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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  June 16, 2013 9:00am-11:01am PDT

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programs as well as the extent to which they've tracked u.s. phone calls. in a new interview this morning house intelligence committee chairman mike rogers argued that as more information comes out more americans will be comfortable with the surveillance. >> as people get a better feeling that this is a lock box with only phone numbers, no names, no addresses in it, we've used it sparingly, it is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch, has lots of protections built in, that if you can see just the number of cases where we've actually stopped a plot, i think americans will come to a different conclusion than all the misleading rhetoric i've heard over the last few weeks. >> on the other side of the all senator mark udall was less confident in the safeguards in place as well as the phone tapping program's effectiveness. >> i don't think collecting millions and millions of americans' phone calls -- now, this is the meta data. this is time, place, to whom you
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direct the calls. is making us any safer. and i think it's ultimately perhaps a violation of the fourth amendment. >> joining me now for more on all of this, nbc national news investigative correspondent michael isikoff. michael, you spoke with intelligence officials. what new information did you learn about just how many phone calls were collected? >> well, this telephone met adata collection which we've just learned about in the last couple weeks impacts millions of callers and you can do the arithmetic on how many phone calls you make in a year and it might add up to hundreds of millions of records of phone calls. what u.s. officials, intelligence officials are trying to do now to try to bolster public support for this program is show the controls on it. and they put out a statement just yesterday, late yesterday, suggesting that the actual times that they've gone into the database to query those records of phone calls is very limited,
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are less than 300 last year, they said, only after they got specific information that the -- that the phone number was linked to some specific foreign terrorist organization. now, it's very hard to evaluate that in a vacuum. what we're getting is selective disclosure at this point. they are saying that there are very strict controls on this, it's all approved by the foreign intelligence surveillance court, but we do know as a result of the disclosures that that foreign intelligence court has at times had problems with the way the national -- the intelligence community is collecting this information, how it's using it, and they have found instances of what has been called unreasonable search and seizure under the fourth amendment. in other words, illegal surveillance. we have not seen the details on that. so what we got is a bit of a public relations war now where
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the intelligence community is making selective disclosures to bolster public support but far from complete disclosure in order to have a full public debate about this. >> and michael, we learned more about one terror plot officials said was thwarted by collecting phone information. what can you tell us about that? >> yeah, this is the zazi plot that intelligence officials have talked about, and they released some more details on that in this statement yesterday, that zazi, the guy who was a colorado extremist and headed for new york to blow up the new york subways. the other program in which they do get content of internet e-mails and phone calls did disclose links between zazi and al qaeda in pakistan. they then getting the zazi -- once they started looking at zazi, they go back into the telephone meta data mass collection and see somebody he's communicating with, that gets them a phone number and they were able to arrest one of his co-conspirators.
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again, a lot of questions about exactly how they did that and whether they could have gotten it through other means. this they gotten information about zazi could they have then goent a search warrant to get the same data. did they need the mass collection? that's one of the many questions about this program that have yet to be answered. >> and michael, quickly, some are saying that the phone and internet operations stopped dozen of potential terror plots. do we know if that's true? >> that's the assertion. they have said in the statement yesterday that all they could talk about in detail now is the zazi plot, that to disclose others could disclose operational details that might give the terrorists some advantage here. i know that senator feinstein from the intelligence committee, the chairman is pushing the intelligence committee to release more because she's bought into this program, she believes in it, she wants more public disclosure. whether we get it or not we'll have to wait and see in the next few days. >> we'll keep an eye on all of it. michael isikoff, thank you so much for that.
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today president obama heads to europe for the g-8 summit and syria is bound to be a big topic of discussion. the obama administration is going to arm the syrian rebels, but this morning the president is still taking criticism for not doing enough. >> it's a powder keg for the region. our policies are not working. and ak-47s will not neutralize the advantage assad has over the rebels. we need to do more. we need to create a no-fly zone to neutralize the assad's air power. >> nbc's white house correspondent kristen welker is live at the white house with the very latest. cri kristen-g afternoon. >> reporter: good afternoon to you. you heard senator graham there talk about and call for a no-fly zone. and i can tell you that white house officials are not eager to implement a no-fly zone, in part because u.s. officials say it's expensive. they also say the terrain in syria is tricky. so it's not clear that it would have the desired impact. but as you pointed out, the president is getting a lot of
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criticism for not taking enough action and for acting too late. earlier today, chief of staff dennis mcdonough was asked directly if the administration would consider providing heavier weapons to the opposition forces, which would include a no-fly zone. here's how he responded to that question. take a listen. >> the scope and scale of our assistance, which has been robust heretofore, to the syrian opposition council, as well as to the syrian military council, actually the fighters on the ground, that assistance will expand. the scope and scale of that assistance will expand. >> now, tonight president obama travels to northern ireland for the g-8 summit, and syria will be central to those talks, particularly on monday, when president obama sits down with russia's president vladimir putin and really tries to press him to stop supporting the assad regime and to join those who are calling for assad to step down. but i can tell you, mara, there's not a lot of optimism
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heading into that conversation, in part because russia just announced that they disagree with the united states' assessment that assad used chemical weapons. this all comes on the heels of an announcement yesterday by the department of defense. their going to leave f-16 fighter jets as well as patriot missiles in jordan. that move aimed to send a strong message to assad and also to give president obama a little bit more leverage heading into that conversation with putin. mara? >> all right. kristen welker live at the white house. thanks so much. >> reporter: thanks. joining me now, "roll call's" congressional reporter meredith deshiner and "washington post" politics reporter aaron blake. thank you both for being here this afternoon. >> thanks for having us. >> meredith, i want to just start with you. it's not just republicans like senator lindsey graham who are pushing to do more on syria. let's take a listen to what senator robert menendez had to say. >> we need to tip the scales, not simply to nudge them. and the president's moving in the right direction. you can't just simply send them, you know, a pea shooter against
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a xwlund blunder buss at the end of the day or our -- time is not on our side and our vital national security interests will not be pursued. >> of course he chose his words careful carefully, but is this a slippery slope? is the white house going to have to get more involved? >> it's extraordinarily complicated because what we're talking about here is providing aid to rebels but we don't know exactly who those rebels are. currently, it's a coalition of about 30 different groups. there are other groups outside of that confine that have potential connections to al qaeda. so when you talk about providing arms to people to defend themselves against a regime that's potentially attacking their people, it's this rock and a hard place because you don't know how much you can do and how much you can give and what it would look like if they were to take out assad. so if the rebels were successful, what does syria look like after that? who's running syria? what kind of government do they have? i mean, we've faced a lot of these questions in iraq. we face a lot of these questions when we're looking into
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different countries and how we're dealing with them. we had this conversation a year and a half ago, two years ago when we were talking about libya. so these are unending conversations. and it's impossible for the administration at this point to win this situation. so i think when you hear lawmakers calling for more action that's fine, but from the president's perspective he has to figure out exactly how to be successful in this region and there's no easy solution to that. >> aaron, you had john mccain, lindsey graham, even former president bill clinton all coming out and pushing for the president to do more. of course the white house is saying their decision upon aid was based on revelations about chemical weapons use. but how much of it do you think had to do with political pressure? >> well, it's impossible to take a situation like this and totally separate it from politics. i will say on this issue that the american people aren't very tuned in. polls show only about 2 in 5 americans are paying attention 20 what's going on in syria
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right now. i think, to her, this is a recognition of things changing in the coming weeks. president clinton's decision to say something about this and essentially agree with john mccain that more needs to be was a very significant development. this is a big name democrat, someone who's dealt with situations in kosovo and bosnia. he had some credibility on this. i think to some degree that did force the obama administration's hand. beyond that i don't think the american public is clamoring for some kind of american involvement in this war. and i think that even with the so-called red line being crossed that really hasn't been crossed in the minds of the american people to this point. >> well, i know, aaron, you mentioned public support about getting involved in this and that speaks to a "new york times" editorial today. the headline of that is "bad idea, mr. president." ramzi mardini writes "not since the 2003 invasion of iraq has american foreign policy experienced a strategic void so pervasive. syria is like iraq except
