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tv   The Situation Room  CNN  January 17, 2014 2:00pm-3:31pm PST

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overlooking him, blame the movie studio. redford called the oscar race political and said there was no campaigning for his movie and very little distribution. while it would have been wonderful to have been nominated, he was not upset. a category sure to drum up excitement in living rooms nowhere that's it for "the lead." i'm turning you over to wolf blitzer who is next door in "the situation room." >> jake, thanks very much. happening now, spy changes. president obama unveils changes in the surveillance program. how the government will get information about your phone calls and e-mails. also, privacy uproar. i'll talk to the head of the aclu and what he thought of the president's speech. and does mother know best? barbara bush publicly advises her son jeb not to run for president. will he follow her advice? i'm wolf blitzer.
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you're in "the situation room." seven months ago, most americans didn't know they existed and then edward snowden changed almost everything. a new chapter in the drama he launched. president obama announcing changes to the government surveillance program in a closely watched speech over at the justice department. the president staked out a middle ground with some reforms to the programs and other contentious procedures being left in place and the president's speech leaves a lot of questions still unanswered. our chief national security correspondent jim sciutto is joining me. a lot of those questions are unanswered but aassume we'll get more answers? >> the president said, in effect, i hear your concerns about this program. both here in the u.s. and overseas. he acknowledged that the u.s. needs to make some changes to build some trust damaged in the wake of snowden's allegations.
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but he says that some of these programs are necessary to keep us safe. he's going to keep them in place with new safeguards but in place. responding to months of spirited debate sparked by the explosive revelations of edward snowden, today the president told americans what he would do and not do to rein in mass surveillance. >> there are fewer and fewer technical restraints on what we can do. that places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do. >> reporter: the most significant changes affect the most controversial surveillance program. the bold collection of american's phone records effectively immediately the nsa will need judicial approval before searching the data. the president asked congress to create a panel of public advocates to counter government search requests. and he asked the attorney general and intelligence committee to explore moving the data out of nsa control. he also ordered an end to spying
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on close u.s. allies. but he left several questions unanswered, including who will hold the phone metadata, the phone companies or a new third party. in which case the public advocate would take part in. the president argued it's just too important. >> not only because i felt they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that i have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law. >> reporter: for the nsa's most arden ardened critics. >> to my mind, when every single phone call made in the united states of america is kept on file by the government was some other entity. i think you're talking about a clear violation of the fourth amendment. >> reporter: so do any of the changes make us less safe? >> if these programs were stopping huge terrorist attacks,
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you know, maybe they would -- should be more concerned but the fact is that these programs are not. >> you know, critics on both sides, of course, chairman of the house intelligence committee and strong supporter called the president's speech strong but echoing the concerns of other reporters he raised questions about judicial review of nsa searches. he released a statement saying, if instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past when it took up to nine days to gain court approval for a single search, we encouraged the white house with the proposed changes to congress so they can be fully debated. we were saying this earlier in the day, wolf, that this is really not the ends of the conversation. you still have the debates to come, for instance, on how these -- how this judicial will view the advocates, et cetera. congress is going to be involved, the intelligence committee. >> if they want to come up with a new plan by the end of march
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when these programs expire, they've got a clock ticking right now. >> 60 days. >> thanks very much. let's dig deeper. t deputy national security adviser ben rhodes is joining me. caucuses with the democrats saying it's a good start but the nsa is still violating the fourth amendment to the constitution. what do you say? >> well, wolf, as the president said, we did not find any instances of abuse in terms of the nsa going beyond what is approved by congress in the courts. what we found is a potential for abuse when they hold this bulk metadata. so on this program that collects metadata, telephone numbers, the times of phone calls, what we've said is immediately we're going to move to a situation where we have to seek judicial review before we seek a database but the president has decided that the government should not only this data and over the course of
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the next 60 days we'll review the options for how we map terrorist communications without the government holding possession of this database of bulk telephone metadata. >> well, one option that the president apparently doesn't like is letting the telecommunication firms, companies themselves hold all of this bulk data. i mean, who else could do it? is there a third party? is there an outsourcing that you're thinking about because a lot of us are con us fooed. who might be able to store all of this bulk data and at the same time protect it? >> well, wolf, there are really three options here. one is that the telephone providers hold the data and that we then go to a court atry to access that data. two, we create a third party that can hold this data. that does not currently exist. we'd have to review the options for that. the third option that the president referenced is that he's directed his intelligence community to see if they can maintain this capability of mapping terrorist communications without accessing bulk metadata.
