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The McLaughlin Group

Host: John McLaughlin

Panel:
Pat Buchanan, Author and Columnist;
Eleanor Clift, Newsweek/The Daily Beast;
Tim Carney, Washington Examiner;
Mort Zuckerman, U.S. News & World Report

Taped: Friday, August 9, 2013
Broadcast: Weekend of August 10-11, 2013

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JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Reset or Rupture?

(Begin videotaped segment.)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.

THEN-RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

(End videotaped segment.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In March of last year, 2012, President Obama told then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he, Obama, would have more flexibility to negotiate in his second and final term, when he could be more accommodating over U.S. missile defense installations -- defensive, we say -- which the Russians regard as an encroachment on their sphere of influence.

In addition, Mr. Obama's second-term ambitions for U.S.-Russian relations had included and still include a mutual U.S.-Russia cut in nuclear warheads, which Mr. Obama proposed in Berlin, Germany four months ago.

But the Obama reset may now be the Obama rupture, when this week President Obama unilaterally canceled a sidebar one-on-one summit with Russian President Putin. It would have taken place before next month's St. Petersburg gathering of the G-20 powerhouse nations.

Why did Obama cancel? Because Russia has rejected the Obama administration's extradition request for fugitive National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who, by the way, 55 percent of the American people now view as a whistleblower, as opposed to 34 percent who see him as a traitor.

And there are other points of serious friction in the U.S.- Russian relationship, notably Syria. Obama and Putin are at loggerheads over the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Also Iran's nuclear program puts some stress on the U.S.-Russian relationship.

Question: What has strained U.S.-Russia relations to the point of rupture? Pat.

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, the latest thing is basically giving asylum, temporary asylum, to Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower or traitor, whichever you want to call him. John, but unfortunately I think this is -- maybe he had to do something here, but I think overall it's a mistake because we've got important things to deal with the Russians. Coming out of Afghanistan, we've got to come through Soviet territory. With Iran, they're helping us out on sanctions.

On Syria, the fact that al-Qaida's getting stronger and stronger with the rebels suggests that the Russians may be correct. And to blow up a summit here, John, I think, is going too far. If you recall, when we were in the White House with Richard Nixon, he bombed Hanoi, mined Haiphong and went to China, and the Soviets did not cancel the summit they had scheduled.

The only summit I can think of ever canceled was Khrushchev when he blew up the Paris summit in 1960 and blew up the summit of Eisenhower going to Moscow when we sent a U-2 over his country, which they found a thousand miles inside his country with cameras and all the rest of it, and we said it was a weather plane that had gotten off course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

ELEANOR CLIFT: Well, I think those were much higher stakes --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MS. CLIFT: -- on that. It was the height of the superpower confrontation, the Cold War. The two countries were pretty evenly matched. Since then, the Soviet Union is now Russia and it's taken quite a fall. And I think that President Putin sort of symbolizes the humiliation of the country, and he really sees himself in the old czarist model. And he likes to show that he can sort of kick a little -- use your word there -- around the globe that Russia still matters.
And I think the White House didn't go ahead with it because they just figured that he was going to stiff them on a whole range of issues. And, you know, why should they? I mean, the president's still going to the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, which Putin is hosting. So it's not like this is a complete break. I think it's theater, theater in both countries. It has more to do with the particular personalities involved and domestic Russian politics than any big Cold War rupture.

TIM CARNEY: And I --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tim Carney.

MR. CARNEY: I think that Putin, yes, could have made Obama look bad in a few ways meeting face to face, in ways that -- I mean, now, if you look at it from the outside, it's almost like Obama is beating Putin in a political race and Putin is demanding a debate, and the frontrunner has no reason to meet with him. We're beating Putin economically. We're exporting oil to Europe when he wants to be doing it. Politically, obviously we're doing much better than them.
So Putin brings him into the country and, you know, somehow brings the Snowden factor out there, which can only make Obama look bad. No, Obama has nothing to gain, lots to lose. I'm not surprised he canceled it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MORT ZUCKERMAN: No, I'm not surprised he canceled it either. We have to understand what Putin is like. This guy Putin is one tough cookie, OK? He came out of the KGB. He was head of a lot of their, shall we say, undercover activities. And he's a very, very tough guy. That he was able to take over that country the way he did at the age that he did is really a statement of his toughness.

