Transcript: Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Q&A with DNI James Clapper & NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on surveillance programs – Oct. 29, 2013

Partial transcript of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minnesota) Q&A with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander on NSA’s surveillance programs before the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 29, 2013:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
…Does the NSA spy on the American people?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
No, Congressman, not without a warrant or under a warrant program or a FISA program.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Okay. And does the NSA listen to foreigners that there’s an intelligence-based interest?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Yes.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And do foreigners have American constitutional rights?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Could you say that again?

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Do foreigners have the rights of an American citizen?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
No, they don’t.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Would it be accurate to say that Mr. Snowden was – in an analogy – acting as a research librarian who unlawfully took the research books home for the night? Is that kind of what he did?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Been longer.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And longer. Did Mr. Snowden violate his constitutional oath by revealing to the detriment of United States national security interests classified information?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
He did.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Were Mr. Snowden’s actions illegal?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
They were.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Were Mr. Snowden’s actions unconstitutional?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
They were.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Did Mr. Snowden put at risk America’s national security interests?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
He did.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Did Mr. Snowden’s illegal, unconstitutional revelations help the terrorists who seek to kill Americans?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
I believe they will. I would say they have and they will.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
It was recently stated by a leader in Europe that “spying between friends – that’s just not done”. Is it your experience that allies of the United States have spied on the United States historically?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Yes.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Or even as we speak?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Yes.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
So we would have reason to believe that whether it is Germany or France or Spain or Brazil or any of our other wonderful allies – it’s reasonable to believe that they either historically have or currently are listening to the United States or our leaders?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
That’s correct.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Is it common for those who are not United States allies, whether it would be Russia or China or Iran, whether it would be reasonable to conclude that they listen to the United States or our leaders?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
It’s reasonable to assume, yes.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And has that information been made available to the White House?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Yes.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Has it been made available to the President of the United States?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
[No audible response]

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And does the White House get national security briefings from the NSA?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
Well, NSA is one of the contributors to the briefings that are given in the White House.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And how often are those briefings given to the White House?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
Virtually daily.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Virtually daily. If it’s given daily, how often does the President of the United States attend those briefings?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
He’s briefed either here or if he’s on the road.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
How often does the President attend those briefings? Does he receive them personally?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
Quite frequently.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
In his absence, which members receive those briefings?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
The rest of the national security apparatus – the Vice President, the Cabinet heads – all receive variations but essentially the same briefing.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And so would the National Security Council staffer at the White House who deals with the country in question be made aware if there’s any listening going on? Would the National Security Council staff at the White House who deals with the country in question be aware if there’s any listening going on?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
As a general response, yes. It depends on the area of responsibility in the NSS.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And if the United States was doing any listening of key foreign leaders – we’ve learned this week that that apparently was news to the White House. Would that information have been made available to the White House in their briefing books?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
As I explained earlier, the way the National Intelligence Priority Framework works and the way broad national tasking is implemented or executed throughout each of the collection disciplines, it’s unlikely, unrealistic to think that every last detail about how a particular piece of information is gleaned through all the intelligence apparatus that we have, be it HUMINT [human intelligence], imagery or SIGINT [signal intelligence]. It would not necessarily know that level of detail.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And so let me ask you this: Was the leaker in question – Ed Snowden – was he a traitor?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
You’re asking me? Absolutely.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And would that be the opinion also of Gen. Alexander? Is that your opinion?

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander:
Absolutely.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Mr. Inglis?

NSA Deputy Director Chris Inglis:
Yes, ma’am.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And Mr. Cole?

Deputy Attorney General James Cole:
Certainly been charged not with treason but he’s been charged with certainly leaking and compromising the integrity of our intelligence system.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
In your opinion, Mr. Cole, would he be considered a traitor to the United States? Just your opinion. Just your personal opinion.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole:
Unfortunately, as a Justice Department official where there’s a case involved, it’s difficult for me to do that under the rules of professional responsibility.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
Does the White House consider Mr. Snowden a traitor?

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
I think you’d best ask – you say the White House – collectively I think most people feel that he’s done a great disservice to the country.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole:
I think the only one I might add to is certain foreigners who are in the United States do have certain constitutional rights. That would be the only amendment made to what Gen. Alexander said.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota):
And perhaps you could elaborate for the committee at some point what those instances would be and what rights they would have?

Deputy Attorney General James Cole:
We can get some information to you.

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