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a third approach would be replicating the data we need with other programs that don't allow the government -- don't enable the government to possess the bulk database. >> some of our viewers are probably confused as well. there wouldn't be any one institution holding all of these numbers, the duration of the phone calls and all of that? >> well, wolf, let me point out that the providers would hold these business records anyway but the third option is instead of drawing on a database, can the intelligence community through the other programs find ways to map terrorist communications in a way that makes it not necessary for us to access the bulk databases. technological advances and we can say -- we can maintain this capability and map the number
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associated with that number that doesn't enable -- doesn't involve the government holding bulk metadata base. >> you think you can do that within 60 days or will it take longer to come up with that strategy? >> we do, wolf. we've been looking at this issue. we're going to say, what is the best way to preserve the ability to map terrorist communications without the government holding the metadata and we'll look at the options of the telephone providers holding it a third party or finding fixes that allow them to replicate this capability without holding the database. in the meantime, though, we're moving to a situation where the government cannot query that database. it first has to go to the court and get judicial review before it can then access that information. > as you well know, angela
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merkel, she was upset about the statements by snowden. she canceled a visit to the united states because of these reports, listening into her phone conversations. president benjamin netanyahu was upset. i assume these three folks, you're not going to be listening to their phone conversations any longer. is that right? >> well, wolf, what we've said is the new normal that we've established is that we will not conduct surveillance and the personal communications of the leaders of close friends and allies of the united states. so the normal situation going forward is if we don't conduct that surveillance unless it's recommended to the president that there's a specific national security need to do so. the presumption should be if it's a close ally of the united states, we're not conducting this type of surveillance against the leader of the country unless it's recommended to him that there's a specific national security interest they
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would be advanced through that surveillance. we're shifting from clengting everything that we can including perhaps the communications of these leaders to a situation where we say we're going to try to build trust, build confidence in our programs and as the president said, if he needs to find out what one of these leaders is thinking, he's going to pick up the phone and call him. the situation, i any, does lead to a significant amount of change in terms of leaders having assurance that they are not conducting personal communications. >> thanks for coming in. >> thanks, wolf. up next, privacy experts upset about what was revealed by the president. the head of the aclu is standing by and his reaction to what we just heard. and what jeb bush run for president in 2016? not if his mom has anything to do with it. hear new details about what she is saying about her son.
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. not enough. that's the reaction from a lot of f of people collecting metadata and access will be tightened and stored outside the nsa. let's get some reaction now from anthony romero, the executive director from the american civil liberties union. thanks very much for joining us. >> you bet, wolf. good to see you. >> you just heard ben rhodes make the case why this is a good start, why these reforms are significant.
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what do you say? >> i think it is a good start. let's be clear. the president laid out a number of reforms today, reforms that we've been advocating for a number of years. greater performance in the surveillance court. terrific. we need to know more about what that court is doing, its opinions, legislative history, great. checks and balances in the court to make sure that there's a panel of advocates, to make sure that there's a more vigorous -- in fact, that there is an adversarial process. right now the government only presents its opinions and arguments before the court. the president's proposal would say there's a panel of advocates to give you an opposing point of view. we give the president a lot of credit for that. even the chief judge of the fisa court said, please don't do that. we don't need to hear the opposing viewpoint. when you think about the fact that a judge says you don't need to hear two sides of the case, we'll hear one side and make up our minds. that was great for the
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president. the place where i still fall a little short and i have to say i've read the speech half a dozen times, i listened also to the white house staff who were briefing us and then also your prior guests. i still don't fully understand what they mean and when they talk about not allowing the government to have the custodial capacity of the bulk metadata but yet still want to have the ability to search it and that if it won't sit with third parties, it could sit somewhere else. what are they talking about? >> i didn't fully understand the third option that he was describing somewhere that it wouldn't go to a third party, an outside source, if you will, it wouldn't remain in the nsa and the telephone -- telecommunication companies don't want to maintain it but he said maybe the way i understood it, maybe there's new technology or some new formula that will
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protect the privacy of americans while at the same time in case of a terrorist threat, they will have that option to go there and search it. >> well, can't they lay it out for us a little more clearly? the president talks about the need for vigorous public debate. he gives a tip of the hat to the fact that we've not had this public debate. in the early part of the speech he says i'm not going to talk about edward snowden and then proceeds to talk about edward snowden and the fact of the matter is we wouldn't have this public debate but for the revelations of edward snowden. we're going to have more tra transparency. the government is not going to have the custody of this bulk data, then who is. he doesn't like the third-party option because that might be difficult to effectuate and it's not clear that the government would have access to it like they would need. i was thinking as i was hearing ben speak, is it a cloud type of situation where the data sits up in a cloud instead of in a
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warehouse in utah or in maryland. and then the government still gets to access it the way it was. well, let's have the debate about where that data sits. how much of that data is there? leats go back to the basic civic lessons? the fourth amendment of the constitution says the government will not conduct unreasonable searches or seizures. searches, okay, if congress goes along with it, that's a big if. but seizures, if the government is still seeizing this data, thy don't have to search through your private papers to be unconstitutional and lawful. >> you did hear ben rhodes say the third the third option, they think they may be able to come up with that by march. >> tell us about it.
