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Lawmakers Debate Leaks As National Security Whistleblower Reveals His Identity

Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images

The Morning Line

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.”

That statement came from Edward Snowden in an interview published Sunday by the Guardian as the 29-year-old former CIA employee admitted to being the principal source of recent disclosures about the nation’s surveillance programs.

Snowden, who is hiding out in Hong Kong and has taken leave from his job in Hawaii with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, said he hoped his actions would shine a spotlight on the government’s national security apparatus.

“I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in,” Snowden told The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He also fretted about a “surveillance state,” and spoke with Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, who broke the story Thursday of a sweeping national security program that uses data housed by Internet giants including Google and Facebook.

Even before Snowden went public Sunday, lawmakers from both parties were calling for the person responsible to be held to account. The chairs of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate both called for the prosecution of the individual who leaked the information.

“Taking a very sensitive classified program that targets foreign persons on foreign lands, and putting just enough out there to be dangerous, is dangerous to us, it’s dangerous to our national security and it violates the oath of which that person took,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “I absolutely think they should be prosecuted.”

Asked if she agreed, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., responded, “I do.”

But the revelations about the National Security Agency’s operations have also sparked debate among lawmakers about the reach of the government’s activities.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., expressed concerns about the amount of data being collected from Americans. “I just draw the line a little bit differently than the president does,” Udall said on “This Week.”

“We do need to remember, we’re in a war against terrorists, and terrorism remains a real threat, but I also think we have to cue to the Bill of Rights, and the Fourth Amendment, which prevents unlawful searches and seizures, ought to be important to us. It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here,” Udall added.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., meanwhile, said the government should not be “trolling through billions of phone records” and suggested he might pursue legal action over the NSA program.

“I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” Paul said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington.”

Last week Paul introduced legislation that would require any government agency to get a warrant before searching the phone records of Americans.

Greenwald also appeared on “This Week” and said there is “a lot more coming.”

And he pushed back against claims that the reports on the government’s surveillance activities had jeopardized national security.

“The only thing we’ve endangered is the reputation of the people in power who are building this massive spying apparatus without any accountability who are trying to hide from the American people what it is that they are doing,” Greenwald said. “There is no national security harm from letting people know that they are collecting all phone records, that they are tapping into the Internet, that they are planning massive cyber attacks both foreign and — and even domestic.”

The revelations put new pressure on President Barack Obama’s administration.

At an event in Silicon Valley Friday, Mr. Obama staked out his position, and stressed that “nobody is listening to your telephone calls.”

“[T]hey’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program. With respect to all these programs, the relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs,” he told reporters. “These are programs that have been authorized by broad bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.”

The president said it’s important to balance that fight for safety with civil liberties, and that’s why he set up an audit system of the program. The president said he welcomes a debate on that balance as “healthy for our democracy.”

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society,” he said.

He added:

Now, with respect to the Internet and emails — this does not apply to U.S. citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States. And again, in this instance, not only is Congress fully apprised of it, but what is also true is that the FISA Court has to authorize it.

Mr. Obama also complained about leaks and said there is “a reason why these programs are classified.” He noted that those in the national security business “take this work very seriously” and “cherish our Constitution.”

Watch the president’s remarks:


Over the weekend, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued multiple statements.

On Snowden, the office referred questions to the Justice Department, which is investigating the leaks. “Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,” said ODNI spokesman Shawn Turner.

Director James Clapper, who had an awkward weekend, on Saturday released a statement and a PDF fact sheet specifically addressing the PRISM program that was revealed Thursday.

Clapper called the last week of news filled with “reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe” and complained about a “rush to publish” that leaves out important context.

“Not all the inaccuracies can be corrected without further revealing classified information. I have, however, declassified for release the attached details about the recent unauthorized disclosures in hope that it will help dispel some of the myths and add necessary context to what has been published,” he said.

The fact sheet and a PDF fact sheet stresses that PRISM is not a data mining program, and that it was created by Congress.

Among the details:

  • The Government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures for Section 702 collection unless there is an appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States. We cannot target even foreign persons overseas without a valid foreign intelligence purpose.

  • Communications collected under Section 702 have provided the Intelligence Community insight into terrorist networks and plans. For example, the Intelligence Community acquired information on a terrorist organization’s strategic planning efforts.