And as we say, those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't. We have to be very careful about dealing with this guy. And we cannot give him the feeling that he can push us around, which, by the way, he's had that feeling. He had it certainly in some parts of the world. And I think this is exactly -- was exactly the right thing to do.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.
)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: What he did in Syria, what he did in Iran and was doing in Iran, what he's doing all through the Middle East, he's going directly against our interests. And he knows that he's doing it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. We've got clashing national interests --

MR. BUCHANAN: Interests.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- with Russia, or he with us.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got Syria.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What else?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got Iran --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Iran.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- to some extent.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, he supported sanctions in the U.N. on Iran. Wait a minute. This is a great power. It's a significant power. And people like Nixon and Eisenhower, and I think Reagan, would not have let something like this cause us to really have what you call a rupture, John.
Look, we've got things to deal with them. We disagree on things. On Syria, our rebels happen to be more and more dominated by al-Qaida, and Putin's saying why are you Americans supporting the guys that blew up the twin towers?

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. BUCHANAN: He's standing by his ally. We didn't stand by ours.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, but we're still dealing with them. The secretary of state and the defense secretary, Hagel and Kerry, met with Russian officials late this week. They're continuing on. They were just not going to put the frosting on the cake by having the president go over there and meet with him on his home turf, which would just aggrandize him at a time when he's --

MR. BUCHANAN: Eleanor, we've dealt with --

MS. CLIFT: -- really just yanking the tail of the tiger.

MR. BUCHANAN: We've got to move on. But before that, there is the Magnitsky Act. What is that?

MR. BUCHANAN: The Magnitsky Act was passed by the Congress of the United States. It puts sanctions on a number of Soviet officials which it blames for the death of this fellow back in 2009. And Putin responded in kind -- not in kind. He responded wrongly by denying us -- denying American couples the right to adopt Russian children, which has been a wonderful thing we've worked with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MR. BUCHANAN: But, look, we got the good thing -- there are good things going here. Nixon dealt with Mao, for heaven's sakes. Stalin -- I mean, Truman dealt with Stalin.

MS. CLIFT: We're still --

MR. BUCHANAN: We can't deal with Putin?

MS. CLIFT: We're still dealing. The president is going to the summit. It's just --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was annoyed.

MS. CLIFT: It's just a side little meeting that was for PR purposes mostly.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Putin has been very annoyed by the Magnitsky Act.

OK, on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," the president this week hedged his criticism of Vladimir Putin and Russia.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) A lot of what's been going on hasn't been major breaks in the relationship. And they still help us on supplying our troops in Afghanistan. They're still helping us on counterterrorism work. They were helpful after the Boston bombing and that investigation. And so there's still a lot of business that we can do with them. But there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does this sound like Cold War thinking to you, Mort?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, to an extent it is. I don't know if it's Cold War thinking. That's just who Putin is. I mean, he's just a very, very tough guy, and he's going to be very tough in some ways. He certainly is, in my judgment, in the Middle East, across the Middle East. And you can say they're a great power, but we have interests there too. And I think we have clashing interests. So we're going to have some big issues with them.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, think of what we've done, though. Look, at the end of the Cold War they dismantled their empire. They got out of Eastern Europe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: They did all this. What did we do? We put NATO right up to their border and across their border.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: We cut them out of the Caspian Sea oil. We've been dumping over governments --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. BUCHANAN: -- in Serbia, Ukraine, in Georgia. We almost threatened to go to war with them over some little province in Georgia. They are ticked off. They are -- Tony Blankley, our late friend, told me when we went over there, he was astonished at the hostility to the United States. But in 1989 and `91, they wanted to be our friends. Now, we are partly responsible for the bad relationship.

MR. CARNEY: This is a Pat Buchanan apology tour.