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it feels like a pig in a pope. >> i want to play what the president has said. he mentioned snowden twice indirectly. here's one of those references. i want to get your reaction. >> okay. >> i'm not going to dwell on mr. snowden's actions or his motivations. i will say that our nation's defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets. if any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own homes to publicly disclose classified information, we will not be able to keep our people safe or conduct foreign policy. >> don't you agree the president has a strong point there? >> he does have a strong point, sure. but he should also point out the fact that how can we keep our government and our people safe and free when we have government officials who lie to congress, when we have general alexander who has the temerity to stand in front of congress and lie about
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whether he's conducting surveillance on americans. edward snowden came forward because this was entirely in secret and government officials brought in front of congress and took an oath on the bible, boldfacely lied about the existence of the program. >> are you talking about general alexander or clapper? >> both. alexander and clapper in different points. clapper on the media interviews. alexander also on the hill. and so you have these moments where the president has got to understand -- he does understand, of course, that we need to be able to keep our information private and secret but there are whistleblowers who need to step forward when the government is undertaking activity that is illegal and the fact is that we still allege in our lawsuit against this government data collection program that even as currently configured, this program is unconstitutional and unlawful, that the seizure of data is
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contrast to the fourth amendment. >> aren't there legal ways for whistleblowers to raise concerns as opposed to illegal ways? >> none. there are to protections to people working national security. they carve out entirely in which snowden had no recourse other than to be a whistleblower. they completely carved out individuals working on the national security apparatus. >> anthony romero of the aclu, thank you for coming in. >> my pleasure. thanks, wolf. all right. new information just coming in to "the situation room" about that southwest airlines plane that landed at the wrong airport in missouri earlier in the week. cnn's rene marsh is working the
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story for us. what are you learning? >> we've been taking educated guesses as how could two veteran pilots land at the wrong airport with a dangerously wrong airport? we have the answer from the ntsb minutes ago. the pilots told investigators that when they were doing this approach, they were relying on visual. so they were looking out of their window. they landed at the first airport that they saw. turns out that the first airport that they saw was the wrong airport. they were not relying on technology. they were looking out of their window. they told investigators that they noticed bright lights on the runway. they also said that the runway looked very similar to what it looked like at the intended airport. so because of those two factors, they thought that they were going to the right place and we know how this story ended up. it was absolutely not the right place. we also are just learning that
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the first officer -- this was the second time that the first officer was flying into this intended airport in missouri, branson airport in missouri and for the captain this was the first time that he was flying into this airport. so it wasn't a trip that they had taken many times before but now we get the reason as to why that plane ended up at the wrong airport. wolf? >> obviously a mistake. fortunately, everybody was fine and everything turned out okay. it could have been a disaster but it wasn't. coming up, the behind the scenes drama at the white house and beyond. we're learning new details about the painstaking deliberations that led up to the president's speech today. and barbara bush doubles down for a second time she's publicly advising against a white house run by her son, the former florida governor, jeb bush. but is he listening to his mom? [ male announcer ] we could say a lot about the most track-tested is ever...
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learning new details about the pain staking process about the president's speech about changes to the surveillance programs. at least one major decision came to the 11th hour. let's go to our cnn white house correspondent, brianna keilar. what went on behind the scenes? >> reporter: wolf, this really went down to the wire. a white house official telling me that even as of yesterday evening key policy decisions hadn't been finalized. president obama worked with his advisers well into the night
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thursday on his speech revealing changes to nsa spying programs. the final decision, by all appearances, came very late. >> i'm, therefore, ordering a transition to end the metadata program as it exists. >> reporter: but the deliberating isn't done. the president saying that his administration will consult further with experts and ultimately leave congress to decide which third party will store details like phone numbers and length of calls. >> who we going to hire? snowden's contract to collect the information? it's not about who holds it. i don't want them collecting every american's information. >> reporter: thursday night, david cameron was asked to detail his proposal. shortly before his speech friday morning, white house officials alerted key members of congress, the final steps in a month's long process. while vacationing in hawaii for
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2 1/2 weeks over the holidays, president obama poured over documents between rounds of golf and family outings. throughout december and january, he met with tech ceos, privacy and civil liberties experts and lawmakers on house and senate and judiciary intelligence committees, a drawn-out decision making process that is a hallmark of obamas, according to several aides who told cnn it's not uncommon for the president to hold his decisions to himself. >> we have not solve someone else's civil war through force. >> reporter: most recently on syria and finalized one day in advance. in the last several months, obama's view on the spying program changed from his description of the man whose leaks to the media started the controversy, this was last june -- >> no, i'm not going to be
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scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker. >> reporter: and today -- >> mr. snowden's actions. >> reporter: to the need for change to how the u.s. spies has now become -- >> this is only going to work if the american people have confidence and trust. >> reporter: now, also, wolf, it's pretty interesting, fbi officials, we have learned, found out sort of late in the game on the table when it came to national security letters. these requests for surveillance, that the president was considering having them operate without judicial oversight, so they would be more like warrants rather than administrative subpoenas. james comey actually got involved as well as the counterterrorism expert for the president and they want to operate like subpoenas and won him over. >> brianna keilar, thank you
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very much. let's dig a little deeper right now with our cnn political commentator and washington correspondent ryan lizza, gloria borger, and author of the book "carry on." reacting to what we just heard from brianna, gloria, what does this tell you about the president's style? >> he threads the needle. that's what he was trying to do here. if you go back to the history of president obama, you know that when he ran as a senator he was anti-surveillance, as a candidate he was, as president. he's been very much pro surveillance. what the snowden affair points out is that there have been problems and we see a president who has been sifting through all of these concerns. i mean, brianna was just talking about jim comey's concern from the fbi and you see a president who says we're not going to end
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the program, we're going to overhaul the program because i need to get your trust that i'm managing it properly. i'm not quite sure he's done that today but that's exactly what he set out to do, is to tell the american people we thought about it, we're trying to protect you, the world is changing but it's also a dangerous place. >> very dangerous place. you wrote this in the new yorker, ryan "obama's speech was undoubtedly a victory and adopted the central policy recommendation as well. the nsa's bulk collection of telephone metadata is dead or will be soon." are you sure about that? >> well, all right, look, his speech was filled with caveats but two things that the critics have been pointing out he adopted and this is a 180. remember, when this started, the administration's only argument was these programs are illegal. what's the problem? today president obama said, wait
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a second. i don't want the nsa any longer collecting the metadata. he wants to put it into the hands of the metadata. more importantly he said any time that an analyst wants to search our phone records, they have to go to the court and get permission and argue that they have probable cause. that's the way it should work. >> even then the program. >> but he has said that the nsa, this government entity, shouldn't be trusted with the phone records. >> let me bring bruce in because ben rhodes in the interview from the white house that we did with him, he was hinting that there may be some third option there. the nsa doesn't keep all of this metadata, the third party doesn't keep it. maybe there's new technology or whatever that might be able to deal with this in a safe and secure way that protects the privacy of the american public. >> it's hard to know what he meant there. it's a hard question. how much should be collected, how much should be saved and i think he was saying that maybe we don't need to collect it all,
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save it all, and access it all, that maybe we can get rid of some of it. some of it may stored with the phone company, some may not be stored at all and there are other ways that we can track terrorist networks. >> theoretically, how do they come up with that? >> i don't know. i really think he was saying let's give this a shot. let's think about this. and i think this is important. there's a mentality of collect it all regardless of whether or not it's useful or not and it's not just phone metadata. it's internet metadata. >> how about the bulk collection from all of the conversations that are done on a daily basis, billions and billions of them and the duration, not necessarily the content because they don't check the content unless they get a court order for security reasons. how important is it in keeping all of this metadata? >> think about it as surveillance. think about it as a private
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detective. you ask them to follow is somebody and sur veil them, what you get is where he went, how long he talked, what he read, what he purchased. these bulk metadata programs involve putting everybody under surveillance. they are extraordinarily powerful. that's why they are so dangerous. >> how do you know what to decide to throw away because you don't know what you need until you need it at a particular moment. right? >> this is why we have law. law says that if you're an innocent person, you're not allowed to surveil them. >> very quickly and then we have to wrap it up. >> the question here is, did this help the reformers in congress or the status quo and i think it's clear that it's for those who want for reform.
