Face the Nation transcripts December 29, 2013: Hayden, Drake, Radack, Gellman

A look back at the government surveillance debate that dominated 2013

RADACK: I think it's very different if I choose to give personal data to Facebook to keep my family members up to date than giving personal information to the government, which is back-dooring Twitter and Facebook and all of these social media. I think Judge Pauley's opinion turns on the idea that, if we collect even more data, we're doing less targeting. But that actually inverts the constitutionality of the fourth amendment, which requires individualized suspicion and probable cause and targeting in order to surveil someone.

GARRETT: I've got to stop you right there, Jesselyn.


GARRETT: We have to head to break. Jesselyn Radack, very good to have you with you (sic). Thomas Drake, good to have you with us. And we'll be right back.

GARRETT: We're back now with Mark Gellman of "The Washington Post," who traveled to Moscow recently and spent some time with Edward Snowden. Some time if kind of, well, it's 15 hours. An extensive interview published Christmas Eve. Does Edward Snowden have more to tell the world? Should the NSA be afraid? GELLMAN: Well, six months ago, he handed over archives of information to three reporters. I was one of them. He's had no role in what's disclosed since. He's added nothing to what he's disclosed. So to the extent he wants to participate, he wants to speak as someone who interprets what we've learned and says what he thinks ought to be done about it. Whether the NSA is afraid or not is not for me to say. It's -- there -- he has launched a global debate and an American debate about what the limits, the boundaries, should be of surveillance in a democratic society. And that's ongoing.

GARRETT: So to think about it conceptually, this is a box. You might regard it, as a reporter, as a treasure chest. Michael Hayden and others might regard it as a Pandora's box full of all sorts of damaging disclosures about what America surveils, why and how it accomplishes that. So the box is in your hands and the hands of others. More things may come out of that box, but Edward Snowden will not be providing them. That's a finite amount he's given you and that's all there is?

GELLMAN: That's right.

GARRETT: As far as you understand?

GELLMAN: That's exactly right.

GARRETT: OK. What's his frame of mind? You spent a good deal of time with him. You described him as having a practical engineer's mind. Is he afraid? Does he have a sense of high emotion about being either chased or pursued by the federal government? What are his thoughts about coming back here and facing trial?

GELLMAN: He has -- he takes the kinds of reasonable precautions that a person would take when he knows he's of great interest to a number of intelligence services around the world. What he's keeping his eye on is the big picture, which is that over a period of six months, he has enabled a public conversation about a program that was -- or a set of programs that took place entirely in secret, without any public debate. Not only -- I mean you can't debate particular intelligence operations. But you can debate policies like should the NSA be allowed to collect every American's phone calls, should the NSA be allowed to intercept hundreds of millions of Internet address books as they flow across the pipes or billions of location points, so that it can track many of the world's cell phones in time and space? We never had those conversations because all of that took place behind closed doors.

GARRETT: When he says his job is done and he's won, what do you think he means by that?

GELLMAN: He means exactly what I just said. And he said what he means. People have, I think, misconstrued or sort of narrowed it down to just I won. What he means is, the thing he cared about most was putting things on the public record that would allow us, as a people, to decide for ourselves what the boundaries should be. And we had no role in it up until then, because we didn't know what was happening.

GARRETT: Does he want a plea deal? Does he want to find some way to come back to America?

GELLMAN: I can't speak for him on that. And I didn't -- I didn't get any particularly clear answer on that. I think that's for him and his lawyers to be working on.

GARRETT: Do you think or did you get any sense from him of what the next six months and then the time after that -- he has one year of asylum in Russia, then what comes next? Do you have any sense of that?

GELLMAN: Well, he has made clear that he would like asylum in some other country. He didn't choose Russia. He was literally changing planes in the Moscow airport when the United States revoked his passport. He was stuck there by that. He's said from the beginning that he wanted asylum in a Western country, for example, Iceland, that, from his point of view, respects rights of free speech and whistleblowers. He is not looking to live in a country like Russia or China. And, by the way, I just have to say, as a matter of fact, that there is no evidence on the public record that he has defected or betrayed his country. He has stated that his intention is to allow his country to make decisions for itself. And there's simply no evidence on the public record, or even in private intelligence, according to the officials I talk to, that he has transferred his loyalty or tried to assist a hostile power.

GARRETT: Michael Hayden, former NSA director, CIA director, said that our counterterrorism surveillance techniques are infinitely weaker as a result of these disclosures. Do you think Edward Snowden has any personal remorse about that or will, if, in fact, it is learned at some date in the future that something happened terrible in this country and it wasn't caught because the programs were changed as a result of these disclosures?

GELLMAN: Well, it's clear -- Snowden is well aware that the reporters in whom he has entrusted these decisions have held back lots of material in the archives that would disclose particular targets, particular techniques, particular places where certain technologies are used. We...

GARRETT: That's something that you've done (INAUDIBLE)?

GELLMAN: And that's something that I've done that he wanted us to do. He asked us not to dump out the documents. If he had wanted to do that, he would have done it himself. He was more than capable of doing it that way, posting the whole thing on the Internet. he wanted us to use our judgment about what was newsworthy, what raised big policy questions for the American people and what would do too much harm, what would be harmful. And so we consult on every story. The NSA, the director of national intelligence, knows every detail in every story before we publish it. They have an opportunity to tell us what they think would be especially harmful. Almost always, we acceded to those requests.