MS. CLIFT: This is a Pat Buchanan special.

MR. BUCHANAN: An apologia (for ?) Vladimir Putin. (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you have to say -- wait a minute, Eleanor. What do you have to say to him?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that right now, yeah, we're dealing with a guy, Putin, who is helping prop up Bashar -- like, what if Putin wanted to make the world a better place? He would help out in Syria.

MR. BUCHANAN: Tim, why do you think Bashar Assad should not win?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What's wrong with that?

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, do you want al-Qaida to win?

MR. CARNEY: But that's the problem. Right now --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute.
Are you defending the rebels in Syria?

MR. CARNEY: No, no. I'm saying that because we don't have a good alternative in supporting the rebels --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think Syria would be a --

MR. CARNEY: -- a better alternative would be applying --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- model state if the --

MR. CARNEY: -- applying pressure.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- if the rebels took over?

MR. CARNEY: I'm saying imagine there was a powerful ally --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK, we've got to get out.

MS. CLIFT: This is geo --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question --

MS. CLIFT: This is geopolitics. And the U.S. saw a vacuum and moved in.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: In the Obama second term, will there be a second nuclear arms reduction agreement with Moscow? Yes or no.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think so. I think we'll try to implement the first, but I don't think we'll get a second.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: It would save both countries a lot of money. You know, maybe --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: Maybe Putin can turn on a dime.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yes or no?

MS. CLIFT: I'm optimistic. Yes.

MR. CARNEY: No, he's not going to turn on a dime.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, there will --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No agreement.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No.

MR. BUCHANAN: Three to one, John.

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Four to one, Pat.

Issue Two: Bezos Goes Postal.

Sold: The Washington Post. Buyer: Billionaire Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of online behemoth Amazon.com. Price: $250 million out of Bezos's own pockets, not Amazon's.
The Washington Post newspaper has been owned by the same family, the Grahams, for eight decades. In 1971, the Post, along with The New York Times, forced the government in court to publish the Pentagon Papers, a classified history of the U.S.'s role in Indochina and Vietnam.

The Post is also known for its reportage of the Watergate break- in in the early 1970s that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. This was the golden age for the Post.

But now, in the digital age, with news content gravitating to the Internet, the Post has struggled like all print media. Post owner Donald Graham described how revenues declined seven years in a row, with the newspaper suffering a $54 million operating loss last year. That's $54 million. Circulation of the paid print edition plunged from 768,000 in 2002, 11 years ago, to 481,000 in 2012.

Rather than attempt more cost-cutting, says Mr. Graham, he decided to sell. Mr. Bezos, age 49, is one of the world's richest people, with an estimated worth of $25.5 billion. His empire includes not only selling books and other merchandise online, but streaming video online over Amazon Prime. And he introduced the Amazon Kindle.

Bezos is the latest mogul who, in recent years, has snapped up newspapers. John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, purchased the Boston Globe for $70 million one week ago. And Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has purchased -- get this -- more than 30 newspapers in the past two years.

Question: If old media like newspapers are a dying business, why are successful billionaires like Bezos, Buffett and Zuckerman drawn to them? Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Because they no longer wish to be billionaires. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're losing money?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Look, let me just describe the problem. The whole business model for print products has changed because of the Internet, OK? And here is a guy who, as we say, you can't solve your current problems by using the same old thinking. He did not use and does not use the old thinking.
So he's got a chance, I think, to understand and learn how to translate print products into something that'll work on the Internet as well as in print, in addition to which that's going to take a lot of money and it's going to take a lot of time.

I know, because I've been through that, OK? The Atlantic Monthly, for example, is a magazine which I owned for a long time. It was losing money for 20 years. I sold it to a man who looked at it entirely as a platform to hold seminars and conferences and turned it into a profitable business. Somebody has to have new thinking when you look at the newspaper business.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And he -- if anybody can do it, he can do it. And he's got the money to get there.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How much money did The New York Times lose last year?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I don't know what their specific operating
loss is, but they've had terrible --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Multiple millions.

