CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript: National Security Agency



SCHIEFFER: We're going to get the other side of this now from Mark Udall, who is the senator from Colorado. You just heard what he said, Senator. Fifty-six terror plots here and abroad have been thwarted by the NASA (sic) program. So what's wrong with it, then, if it's managed to stop 56 terrorist attacks? That sounds like a pretty good record.

UDALL: Good morning, Bob. I want to just start out by saying that Chairman Rogers and I both share a total focus on protecting the American people. There are a lot of bad guys in the world. I was in Washington, D.C. on 9/11. I know what that felt like. I know people who lost loved ones on that day. We're going to do everything in our means to prevent that from happening in the future. Chairman Rogers is right. The PRISM program -- that is the program that surveils foreign terrorists -- has been very successful. What I want to reform is the bulk data collection program under the Patriot Act, Section 215. The NSA is literally collecting every phone record of every American every day. And, look, the content of those phone calls is not available, but I think knowing when I call somebody from where I call somebody and for how long I call somebody is a violation of your privacy. There are apps that you can get on your smart phone or your smart tablet or your computer, Bob, that can take that phone data and give a pretty good impression of what you do during your daily activities. To me, that is a violation of Americans' privacy. The other point I would make is that, when we collect, in bulk, all of these records of Americans' phone calls, we're not necessarily being any more effective in protecting the country, and we're sweeping up; we're vacuuming up innocent Americans' phone records. Let's restrict that to terrorists or spies. And my bill, which I want to push as hard as I possibly can, would limit the ways in which the intelligence community accesses average Americans', innocent Americans', phone records. That's the way to go forward. That's the way in which to protect not just our people but the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the biggest, baddest weapon we have.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, let me just ask you this question. So the government has the ability to do this, but there's no suggestion that they are doing it, willy-nilly. In other words, I mean, you know, we give the police the right to carry guns. But that doesn't mean they're going to run around and shoot up the town, every policeman. We have laws and all that sort of thing. So the fact that they would have this ability, there's nothing to suggest that they are doing this. And there seem to be a lot of safeguards to prevent them from doing that.

UDALL: There are some safeguards, Bob. There are not enough safeguards. Why not, when you need to corroborate the data that you're generating in the PRISM program -- that's the program that Chairman Rogers is describing that's been successful. I support it. But if you need Americans' phone records, then go to the FISA court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, and get a warrant to generate access to those business records. If you look at Section 215 of the Patriot Act, if you define it broadly, which this administration has done, you can collect people's medical records, their financial records, their credit card records. You name it; anything is on the table. That's one of the reasons that the author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, Chairman Sensenbrenner in the House, has called for a throttling back of this section that allows for this metadata collection, Bob. We don't need to do this to have -- to fight an effective war against terrorism. We're violating Americans' privacy. It's time to change the way in which this law is applied.

SCHIEFFER: Have you -- do you have any evidence that the government has abused this notion -- in other words, that they have gone in and gotten somebody's telephone records just -- just to have them or just to check it out or for political reasons or for some reason or another? Or are you just saying this is what could happen?

UDALL: There's certainly -- the dynamic of what could happen, Bob, literally, the NSA -- and, look, there are patriots there everywhere you look. The people in the NSA are working very hard to protect us. But right now, they're literally collecting every phone record of every American and holding that in a database. I'd much rather have that data held by the phone companies. If we need to get access to it, the FISA court can issue a warrant. That's how the police operate. That's how the FBI operate. That's how we've operated in America in the past. We don't need the NSA to be collecting in bulk all of these records of innocent Americans. It's not effective. I would argue that it comes close to being unconstitutional. And there's a better way to do this. So that's why it's important to have this debate. We're having it in the Congress. Moderates, liberals, conservatives, all are sharing concern about the reach of the NSA's bulk collection program. Let's change it. Let's reform it. Let's narrow it.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, it's very good to have you this morning. This is a very complicated story, and I think, maybe, we've shed a little light on it this morning. We're going to hear a lot more about it in the future. Thank you so much for being with us. And we'll be back in one minute.