Brzezinski to Greenwald: “It’s not like there’s haphazard probing into all of our personal emails”

posted at 8:41 am on June 10, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

“Well, there are several programs that we’ve reported on so far and there’s a lot more coming,” Glenn Greenwald told Morning Joe, but that doesn’t make it into this clip.  Instead, Greenwald gets into a debate with Mika Brzezinski over the legality of the NSA’s surveillance in the light of the FISA laws and PATRIOT Act, with Brzezinski insisting that there “isn’t haphazard probing into all of our personal e-mails.”  Greenwald suggests that it’s not clear that there hasn’t been exactly that kind of probing:

The Patriot Act “lowered the standard” for probably cause, Greenwald explained, which is part of the reason it was controversial to begin with. But even its proponents back then could not have anticipated what it’s turned into, he argued: “Nobody had any inkling that the government would ever use the Patriot Act not to target specific individuals and say there’s reasonable basis or probable cause to believe there’s wrongdoing — but to use the Patriot Act to say, this entitles us to collect records for every single American regardless of whether or not we’ve done anything wrong.”

Brzezinski jumped in to counter that the wiretapping and reviewing emails does require a warrant. “It’s not like there’s haphazard probing into all of our personal emails,” she pressed.

“The White House talking points that you’re using are completely misleading and false,” Greenwald shot back, noting that a warrant is only needed when the communication is between two American citizens who are both on American soil. “The Senate has been repeatedly asking for the numbers of how many Americans they’re doing that to, and the NSA keeps saying — and it’s false — they can’t provide those numbers. Those talking points you’re reading from are completely false, as anybody who has paid even remote debate know over the last ten years.”

Stating that she was simply asking a yes-or-no question about legality, Brzezinski quipped that Greenwald didn’t appear to want to answer. After a bit of back-and-forth, Greenwald said if we’re talking about legality, it’s worth noting that Obama’s Justice Department “has repeatedly blocked courts from ruling on the legality.”

Has there been that kind of probing?  Maybe, maybe not, but I’d guess that no one in Congress can answer that question with full knowledge and full honesty at the moment, and that’s one of the big problems with this program.  The NSA claims it hasn’t done anything of the sort, but as Tim Weiner writes at Bloomberg, they don’t have a great track record of credibility on these kinds of denials:

From day one, the NSA collected millions of messages from RCA, ITT and Western Union, the three great global telecommunications companies of the day. The program, Shamrock, ran under presidents from Harry Truman to Gerald Ford. Its roots lay in FBI-Army counterespionage against the Soviets. If it caught a spy of great note, that fact remains unrecorded in the annals of American intelligence.

More ominously, the NSA, by request of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, eavesdropped on Americans for a decade under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. The CIA wanted to snoop on Americans suspected of “civil disorders, radical student or youth activities, racial militant activities, radical antiwar activities [and] related media activities.”

Hoover and the FBI wanted all that and more: wiretaps of civil-rights and black-power advocates. This program, Minaret, created thousands of intelligence reports. NSA instructed its personnel to keep their fingerprints off the reporting. …

In 1973, after Hoover’s death, the Justice Department caught wind of Minaret. Who, me? the NSA said. It falsely contended that its spying on Americans was “an incidental and unintended act,” a lie that didn’t stand for long.

The same thing happened three months into the first Obama administration. After the passage of the new laws on government eavesdropping, the laws that stand today, the NSA was caught in the act of systemically “overcollecting” the domestic communications of Americans in the spring of 2009. Oops, sorry, the NSA said. Never again.

I tend to agree with Joe Scarborough on two points.  First, we don’t know what the NSA has been doing with these programs, nor will we until we get an independent investigation into those activities.  The agency got involved in domestic politics a few decades ago, and that should be cautionary enough to prompt a lot more accountability on these kinds of programs than there seems to be now.

Second, while we don’t know how far the NSA has gone, the legal scope of their surveillance surpasses what most people thought the PATRIOT Act and FISA amendments allowed.  If this had been known to Congress at the time of those bills’ passage and renewals, they probably wouldn’t have passed.  Congress needs to take a close look at those laws again in light of these programs and the opacity of them to America’s elected representatives.

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Correction . . . Mika.

Trochilus on June 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Correction . . . Mika.

Trochilus on June 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM

I know, you were thinking “dumb as a bag of rocks”, “rocks in her head”, etc.

slickwillie2001 on June 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Everybody should listen to the interview of Edward Snowden.

The White House is out today saying that they are doing nothing illegal .. whatever, but Snowden is saying that there is a new system in the works that will provide the “next President” with “turnkey tyranny.”

