Civil Liberties

On NSA Spying, National Security Advisor Susan Rice Doubles Down on Stupid


Susan Rice
U.S. Government

60 Minutes followed up on the stellar kneepad work it did for the National Security Agency last week with an interview with National Security Advisor Susan Rice that touched on spying issues. This time, though, even the media's flaccid 300, holding the hot public relations gate on behalf of every stupid and intrusive policy the administration can conjure, seemed to have a tough time swallowing Rice's absolutist stance against whistleblower Edward Snowden, and her defense of surveillance policies that creep out people around the world, offend America's allies, and drive billions of dollars of business away from U.S. corporations

From CBS News:

Lesley Stahl: Edward Snowden. You know, Snowden is believed to have a million and a half more documents that have never been released. Given that, would you, would the president, consider granting him amnesty in exchange for him never releasing any more documents?

Susan Rice: Well, Lesley, we don't think that Snowden deserves amnesty. We believe he should come back, he should be sent back, and he should have his day in court.

Lesley Stahl: But if what he's released so far has been so damaging and he has a million and a half more documents, how important is it that he not release those? And what would we offer him, nothing?

Susan Rice: Lesley, you know I'm not going to get into a negotiation with you on camera about something that sensitive–

So Edward Snowden is still absolutely a bad guy, and never mind that he's revealed a vast and chilling surveillance state so that we can finally debate its (lack of) merits. The National Security Advisor sticks to the White House party line that Snowden deserves no consideration as a whistleblower with broad, popular support. Even Lesley Stahl seems to find Rice a tad…rigid and unrealistic. Maybe it was the federal court ruling that NSA spying is very likely unconstitutional that turned the tide. Or maybe it was the review board's recommendations—however tepid—that the NSA be reined-in just a bit.

This past week, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of American phone records, revealed in Snowden's leaks, "almost certainly" violates the Constitution, while a panel of intelligence and legal experts urged the president to impose new restrictions on the NSA.

Lesley Stahl: According to an article in the New Yorker, every time there's been a question about putting restraints on the NSA up to now, the president has sided with the intelligence community.

Susan Rice: What the NSA and our intelligence community does as a whole is designed to protect Americans and our allies. And they do a heck of a good job at it.

Lesley Stahl: Officials in the intelligence community have actually been untruthful both to the American public in hearings in Congress and to the FISA Court.

Susan Rice: There have been cases where they have inadvertently made false representations. And they themselves have discovered it and corrected it. 

Lesley Stahl: But when you have so many phone records being held, emails, heads of state's phone conversations being listened in to, has it been worth our allies being upset? Has it been worth all the tech companies being upset? Has it been worth Americans feeling that their privacy has been invaded?

Susan Rice: Lesley, it's been worth what we've done to protect the United States. And the fact that we have not had a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11 should not be diminished. But that does not mean that everything we're doing as of the present ought to be done the same way in the future.

Rice could be adhering to that old saying about how being in government means never having to say you're sorry. Or maybe she's looking forward to a John Bolton-ish career of appearing on news shows just to call for the execution of enemies of the state.