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>> today the committee said we encourage the white house to send legislation with the president's proposed changes to congress so we can consider them. so everybody is passing the buck to everybody else. >> all right, guys, thanks very much. up next, we're following a school shooting. two students injured. new information about their condition as well as details about the gunman. stand by for that. also, mother has spoken. barbara bush publicly advises her son jeb not to run for president. how much influence will she have on his decision? i'll speak to someone close to jeb bush.
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philadelphia police say a suspect is now in custody after shots were fired at a high school. two students have been injured and have been transported to a hospital with unknown injuries. will mother's advice influence the next race for the white house? it could be that mother if that mother, i should say, is barbara bush, the wife of one former president, the mother of another. former president speaking publicly about a presidential bid by another son, the former governor of florida, jeb bush. brian todd is joining us. what is barbara bush saying? >> she is not mincing words. she has said that she does not want jeb bush to run. the remarks are posted at a time when the political climate might be the most welcoming that it's ever been for a jeb bush run.
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political observers say that the door may be opening wider but governor bush's mom is trying to push that door closed. >> i would hope that someone else would run, although there's no question in my mind that jeb is the best qualified person to run for president. but i hope he won't. >> reporter: in an interview with c-span, former first lady barbara bush took a jab at the split political dabs, including her own. >> i think there are more families than that. >> reporter: jeb bush responded by tweeting, what day is mother's day, asking for a friend. and when he said we've had enough bushes. >> i love my mom and i listen to my mom but i don't always disagree with her.
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>> reporter: she gave a hint to c-span why she would say that. >> i think he'll get all of my enemies, all his brothers. >> there's been a lot of bush bashing, particularly george w. bush's presidency was difficult at the end. there's a lot of people that consider themselves enemies of anything related to bush. i think she would like to avoid that. i think it's a maternal concern. >> reporter: anna navarro, who knows the bush family well, says his influence may be greater than his mother's. >> i don't think she loved the politics of it. i don't think she is somebody that would enjoy giving speeches. >> reporter: i asked reporter leslie clark, who covered jeb bush when he was florida's governor, about the mother/son dynamic. >> personalitywise, he's a kindrid spirit of his mother?
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>> yes. i don't think he has a ton of patience for people if they are not getting his idea and sort of standing in his way. he does not suffer fools greatly. >> reporter: there may be a split in the extended bush family. former president george w. bush said that he thinks his brother should run and their father thinks he should run. a family spokesman tweeted saying that mrs. bush made those comments months ago and believes jeb is the most qualified gop but she also said that she hopes that he won't run, wolf. >> we'll see what happens. brian, thank you very much. let's talk more about jeb bush and the 2016 presidential race. joining me is republican strategist, both of them, kevin in washington and ana navarro, you just saw her in brian's piece, is joining us from miami. have you communicated with jeb since his mom's words emerged? >> i did.
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we e-mailed back and forth today. you know, i said, jeb, your mother, i have to talk about this on tv again. this is killing me. and he laughed it off. this is very typical barbara bush and he said, look, i still love my mother and pointed out that the remarks were made months ago. she won't continue making them. something tells me that she got the message, look, mom, i'm actually thinking about this and these comments are not the most helpful so, you know, maybe pipe down. there's no doubt that if he does decide to run and i think he's looking at it a lot more closely than meets the naked eye, frankly, and if he does, he's going to have the unconditional support of his mother and every other member of his family. he wouldn't do it unless he had that support for particularly from his wife. >> i think you're right. kevin, i assume you agree.
