Face the Nation transcripts December 22, 2013: Morell, Garrett, Brennan, Cordes, Martin


(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on December 22, 2013, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: Former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, CBS News' Major Garrett, Nancy Cordes, David Martin, and Margaret Brennan, plus authors Terry McMillan, George Saunders, Michael Connelly, and Rick Atkinson.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, has the National Security Agency’s electronic snooping gone beyond protecting us to invading our privacy? We’ll talk to the former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell, who was part of an advisory panel that told the White House that time has come to put new controls on the spying agency. Then we’ll continue a sixty-five-year CBS News tradition.

MAN #1: We have brought in five CBS correspondents, men of great experience.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The correspondent roundtable.

MAN #2: I am not doubting you experts of this.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today the correspondents are different. They are women for one thing. But the conversation is about many of the same things. And on this last weekend before Christmas, we'll take a look at the year’s best books and have a conversation with best-selling authors, Terry McMillan, her new one is Who Asked You. Mystery master Michael Connelly, who’s new one is The Gods of Guilt. Plus, George Saunders, author of Tenth of December and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Rick Atkinson whose latest on World War II is The Guns at Last Light. Good books and the news, good and bad, because this is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again on this last weekend before Christmas. Well, as the controversy over whether the National Security Agency has gone too far and invaded privacy in its efforts to protect us from terrorist attack, a panel of experts appointed by the President to study the NSA’s programs made forty-six recommendations, including some that would rein in the agency. The former number two man at the CIA, Michael Morell was on that panel. He joins us this morning. Mister Morell, I must say a lot of official Washington was surprised when, number one, that the recommendations were unanimous and that you, as a long time user of information collected by the NSA said, yes, it may be time to change a few things. Tell us about your thinking.

MICHAEL MORELL (Former Deputy CIA Director/NSA Surveillance Review Group): Well, good morning, Bob, and thank you for inviting me. I think there’s some very important context here that the American people need to understand. And there's two pieces to that context I think. One is that there has not been a successful terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. And there are a lot of reasons for that, and there are a lot of organizations and a lot of people who are responsible for that. And the National Security Agency is one of those agencies. And because of that those-- those officers who work there are patriots and we are going to continue to need them to do the work they do, because the threat continues to exist. And, quite frankly, it’s possible the threat could grow again. So that’s one very important piece of context that-- that Americans need to understand. The other is that there is this view out there that somehow the National Security Agency was out there on its own doing all of these things. Not the case. It was doing exactly what its government asked it to do. It was operating under strict rules, provided by the executive branch and-- and the judicial branch and it was overseen extensively by the intelligence committees on Congress. There was no abuse here. They were doing exactly what they were told to do. I think that's important context for people to know.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, you say there was no abuse because they were doing what they were told to do. But are there instances, Mister Morell, where they have invaded Americans' privacy or is it that they just have the capability to do that?

MICHAEL MORELL: So the-- the key program here that we’re talking about is the 215 Program, which is the ability of NSA to go in to that database and make sure that there are-- that terrorists overseas aren’t in contact with anybody in the United States.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And you’re talking about this collection of telephone numbers basically that the NSA has assembled.

MICHAEL MORELL: So it's telephone numbers, which-- which number called whom, when that occurred and the duration of the call, that’s it. No names attached to it. No content attached to it. And so that’s the program. I think one of the misperceptions out there at the moment is that the review group did not see value in this program, and what the review group said is-- is, look, the program to date has not played a significant role in stopping terrorist attacks in the United States. But the review group also noted that going forward it is important.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But let me just interrupt you here, because they have said if I understand it, that, yes, indeed, there have been numerous instances where they have prevented terrorist attacks. Is that-- did you find evidence that that’s true or do you have questions about that?

MICHAEL MORELL: So what we found when we looked at the data is out of the couple hundred times a year that NSA queries this database, that there are a dozen, fifteen-times-a-year where they have tipped information to the FBI, where they have said, look, this is something we think you need to look at. That's important. I think the best way to describe this, Bob, is that if you have a terrorist overseas who is being monitored by a foreign government and if that terrorist says, I want to conduct an attack in the United States, or he is undertaking some sort of attack and you don’t know where-- where that attack is going to be it is very important for our government to be able to look into that database to see whether that terrorist overseas is talking to anybody in the United States.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So is what the panel recommending is that they stop collecting this data?

MICHAEL MORELL: So what we're recommending is that because this program remains important, okay, perhaps, not as important as-- as-- as some have said, but because it remains important, it's important for the government to continue to be able to query this data.


MICHAEL MORELL: What the panel is saying is, in order to better protect privacy and civil liberties, which is an important concern here, we believe two things. We believe that the government should not hold this data any longer. We leave at an open question who should, but we say the government shouldn't hold this data, somebody else should. The second thing we say is that-- is that NSA should have to get a court order for every individual time they want to query this data. Not-- not operate under a blanket court order. We think that better protects privacy and civil liberties while at the same time allowing the government to do what it needs to do to protect the country.