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worse." meredith, does the president need to do a better job of explaining to the american people what the goal is, why we're doing this and why we're getting involved? >> i think it's actually interesting that aaron had pointed out those bill clinton remarks. when they were first made and first leaked to the press, it made it seem like potentially they were unrelated to what the administration was doing, but then the next day the administration had announced that they were going to increase their efforts there. and so i'm curious whether or not those things were actually unrelated. i think that the president is going to need surrogates who are going to talk strongly about this. i the president will have to explain what we're doing there, what's actually gone wrong and why we have an obligation in his perspective to go and to engage. because otherwise you have an american public, again, as aaron had mentioned, that sort of feels this malaise about engaging in wars. we were in iraq for over a decade. same with afghanistan. and we're still in afghanistan. so when you're deploying american resources into a country, you have to explain why that country needs our assistan assistance. >> and aaron, i want to switch
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gears quickly and talk about the faith and freedom coalition, that big conservative gathering this weekend. let me play a clip and we'll chat on the other side of it. let's listen. >> immigrants create far more businesses than native-born americans over the last 20 years. immigrants are more fertile and they love families and they have more intact families and they bring a younger population. >> i think it's kind of dangerous territory, touchy territory to want to debate this over one race's fertility rate over another. and i say this as someone who's kind of fertile herself. >> so aaron, jeb bush makes the comment about immigrants being more fertile and then sarah palin takes a shot at him. is this another example of the gop divide or is this palin just being palin? >> i think this is sarah palin being sarah palin. you know, she's kind of made a habit over inserting herself into certain issues within the republican party. disagreeing with other big-name republicans. and it's a good way to get headlines. i think my colleague chris cillizza said it best a couple years ago when he labeled her a
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celebritician. she really doesn't have a political constituency so much as kind of a pop culture constituency. i think she says things like this to be provocative. i think there is, though, a potential in the republican party, if you really look at jeb bush's comments and what he was trying to say, you know, this is an argument that could work in the republican party. there could be people who use this as a reason for immigration reform, basically that we need immigrant labor in order to have the economy recover. i think the way he said it was inartful and probably hurt that cause. but i wouldn't be surprised to see other people take up that effort in the weeks ago as we push forward with this immigration debate. >> all right. thanks so much. aaron blake, meredith shiner, thank you both for being here. >> thank you. >> thanks for having us. happy father's day to my dad. >> aw. well, president bush arrived home. president george w. bush arrived home safely in dallas this morning after a less than routine trip home from philadelphia. the president was headed from philadelphia international to
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dallas love field airport when his pilot reported the smell of smoke in the cockpit. at that point the gulfstream 4 aircraft that was carrying them was diverted to louisville, kentucky. the plane landed safely without incident. a survivor of military sex assault. new reaction on a setback in congress that may change nothing for those wanting to report a sex attack. i'll talk to her next. can be. [ crickets chirping ] but did you know that the lack of saliva can also lead to tooth decay and bad breath? [ exhales deeply ] [ male announcer ] well there is biotene. specially formulated with moisturizers and lubricants, biotene can provide soothing relief and it helps keep your mouth healthy, too. [ applause ] biotene -- for people who suffer from dry mouth.
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some headlines making news on the west coast. the "arizona republic" has the story "taxation vexation." it's a story playing out in communities across the country. the report says that while property values in maricopa county plummeted 49% after the housing crash taxes failed to follow by a similar percentage. and the "los angeles times" has this headline -- "most military suicides involve those
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who have not been in combat." the report says the latest numbers from the pentagon show a slight majority of troops who have committed suicide while on active duty were never assigned to afghanistan or iraq. the senate's defense policy bill will soon go to a floor debate, where senator kirsten gillibrand will try to revive her measure to take military sexual assault cases out of the chain of command. the plan broke party ranks when it was voted down in committee last week 17-9. joining me now is u.s. marine corps veteran and military sexual assault survivor sarah plummer. sarah, thanks for being here. >> thank you so much for having me. >> now, you've long argued, as senator gillibrand is now, that you want to take assault cases out of the xhfof the chain of c. why do you think that's so key? >> because precisely as the senator said, our military -- our military leaders may be dedicated and determined but they are not impartial. and we need impartial people being the final word on these criminal cases.
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>> now, those opposed to the chain say that the chain of command is a vital part of military structure where seniority drives everything else. how do you respond to that? >> i would agree. chain of command is a crucial part of command climate and leadership. however, we rely on experts for anything from dentistry to medical to road corrections on our bases. yet why are we not deferring to -- truly to legal experts and partial legal experts in these cases and let the rest of the stuff remain in the chain of command for command climate and misdemeanor cases but not for criminal cases. >> now, the committee did approve independent review of sexual assault charges are not pursued in court. and another measure would make it a crime to retaliate against assault victims. do you think either of those will make a difference? >> i think it's another step in the right direction. however, the military culture, even though some of those measures are kind of already in place, the culture still allows retaliation. i've seen it firsthand and i've
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seen it with other military sexual assault and rape survivors, that the retaliation still happens and there has to be prosecution on a larger level to actually deter retaliation and the crimes in the first place, i think. >> and you've been very open about your experience with this. your personal experience with sexual assault in the military. was that something that you experienced? >> it was. my personal experience is something that was drawn out actually over nearly the entire course of my seven-year career, resurfaced in different ways from command to command. and so yeah, i hold this issue near and dear to my heart and hope that we make tangible changes. and i think we are at a crossroads to address it beyond just this obtuse cultural issue and make positive changes on the legislative and administrative side of things. and i think that failed last week. and i think we need to keep charging forward to make these changes. >> now, you left the marine corps in 2009. how did that assault affect your career in the military? >> i was blessed enough and
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fortunate enough i believe to still have what i felt like was a positive career in the marine corps. ultimately, i decided to leave for both personal and professional reasons, feeling as though i had personally dealt with on a healthy level what had happened to me yet continuing to be in that environment where for one -- one way or another it continued to get brought up or kind of thrown back in my face and just felt like it was best that i went on and did some other things that i was interested in personally and professionally. >> now, the way that assaults are prosecuted is of course very important but that doesn't solve the core issue. why do you think this issue is so prevalent to begin with? >> i think that there's been a basic leadership failure from our military commanders who all seem to respond, well, that's not happening in my unit, it's not happening in my unit, and keeping it in the chain of command is working in my unit. whose unit is it not working in then? and it starts with you at the top.
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so why are these military commanders i think essentially shirking responsibility? i think that does continue to promote a culture where this is acceptable. >> sarah plummer, thank you for being here. and thanks for sharing your story. >> thank you. so here's a question. who reads an actual physical newspaper anymore? people in four specific cities in the u.s. lead the way. we'll tell you who. details coming up next. stiffne. accomplishing even little things can become major victories. i'm phil mickelson, pro golfer. when i was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, my rheumatologist prescribed enbrel for my pain and stiffness, and to help stop joint damage. [ male announcer ] enbrel may lower your ability to fight infections. serious, sometimes fatal events including infections, tuberculosis, lymphoma, other cancers, nervous system and blood disorders, and allergic reactions have occurred. before starting enbrel, your doctor should test you for tuberculosis and discuss whether you've been to a region where certain fungal infections are common. you should not start enbrel if you have an infection like the flu. tell your doctor if you're prone to infections, have cuts or sores, have had hepatitis b, have been treated for heart failure,
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the latest app from ink. so you can spend less time doing paperwork. and more time doing paperwork. ink from chase. so you can. in today's tech watch apple is adding an act vaigs lock to new software for the iphone and samsung is creating a so-called kill switch to its galaxy s-4 phone. both rin tended to render the smartphones inoperable in the event they're stolen. the anti-theft feature is in response to what's being called an epidemic of smartphone robberies across the country. turning now to weather, it's a cloudy day here in the big apple with rain showers on and off all day and thunderstorms expected a little later. let's see if the rest of the country's faring any better.
