rand Paul on this. I agree with my friend Judge Napolitano. I think that nobody is spying anybody unless you consider the collection of the so-called metadata, the simple collection of numbers to be the issue. But nobody is listening, nobody is reading, and there has been no evidence of any abuse.

WALLACE: Charles, your thoughts on specifically this issue of whether Rand Paul's pushing of this issue which is I think he feels sincere about is effective specifically for the electorate in Republican primaries?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the answer is yes. I think he is sincere about this and I think it will help him in many ways politically. He is pushing it as a very clever politician would, the way he did when he stood up and he had that filibuster in the Senate on the use of drones. He's trying to hone in on the issue of civil liberties, and I think that's a clever way to separate himself and to get some -- I'm not sure if he could get the young Democrats, but he could get a lot of the independents, so he would be widening the base of the party.

I think where he runs into political difficulty in a Republican nomination is on the broader issue of America's stance in the world. He says I'm not an isolationist. Well, let's say is he noninterventionist as a kind way to put it. But when he says stuff like Ukraine isn't really an issue that we have to be concerned about and he essentially opposes expenditures overseas, he may tap into some constituency. But the wider constituency cares about the world and America's role. And there I think it is a net loss for him. But it does speak to his sincerity because he pursues it.

WALLACE: I want to – and we only have a little over a minute left, Judge -- get back to this question of the Obama reform that has been announced -- and it has to be approved by Congress -- that all of the metadata information about the call records would be held by the phone companies, and to specifically get their hands on any of that data that the NSA would have to specifically go to a judge and specifically say we want this information about this person or these numbers. Why is that not a reasonable compromise?

NAPOLITANO: I'll tell you why, Chris. Because the Constitution says when the government wants information about a person, they have to have probable cause of criminal activity on the part of that person.

WALLACE: But they are going to have to satisfy a Judge.

NAPOLITANO: And they are going to have to name the person. If they go to a FISA court, FISA has a different standard. FISA standard is you have any suspicion about this group of people. That is not the standard mandated by the Constitution. So this change is window dressing only.

WALLACE: All right, I want to save time for Charles. Would you like to rebut that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, as a matter of policy, given the post-9/11 world in which we live, in which when you talk to people inside intelligence agencies, their hair stands on end when they look at the number of threats.  And we know what is possible. And it could be with weapons of mass destruction not in the far future. I think it would be worth changing that standard as a way to secure the United States. And I think a majority Americans would agree with that.

WALLACE: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned to see what happens when a campaign commercial goes very, very wrong. 

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