tv Mc Laughlin Group PBS January 18, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm PST
. from washington, the mclaughlin group, the american original. for over three decades, the sharpest minds, best sources, hardest talk. . issue 1, let the debate begin. >> the nation that developed the internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment, not government control. in a speech addressing the national security agency's surveillance programs, the challenges to individual privacy posed by technological change, and the nature of intelligence in a post 9/11 world, president obama on friday made several concrete
announcements. name one, pat buchanan. >> one, there's the possibility that all this metta data that is out there with the national security agency may be left with aol and the other telecommunications operations. but john, the national security state is alive and well. the president has responded to mr. snowden in the sense that we've got to find a greater balance between rights of privacy and national security. he's recommending that there be an advocate before the fisa court and things like that. but overall, this extraordinary capacity and capability the united states has, he wants that accessible to our security people, but he wants greater restrictions against its use, against foreign leaders and others. i think he struck a pretty good balance. >> eleanor? >> i would agree with that. i think his main goal is to restore confidence in the government's ability to surveil and monitor communications of principally american citizens, but also foreign leaders. and he traced the history of
intelligence gathering going back to polar, up through harry truman creating the nsa in the '50s. and then the challenges that the new world that we're living in with this extraordinary technological ability, what that presents. and so one of the concrete proposals was to create an advocacy board or a single advocate, someone who would be sort of looking over the shoulder of this court that okays what the nsa wants to do. he would need, i think, congressional approval for that, so he's going to do something on his own in terms of increasing accountability, you know, within the white house. but he's also looking to congress to bear some of the burden here going forward. >> big data and civil liberties. president's concerned about that. he brought someone into the white house to monitor and prove it, man by the name of
podesto. what do you know about it? >> we live in a new world, in a sense that things might have been legal to collect on people in the past wouldn't have been collected by the state, because they couldn't put it together and form much of a portrait. but today, you can take all of these little tiny bits of data and create this mosaic that allows you to know incredible amounts of things about the general population. if the nsa, for instance, wanted to know who every gay person in the country was, you know, they could write a code and figure it out, just by collecting all of these meta data and analyzing all of these communications. so it's, it's actually quite remarkable, i think, that the president stepped back. because it's very unusual for governments to take power and give some of it away. you know, they had this power -- they have this power right now to collect and search this meta data. he's saying they are going to allow somebody else to hold it for them. we'll see if it actually happens, but merely suggesting the state would step back from some of its power is unusual.
government surveillance and civil liberties. this is what snowden wanted. has his dream been fulfilled? >> well, i don't know that it's his dream alone. i think what the president did when he talked about the nature of the threats facing the united states, he said they are really not nations any longer. so we have a very different issue when it's individuals or terrorist groups or some kind of radical groups that want to threaten. and we don't have the kind of intelligence we once used to have about countries. and so in a sense, that's how this whole thing evolved and developed. and i think we were looking to find out, given the fact that you had something like 9/11, this kind of intelligence was simply not previously available. the technology made it possible. so we have to have some -- we have to have that kind of intelligence. i thought the balance that he spoke about frankly went over very well with me anyhow. >> what are you going to say in your editorial about the speech? >> well, i'm -- it's one of the best speeches that i think he has made. >> content, too. >> yes, there was content
there. i thought he made an excellent speech. >> was it overdue? >> well, i don't know you could say it was overdue. this -- you could say it's overdue, but nobody anticipated what we have just been through, so therefore i don't think it was overdue. i had lunch this week with a man who lost 50% of his employees in 9/11. he had a very different view because the one thing we must do is maintain the access to the kind of intelligence that might enable us to stop something like 9/11. >> the excesses came in chancellor merkel revealed the nsa had been monitoring her cell phone. now, a lot of the communications in europe, they monitor ours. i was just in the white house for a briefing yesterday and you have to leave your cell phone outside the roosevelt room because they know that those rooms are monitored probably by our allies and also maybe by some of our enemies. so this is going on everywhere. so there is that sort of casablanca moment. i'm shocked, shocked, shocked that gambling is going on, but that was an excess that drove--