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nbc meteorologist dylan dreier is here. >> we dp have a few sprinkles this morning. now the sun's trying to come out in the northeast and then the clouds fill back in p we are in and out of clouds and showers across most of the country. so it's not a total washout in any one area but we do have the threat of some showers. the sun has come back out in new york. it's 77 degrees. it will be get cloudy again. 72 in kansas city. 89 degrees already in dallas. and we're in the mid 80s in florida too. there you see thaun settled weather with some heavier rain moving into parts of upstate new york. the rain stretches down into arkansas and even western oklahoma, which is actually an area we could see some stronger storms today, although we're not looking at a tornado outbreak, maybe just some small hail and also some damaging wind gusts. a closer look at the rain, though, does show you that it's not really all that widespread. temperatures stayed do look pretty nice. it's still very hot down in the south. 95 degrees in dallas. 108 degrees in phoenix. mild in the northeast, in the
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70s and 80s, and then as we head back to work on monday, 77 in boston with a couple of scattered showers and storms. chicago also looking at a few spotty showers. again, these aren't huge outbreaks, but we will still have this slow moving cold front that is going to just make things unsettled. but in general father's day's looking all right. mara? >> all right. thanks so much, dylan. and speaking of father's day, lots of folks like to spend part of their sunday reading the print edition of their city newspaper. my dad is one of them. had to get that shout out in there. a new study identifies the cities with the highest reads p readersh readership. the he top city is pittsburgh where 51% of the residents read the paper daily. albany and hartford tie with 49%. cleveland's just a point behind to rank third. well, las vegas may be nicknamed sin city, but believe it or not, vegas ranks just tenth on a new list of the most sinful cities in america. the real estate website moveauto bases the rankings on the seven deadly sins. they don't explain further. but here are the top three sin
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cities. minneapolis is third, just behind orlando. and the most sinful city of them all? st. louis. in time you will help them accomplish wonders. >> and truth, justice, and the american way are winning big at the box office p "the man of steel" is projected to earn $125 million this weekend. and those are your number ones on "weekends with alex witt." a lot of people think fiber can do one thing and one thing only... and those people are what i like to call...
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1 super fiber. in parks across the country, families are coming together
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to play, stay active, and enjoy the outdoors. and for the last four summers, coca-cola has asked america to choose its favorite park through our coca-cola parks contest. winning parks can receive a grant of up to $100,000. part of our goal to inspire more than three million people to rediscover the joy of being active this summer. see the difference all of us can make... together. welcome back to "weekends with alex witt." i'm mara schiavocampo. now headlines at the half. north korea's top governing body is proposing high-level nuclear and security talks with the u.s. the appeal comes days after the north called off talks with the south. the national security council says talks with north korea would require it comply with the u.n. security council resolutions and live up to international obligations. nelson mandela appears to be improving from a recurring lung
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infection. family members continue to visit him daily at a hospital in pretoria. the former south african president was admitted nine days ago after falling ill. crews are making progress against wildfires in colorado. the most destructive fire in state history is now more than halfway contained. almost 500 homes have been destroyed by that fire. today some of the tens of thousands of evacuees are being allowed to go home. turning to iran now, where the streets of tehran were packed with thousands of people just a few hours ago celebrating the election of a new president. hassan rouhani, a moderate cleric, took home more than 50% of the total votes, security a landslide victory. let's go right to nbc news tehran news chief aaliyah ruzi. >> hassan rouhani, the great clerical hope for reformist voters swept to victory last night with over 50% of the vote. as soon as the results were made officials, jubilant iranians took to the streets celebrating,
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dancing, lighting chinese lanterns in a euphoric mood. people aren't streets were chanting "bye-bye ahmadi, bye-bye ahmadi," in a reference to ahmadinejad no longer being president. in an ironic twist those same people were making those same chants four years ago before the results came in in the elections, which ensued in a bloody crackdown. not so last night. everything went by very peacefully. how much difference four years in iranian politics can make. but last night's vote also showed a split in opinion amongst iranian voters. about 35 million people voted in iran yesterday, with hassan rouhani getting just over 18 million votes while the five conservative candidates' combined vote was just under 18 million, showing an almost 50-50 split between support for conservatives and reformists, showing a divide in opinion in the country. now, that doesn't mean that some
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sort of arab spring is on the horizon. far from it. but it shows how iranians want the country managed in a different way and how they want the country perceived overseas. hassan rouhani is a pragmatic man. during his time as chief nuclear negotiator he got on very well with western powers, western diplomats. and during his time as nuclear negotiator iran suspended uranium enrichment. something they started up again when president ahmadinejad became president. now iranians will wait to see if mr. rouhani can deliver tangible policy changes or if this is just going to be a softening in tone rather than substance. back to you, mara. >> ali arouzi in tehran. thank you. in a new statement intelligence officials say that the nsa's controversial surveillance programs have thwarted dozens of terror plots. but despite the recent leaks and congressional hearings, still little is known about the top secret agency known as the
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puzzle palace. joining me now is journalist james bamford, author of three books on the nsa, including the most recent, "the shadow factory: the nsa are from 9/11 to the eavesdropping on america." thanks so much for being here. >> my pleasure, mara. >> few people outside of the nsa understand the agency better than you. can you describe some of its operations, the scale of what happens there? >> sure. it's a mammoth agency. the largest intelligence agency on earth. and its job is to collect intelligence via electronics, whether it's telephone calls, e-mail, whatever kind of electronic information there is, nsa's job is basically to collect it, where the cia is basically assigned the job of developing human agents. nsa's job is eavesdropping. >> now, in a new profile of the nsa director general keith alexander you write, "never before has anyone in america's intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power.
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the number of people under his command. the expanse of his rule. the length of his reign or the depth of his secrecy." what did you learn that made you write that? >> well, i've been following nsa for 30 years now. my first book came out 30 years ago, actually, "the puzzle palace." and so i've watched the agency closely. and i've never seen anybody accumulate so much power in such a small period of time. he's been there longer than any other director, nine years. he's sort of the j. edgar hoover of the intelligence community. he's the first one to become a four-star general, the highest rank in the military. he runs now not only the most secret and largest intelligence agency in the country, or actually the world, called the national security agency. he's also in charge now of this new organization called u.s. cyber command. so he's in charge of this enormous new organization which encompasses the army, the navy, and the air force.
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he's got the second army under him, the 24th air force, and the 10th navy fleet. so it's an enormous amount of power, and yet he's the kind of person who would walk down the street, pennsylvania avenue in washington and even members of congress probably wouldn't recognize him. >> now, you also write about the nsa's offensive capabilities and say that the stuxnet virus that attacked an iranian nuclear facility was just the beginning. what else are we talking about? >> well, that's what -- well, all the rhetoric pretty much that you're hearing from the nsa and the intelligence community is all about what the chinese are doing to us. it's basically they're spying on our electronics and so forth. what the u.s. is doing is at least as equal if not far more powerful because we've created this enormous cyber command. but what it can do is not just spy on adversaries but actually destroy infrastructure within the foreign countries. it did that in iran.
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it was the first -- the nsa was the first organization, the united states was the first country ever to actually destroy objects in a foreign country, destroyed all these centrifuges or at least a good percentage of them in the iranian nuclear development plant just through the use of cyber. i mean, cyber can be used to blow up power plants, to destroy dams. there's all sorts of methods that you can use to create destruction in a foreign country through cyber. >> now, let's talk about edward snowden for a moment. how does a low-level contractor like him gain access undetected to this seemingly all-powerful secret agency? >> well, it's quite amazing that -- few people realize, i think i was very amazed when i started looking at this, when i started doing the books i've been writing, but there's enormous amounts of average people, civilian people who get pulled into the nsa to work
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through defense contractors. i mean, thousands and thousands and thousands of people. and if you look in these little technical newspapers, there's ads all the time not only for eavesdropping people to go to work for the contractors who have been subcontracted to the nsa, but also cyber warfare. there's advertisements in the newspapers to go to work for these small companies. and what they're looking for are cyber warfare specialists, cyber attack specialists, and all sorts of network attack specialists. so so much of the infrastructure now that the intelligence community is depending on is all booz allen, seic, very large companies like lockheed martin, and thousands of very small sort of ma and pa type companies. >> journalist and author james bamford. thanks so much for being here this afternoon.