MR. BUCHANAN: But it's a vanity thing, John, also. Look, this makes him, Mr. Bezos, a tremendous big figure in the political capital of the world. He comes in here. People are going to be groveling to him, and already are. I mean, he's a mover and shaker; people on Capitol Hill.

He also has businesses which are regulated. And this gives him a very powerful weapon in talking to people to make sure the regulations don't do damage to his other businesses.

MS. CLIFT: It's a huge emotional wallop for Washington and for journalism. And I personally -- I worked for the Grahams for a number of years because they owned Newsweek. They were a visible presence in the city, philanthropy, and they really cared about journalism. The Washington Post and the Graham family have been synonymous. So I was shocked, just like everybody at the Post.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.
)

MS. CLIFT: This was, like, unthinkable. But then, you know, you work it through. You understand, as Mort says, the business model has completely changed, collapsed. And I began to think of it as the Grahams sort of putting their baby, their creation, out on a theme ship in the 1900s to the new world. And Bezos can -- he has invented the new world. And so maybe he can find the future for the Post, because it was not working.

MR. CARNEY: The reason --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants control.

MR. CARNEY: No, but, see, here's the thing --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants control of a much bigger world --

MS. CLIFT: Well, but he doesn't have --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- than The Washington Post.

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't have --

MR. CARNEY: I've been following the lobbying of all these guys, so I --

MS. CLIFT: He doesn't have a clear ideological bent.

MR. CARNEY: Yes. And so I've followed the lobbying of all these guys, and other people like Eric Schmidt, Google CEO. His company makes less revenue than Bezos and spends 10 times as much lobbying. And Schmidt makes sure that he buddies up to Obama, hosts fundraisers for him.

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. CARNEY: He's very political. Bezos --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean The Washington Post has influence on Capitol Hill.

MR. CARNEY: Yes. But I'm saying Bezos has not tried to be a huge power player here in Washington. And his attempts -- and his lobbying here has largely ended up being defensive or reactive.

MR. BUCHANAN: Now he's got the Post.

MR. CARNEY: He's not out there trying to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well --

MR. CARNEY: So it's either a huge change in approach or --

MS. CLIFT: He's a libertarian.

MR. CARNEY: He's not quite a --

MS. CLIFT: He calls himself a libertarian, I believe.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a Republican.

MS. CLIFT: He's very interested --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's a Republican.

Issue Three: Greek Tragedy.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) In dealing with the challenges that Greece faces, we cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy. It's important that we have a plan for fiscal consolidation to manage the debt, but it's also important that growth and jobs are (a focus ?).

GREEK PRIME MINISTER ANTONIS SAMARAS: (From videotape.) Our emphasis has to be on growth and on the creation of new jobs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: President Obama this week met with the prime minister of Greece, Antonis Samaras, as his nation suffers from record-high unemployment and awaits more debt relief from Eurozone countries.

Greece is in its sixth year of a devastating recession. Twenty- seven-point-six percent of Greeks are unemployed. Young people aged 15 to 24 have it even worse -- 64.9 percent unemployed. And Greece is under pressure to cut even more jobs, those on the state payroll, who have already seen their salaries and pensions cut.

These are some of the terms Greece must meet in order to keep receiving loans as part of two massive bailouts from the Eurozone lenders and the IMF, the International Monetary Fund.

The first was in May 2010, a massive 110 billion in Euros to keep Greece from going into default, one that European leaders feared would have repercussions throughout the Euro area.

The second bailout was approved in February 2012, a pledge of an additional 113 billion in Euros, or $172 billion in dollars. But Greeks, including Prime Minister Samaras, are chafing against what they consider the too-harsh austerity measures that have come with these funds.

Question: What was the purpose of the Greek prime minister's meeting with President Obama? Was it a courtesy call, or is it connected to German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing an election in September? The 22nd, in fact, six weeks from now. Mort Zuckerman.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Listen, Greece and a number of European countries are in terrible financial shape. And the whole of that continent, virtually, with the exception of Germany, is in terrible financial shape. Germany is bailing them out as best they can. I don't know if it can hold together. It's hard for me to see how they do hold together, because they're not just in a depression. They're in a major depression across most of that continent.

