Greenwald: Obama, Media 'Irresponsible' for Scaring Public Over Patriot Act

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Greenwald: Obama, Media 'Irresponsible' for Scaring Public Over Patriot Act

"The whole world has changed when it comes to this debate as a result of the revelations of Edward Snowden"

Demonstrators in Washington, D.C. in October 2013 protesting the NSA’s spying on Americans, as revealed in documents leaked by Edward Snowden. (AP

The Patriot Act will expire at midnight tonight unless Congress takes action today.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pledged Saturday to “force the expiration” of the goverment spying laws - ensuring that they would lapse, despite a rare 4 PM Sunday Senate session to try and make one last attempt at renewing them. Under Senate rules, it only takes one Senator to object to moving a bill forward. If Paul does object, that could force consideration back to at least Tuesday.

Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Brian Stelter on CNN Sunday afternoon saying: "The whole world has changed when it comes to this debate as a result of the revelations of Edward Snowden." Greewald also said: "The Obama Administration put together a panel - to ask this panel of experts who had access to classified information - 'are these metadata domestic spying programs keeping us safe?' And their own panel concluded that there has not been a single terrorist attack stopped by this program. So to allow Obama officials to go around the country saying "you’re gonna die at the hands of ISIS and al Queda if we can’t spy on you” without noting that all the evidence negates that - I think is irresponsible. It’s stenography journalism."

Transcript follows:

Brian Stelter: Just wanted to highlight this idea that without Snowden we wouldn’t see Rand Paul necessarily on the floor of the Senate this afternoon trying to stop this bill. Remind us - where the debate was before and where it was after Snowden.

So to allow Obama officials to go around the country saying "you’re gonna die at the hands of ISIS and al Queda if we can’t spy on you” without noting that all the evidence negates that - I think is irresponsible. It’s stenography journalism.Glenn Greenwald: Well, remember when the Patriot Act was enacted, even in the weeks after 9/11, when the country was pretty much willing to do anything the government wanted, it was recognized it was an incredibly radical and extremist piece of legislation and the idea was - these powers we’re giving the government should be temporary - not permanent - and so they’re going to sunset every five years unless Congress renews them. And yet in 2005 the Bush administration demanded renewal and overwhelmingly Congress renewed it with no fight. In 2011 President Obama demanded renewal and Congress overwhelmingly renewed it without any debate. And now you see not just Rand Paul but dozens of House liberals and House conservatives and other people standing up together and saying we’re not going to just renew the Patriot Act without reform - we’re going to have serious reform. And in some cases a lot of people are saying we should just let these provisions elapse. The whole world has changed when it comes to this debate as a result of the revelations of Edward Snowden.

Stelter: Have you been in touch with Edward Snowden recently? How does he feel about what’s about to happen in the Senate today?

Greenwald: I mean he feels very good about the fact that there is a real debate. He has serious qualms like I think most privacy activists and advocates do about the USA Freedom Act which is the piece of legislation that the Obama White House and the intelligence community has gotten behind. It’s woefully inadequate at best - but it’s really good to see. This going to be the first time -- and this is extraordinary -- since 9/11, 14 years ago, that the Congress is taking away powers from the federal government in the name of terrorism rather than giving them new ones and hopefully this can be built on.

Stelter: When you hear news outlets mostly citing anonymous sources threatening about the risks to the country if these provisions do not remain. What do you hear? Cause I sometimes worry that we encourage people to be more afraid then they should be by repeating these talking points from Administration officials.

Greenwald: Well, American media outlets should really be ashamed of themselves the way they do that. I mean supposedly the lesson that large American media outlets learned from their role in selling the Iraq War debate to the public was "Oh we’re not going to allow government officials to propagandize the public any longer by giving them anonymity whenever they ask for it. We’re going to make them put their names on things and therefore be held accountable." And yet this all turned out to be a complete scam. If you turned on any major cable network, including the one we are on unfortunately, or read any large newspaper, American newspaper you constantly see reporters giving anonymity to the people they’re supposedly serving as watchdogs over in order to scare the public. In that New York Times article that you referenced that gave anonymity to Obama officials to say nothing other then "you’re playing Russian Roulette with national security if you're one of our critics on the Patriot Act." It was disgraceful - it was the kind of reporting that got Judy Miller fired and yet they continue to do it.

Stelter: Well, and yet some officials have said it on the record. Loretta Lynch, for example, has made very severe statements about what could happen without these provisions of the Patriot Act. Are we not supposed to report what they say when they are on the record?

Greenwald: No, of course, on the record should absolutely be reported and then there should be reporting that goes along with it from people who dispute that or from facts that undermine it. I mean, here’s the thing Brian, you know you have the Obama Administration people saying..

Stelter: You’re point is...you’re point is..one of the quotes from her was "Well you'l be less safe" - that was one of her quotes. I think what you are saying is that there should be follow-up when in fact something expires and the country is not less safe.

Greenwald: Right, I mean, the Obama Administration put together a panel - to ask this panel of experts who had access to classified information - "are these metadata domestic spying programs keeping us safe?" And their own panel concluded that there has not been a single terrorist attack stopped by this program. So to allow Obama officials to go around the country saying "you’re gonna die at the hands of ISIS and al Queda if we can’t spy on you” without noting that all the evidence negates that - I think is irresponsible. It’s stenography journalism.

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