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[ dietitian ] now, nothing keeps mom from doing what she loves... ...being my mom. taking a look at the week on wall street, a two-day meeting by federal reserve policy makers on interest rates gets under way. a hay in rates is not expected, but investors will be watching for any sign about when the central bank may be pulling back its monetary easing program. we'll get another read on the housing recovery with updates on new home construction, mortgage applications, sales of existing homes, and builder sentiment. and some summer blockbusters are opening this week, including "world war z" and "monster university." well, in today's "office politics" author and "new yorker" staff writer george packer whose book "the assass assassin's gate:america in iraq," looks at america's descent into war. here george shares with alex his answer to the question why was
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america in iraq? >> of course everyone was asking that. there was no answer. no one could say why we went to war in iraq for sure because people in government had different reasons and different agendas. and i think the bush administration itself never answered that question. they wanted a war. iraq checked all the boxes. it had everything. it was in the middle east. its with a muslim country. if you want to try to build a democracy that becomes a model, which was maybe paul wolfowitz's agenda and eventually george bush's, why not iraq? but that is -- a war without a cause. a war that goes off in search of a reason after the fact is a war of choice. >> so then what do you see as being the best and worst that can come from this conflict? >> it's getting worse right now, alex, because the syrian civil war and the fallout of the arab spring is turning sectarian
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conflict into a regional conflict. and who knows? it might spread to the gulf countries. and it is out of control. and i worry that the u.s. looks sort of paralyzed in the face of it. so right now it's on a real downward trajectory. a few years ago one might have seen something closer to a stable iraq emerging with the surge relatively successful. i know a lot of iraqis, and they deserve so much better than what they have. but they are caught in this spiral of history that we didn't create but we kind of turned it loose. and it's now pulling downward. so it could be a long time before any iraqi will feel that this is a country they can raise their children in safely. >> what about america? are we better off or worse off as a result? >> oh, that's easy. we are worse off. iraq is still in the balance, i would say, but for us the decision of history is in.
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this was bad for the u.s. in so many ways. most obviously in the thousands of deaths and the incredible grief that that brings home and in the injuries that will be with people in their bodies and minds for the rest of their lives. and in the not billions but trillions of dollars spent. and in the damage, the sort of self-inflicted damage to our reputation, to our influence around the world. >> fiction versus non-fiction. what's the approach? how does that differ? and do you like one better than the other? >> well, i'm really a non-fiction writer. i wrote two novels. not that many people know that. they were not best-sellers. but i love the experience of being absorbed into a novel. >> i do have to ask about the 800-pound gorilla in these black huge file cabinets in your office. talk about what that contains
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because it's the future. >> right. so while i was working on "the unwinding," tragically richard holbrook died. and i knew him, and i had written about him for "the new yorker." and i talked to some of his friends and to his widow, cathy martin. and they suggested i should write a book about him. and it seemed like a very interesting idea. and cathy very generously says you can have his papers, no strings attached. they are now taking up quite a bit of floor space and squeezing the door to my office tight. and sort of sitting there waiting, saying when are you going to get to us? i need to take a breather after finishing "the unwinding" and selling "the unwinding," and then i'll start. i'll start reading his letters
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from vietnam in the '60s. >> so what, five years from now? >> i hope not five years. let's say three just to make me feel better. i'm kind of tired right now. i need to recover. >> next weekend's "office politics," alex interviews former rnc director and msnbc analyst michael steele. the search for edward snowden. the new claims today that he's no whistleblower. [ male announcer ] erica had a rough day.
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the final weeks of what's been a landmark supreme court session. and with the next ruling due out tomorrow, the justices will soon announce their decisions on same-sex marriage, affirmative marriage, and the voting rights act. joining me now is adam liptack, supreme court correspondent for the "new york times," and kenji yoshino, professor of constitutional law at nyu. thank you both for being here. >> thanks for having us. >> great to be here. >> adam, i want to start with
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you. is there conventional wisdom on what might be the likeliest ruling we'll hear tomorrow and how many days do they have left given they rule on mondays and thursdays? >> we've got two weeks left. 19 cases to go. the case that's most likely to come next week as opposed to the last week is on affirmative action, a challenge to the university of texas's affirmative action plan. but you never know. they do it in whatever order they like. >> and kenji, let's talk about the same-sex marriage cases. some people have said that the court will probably strike down doma but the prop 8 looks like it could be upheld. what do you think? >> i actually think that what's going to happen is that doma's almost certainly going to get struck down. it's always dangerous to read the tea leaves on these things. i think prop 8 is also going to go but it's going to go because justices kick it on some procedural ground, either by saying the proper parties are not before them or by saying they shouldn't have granted review in the case in the first place. >> now, adam, you wrote an interesting piece recently in which you looked at the impact of gay supreme court clerks on the justices' thinking.
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how often is the atmosphere now compared to the past, how open rather is the atmosphere there now compared to the past? >> oh, very, very different. in 1986, when the justices upheld a law making gay sex a crime, there were no out gay clerks at the supreme court. now out gay clerks are commonplace. and the justices, like everyone else, have seen gay people take their place in american society, get married now and coming up on 12 states, and that's got to influence their thinking. >> kenji, voting rights appears to be a pretty tight one. does this all come down to justice kennedy, do you think? >> i think it may well do that. i mean, what's astonishing about it is that it's even so controversial given that vast super majorities -- i mean, this is 98-0 in the senate. and the vast supermajority in the house of representatives voting for it. justice scalia made his own views clear, and i think many other people on the right wing of the court made their views clear, saying that you know, when something was this unanimous it just betokened a
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racial entrenchment. so i think it's going to come down o'justice kennedy and i think it's going to be an incredibly controversial decision if it gets struck down. >> and adam, what about the u texas case on affirmative action? what's your early read there? >> i think as kenji says in the voting rights case, both cases concern race, both of them turn on kennedy, and in both of them there's some reason to think that the court is hesitant to protect the rights of minorities and to think that we've reached an era with a black president, with high voter registration, with different ways to achieve diversity in colleges and universities including race-neutral means that look at class or top 10% of graduation rates out of high school, that the conservative justices on the court are ready to pull back on some of the ways that the courts have in the past tried to help black people come into the mainstream of american society. >> kenji, have you been able to glean any insight into any of
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these decisions from what we've already heard from the justices on them? >> well, there is of course the oral arguments. and i think that we saw in the oral arguments, again, it's dangerous to read too much into them. but what we heard in the oral arguments was basically tracking what we've already said, that the justices seem to be very, very skeptical on both of the race cases but perhaps more receptive on the same-sex marriage cases. and i think the dividing line is really that there's a distinction between kind of formal equality and, you know, substantive equality, i guess i would say, which is that what gay people seem to be asking for is just equal protection under the law. the same rights that everybody else has. whereas there's a sense both in the voting rights act case and particularly in the affirmative action case that racial minorities are asking for something more than equality, for special rights rather than equal rights. so while i personally do not subscribe to this distinction, it's something that we see as a through line. and so i think this really is going to be the term of the supreme court that tells us in the civil rights realm that the
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supreme court is for formal equality but not for anything more than that. >> well, we will certainly be waiting eagerly for those rulings. kenji, adam, thank you both for your perspective. >> thank you. the push for a controversial new law to stop distracted driving. will police be able to confiscator cell phone? i want to make things more secure. [ whirring ] [ dog barks ] i want to treat more dogs. ♪ our business needs more cases. [ male announcer ] where do you want to take your business? i need help selling art. [ male announcer ] from broadband to web hosting to mobile apps, small business solutions from at&t have the security you need to get you there. call us. we can show you how at&t solutions can help you do what you do... even better. ♪ are they actually made with real fruit and eight grams of whole grain? does a bear make sparkly hats for dogs? ♪ yes. yes, he does. sprinkle him teddy.