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he would be a formidable candidate. the only negative he may have is his last name. >> yeah, i think he would be a formidable candidate and in the recent weeks we see a space that has opened up that he could occupy. in particular, he would fit that profile. again, this is quintessential barbara bush. i think on his right this is maternal instinct kicking in. barbara bush has probably now witnessed, between her house and her son, five presidential campaigns and she knows the level of scrutiny that goes into those and just how hard they are. so i think that's a lot of it but i think a lot of supporters out there are looking at the second part of her answer which is that she's very qualified and that they would look to her and they would look to somebody like jeb bush at a critical time in this country where we need greater leadership in washington. so i think that's what they are going to focus on. they are going to move right
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past that they don't need another bush and is he qualified, could he do the job? >> he was popular in florida. he speaks spanish. his wife is mexican-american. would he get a lot of hispanic votes? >> i think he would be a game-changer when it comes to the hispanic vote. he's got a strong record of making hispanic appointments. he's not bilingual. he's bicultural. it would be something that would be a game changer for the republican party and we would see numbers that we haven't seen in many, many years. even better than perhaps his brother. >> very quickly, he's got a really good policy profile. i think the bigger challenge that he has is that he hasn't ran a campaign in a long time
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and campaigns have changed. >> that's why there are smart guys like you. >> and ana. >> and ana. when we come back, a new violence erupts in russia. what the president vladimir putin is saying. why millions of dollars could be going to a company that is bankrupt thanks to the massive spending bill passed by congress. so easy wih fiber that's taste-free, grit-free and dissolves completely. so you can feel free to add it to anything. and feel better about doing it. better it with benefiber. [ male announcer ] what kind of energy is so abundant, it can help provide the power for all this? natural gas. ♪ more than ever before, america's electricity is generated by it. exxonmobil uses advanced visualization and drilling technologies to produce natural gas...
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escalating security concerns only three weeks ahead of the winter olympic games in sochi, russia, after explosions rocked the russian republic of dagestan
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injuring at least five people. the russian president vladimir putin was in sochi for a first look at the preparations under way. and our senior correspondent nick robertson is there. >> reporter: wolf, security really has been stepped up here in sochi. no cars are allowed to be parked close to the airport now. this airport specially expanded for the olympics. a car park especially built. it causes traffic, confusion now because of the routes people have to take but every step being taken to make sure these olympics are safe. two security blimps now fly in the skies over sochi. on board long-range cameras to keep watch over any potential threats below. on the ground, there is a massive police presence. sochi feels more like a city readying for battle with anti-aircraft guns and troops patrolling the streets fp
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beefed-up security follows two suicide attack last month that killed 34 people in the city of volgograd miles away. rumors were swirling friday that the chechen leader known as russia's osama bin laden had been killed. he urged his followers to do their utmost to derail the sochi olympics. with just three weeks to go before the winter games, russian president vladimir putin was in town to see the last-minute preparations up close. in his meeting with olympic volunteers, it was the issue of gay rights that dominated attention. putin said, gays have nothing to fear in russia. >> translator: you can feel free, relaxed, but leave children in peace, please. >> reporter: russia passed a law last year prohibiting the propaganda of nontraditional sexual practices among minors.
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the law has been widely criticized, but when a volunteer asked do russia's olympic uniforms contain the colors of the rainbow, the rainbow being a symbol of gay rights, putin said, i didn't design the uniform. a lot riding on these olympics for president putin. it was his speech in 2007 that brought the olympics to sochi. since then he's been leading the organization, the direct of every step in the process. now three weeks out here to get a firsthand look, make sure nothing is slipping. wolf? >> nic robertson in sochi for us. thanks for that report. when we come back are tens and millions of your tax pair dollars being wasted on a bankrupt nuclear company thanks to the massive spending bill that just passed through congress? stay with us. also in our next hour, do police need a warrant to search cell phone data of a person under arrest? the u.s. supreme court plans a major examination of privacy in
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this just coming in to "the situation room." president obama has just signed the bipartisan $1.1 trillion spending bill into law. it funds the government through september. meantime, we're learning more about a key provision in it that could cost tens of millions of dollars in your taxpayer money. here is our senior white house correspondent jim acosta. >> the motion is adopted. >> reporter: tucked into that massive government spending bill passed by congress this week are tens of millions of dollars for a single company called usec, the country's last supplier of enriched uranium, fuel for
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nuclear power plants. the problem, it closed its last plant last year and filed for bankruptcy last month. a new kind of nuclear waste, of your money. >> if you just look at the facts, it seems absurd that we continue to throw money after a company that is announcing we're about the declare for bankruptcy. >> reporter: the company would receive $118 million in new federal funds this year after raking in more than a quarter billion dollars in the last two years. as it turns out, usec is trying to build a new enrichment plant in ohio making it a bet favorite of democrats and republicans in that state's congressional delegation, including house speaker john boehner whose district is near the project. >> this usec issue in ohio is a uranium enrichment facility with new technology. there's been a bipartisan effort to proceed with this research that they're doing. >> reporter: nearly three years
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ago boehner appealed to president obama for $2 billion in loan guarantees for usec saying it would be a better investment than the administration's failed solyndra solar energy project, but boehner denies he's just trying to bring home the bacon. >> isn't this kind of an earmark? >> this is an energy department research project that's been going on for a long time. >> reporter: usec blames their troubles on plummeting demand for nuclear fuel triggered by the fukushima disaster in japan nearly three years ago. the new funding reflects the continued commitment of congress and the administration to the key goal that the united states maintain a domestic uranium enrichment capability with u.s. technology. the company argues with iran and north korea enriching uranium, usec's existence is critical to national security. >> this is a question we've asked a lot. what happens if we let usec fail? and we've never really gotten a straight answer. >> reporter: the company has other big supporters.