J_Crater on June 10, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Solaratov on June 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

Are you kidding me?? Snowden is as much the villain Manning is, if not worse. And how, may I ask, do you know exacty what he exposed and to whom, or what he is planning to expose/give to the Chinese? I am sure this is not the end of this story and that we will hear more from this weasel turned folk ‘hero’ overnight. Do you think it is a coincidence that he turned up in Hong Kong right around the time when when O and Xi were about to meet and O was to deliver a strong rebuke and warning to the Chinese and expose them for their hacking, as in the US official position?? . May I remind you that he bragged in that video that he had knowledge of all the CIA assets in the world and locations of their operatives, may I also remind you that he worked for he CIA in covert operations around the world (he was an IT consultant under diplomatic cover in Geneva but he worked for CIA at the time). Does anyone need to remind you that he defected to fracking China of all countries ??? You people are greatly deluded to make this lowlife into a hero. what is most astounding though is the hypocrisy and doube standard: Manning – traitor; Snowden – hero. It boggles the mind really.

Excuse me, but last I checked, China was not exactly a country that – by the libertarian standards Snowden seems to exhibit and oretends he cares about – is better than the United States. China has even more surveillance of its citizens (and they actually make sure that they know the real identity of everyone using the internet) ), the press in china is totally government-controlled, there’s no free speech protection and the country doesn’t even have national elections. So, you are not going to honestly tell me that Snowden is genuinely believing, as some of his comments seem to suggest, that he has found a bastion of freer speech :) . If he does, he is even stupider than I thought. Sorry, but that he deliberately chose to make his case from China shows clearly that he is playing a different game that you and others here seem to believe.

jimver on June 10, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Everybody should listen to the interview of Edward Snowden.

The White House is out today saying that they are doing nothing illegal .. whatever, but Snowden is saying that there is a new system in the works that will provide the “next President” with “turnkey tyranny.”

J_Crater on June 10, 2013 at 12:40 PM

while at the same time he is probably helping the Chinese govt to build that very same system :)…yeah, he’s my hero…/

jimver on June 10, 2013 at 1:11 PM

He’s right, it’s never been haphazard.
Everything done by this administration is targeted, either “wittingly” or in a half-way measure.

Another Drew on June 10, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Correction . . . Mika.

Trochilus on June 10, 2013 at 12:15 PM

I know, you were thinking “dumb as a bag of rocks”, “rocks in her head”, etc.

slickwillie2001 on June 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM

True dat!

But I was also trying to think of a clever way to add a double double entendre into the conversation . . . Mika-Schist.

Trochilus on June 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM

jimver on June 10, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Good grief. Relax. I hope you feel better now.

Maybe it was just something as easy as he had been there before and was more comfortable. Or indeed he may be aligned with the Chinese.

We should be neither deifying or burning this man until we get further information.

kim roy on June 10, 2013 at 1:59 PM

jimver on June 10, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Good grief. Relax. I hope you feel better now.

Maybe it was just something as easy as he had been there before and was more comfortable. Or indeed he may be aligned with the Chinese.

We should be neither deifying or burning this man until we get further information.

kim roy on June 10, 2013 at 1:59 PM

You ae right. I’s just that this ”Robin Hood meets Jason Bourne meets The Anonymous’ – folk hero portrayal of this guy drives me nuts.

jimver on June 10, 2013 at 2:38 PM

I want the surveillance. With proper oversight, of course. I am still quite concerned about a major terrorist attack.
bluegill on June 10, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Ever since the primaries, I have wondered if you were an establishment plant. You have done nothing to dissuade me. You parrot whatever the establishment GOP is peddling.

iwasbornwithit on June 10, 2013 at 3:17 PM

We should be neither deifying or burning this man until we get further information.

kim roy on June 10, 2013 at 1:59 PM

seriously, who cares about the source when the information he leaked turns out to be true. Let the government handle Snowden, but we need to focus our energy on the government and its Silicon valley cronies.

This could have huge economic consequences for Silicon Valley. These companies are saying that they would never want Americans to be spied upon, but what about all the foreigners who use their products and services? Are they fair game? I seriously doubt Swedes and South Koreans want Uncle Sam reading their emails, and knowing how stupid western Europe can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if many British, French, and Spanish consumers boycotted American tech companies and started investing in Chinese alternatives like Huawei (seriously).

Daemonocracy on June 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

More ominously, the NSA, by request of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, eavesdropped on Americans for a decade under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

The wiretapping was initiated by the AG during the Kennedy administration. That would be AG Robert Kennedy. He was a bareknuckle political infighter. Something that has been airbrushed from history since his beatification by assassination.

schmuck281 on June 10, 2013 at 8:34 PM

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