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new poligrip and polident for partials 'seal and protect' helps minimize stress, which may damage supporting teeth, by stabilizing your partial. and 'clean and protect' kills odor-causing bacteria. care for your partial. help protect your natural teeth. up next, where in hong kong is edward snowden, and why are people there demanding he stay put? plus, arming syria's rebels. new questions today about the u.s.'s plan and reassurance from the white house. and calling out. a proposed law that gives police the right to seize and search your smartphone. hello, everyone. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." i'm mara schiavocampo in for alex. it's 1:00 in the east, 10:00 out west. now here's what's happening. new this hour, the whereabouts of edward snowden remain a mystery as u.s. lawmakers react to the growing security leak
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concerns. in an interview this morning harsh criticism for the so-called whistleblower from republican house intelligence committee member mike rogers. >> a whistleblower comes to the appropriate authorities with appropriate classifications so that we can investigate any possible claim. he didn't do that. he grabbed up information. he made preparations to go to china. and then he collected it up, bolted to china, and then decided he was going to disclose very sensitive national security information including, by the way, that benefits the chinese and other adversaries when it comes to intelligence relationships. >> he's not the only committee member who believes snowden betrayed his country. committee vice chair senator saxby chambliss put it this way. >> he's not a traitor, then he's pretty darn close to it. and as far as getting him back here, he needs to look an american jury in the eye and explain why he has disclosed sources and methods that are
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going to put american lives in danger. >> nbc's ian williams is in hong kong, where snowden was last seen before he disappeared. ian? >> reporter: from a wet and wind-swept hong kong. edward snowden is believed still to be here and in hiding one week after revealing himself as the source of one of the biggest ever intelligence leaks. snowden is believed to be in a safe house somewhere in this teeming, rain-swept city of 2 million people, where hundreds marched to the u.s. consulate saturday -- >> support ed snowden! >> reporter: -- in his support, demanding the hong kong government defend him, a sentiment that seems to have wide support here. hong kong's leader has responded for the first time, with a pledge to follow established local laws. the territory, ruled by britain until it was returned to china in 1997, has a well-respected legal system with considerable independence. but beijing has the final say in sensitive extradition cases. state newspapers there have
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reveled in what they call the hypocrisy of the u.s. government, which has accused china of cyber spying and the internet companies that apparently worked with it. but the chinese government itself has been tight-lipped. >> in this instance i think they'll say, well, you know, let the process of law take place in hong kong and can we get him off the premises as quickly as possible. >> reporter: he may be hiding, but as of now snowden is not a fugitive. he's broken no hong kong law and has yet to be charged in the u.s., which surprises the former head of the rural hong kong police criminal intelligence bureau. >> the longer he's here and the longer he digs in, the more difficult it will be to pry him out. >> reporter: the complex politics of hong kong may be one reason snowden chose to come here. this is one of the most crowded cities on the planet. it's not difficult simply to disappear here. while somewhere here the man described by his girlfriend as a keen chess player is plotting his next move. the government there has so far been restrained, and it's
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difficult to say precisely what their opinion will be, although local sources here believe they would prefer at the moment not to be seen to be getting involved. mara. >> nbc's ian williams, thanks so much. well, ian just alluded to a poll conducted by the south china sunday morning post, and it shows 50% of the people in hong kong say edward snowden should not be surrendered to u.s. authorities if washington makes a request. only 17.5% said he should be turned over. everyone else in the poll was undecided. turning now to the white house, the obama administration saying the scope and scale of its assistance in syria will expand, but it's not clear exactly how. >> we have to be very discerning about what's in our interest and what the outcome -- what outcome is best for us and the prices that we're willing to pay to get to that place. we've rushed a war in this region in the past. we're not going to do it here. >> nbc's white house correspondent kristen welker is at the white house with the very
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latest. kristen, good afternoon. >> mara, good afternoon to you. at this point we know that the obama administration is planning to send small arms and ammunition to opposition forces in syria. but the rebels say that's not enough, they want bigger weaponry, including anti-aircraft weapons, anti-tank weapons, and then you have a number of people also calling for the enforcement of a no-fly zone. here's what senator lindsey graham had to say earlier today on "meet the press." take a listen. >> it's a powder keg for the region. our policies are not working. and ak-47s will not neutralize the -- the advantage assad has over the rebels. we need to do more. we need to create a no-fly zone to neutralize assad's air power. >> reporter: now, administration officials say a no-fly zone is expensive and the syria terrain is tricky, so they're not entirely sure that it would have the desired outcome that folks
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are hoping for there. so at this point in time there's no indication that they are considering enforcing a no-fly zone. now, president obama this evening heads to northern ireland for the g-8 summit, where syria will be central to those talks, particularly on monday, when president obama sits down with russia's president vladimir putin. he's going to press him to stop supporting the assad government and to join those who are pressuring assad to step down. but there's not a lot of optimism heading into those bilateral talks because in part russia just another day said they disagree with the white house's assessment that the syrian regime has used chemical weapons. we should also note that just yesterday the department of defense announced that they would be leaving f-16 fighter jets as well as patriot missiles in jordan in the wake of military exercises there. that move really aimed at sending a strong message to assad and also giving president obama some extra leverage as he
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heads into that all-important meeting with vladimir putin tomorrow. mara? >> kristen welker live at the white house. thanks, kristen. >> thanks. a couple of republicans used the sunday shows to beat up on the administration for not doing more when it comes to syria. senator marco rubio said we should have armed the rebels a long time ago. >> first of all, if i was in charge of this issue, we never would have got-tone this point. we would have identified elements that we could have worked with and we would have made sure that those elements, not the al qaeda elements, were the best i've armed, best equipped and best trained. i think the fact that it's taken this white house and this president so long to get a clear and concise policy on syria has led us -- has left us with the worst possible scenario right now. >> for more on this i want to bring in steve thomma, chief political xoernt for mcclatchy newspapers and a.b. stoddard associate editor and columnist at "the hill." thanks for being here. this criticism from rubio seems a little bit easy if you're not the president, right? >> oh, absolutely. it's always easy from the outside to say if i were there everything would have been
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different. but he raise smz good points. the policy is not particularly well defined yet. they have not identified a helpful or trustworthy ally on the ground in syria to help. not sure senator rubio could have identified the one ally to help. these are all part of the problem in spelling out this policy going forward. >> yeah, and just to touch up on that a little bit further, you talk about the policy not being clear enough. do we know what the white house's end game is with this? >> no. that's part of the problem. they're not really clear what the goal is here. the goal could be simply trying to help the rebels survive. it could be helping the rebels try to prevail and win and defeat assad. it could just be to kind of force a negotiation in the fall, which has been the u.s. policy. and it's not clear how sending small arms would get to that point. >> now, a.b., i want to read you what the "washington post" editorial board wrote. they wrote, "it's a move that, if made 18 months ago, might have decisively tilted the civil war against the regime of bashar
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al assad and prevented the emergence of the extremist forces linked with al qaeda that are now active around the country. as it is, the action may be too small and come too late to achieve mr. obama's stated goal of removing mr. assad from power." do you think this is too little too late? >> well, that's what the opposition forces in syria are saying now. senator rubio's comments are accurate in that we're looking at two separate problems. one is over time the opposition has been infull-rated by radical elements, and they are no longer the opposition and the insurgents that started this civil war. they also had incredible momentum for a while. that is no longer true. so government forces are actually back on their feet. we're not talking about assad brought to his knees in a position where there's so much political will and force against him, the opposition's making so many gains that there could be a political reconciliation, some kind of negotiation.
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so given that the opposition is now behind and in a weakened state losing ground, there is no end game from the white house. it isn't to push assad out. and at this point it isn't enough weaponry to regain lost ground from the opposition so that they can be in a position to find a political settlement. >> now, i want to switch gears for a second and talk about what's going on with the nsa and the surveillance pral. senator mark udall is one of the lawmakers who are calling to limit these programs. let's quickly listen to what he had to say. >> the key, when the founders wrote the bill of rights, could not only take your property and your treasure, but he could take your life and maybe most precious of all your liberty. i think we owe it to the american people to have a fulsome debate in the open about the extent of these programs. >> steve, do you think this outcry about civil liberties abuses will change anything? >> maybe a little bit. if you'd asked me three or four days ago, i would have said no. senator udall, senator wyden of
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oregon, they haven't changed position. they've demanded an open debate and they want changes. but there has been a shift in the congress, shift from monday to friday. you saw senator feinstein, the chairman of the senate intelligence committee a week ago, very defensive, said flat out the program's fine. by the end of the week she was saying she may be proposing some changes to the way the court and the oversight works. i do think congress may move incrementally, if at all, but may move toward some changes in the system. >> a.b., intelligence officials are now saying that the nsa surveillance disrupted dozens of terrorist plots. and you know, in fact, recent polls conducted show that a majority of americans support at least the phone tracking program. for most people is this a trade that they're willing to accept, to give up some of their privacy in exchange for the safety and security of them and their families? >> absolutely. there's been poll after poll that showed that, actually, not only before the revelations but after the first revelations in 2006. now a different situation.