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and president obama who once promised to support the ohio enrichment project and his new energy secretary who once sat on a usec advisory board. more potential complications for ending a program that may keep on burning through taxpayer money. jim acosta, cnn, the white house. happening now, state of emergency that the drought is fueling the wildfires and fears millions could be affected by the driest and most dangerous conditions in a century. plus credit card alert. after the target fiasco, other retailers are being warned that their systems may have been hacked as well. is the security breach even bigger than we know? and flaunting 50. on michelle obama's milestone birthday, she's ready to prove she still knows how to party. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." first, this hour, crisis in california. unfolding right now, there's new
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and growing danger that many more wildfires will break out. the governor declared what's described as a drought emergency today saying maybe the state's worst drought in a century. right now hundreds of firefighters are battling a blaze in the los angeles area, a blaze that forced several thousand people to evacuate. we're joined from the fire zone right now with the very latest. what is the very latest? >> reporter: well, the very latest is that they are still fighting this. wolf, if you want to know the true danger of a drought, all you have to do is take a look at this. this is one of the five homes that was destroyed here in california. record high winds low humidity made this ripe for fire. this was a two-story building that completely collapsed. that's why the state is calling this an emergency. this is what california's
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drought looks like. the driest year in a century met a flame-friendly canvas for the colby fire. 1700 acres charred, thousands evacuated, 5 homes gone in an instant. a drought declared the governor has plunged california into a state of emergency. >> we are in an unprecedented very serious situation and people should pause and reflect on how dependent we are on the rain, on nature and one another. >> reporter: in a state of emergency speech the governor asked everyone to cut back water use by 20%. his declaration does lift some environmental restrictions to allow the state to move water to parched regions more easily. the challenge? there's not much to share among the state's 38 million residents. reservoir levels are at record lows. snow packs this season, 80%
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lower than normal. los angeles got just over 3 inches of rain in all 2013, about a quarter of what's normal. more firefighters will be hired and they're on alert for this dangerous drought. as for the colby fire that's still burning, it started as an accident. police say these three men set an illegal campfire. they and their attorneys couldn't be reached for comment. the fire rapidly exploded out of control. the challenge for firefighters, more dry winds and a forecast without any rain stretching on into the weekend. to give you some perspective, take a look at these two pictures of california. the one on the left is last year. the one on the right is today. you can see how much more green the picture is on the left versus the one on the right. now, back here live, if you take a look at the hillside itself, you see that brown hillside? that's not burnt. that's what the vegetation looks like here in california.
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it is normally green this time of the year. certainly these firefighters are stating it has been and it will be a very long fire season. wolf. >> not happy to hear that. good luck to all the folks out there. thanks very much, kyung lah. here in washington, the u.s. supreme court is getting ready to take on a major case, a major review of cell phone privacy. the question before the court -- do police need a warrant to search phone data of a person under arrest? let's bring in our senior legal analyst jeffrey toobin. explain the arguments here, what's going on, because almost everyone does have a cell phone? >> many supreme court arguments seem very abstract and off in the clouds. this is such an easily understood case because it's just obvious. here you go, you're arrested, right? everybody knows when you're arrested, you can be patted down for weapons. you can see what's in your pockets, if you're carrying money, but like most people, the defendant in this case was
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carrying a phone. and the officers searched the phone. he had been stopped for driving without a license, but they found evidence, photographs, linking him to an attempted gang murder. and he's now doing 15 years. you think about what's in our phones, e-mails, texts, photographs, videos, there are whole lives in there. so it's a really big important question about whether the police need a warrant or they can just search the phone as soon as you're arrested. >> there's no question if they had a warrant, they could search the phone. >> absolutely. >> the question is if you need a warrant to go ahead and search the smartphone. is this the first case that the supreme court is hearing involving smartphones? >> not exactly. there have been cases involving text, involving pagers. you know, it's funny how quickly the technology changes. there was a case a couple of years ago involving pagers. nobody uses pagers any more. and the justices weren't exactly
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sure what a pager was. there was a case last year about putting a tracking device on a car. this is how technology always reaches the court. and, you know, what's interesting about a court where, you know, most of the justices are pretty old, they're often unfamiliar with this concept. but even, i think, understand what a smartphone is. >> what kind of precedent might this set? >> well, this is an enormously important case because, you know, this is going to involve searches of individuals all over the -- every time they're arrested because most people in this country carry cell phones. and the question of whether you can go through it right away or do you have to wait for a warrant, that's come up in a lot of cases. the courts are sort of all over the place. the supreme court will settle this once and for all. >> we'll know before they go into their summer break. >> indeed, before the end of june. >> what other cases are you looking at right now? >> there's not superblockbusters
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like there were last year with the doma case and the same-sex marriage case. there's a very important campaign finance case, sort of the son of citizens united. there's a case that was just argued about whether the president can make recess appointments and under what circumstances. there's a case about abortion protester, how close they can be restricted. but they're still adding cases this year. so you never know, there could be a big one on the horizon. >> you never know if those cases in oklahoma and utah that have just come up involving same-sex marriage, if they may eventually go all the way up to the u.s. supreme court. they haven't yet, but they might. >> you know, it's seeming more and more likely that the supreme court going to have to decide do all 50 states have to allow same-sex marriage. and that will be a very big case. >> and you'll be watching it together. >> i will. >> jeffrey, thank you. still ahead, growing concerns that target was just the tip of the iceberg. stand by for a new warning from
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the government about hacking and the threat to your credit card information. and two political veterans are duking it out on the ultimate campaign battleground. you're going to find out why the florida governor's race may be the contest to watch this year. but first, an academy award winning actor who's impacting your world. this celebration in india has a very special guest, matt damon. but the oscar-winning actor isn't the big news of the day. the new water pump is stealing the spotlight. and damon's charity made it happen. helps bring water and sanitation to those in need. >> water really kind of underpins everything. every 20 seconds a child dies because they lack access to clean water and sanitation. every 20 seconds. >> reporter: this hits home for damon, who has four daughters. >> once you have kids, it's
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impossible not to see their face in every child you see. >> reporter: provides small loans to help people get access to water. >> people were paying money for water already. sometimes 15, 20 times what you or i pay for our water, right, to a local water mafia. and if you could actually just front them the money to connect to the municipality, you give them their time back so they could work at their job and pay the loan off. they are now in control of their destiny in a way that they weren't. so it's not only about the millions of children who actually die every year. it's about the quality of life that somebody can have if they have access to clean water.
