Matthews: Breaking the law may be "part of the job" of president

Video ››› ››› JOE BROWN

MSNBC's Hardball host Chris Matthews asserted that illegally spying on Americans in an effort to track down terrorists was "maybe ... part of the job" of the president of the United States.

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On the January 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, host Chris Matthews asserted that wiretapping Americans in an effort to track down terrorists -- which his guest asserted would be "breaking the law" -- was "maybe ... part of the job" of the president of the United States. During a discussion with Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who has stated he is one of the sources for the December 16 New York Times article that revealed a secret domestic spying program under which the NSA reportedly eavesdrops on the communications of people within the United States without court approval, Matthews stated:

MATTHEWS: We're under attack on 9-11. A couple of days after that, if I were president of the United States and somebody said we had the ability to check on all the conversations going on between here and Hamburg, Germany, where all the Al Qaeda people are, or somewhere in Saudi [Arabia], where they came from and their parents are, and we could mine some of that information by just looking for some key words like "World Trade Center" or "Pentagon," I'd do it.

When Tice responded that "you'd be breaking the law," Matthews replied: "Yeah. Well, maybe that's part of the job."

From the January 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: I'm asking you, you're our guest here. You're from NSA, you've been there. Do you have any evidence that we're spying on regular, you know, just regular political Americans, who maybe have views on all kinds of things? Or are we limiting it to people who are actually engaged in conversations or emailing with people in highly suspicious situations in the Mideast?

TICE: I can't say one way or the other, and I can't go into the details of how NSA does their business; it would be classified. But the question arises: Why would you do this beyond the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court?

MATTHEWS: Because, apparently, when you want to do this mining by going by topic rather than by who's on the phone, you would never get a court order.

TICE: That's true. That's true.

MATTHEWS: Well, then, how can you do it?

TICE: Well, I -- all the Middle East -- a large broad-brush approach could be used where you -- you know, if you have a haystack of information, you suck it all in to try to find the needle.

MATTHEWS: We're under attack on 9-11. A couple of days after that, if I were president of the United States and somebody said we had the ability to check on all the conversations going on between here and Hamburg, Germany, where all the Al Qaeda people are, or somewhere in Saudi [Arabia], where they came from and their parents are, and we could mine some of that information by just looking for some key words like "World Trade Center" or "Pentagon," I'd do it.

TICE: Well, you'd be breaking the law.

MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well, maybe that's part of the job. We'll talk about it. We'll be right back with Russ Tice. You're watching Hardball on MSNBC.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties, Domestic Spying
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
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