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even worse. and americans' growing use to the fact that in order to be secure the government's going to have to be tracking a lot of communication in order to stay after terrorists. so you really -- you see an effort in the congress from some on the far right and the far left to try to get in there and tinker with this. i don't see any dent being made in the government's ability to conduct online surveillance ultimately. they might tinker here and there, but the public is behind the program and has accepted that this is a way of life, that the internet isn't private and that terrorism is our first priority. >> all right. steve thomma and a.b. stoddard, thank you both for being here. >> my pleasure. new word today from south africa on the condition of former president nelson mandela. we'll go live to pretoria. then goes home... a mother sees the light... a son explores new worlds... and a father finds himself...
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protesters and police returned to the streets of istanbul today. yet another day of demonstrations over a disputed park. police again are using water cannons and tear gas on protesters. police used such force yesterday to disperse hundreds of protesters who defied a government deadline to vacate that park. a bulldozer was then used to clear the area. to the crisis in syria now, where the u.s. government's decision to provide small arms to the rebels has caused heated debate. in a new interview this morning senate foreign relations committee chair robert menendez called for further intervention. >> we need to tip the scales, not simply to nudge them. and the president's moving in the right direction. you can't just simply send them, you know, a pea shooter against a blunder buss at the end of the day or else our vital national security interests is -- you know, time is not on our side and our vital national security
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interest will not be pursued. >> joining me now is democratic senator richard blumenthal, member of the armed services and judiciary committees. thank you for being here, sir. >> thank you, mara. >> now, this has been described as an agonizing decision for president obama. when it comes to syria, what is the end game for the white house? >> i agree with my colleague, senator menendez, that the president's moving in the right direction. but the end game has to include avoiding any entanglement, any involvement in a ground war. the committing of united states troops in the same way that we did in iraq and afghanistan has to be off the table. but providing these kinds of arms so as to tip the scales somewhat in the opposition is certainly a responsible step to take. and also supporting our allies like jordan and israel in seeking to maintain some stability there, protecting
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syrians against the use of chemical arms as assad has now been confirmed to be doing, seeking some negotiated settlement. i've met with the opposition in trips that i've taken to that region of the world as well as visiting some of the refugee camps, and i think the administration could and should have been more aggressive in the humanitarian, non-lethal aid that it could have provided to the opposition. so saving lives is the right way to go. but whether it is too little certainly i don't think it's too late because we still have the hope of preserving some stability and avoiding terrorists taking over syria. >> now, you mentioned meeting with some opposition forces, and you've also been calling for small arms aid for a while now. what do we know about the rebel groups that the u.s. has committed to sending assistance to, and are these groups we want to be aligned with for the foreseeable future? >> we know a lot more about them now than we did before, but essentially, they are opposition groups that want a free democratic regime that respects the liberties of individuals and
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the diversity, religiously and politically, of syria. it is a country right now in complete disarray, and it needs some stability not only for the sake of the syrians but also for the sake of the region. our allies like jordan have been very explicit. when we last met with the king in jordan, i along with senators mccain and graham heard him very dramatically and eloquently describe the burdens of the syrian conflict on his country. so i think it's more than just syria that's at stake. >> now, there's a new report out that's yet to be confirmed by nbc news. but a british newspaper is reporting that iran will send 4,000 troops to syria. if that's true, how does that change the calculus for u.s. involvement? >> the calculus was changed by assad's brutal, absolutely murderous killing of his own people, 90,000 or more of them already, and most recently the use of chemical weapons along
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with the air war against them. hezbollah coming into that situation again also changes the calculus. if iran comes into the conflict, it will certainly deepen the regional involvement in that area. and i think strengthen the president's hand in providing for a more aggressive and comprehensive solution. but again, our priority has to be to avoid the kind of entanglement of ground troops that would be so very, very dangerous for our nation. >> i'd like to switch gears and talk about the nsa surveillance programs. intelligence officials recently released a statement saying that the programs have thwarted dozens of terror plots, including the 2009 new york subway plot. in your opinion, do those benefits outweigh the cost of civil liberties? >> it is not an either/all choice. it's not one or the other. and we should not be giving up
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our civil rights and civil liberties. there's a way to conduct that surveillance and narrow the provisions of both fisa, the foreign intelligence surveillance act, and even the patriot act so as to preserve those liberties without the sweeping collection of broad and perhaps unlimited kind of vacuum-like sweeping of data that has been described and disclosed most recently. and so i think my colleague mark udall has it right that there is a balance to be struck. a lot of us have been calling for that balance to be struck in ways that are more sensitive to our civil liberties. for example, holding more accountable the fisa court that should be issuing warrants and overseeing this kind of surveillance so that there is some reasonable suspicion or probable cause that would apply in other contexts. and so i believe those opinions, rulings, orders should be disclosed. i've sponsored an amendment back in december when fisa was
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reauthorized. i'm supporting it again now. greater disclosure, more accountability. the balance has to be struck in a way that is more accountable to the public, not just to a handful of congressmen or women on the intelligence committee but the public as a whole, better disclosure, a full debate. and i think we can strike that balance and still thwart terrorists who want to do us harm. >> and finally, sir, it's been now just over six months since that tragic shooting at sandy hook elementary school in your home state. gun control reforms have struggled to get anything done. are you still hopeful? >> i am very hopeful. especially on this weekend, just having gone through a number of ceremonies. openings of playgrounds that commemorate the memory of those 20 children and six great educators. other kinds of vigils and public events that have brought home
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the searing horrific loss that we suffered as a result of gun violence that has to be stemmed and stopped. and so i'm hopeful that the majority leader will bring back these bills as he's promised to do. i've strongly supported the background check, the ban on illegal trafficking, as well as high-capacity magazines. and we want a majority of the senate, 54 votes, for a background check bill. unfortunately, due to the arcane and anti-democratic rules that currently apply to the senate and the filibuster, 54 was insufficient. but i think by the end of the year we can and should bring those bills back, work to mobilize and organize the 90% of the american people, the silent majority who believe that we ought to keep those guns out of the hachbds peopnds of people w dangerous to themselves and others, criminals who should not have firearms, respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners under the second amendment.
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we don't want to take their guns away. but convince the constituents of those handful of senators, and it's just three, four, five whom we need, that they should respect their conscience and vote for these common sense measures. >> all right, senator richard blumenthal, thank you for your time today, sir. >> thank you. well, police in one state may soon have the right to confiscate your cell phone right on the spot. and that's raising alarm with some. more on that coming up next. [ male announcer ] this is george.
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the act of soaring across an ocean in a three-hundred-ton rocket doesn't raise as much as an eyebrow for these veterans of the sky. however, seeing this little beauty over international waters is enough to bring a traveler to tears. we're putting the wonder back into air travel, one innovation at a time. the new american is arriving. now to new jersey. and a lawmaker's controversial plan to curb distracted driving. a republican state senator has introduced legislation that would allow police officers to confiscate a driver's cell phone at the scene of an accident to check if the driver was using it before the crash. joining me now to put all this is this in perspective is u udi ofer, executive director of the new jersey chapter of the aclu which opposes the bill. thank you for being here today.