  • Communications collected under Section 702 have yielded intelligence regarding proliferation networks and have directly and significantly contributed to successful operations to impede the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies. Communications collected under Section 702 have provided significant and unique intelligence regarding potential cyber threats to the United States including specific potential computer network attacks. This insight has led to successful efforts to mitigate these threats.

Mark Ambinder of “The Week” went over how the program works in detail in a story this weekend.

As more information about PRISM and another national security program examining credit card data was surfacing Friday, the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown broke it down with two reporters who have been closely covering the story, The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman and Charlie Savage of The New York Times.

Watch here or below:

And Judy Woodruff talked with Mark Shields and David Brooks about whether spying is overreach. Watch the segment here or below:


  • The New York Times used the Snowden news to profile Booz Allen’s role in government contracting on national security. Half of the firm’s 25,000 employees have security clearance, wrote Binyamin Applebaum and Eric Lipton.

  • The president Monday will formally name Jason Furman to lead his Council of Economic Advisors.

  • The bipartisan immigration overhaul being debated in the Senate got a boost Sunday when New Hampshire GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte announced her support for the proposal. “Our immigration system is completely broken,” Ayotte said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This is a thoughtful, bipartisan solution to a tough problem.”

  • Lisa Mascaro and Brian Bennett write for the Los Angeles Times about possible pitfalls for immigration reform. And David Drucker writes for the Washington Examiner that even though he opposes the bill, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expects a civil floor debate and thinks the legislation’s chances of passage are positive.

  • Speaker John Boehner is figuring out the House immigration bill strategy, Politico reports.

  • A forensic look from Politico at how Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is shaping up.

  • As the national security story keeps unfolding, liberals are stepping up the pressure for an investigation, with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee collecting more than 20,000 signatures. And Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn writes about the “liberal-tarians” — with Paul joining forces with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

  • Newark Mayor Cory Booker formally announced his candidacy for the Senate special election on Saturday and campaigned at a gay pride parade Sunday, vowing to fight for equality. He also won the endorsement of South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross III. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver apparently announced her intention to run at an East Brunswick closed door meeting of top Democrats Sunday night. Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Pallone has a Monday press conference planned to formally announce he’s in the Democratic primary, too. They join Rep. Rush Holt, already in the race.

  • And Jeffrey Chiesa will be sworn in Monday as the Garden State’s interim senator.

  • The Associated Press’ Steve Peoples reports on the Democratic heavyweights dispatched for the Massachusetts Senate special election. Peoples writes: “National Republican groups have been reluctant to devote resources to a race that many Washington-based strategists have thought unwinnable for the GOP. Yet both parties know special elections draw far fewer voters — and they remember the special election in 2010 that ended with a Republican winning the Senate seat long-held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.”

  • Eli Saslow traced one Connecticut family’s heartbreak in the six months since the Newtown massacre.

  • Prosecutors are saying ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. should get four years in prison. His sentencing is next month, thanks to this spring’s guilty plea to illegally diverting campaign funds to personal use.

  • The New York Times notices Sens. John McCain and Dick Durbin sure appear a lot on the Sunday shows. Roll Call has kept track of who appears when for years. Check it out.

  • A Republican state delegate has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury probing Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell’s relationship with a donor.

  • The Hill looks at the Republican National Committee staffing up. And South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly resigned this weekend to take a big RNC job.

  • The Washington Post has some early 2014 Senate rankings.

  • Mitt Romney opens up about how Superstorm Sandy hurt his campaign last fall.

  • A little leaning in, 52 years later.

  • PBS Digital Studios does another awesome Mister Rogers remix, this one on music.

  • Christina addresses students at the Canadian School of Public Service Monday. Here is the program.

  • Monday’s Google doodle celebrates Maurice Sendak’s 85th birthday. Just click on it.

  • And this was too cute not to post.


  • Mark and David also weighed in on the president’s elevation of Susan Rice and Samantha Power, and Christie’s Senate appointment. Mark pointed out that both women, and the president’s new installations at State and Defense, backed his campaign. Watch.

  • The U.S. added 175,000 jobs last month, but the Solman Scale’s U-7 index — Paul Solman’s unemployment metric — ticked up to over 16 percent, more than double the official unemployment rate of 7.6 percent.

  • Will you work forever? Our new series kicks off this week examining the death of retirement.

  • Don’t miss Margaret Warner’s reporting from Lebanon.


Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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