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the answer to your question is yes.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And I think --

MR. BUCHANAN: It's yes. Look, the IMF is bailing out of the bailouts of Europe, and the Greeks are in the sixth year of their real problems here. The debt is so big, they can't manage it. They're going to need another bailout. And Merkel is going to OK it or it's not coming. And I think what he's here for is to get Obama to call Merkel and to keep the money coming. Otherwise Greece is going out of the Eurozone.

MS. CLIFT: Well, it's clear that the president doesn't favor the really stringent austerity politics, and they have not been working in Europe. And the Europeans and Merkel have basically backed off somewhat. And I think -- you know, I don't think this is all wired like you suggest.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't think it's wired.

MS. CLIFT: But everybody is acting in character. The Greeks need some relief. Austerity's not working.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --

MS. CLIFT: The president says grow your economy. He's saying that in this country too. He's telling Congress grow the economy.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: How do you grow the economy?

MS. CLIFT: And the Republicans are running around saying let's defund "Obamacare."

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I want to ask you --

MR. BUCHANAN: Pull the plug.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Merkel wants Greece to practice an austerity program.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Greece is objecting to it like crazy. So is Obama objecting to it. Austerity does not yield the type of money making that Obama wants.

Do you understand?

MR. CARNEY: Yes. Obama --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So it all adds up. It adds up for Merkel and it adds up for us.

MR. CARNEY: And so -- yeah. So Obama's view is -- at least when it comes to Greece -- is sort of the Keynesian view, that you grow by spending more, by getting rid of the high taxes. The funny thing is he talks that way here but he ended up hiking the payroll taxes back up and hiking the taxes on the rich.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The European Common Market is supported by Germany.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Germany was the great beneficiary of the European Common Market. There is going to be a point at which the German people are going to say --

MR. BUCHANAN: Are going to say --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- we're tired of bailing out Spain. We're tired of bailing out Greece.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: We're tired of bailing out Italy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And when that happens, you have a catastrophe, OK?

MR. BUCHANAN: I think that day is coming.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: That day may come.

MS. CLIFT: I don't think that day is coming, because the Germans lose much more than they would gain if that happened.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort, finish the point. The point is --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, this is going to be a political issue here. So Merkel has got to look in some way as if she's trying to impose some austerity --

MR. BUCHANAN: Right.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- because the Germans are paying for it.

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Greece's debt is currently 176 percent of GDP. What is the target for debt reduction under its current IMF bailout plan?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know if they're going to try and get it down --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- but they're going to try and get it below --

MR. BUCHANAN: I think it goes down to almost 125 percent.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- at least 100 percent.

MR. BUCHANAN: But John, Mort is right. There's going to come
a day where the German constituency says Ms. Merkel, you're not giving any more of our money. And when that day comes, I think this thing is going to come down.

MS. CLIFT: That day is not going to come.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Does the Obama administration want the Eurozone, including notably Greece, to abandon its austerity targets in favor of stimulus spending? Yes or no. Pat Buchanan.

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes, but I don't think it's going to succeed.

MS. CLIFT: Not total abandonment; just ease back on the throttle. Young people -- there's 60 percent unemployment in Greece. That's not sustainable.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible) -- the question. Total abandonment, that's a no.

OK, what's the answer?

MR. CARNEY: Eleanor's right -- not total, but partial abandonment.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, providing Germany pays for all of this
and not the United States. (Laughter.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The answer is yes -- total abandonment.

Issue Four: Privacy? Fuhgeddaboudit.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From videotape.) In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential, you know, you know, program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we've struck the right balance.

SENATOR RAND PAUL (R-KY): (From videotape.) The Bill of Rights are being violated. Our privacy is being violated. And really no government should do this.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edward J. Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency's domestic snooping have ignited a global debate over privacy versus security. Whereas President Obama justifies the NSA's collection of metadata, referring to millions of individuals' telephone records and Internet, airline, banking and credit-card data as, quote, "a modest encroachment on privacy," unquote -- Mr. Obama's language -- experts warn that the invasion of privacy is anything but modest.