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>> thank you for having me. >> why are you guys opposed to this bill? >> this bill would authorize the police to engage in unconstitutional searches of cell phones. under this bill when a police officer arrives at the scene of an accident the police officer would be able to take away your phone, to seize it, and then to search it, including your text messages, including your phone history, and to be able to do all of this without any probable cause. now, the problem is that under our constitution the police cannot do this without probable cause. that is why we oppose this bill. that is why we believe that the state legislature should reject it. and that is why we believe that if the state legislature did pass this bill it would be ultimately struck down as unconstitutional. >> but if you look at the language of the bill, they're not -- they're taking the phone in possession for a time. they take it, they look at whatever records are there in terms of messages sent, received, phone calls, and then they return it to the user. so how is that any different from collecting any other evidence at the scene of an accident to put on the police
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report for later use? >> the difference is that our constitution protects personal information. and the more personal the information, the greater the constitutional protections. and for hundreds of years we have had a standard in place in the united states, and that is probable cause to engage in an intrusive search. yet under this bill the standard would be much, much, much lower. essentially the standard would be little more than a hunch, which is not the right constitutional standard, and it would be incredibly intrusive. think about all the things you have in your cell phone. think about your text messages. think about your phone call history. that is highly personal information and that is information we need protected against government intrusion. and in fact, it was in 1928 that supreme court justice brandeis talked about the right to privacy, the right to be let alone as one of the most compresence uf of rights, as one of the rights most valued by civilized people. that is exactly the issue at stake here. that is the right to privacy. that is the right of americans to be free from government
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intrusion and the right of americans to be free from police looking into your cell phones without probable cause. >> i want to take a look at some stats here. according to the "newark star-ledger" there were more than 1,800 cell phone-related crashes just in new jersey in 2011, and acourting to outgoing transportation secretary ray lahood, 3,000 people were killed and 387,000 were injured nationally. so in the cases where cell phones, texting, making phone calls are contributing to these accidents, sure a court could subpoena those records after the fact but in many cases the phone companies don't even keep them that long. so how do you propose that the courts can move forward and prosecute people who are breaking the law and then killing and injuring their fellow citizens? >> right. there's no question this bill is well intentioned and it's meant to address a very serious problem and that is people misusing their phones while driving. but this bill won't fix that problem and raises concerns for at least three reasons. number one, it's an after the fact bill. so this is a bill that would authorize a police officer to look at your records after
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you've already engaged in the crash. so it's not going to prevent people from the wrongdoing in the first place. secondly, there are much more effective ways to solve this problem. i live in new jersey. i've never seen any sort of ads or any sort of public education programs that educate me not to use my cell phone while driving. why doesn't the same center then focus on educating the public about the dangers of cell phone use while driving? and then finally is the fourth amendment and the right to privacy. this is one of the most important rights we have as american citizens. >> we're going to have to leave it here. i could argue with you about this for a while because texting and driving is a big pet peeve of mind. but thank you for being here. i appreciate your perspective. udi ofer with the aclu. the back and forth between a prosecutor and a potential juror in the george zimmerman case. you'll hear it coming up next. all business purchases. so you can capture your receipts, and manage them online with jot,
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welcome back to he "weekends with alex witt." i'm mara schiavocampo. in sanford, florida jury
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selection resumes tomorrow in the second degree murder trial of george zimmerman. but finding people who live in that area who haven't already formed an opinion of what happened the night trayvon martin was killed has not been easy. nbc's kerry sanders joins us live now from sanford, florida. what are the numerous complications that they're having in putting this jury together? >> reporter: really quite a few, mara. but you sort of hit it on setting aside the things that they think they know and accepting only the facts because so many people have already formed an opinion here. so in addition to that, there is yet another problem, finding jurors who admit and say to the judge that yes, they can put their life on hold for up to a month. in her matter of fact style judge debra nelson now says those selected to sit on this jury will not be allowed to go home until there's a verdict. >> both sides have stipulated that they anticipate that this trial will last between two and four weeks. based upon that approximate
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stipulation, i will be sequestering the jury. >> reporter: sequestration is designed to provide safety for jurors and shield them from outside influence. >> george zimmerman -- >> reporter: like news reports. george zimmerman is accused of second degree murder in last year's shooting death of unarmed teenager trayvon martin. zimmerman says he acted in self-defense after martin attacked him. he has pled not guilty. in the courtroom prospective jurors are not shown on camera, but there is audio as they answer questions from lawyers in the case. >> i maybe can count on one hand people who haven't made their mind up yet. >> reporter: tft 40 people interviewed so far everyone says they've heard something about martin's death. some say they've already made up their minds. >> your opinion that you formed, what was it? >> that george zimmerman should go home. >> in other words, you believe he's innocent? >> i do. >> you have formed an opinion. what was it? >> guilty. >> that he's what? >> guilty.
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>> reporter: experts say strong opinions can disqualify jurors. lawyers are looking for people who can set opinions aside. >> even if the people are aware of the case through media reports it doesn't mean they're disqualified. the law doesn't require an empty mind, just an open mind. >> reporter: and so the plan now is to try to get a group of 40 potential jurors that they can bring back to the courtroom, ask more questions, and then from that group select six jurors and some alternates. so if the schedule holds to what the defense, the judge, the prosecutor believe, it may be possible that there will be a jury seated in the second degree murder case of george zimmerman, perhaps by the end of this coming week. mara? >> all right. nbc's kerry sanders live in florida. thanks so much, kerry. and we should note that george zimmerman has sued nbc universal, that's the parent company of this network, for defamation. the company has strongly denied his allegations. turning to south africa now, where former president nelson
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mandela is spending his ninth day in a hospital. as doctors continue to treat him for a recurring lung infection. family members have been dropping by the hospital to visit him while the country hopes he recovers quickly. let's go live to pretoria, south africa now where nbc's keir simmons has an update on his condition. keir, what are you hearing about how he's doing? >> reporter: hey, mara. well, the president of the country, jacob zuma, has said today that his condition, his improvement continued to be sustained. by the way, what you can see over my left-hand shoulder today, just a few flickers-s a candlelight vigil outside the hospital for necklace ann mandela, but just to read you more of the statement from the president he says "although nelson mandela remains serious his doctors have stated his improvement is sustained and he continues to engage with the family." and as you say, we have seen family members come and go here today. winnie mandela, his ex-with one of their children and grandchildren, carrying a basket with what looked like gifts for
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nelson mandela inside. of course his current wife. we don't have any news on what the doctors are saying about when he might be able to go home. >> is the family saying anything about his responsiveness, any interactions they've had with him, how he's doing from a personal level? >> reporter: well, his grandson, manda mandela, yesterday did refer yesterday to saying he's recovering well and looks good. so that was something positive from the family talking about how he looks, but they aren't saying very much. we just see them coming and going here. and we see people praying for them. the vigil behind me, by the way, what they're holding up there is a banner saying happy father's day to the father of the nation. and also marking another day today because it's the anniversary of a young people's uprising in 1976 which saw hundreds of young people killed. so south africa's thoughts are
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turning to that too and of course to the difference that nelson mandela made in pulling this country out of those dark days. >> nbc's keir simmons live in south africa. keir, thank you so much. in a new interview today white house chief of staff dennis mcdonagh described president obama's reaction to the nsa leaks. >> president welcomes a public debate on these questions because he does say and he will say again in the days ahead that we have to find the right balance. we have to strike the right balance. and we will not keep ourselves on a perpetual war footing as he said in his speech at the national defense university. >> joining me now for more on this is robert mcfadden, former ncis special agent and deputy assistant director of counterintelligence who served as co-lead of the "uss cole" bombing investigation. so you've conducted counterterrorism investigations. how key is this kind of data from surveillance programs to putting together these investigations? >> well, thanks for having me. as a practitioner, although i wasn't led into the program that's now publicly being
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discussed, we really liked this kind of information because of the potential. and again, what's been discussed publicly about the program where you have the metadata that may represent an electronic footprint, somewhere, say, central asia to an unknown entity in north america. that's the kind of information that can produce leads and investigations and operations to disrupt acts. >> now, can you get that information in other ways that don't present these questions about breaches of privacy? >> absolutely. i mean, that's one aspect of the broader spectrum of information collection. intelligence, law enforcement, open source information. but it can be one vital piece. absolutely. for example, from my practitioner's experience of the "uss cole" investigation into al qaeda cell on the arabian peninsula, prior to a program like this, there was information known by a small pocket of the u.s. intelligence community coming from sensitive sources. it was all written about in the
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9/11 commission report. where that pocket of the u.s. intelligence community had information derived from sensitive sources about two would-be plotters. in this case, though, it just wasn't shared with others such as i.n.s., state department or the ncis/fbi team conducting the cole investigation. >> well, it seems like a tremendous amount of information. we're talking about this phone records tracking. it's the phone records of everyone who is a verizon customer that we know about, and maybe there's more data. how do you take that huge amount of information and distill it into something that's useful to you? >> well, again, from not having direct experience for this program, what we're reading, it is a massive amount of information. and so the government has decided to create new capabilities to cull through that data to conduct a more sophisticated type of link analysis. >> and what do you think the impact on counterterrorism efforts would be if programs like this were scaled back, if the outcry against them were successful? >> from a practitioner's
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perspective i would be disappointed. and i'll say i'm very disappointed about some of the public discourse and the way the information was revealed because we're talking about very sensitive sources and information, methods, perishable type things that may not only save lives but you could be talking about billions of dollars of capability, research, et cetera, that could be wiped out. >> let's talk a little bit about edward snowden. here are some of the things that we know about him. he's a high school dropout. he had a brief stint in the army. and then he was a security guard turned six-figure i.t. contractor. so how does someone like this get access to our country's most secret information? >> well, that's a very good topic for discussion because i know from having clearances similar to this there's a deep level of scrutiny when it comes to the application process, the oversight, the investigation, psychological, behavioral data and that sort of thing. very thorough from my perspective. the however is that unfortunately we have situations that on occasion, like this, pop
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up. now, in my opinion, he like bradley manning should face the consequences of what they're accused of doing. >> now, since this came out, all this information and information about edward snowden, i have since learned of the number of private contractors who have access in some form or fashion to government information. do you think that that's a big part of the problem here, that there are too many people who shouldn't have access to that information, that can get it in one way or another? >> well, look, i believe that the public discourse on these types of things with our government, our leaders, and the public is a good thing. however, i'll also say, though, that it is a u.s. government program that grants clearances to contractors. the contractors don't grant themselves clearances. so again, there are many levels of scrutiny that go in here, but obviously in this case something went terribly wrong. particularly if he had anywhere near the level of access that he purports to have had. i find that quite remarkable if not unbelievable. >> yeah, a lot of people share those questions as well.