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a new warning that another massive hacking fiasco like the one at target could soon be unfolding. in fact, it might be unfolding right now. there might be good reason for you avoid using your credit cards when you shop. we're here in the situation room with these shocking detail. what have you learned in. >> i'm guilty of it. almost never have cash, always using the credit card. but consumers may really want to think before they swipe. the federal government has an urgent call out to all retailers across the country to be on high alert. the reality is other retailers' systems may have been hacked, too. up to 110 million target customers' personal information may have been compromised. as staggering as it is, it may
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only be the tip of the iceberg. the department of homeland security this week warned retailers nationwide to be on high alert as they investigate what experts call the largest hack against retailers. and experts say the attacks are not over. >> when we're seeing these types of attacks before and they create their attack methods and all the associated tools, they don't just target one or two companies. they say how many companies are susceptible to this? let's go after all of them. >> reporter: john walters company is helping them sophisticated malicious software that is used by credit scammers. >> what makes this executed and orchestrate, get access to the point sale system, get access to the credit card before it is encrypted, get that information out of your environment before it is detected. >> reporter: many retailers may not even know their credit card scanners are infected.
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eyesight says part of the code was written in russian suggesting whoever wrote it speaks the language. cyber security consultant david kennedy says it has all the signs of the russian mob. >> russia's organized crime market is the largest even in eastern xwrur peen areas. it's the largest market they have there because they have a lot of the advanced technology, extremely intelligent people working in the black market. it's a very profitable area for them. >> reporter: many of these cyber experts say hackers are targeting the u.s. more than ever and will continue to because the rest of the world has moved to what's commonly called chip cards similar to the one i have right here. and this chip right here ensures that your data remains encrypted. different from what we see on the majority of credit cards here in the united states. you usually just have that magnetic strip and it's much easier to skim off the personal information that way. >> i'm worried, like i'm sure a lot of people are worried right
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now. let's hope they can fix it and fix it quickly. now to one of the most important and colorful races of the year. we're talking about the battle for florida governor. this will certainly get a lot of attention this weekend when the republican incumbent rick scott gets some fund-raising help from a controversial republican superstar. we're talking about the new jersey governor chris christie. our senior washington correspondent joe johns is here with more on this race. it keeps getting more interesting. what's going on? >> reporter: it really does, wolf. chris christie is one of many nationally known politicians who be making the trip to florida to help out in a race that's likely to feature two of the most fascinating characters in american politics. incumbent governor rick scott and the likely democratic challenger, former governor charlie crist are facing off in the mother of all battleground state, famous for close elections and hanging chads. this race is the one to watch in 2014. the race in florida will be one of the most expensive, one of the nastiest, one of the highest
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profile state races that we'll be looking at even at the national level. >> reporter: scott and crist have a lot in common. both have lived in the governor's mansion. both know how to irritate their voters. scott did it by purging voter rolls, drug testing of welfare recipient, cutting spending for the poor, though for scott this race is about the economy which has improved since he took office. >> i work every day trying to get jobs going, improve education. so i like to try to solve problems each and every day. >> reporter: crist switched parties. highways now a democrat. was once the republican governor here. under his watch the job market tanked. this irritated conservative voters. >> today too many politicians embrace washington's same old broken ways. >> reporter: it came out to haunt him in attack ads last time he ran for office. >> i'm excited about running for governor. >> reporter: it won't be a cake walk for crist.
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after switching parties he's now switched his stance on gay marriage, apologizing for opposing it. both candidates are polling at under 50%. both have high unfavorable ratings leaving many to have to choose between who they like the least. >> the distrust, disdain and hate for rick scott will probably trump some of the distrust they have for charlie crist. >> reporter: scott has pledged to spend huge sums o of his own money which was earned in part at a health company which was slapped with fines for fraud after he left. >> rick scott will spend $100 million making charlie crist so unpalatable that charlie crist won't want to vote for himself by the end. >> reporter: why should the rest of america care about the florida race? what happens there will be a blueprint or a demplate for the presidential election next time in 2016. florida is always a factor. >> a lot of electoral votes in
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florida. florida fourth largest. maybe it's third. maybe getting bigger. we'll check. other news we're following, secretary of state john kerry is getting ready for another challenging diplomatic mission. he'll fly to geneva next week to find a political solution to the syrian civil war. let's bring in our cnn reporter, a political solution to this civil war? it sounds like mission impossible. >> it does, wolf. already the administration is lowering expectations. if you remember they wanted to try to get a post-assad government at this conference, now they're just talking about getting the regime and the opposition in the same room talking about things like maybe a local cease-fire, agreement on delivery of humanitarian aid, maybe prisoner exchanges. listen to secretary kerry talking about geneva now being the beginning of a process. >> it will become clear that there is no political solution
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whatsoever if assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he's going to be part of that future. it's not going to happen. the people who are the opponents of this regime will never, ever stop. >> reporter: wolf, if you'll take a look at the situation on the ground, the opposition is on the verge of collapse. they haven't even agreed yet to come to geneva, let alone who to send. the regime is talking about not a political transition but fighting terrorism in these jihadi groups that are gaining large swaths on the country, so assad feels more powerful than ever. really hard to see how they can make progress at geneva no matter what secretary kerry says. >> what about iran's participation? a lot of folks obviously know that iran is backing the bashar al assad regime. that potentially is very significant. >> the united states and the conveners of the conference have said that iran had to agree on
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the principle ps of this conference, which is they would be discussing a post-assad syria. they refused to do that, so they might be on the sidelines of the conference. they won't be participating, but as you said, iran is syria's key backer. they have intelligence operatives on the ground, fighters on the ground. so it's really hard to see how this could be a peace conference without iran there because they're a defactor party to the fighting. >> they certainly are. thanks very much for that report. just ahead, michelle obama's 50th birthday today. she's showing off her aarp card. we'll take you behind the scenes of an amazing party she's planning for tomorrow night. hey guys! sorry we're late. did you run into traffic? no, just had to stop by the house to grab a few things. you stopped by the house? uh-huh. yea. alright, whenever you get your stuff, run upstairs, get cleaned up for dinner. you leave the house in good shape? yea. yea, of course. ♪ [ sportscaster talking on tv ] last-second field go-- yea, sure ya did. [ male announcer ] introducing at&t digital life. personalized home security and automation.