>> is it really positive and helpful for other countries to know what other countries are doing? >> john, john-- >> yes-- >> you can't limit it only to your allies because al-qaeda and those folks also know what you're doing. >> that's the problem. -- >> what, what, what? >> you can't go home again. we have this extraordinary capacity and capability, nsa's got. you can bet the chinese are very, very close behind us. the europeans have their own capabilities. everybody's going to develop it. once you develop all these things, people are going to use them. and you got to expect that. and the best you can do, i think, is let the country and the people know and get the congress to set reasonable limits upon it. but look, we're moving forward. >> was the president unapologetic? >> i, i-- >> he was unapologetic? >> yes. >> he-- >> he believes it's overdue. >> he believes it's in the national security interest of the united states to do what he's doing and he's doing just
what bush did. >> and he also said that most of the excesses of the bush years were corrected by the tom he, president obama, took office, which is a bouquet to president bush. >> we have edward snowden to thank for this. what he wanted was a debate about these issues. >> why don't you call up ron widen and tell him it was a good speech. >> ron widen said it was-- >> and rand paul. >> rand paul had a good line. he said sounded like if you like your privacy, you can keep it. issue 2, benghazi blowback. >> the intelligence was really ample. i had an opportunity to review it myself. it's the state department that's responsible for the security of our missions and embassies. after a 15-month-long investigation into the september 11th, 2012 terrorist attacks in libya that killed ambassador christopher stephens and three other americans, the senate intelligence committee
released a report this week that places the blame squarely on the state department. the state department should have increased its security posture more significantly in benghazi, based on the deteriorating security situation on the ground. and intelligence community threat reporting on the prior attacks against westerners in benghazi, unquote. in the months leading up to the deadly attacks there, were 20 separate attacks on westerners in benghazi, including a bomb attack the u.s. diplomatic mission that blew a hole in an exterior wall. the central intelligence agency and defense intelligence agency warned of more attacks, quote, we expect more antiu.s. terrorist attacks in eastern libya, unquote. in july, the cia added its warning. quote, al-qaeda-affiliated groups and their associates are
exploring the permissive security environment in libya, unquote. ambassador stephens sent multiple cables to the state department, its headquarters in washington, requesting additional diplomatic security but was repeatedly rebuffed. one week before his death, the army's africa command warned about threats to americans in northeast libya, aka benghazi. the bipartisan intelligence committee report cashed fresh doubt on hillary clinton's management of the state department and national security advisory susan rice's attempts to blame the violence on an anti-islamic video. question, what impact will this report have on hillary clinton's presidential prospects? i ask you, pat. >> john, i don't think it's going to have a great impact several years from now. the people that dislike hillary are going to lay the blame on her very heavy. you can remember back in 1983,
ronald reagan put those marines in beirut. 241 of them were killed. he always believed he made a terrible mistake in doing that. but 11 or 12 months after that, he won 49 states. i think hillary clinton's going to be under fire for several years from republicans because of this. she's going to bleed a bit. but it is a survivable wound. >> do you think she'll use the christie defense? >> no. >> put the blame on the underlings? >> she has taken responsibility, but not the blame. and there is a distinction. this report from the senate, a bipartisan committee basically validates what we already knew. the state department's security was woefully insufficient. there was a cia outpost which beefed up its security, but it really didn't tell the fbi and the state department what, what it was doing. and for the first time you have ambassador chris stephens comes under fire here because he turned down some security that was offered. he was kind of, you know, he
thought he knew the region. these people were his friends. and so there's -- you can't say this is hillary clinton's fault. this was a tragedy that hopefully the state department has learned to rebound from. but as a political issue, republicans won't give it up. but it's not going to cost her any votes that she hasn't already lost. >> it's a little more than a political issue. it cost four lives. >> well, yes, but that's been investigated and now we have a senate report that's investigated it that basically validates all the previous reports. and it also exonerates susan rice, who basically was reading talking points provided by the cia, which took out the word "terrorists," for whatever reason they did. and the attack was basically an opportunist attack that was sparked by the showing of this antimuslim video. >> christie's ineptitude caused traffic jams. what do you think of that?
>> well, i'm glad, glad i wasn't in one of those traffic jams. this actually happened over the period of 9/11. you saw people on twitter complaining that they were supposed to be getting to, you know, to the events of that day. you know, school was just starting. just a complete, a complete debacle. so, you know, hillary clinton had a good week. if these are the two things that happened. >> and christie had a bad week. >> it wasn't ineptitude, john. that was pure malice that shut down the bridge out of fort lee. pure malice on somebody's part. >> political retribution ordered by-- >> yeah, whoever did it and ordered it, it was malice. >> well, didn't you work for, uh -- >> i worked for three of them, john. >> richard nixon? >> richard nixon? >> yeah, sometimes he had a sense that he ought to get even with his enemies at some times. >> what would he think of this? [ laughter ] >> caught up with him, too. fried rice. you know rice? what's rice's first name?