Quote: "Many players in government characterize the NSA's use of metadata as more or less benign. But metadata is more powerful than most people realize. It can reveal a person's religious and political views, economic standing, sexual preference, personality, mental health, ethnicity, use of addictive substances and more. The ability to characterize groups by these traits might tempt some in government to cross the line from finding terrorists to targeting groups because of their political leanings," unquote.

So say three metadata specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's prestigious Media Lab. Their proposed solution: Give the citizenry the power to set controls on corporations and companies who collect their data, whether and with whom it can be shared, and whether or not it should be destroyed permanently.

People would have access to their digital data trails in a way similar to an email in box so that people can monitor who views their data and who uses it.
Question: Which entity has more personal information about you -- the NSA, the National Security Agency, or Google? Tim Carney.

MR. CARNEY: Well, the NSA has almost everything that Google has. And that's part of the problem here, that they're harvesting this data on everyone, even people who aren't suspected, but they're not looking at it until you're somehow close to a suspect.

And here's a big difference. I choose to give information to Google. I choose to use gmail and to use Google searches. I do not choose to hand my information over to the NSA. So the NSA is taking it without my permission.
Google is taking it because that's their price for my doing business with them.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: A Wall Street Journal reporter recently checked on what Google knew about him. It had all 134,000 emails he's sent and received, data about his 2,000-plus contacts, knew what he searched for and what he searched, who he talked to most frequently on the telephone, et cetera, et cetera. What do you think of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, if it was me, John, I would say the FBI file on me. Since there's been three full-field investigations, it's probably larger than I'd --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Inaudible.)

MR. BUCHANAN: -- (inaudible). That's what I'd be most worried about.

Look, no, I do -- you know, I tend to agree here. And this idea, John, though, of individuals saying you can't have this or that, I don't know how that works when the NSA obviously isn't that interested in me. But some terrorist is going to say I'd prefer if you fellows didn't have my, you know, phone records and all the rest of it.
But, you know, I do think -- I'm beginning to think that the Congress of the United States should rightly take a look at this and sort of limit, and we should argue out exactly what they can hold and how long in the national interest.

MS. CLIFT: Well, they are looking at it. And the president, at his press conference on Friday, basically said that he wants to work with the Congress on putting appropriate restraints in place and more oversight and all that. But they're not going to give up these programs, and these programs are going to grow. And there is sort of a limitless ability of the state to manipulate your life. But it's so much -- vast amounts of anonymous data.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Acknowledging.)

MS. CLIFT: I mean, I just don't get worked up over it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who would you rather have in control of your
private information, Google or the NSA?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Actually, I would prefer Google. I don't know why I'm that kind of a guy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the NSA is subject to government control.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not worried --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Google is not.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I'm not worried about either Google or the NSA, OK. It just doesn't upset me. What would upset me is if we don't have the information --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Potential abuse.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- if we don't have the information, and you have three or four terrorist attacks in this country --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The potential abuse is far greater --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: -- the whole country will change.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The potential abuse of the data is far more severe with private firms, Mort. Put it away and memorize it.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree. I agree.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: OK.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Anything is possible. I'm just saying that we have to worry about the security of this country. And we are going to be faced with more and more danger --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, fortunately we can regulate the NSA. We don't want to be regulating Google.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I agree with that.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Pat.

MR. BUCHANAN: With al-Qaida rising inside the rebel forces in Syria, the United States will pull back from the rebels.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: Tea party activists demanding "Obamacare" be defunded make it more likely there will be a government shutdown in the fall.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tim.

MR. CARNEY: House Republicans will stand up to the banking industry and the hedge funds, and they will kill the Senate's mortgage overhaul bill.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mort.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: The next country to have a financial crisis is Spain, and it'll happen within the next two years.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Get your smelling salts ready. (Laughter.) Are you ready?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I predict that Edward Snowden will never go to trial.

Bye-bye.

(C) 2013 Federal News Service

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