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check out michelle obama flaunting her brand new aarp card. the first lady turned 50 years old today. and while some people might want to play down that milestone birthday, the first lady seems determined to celebrate. cnn's athena jones is watching what's going on. i take it there's a nice little party planned for her tomorrow night. >> that's right, wolf. and a lot of people are wishing they could score an invitation to this big celebration tomorrow. from what we hear, it will be a pretty memorable event. if you're a fan of the first la lady, it's the hottest ticket in town. an invitation to a white house dance party saturday night to celebrate michelle obama's 50th birthday ♪ signed sealed delivered i'm yours ♪ >> reporter: and if you're picturing something like this -- >> my better half and my dance
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partner. ♪ let's stay together >> reporter: instead think a little "saturday night fever." ♪ burn baby burn >> reporter: after all while the first lady may be tweeting about joining the aarp, she's known for her dancing prowess, and the party's host, the president, has told guests to wear comfortable shoes because even with two ivy league degrees, she's got a really fun loving streak, she loves to dance, she loves music. >> and why not, you know, you only turn 50 once, why not make the most of it? >> reporter: we've seen some of the first lady's moves before. here he is doing the dougie on "late night with jimmy fallon" last year. and showing more moves with talk show host ellen degeneres back in 2008. saturday's celebration is set to last from 9:00 p.m. till midnight and is being dubbed snacks and sips and dancing and dessert. >> my guess is it won't be a
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cast of thousands. it might be big, but not superbig. >> reporter: the white house is making a special request that will affect how much guests can share about the event. >> here's what's interesting about the invite to this late night party for mrs. obama. the invitation does say no camera, no photographs. well, i've covered many receptions at the white house and even big shots like to take pictures. >> reporter: the obama's inauguration after-party last year drew the likes of usher, katy perry and beyonce, who is rumored to be performing at saturday's event. now, one guest who is going to tomorrow's party told me these events are a lot of fun. you feel like you're with family because the obamas really want their guests to get comfortable and enjoy themselves. "the new york times" today gave us a little taste of what's expected to be on the menu tomorrow night. macaroons and fine american wines. >> they were told, the people who were coming, have dinner before the dance party because you're just going to get some snacks and some dessert, it's
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not going to be a full scale buffet dinner or a sitdown dinner along those line, right? >> right. they want to focus on dancing, wolf. >> everybody wears comfortable shoes, maybe bring some socks and get out there -- she's an excellent, excellent dancer, you've got to admit. >> we've seen a lot of video of her dancing and people say she can really cut a rug. i think there will be a lot of fun had tomorrow night. >> my friend dougie fresh told me he likes the way she does the dougie. she can teach me to do a dougie any time she wants. i'm not invited, i suspect you are not, but a lot of folks are. i hope they have a good time. let me wish a happy birthday to the first lady of the united states. stay tuned for our special report, extraordinary journey, michelle obama turns 50, 10:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn. that's it for me. thanks very much for watching. have a great weekend. i'm wolf blitzer in washington.
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"crossfire" starts right now. tonight on "crossfire," reining in big brother. >> the reforms i'm proposing today should give the american people greater confidence that their rights are being protected. >> should you feel safer or spied on? >> he was saying all the right things except for he really between the lines told me he's going to continue to collect all my private records without a warrant. >> on the left, stephanie cutter, on the right newt gingrich. in the "crossfire" laura murphy of the american civil liberties union and tom ridge, president bush's homeland security secretary. is the president strengthening your privacy? will america be more vulnerable? tonight on "crossfire." welcome to "crossfire." i'm newt gingrich on the right. >> and i'm stephanie cutter on the left. in the "crossfire" tonight a
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homeland security secretary versus the aclu. here's what we can agree on -- terrorists are always looking for ways to attack the united states and our government must have the best information available to stop them. but reasonable people start to disagree when we're forced to figure out how to stop them. today president obama struck the right balance, between our privacy and our security. >> those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in repeating the tragedy of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties. the challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple. >> it isn't simple, but we live in a data-driven world. private companies collect our data all the time. and what the president announced today is far more protective than how some companies are using our personal information. of course, our constitution holds the government to a higher st