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robert mcfadden, thanks so much for your time, sir. >> thanks for having me. well, up next, the big three examines chris christie's snub of republicans once again. will it cost him at the ballot box? ahams to snack on. are they actually made with real fruit and eight grams of whole grain? does a bear make sparkly hats for dogs? ♪ yes. yes, he does. sprinkle him teddy. ♪ [ mom ] yea, give it more sparkles. [ male announcer ] your kids make great things. so give them a tasty, wholesome snack that has eight grams of whole grain and is now made with real strawberries and bananas. honey maid teddy grahams. two new flavors now made with real fruit.
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time now for the big three. and today's topics, the gop at odds 20106. and this week's must-reads. let's bring in my big three panel. former democratic congressman martin frost. former george h.w. bush aide joe watkins. and "chicago sun-times" washington bureau chief lynn sweet. thank you all for being here. >> good to be here. >> martin, let's start with you. i want to talk about the faith and freedom coalition, the big conservative conference that's taking place this weekend. sarah palin was the headliner. then we saw rick perry, marco rubio and jeb bush. i want to play two memorable moments andfrom jeb bush and sarah palin. we'll chat on the other side. >> immigrants create far more businesses than native-born americans over the last 20
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years. immigrants are more fertile and they love families and they have more intact families and they bring a younger population. >> i think it's kind of dangerous territory, touchy territory to want to debate this over one race's fertility rate over another. and i say this as someone who's kind of fertile herself. >> so martin, obviously, she's taking her shot at jeb bush. but there was a policy split on immigration. sarah palin calls it amnesty. and jeb bush is pushing for reform. was this a showcase for that split in the party? >> well, sure. and the republican party can't be a white southern party and be a majority party in this country. and that's who sarah palin is appealing to. and that's who people like the folks who've made comments about legitimate rape and, oh, you can't have abortion in the cases of rape because most rape victims don't get pregnant, i mean, this is a minority of the country. and if that's where people are going and the republican party, they will never get back into the majority. and clearly, immigration is a good example of that.
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there are some reasonable republicans who would like to see something done on immigration. sure, not have amnesty but have a procedure where people go to the back of the line, they pay a fine, it takes a while for them to become citizens. but they have the opportunity to become productive citizens in the united states. >> now, joe, there were lots of 2016 contenders at faith and freedom, but chris christie was not there. instead, he was with bill clinton. will his latest show of bipartisanship cost him with conservatives? >> i don't think so. i think he was doing a smart thing. president clinton is somebody who's respected around the world and of course around the country. he still has very, very high approval numbers. and chris christie also the same. his real strength comes in his ability to serve new jerseyans and americans. and he's a man who says what he means and means what he says. and he doesn't see blue and red. he just sees americans and knows how to service them. he's doing a smart thing by being with president clinton and i don't think he'll suffer one bit for it. >> lynn, is this wishful thinking from joe?
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he's building a reputation as bipartisan. he's palling around with obama. is this going to cost him when it comes to getting through the 2016 primaries? >> well, a little bit but only by people who might have been opposed to him anyway. this isn't he got some flack during the election last year, after hurricane sandy for praising president obama and the help he gave the state. i think that people understand that chris christie at the moment is popular enough to kind of do his own thing. and his popularity, if he were to get into the republican primary, is such that he has plenty of time to make new bridges, mend fences with the conservative tea party element of the party. >> now, martin, we see bill clinton, we just saw him up there on the screen, but i would like to talk about hillary clinton. she's now tweeting. this week she wrote she was having much fun with chelsea and posted a photo of herself, a fun
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picture there. is she showing now a little bit more of her personal side? is that what all of this is about, a kinder, gentler, softer hillary? >> i don't think there's any question about that. she had a very intense four years of secretary of state. she traveled all over the world, did a great job, wound up looking very tired. now she's relaxing. i think that it's in her interests to show the human side and she will be a very formidable candidate if she seeks the nomination in 2016. >> and joe, much was made about her twitter bio when it went up last week, because the last line said tbd. and we saw her speaking at the clinton global initiative. it seems out laying out the platforms of 2016. are we seeing the beginning of tbd? >> i think so. i think she's very, very smart. she's been very successful as a senator for the state of new york and certainly as secretary of state. and she's clearly, i think, created the opportunity if she wants to take advantage of it, to run for the presidency in
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2016. and she'll be a very formidable candidate, no doubt about it. >> coming up, chicago's big hope on ice. what does that mean? lynn, you're up first after the break. this is kevin. to prove to you that aleve is the better choice for him, he's agreed to give it up. that's today? [ male announcer ] we'll be with him all day as he goes back to taking tylenol. i was okay, but after lunch my knee started to hurt again. and now i've got to take more pills. ♪ yup. another pill stop. can i get my aleve back yet? ♪ for my pain, i want my aleve. ♪ [ male announcer ] look for the easy-open red arthritis cap.
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we're back with the big three former democratic congressmen martin frost, former george h. wflt bush watkins and lynn sweet. lynn, i want to start with you. your must-read this week, blackhawks coverage from the "chigao sun-times"? >> absolutely. the blackhawks and bruins are now 1-1. big overtime game last night. they meet again on monday. the sun "times" has terrific coverage. everybody go look. everything you want to know about a great stanley cup play-off series. >> i'm pleasantly surprised. martin, yours is a must-see, is that correct? >> that's right. but before that, i want to mention my 5-year-old grandson
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in chicago. a big hockey fan. i'm sure he's following that very closely. my must read is a must see. i brought the play bill with me. it's the cole porter revival of anything goes, which is at the kennedy center right now in washington, d.c. it is a wonderful production. i saw the original revival in new york two years ago. the road show is better than the original on broadway, which won a tony. >> all right. and joe, you're going to get the last word here. you have something from npr? >> yes, it's a must hear, actually. not much to read or see, but much hear. npr has a wonderful story having to do with surveillance. it's a very thoughtful piece because there's been a real explosion in communications data. this makes the case for that. with better surveillance, we have a chance to capture some of the folks who would harm us. >> thank you all for your time. this wraps up for this weekend's edition of weekends with alex wit.
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this sunday, are we ramping up for war in syria? how far will president obama go to stop the bloodshed? a red line crossed by the assad regime. confirmation this week that chemical weapons were used. the president agrees to start arming the syrian rebels. but as the war reaches staggering heights, more than 90,000 killed so far. what is the strategy? and the limit of u.s. involvement? joining me the senior senator from south carolina, republican lindsey graham. also, the surveillance to date. what's next for edward snowden? and what's the future of the government's sweeping counterterror program? with us, two key voices fm


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