>> susan rice. >> susan rice. >> fried rice? is that clever, or a little anemic? this is what the intelligence committee had to say about blaming mob violence for the attacks. >> quote, intelligence analysts inaccurately referred to the presence of a protest at the u.s. mission facility before the attack based on open source information and limited intelligence, but without sufficient intelligence or eyewitness statements to corroborate that assertion, unquote. >> question, does this exonerate susan rice or does it get her deeper into the miers? >> i already exonerated her in my previous remarks. >> downtown to equal-- >> no, no, totally exonerated. she was reading talking points provided her by the cia. i would give it a rest when it comes to fried rice. >> what should the intelligence committee conclude regarding whether al-qaeda planned or coordinated the attack? >> i don't think they thought
that was the case. lot of that was hyperbola. there was much more -- it was clear there was a lot of hostility and a lot of dangers at that point and that had been brewing at some point. i don't think it came out in the way that you're trying to, i think, suggest here. >> but john, al-qaeda, it's interesting, al-qaeda, people are beginning to ask a question. look, is this really saw hey re's al-qaeda or is it a group that says call us a franchise of al-qaeda and we can use your name, because it's proliferated all over africa, north africa, the arabian peninsula, yemen, and is this all really organized and run by zawhriri? i don't think so. might be a lot of isolated groups that say they are al- qaeda. >> the fact that cia strengthened their own compound while the state department never got around to it, there's a bureaucratic lapse there. but i don't think it has all these sort of great big dimensions to it. it's just not surprising
administrative incompetence. >> yeah, because of 9/11 and osama bin laden, when you toss out the name al-qaeda, you inspire fear in people. but al-qaeda central has been pretty well decimated, but there are lots of people in groups that are inspired by this and there are lots of freelancing terrorists all around the world. >> this is clearly universal absolute tion. >> lot of people who hate her will still hate here. >> as pat said. >> yeah. >> look, she's in charge and got to take responsibility. it was under her. >> right. >> but it was the security part of the state that was responsible. >> that's right. >> you know, and the president- - >> exactly. >> -- takes responsible for a lot of things that he wasn't responsible for. >> and she d but there is a difference between taking responsibility and taking direct blame. so far, there's no evidence that shows the line of request led into her office and she turned them down. to the contrary, we find the
ambassador himself turned down some of the -- issue 3, gates rates. >> former defense secretary robert gates has produced headlines with his unsparing look at the obama white house in his newly published book. mr. gates' political career spans that of eight presidents. "usa today" asked him to rate all eight. meanwhile, secretary gates rates in a few words, lyndon b johnson, a frantic figure. richard nixon, america's strangest president. gerald ford, greatly underestimated. jimmy carter, too unfocused, too many priorities. ronald reagan, visionary leader. george h.w. bush, another greatly underestimated president. bill clinton, the only president mr. gates did not
serve. quote, probably the best politician as president since franklin roosevelt, unquote. george w. bush, committed. barack obama, courageous. question, is secretary gates right about nixon? was he truly america's strangest president? or do you think that belongs to warren harding, who-- >> nothing strange about warren harding. he was right up front. but look, richard nixon, john, came back from the dead, created a new majority, won 49 states, extraordinarily talented, knowledgeable individual, had flaws and made mistakes. i wouldn't consider him strange. but he had some character flaws. >> i think it would have been -- it belongs to warren harding, the distinction. he used confiscated booze during prohibition to keep his white house poker parties fueled. only ran for president -- [ laughter ] >> only ran for president because his wife florence pushed him into it. and he got caught in a world class scandal, like the tea pot
dome looting of oil reserves. >> i think he was also the one that said he wanted to vote for sufferrage because he was worried women would outlaw booze. [ laughter ] >> i think strange is rather flattering adjective for president nixon when you think he was forced to resign because illegally using the fbi and abuse of power-- >> -- book on fdr, used it against america first proceed didgesly. >> pat, you'll have a long, hard road to convince people that fdr and richard nixon belong anywhere in the same category on anything. >> no. >> do you think jimmy carter's downfall was multitasking? >> it's one of the problems. >> 21% interest rates, 13% inflation rate. >> economy was horrible. the hostage crisis and teddy
kennedy's challenge, which tore his party apart and the leftwing, abandoned the guy in a very, very tough time. it was a very, very tough period. >> carter's going to look a lot better in history. he warned us about the oil crisis we're finally facing and he didn't use military force during his presidency. it was a peaceful time. >> helicopter crashed in the desert in iran. >> jimmy carter's desert classic they called it. >> was reagan a visionary or was he a man of action? >> i'll tell you, reagan to my mind was the most surprising president that i've ever had the chance to work with. our moscow bureau chief was jumped by the kgb and i ended up going, trying to arrange for his release. and when i came back, i was asked to talk to the president about what i found out about it. i have to tell you, i not only had conversations with him, i had the chance to sit in on a
number of national security meetings. he was amazingly good. he was right on point. he got the right issues. he had the right questions. he followed the questions to a conclusion. if he wasn't happy with the answers, i think he was terrific. >> he was a great president. >> he was a great president. also, he had vision and his vision was to eliminate social engineering and ideological do- gooders, get them out of government, out of the way, and let free people make their own choices. >> eliminate, eliminate nuclear weapons. >> a very decent man. >> he can also-- >> everybody in the congress liked working with him. they all got the best of him. >> magic really. >> fall too much in love with ronald reagan, the inquality that we sea and disparity, lot of that goes back to his presidency and his policy. see whether grim can do better. exit question, if the shoe were on the other foot and president gates served -- were to rate him, what adjectives would they likely use to rate him? >> he would use a noun, john. not an adjective after this book, i'm afraid.
>> like what? >> i think he's a very talented guy, able guy. i like him. i think he was an outstanding secretary of defense. and he's a great public servant. >> he did a breakfast with reporters this morning and he's clearly hurting from the fact that people see his book as an act of disloyalty. he made a point of saying he never leaked, not once and that he feels he was more loyal to president obama than many people in the administration. so i think he's trying to adjust the message coming out of those early comments about his book. >> okay. we got to squeeze you in. >> competent. he's been a competent bureaucrat. >> he was a grown-up. he was a serious man who knew how to run things, who knew how to deal with people, who was very competent, very effective. and frankly, he wasn't looking for any kind of public recognition. i thought he was a great public servant. george bush would say he was loyal. >> i'm sure he was loyal. issue 4, an iran opportunity? >> the negotiations will be very difficult. but they are the best chance that we have to be able to
resolve this critical national security issue peacefully and durablely. >> one week ago, the p-5 plus one world powers, that's britain, china, france, germany, russia and the united states, completed the terms for an historic agreement with the nation of iran. in exchange for the lifting of some western financial sanctions on iran, the iranians would halt part of its nuclear program. iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy use. but washington and others fear that iran wants to build nuclear weapons within a six- month framework beginning january 20, this coming monday, the following will take place. one, iran's uranium enrichment, no more production of 20% enriched uranium. it's considered too close to weapons grade. two, neutralize existing
stockpile. iran's already overenriched uranium will be degraded. three, transparency. international inspectors will have access to iran's nuclear sites and then issue a report. four, sanctions e, roughly $7 billion in trade dollars will thus be freed up. but the white house may have a problem on its hands. namely, the u.s. congress. many in congress are skeptical that iran will keep its side of the deal. republican senator mark kirk and democratic senator robert menendez are both skeptics. they have a bill that would impose new sanctions on iran, which iranians warn could be a deal-breaker. senate majority leader harry reid is sitting on the bill. although the bill has significant bipartisan support. president obama is urging u.s. senators to give this interim agreement with iran a chance. >> my preference is for peace and diplomacy and this is one
of the reasons why i've sent a message to congress that now's not the time for us to impose new sanctions. question, why do 59 senators, republicans and democrats, support the nuclear weapon-free iran act and its contingent sanctions on iran? i ask you, ryan. >> well, you know, they are being accused of supporting it because they want to scuttle these negotiations. the white house has gone on the record and said that, quote, unquote, certain senators ought to be up front if they want war with iran, because the argument that they are making is that unilateral sanctions would allow hard liners in iran to play the victim card and say the united states isn't dealing fairly with us. the international community would broadly agree with that assessment. and we would have managed somehow to turn iran into a sympathetic figure in the global stage, which would be just an embarrassing accomplishment. >> collapse of the talks as well. john, clearly behind this,
israel's behind this, a-pac, israeli lobby-- >> behind what? >> behind this s 1881, the senate bill. you get the republican hocs, evangelical christians, saudis, an enormous coalition. i agree with ryan that if the republicans succeed somehow in passing this, overriding the president's veto, these talks will collapse, the united states will be blamed, our coalition will break apart. many of them will start violating the sanctions, and the united states will be on the road straight down to more sanctions and at the end of that road is war. >> yeah, i think the president- - >> they don't know -- these people, republicans don't know what they are doing. >> i think the presidents can win this one. there's a big difference between 59 and the 67 that would be required to override a veto. and basically senators, especially senators facing re- election, they don't want to be seen as soft on iran. israel is opposed to this deal.
they feel dealing with iran under these circumstances poses an exessential threat to them. this is a political vote, but in the end, i think the president will prevail with his argument, that this is a unique opportunity. we finally got iran to the negotiating table. >> right, right. >> and you can't, you can't let that pull up. >> do you congratulate the president on taking position on vetoing sanctions? quickly? >> i think frankly the fact that there might be more sanctions was one of the reasons why they were able to reach this agreement with iran. at this stage of the game, now that we've reached this agreement, we have to go through it, it seems to me, and find out if iran lives up to it. and if in fact they do terminate, or dramatically constrain their nuclear weapons programs. >> well stated. you've had the last word, morton zuckerman. >> with a name like zuckerman -- [ laughter ] >> how do you rate gates? >> a, as a public servant. >> highly. >> f for disloyalty. >> i think he could do better
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