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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/10/13

Guests: Barton Gellman, Ron Suskind

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That`s exactly right. You were here to see it, people. It just happened. All right. Thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour. Happy Monday. We begin tonight with this very cool kid. Her name is CyFi. C-Y-F-I. CyFi is obviously cooler than I am and probably significantly cooler than you are as well. No offense. CyFi is the founder of something called DefCon Kids. DefCon is an annual convention of sorts for computer hackers, for people who see themselves as white hat computer hackers. See themselves as the good guys in the hacking world. The kids part of DefCon is called DefCon kids. And CyFi is one of the founding kid hackers of that convention. In 2011, CyFi figured out a vulnerability in mobile phone apps. She found a bug called Time Traveler that exists in games that you play on your cell phone. She says she found the bug when she started to get bored with the games. And in figuring out how to change the time configurator in the games, she found some glaring weak spots in games that supposedly had been tested for security by all sorts of official corporate types. She found the Time Traveler bug in a game called "Smurfs Village". She found it in "Pocket Frogs". She found it in "Zombie Farm". She found it and she fixed it in "Farm Story". And she did all of this when she was 10 years old. When I was 10 years old, I was fighting a daily losing battle with cursive. But CyFi was debugging cell phone apps. And at DefCon kids in 2011, they held a contest for other young hackers to try to do the same kind of work. It was a bug chasing contest for computer code, essentially. Find it and fix it. And they named the contest after her. AT&T, the big corporation, gave the prizes for winning that contest at DefCon kids that year, because AT&T is apparently one of those companies that`s smart enough to know it`s good to have hackers try to help you if you have the choice. You can see here in small letters on this logo there, see it`s CyFi C- Y-F-I, CyFi zero day contest. That`s her contest. Last year, her contest logo ended up on this shirt on this guy. This guy is one of the most powerful people in the country. His name is Keith B. Alexander. He`s generally called "General Alexander" because he is a general in the U.S. Army. People who wear the uniform for a living sometimes don`t exactly pull it off when all of a sudden they have to appear in public not in a uniform, so forgive him the tucked in t-shirt. But there he is. General Alexander is the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. He is the director of the National Security Agency which we sometimes forget is a part of the military. And last year, as part of his job, running cyber command and running the NSA, he took off the uniform, put on the jeans and the t-shirt, and spoke to CyFi`s DefCon kids. He also talked to the grown-ups, to the white hat, good guy grown-up hackers of DefCon. That was him in the hacker contest logo t-shirt tucked into the jeans. Got up on stage at the hacker convention and he talked to that room full of hackers because he, as head of the NSA, wants to hire them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, NSA DIRECTOR: I think the third bullet down is what we really want to do is innovate freedom. How we`re going to look at where we take this next. This is a great opportunity for not only our nation but for the world. And you know one of the things that I`m really proud of saying is when you look at Vint Cerf and the others, we`re the ones who helped develop. We`re the ones who built this Internet. We ought to be the first ones to secure it. I think you folks could help us do that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The NSA general at the hacker convention. The U.S. government has openly been trying to hire hackers for a while now, especially for work in national security and intelligence. Before General Alexander went to the hacker`s convention last year, the NSA put up a special Web site for recruiting computer hackers. It said, quote, "If you have a few, shall we say, indiscretions in your past, do not be alarmed." Apply anyhow. General Alexander in person at that convention told the hackers, "From my perspective what you are doing to figure out the vulnerabilities in our systems is absolutely needed." CNN had a reporter in the back of the room who reported at the time when he said, what you`re doing is absolutely needed, one of the hackers in the back of the room then yelled back at the general, "Then stop arresting us!" Complex, right? Last week in competing bombshell scoops, first "The Washington Post", and a few minutes later, "The Guardian", both reported on the existence of a giant U.S. surveillance system at the NSA called PRISM. The system vacuums up information from some of the largest Internet companies in the country, stuff like your videos and your pictures and your e-mails, your chats. So those things are not just traveling between you and whoever you are corresponding with on purpose, they are in a sense being diverted into the data caches of the U.S. government. The stories came with classified slides, leaked from what looked like NSA training materials, showing which Internet companies were said to have customers` private data to flowing into this PRISM thing, and when that flow of data began for each company. Classified slides leaked anonymously to "The Washington Post" and to "The Guardian." And then, over the weekend, the person who said he leaked these slides came forward and identified himself. This guy who rocked official Washington by leaking the details of this very highly classified surveillance program, he says he never graduated from high school. Got a GED instead, joined the Army. He washed out after getting injured in a training accident. He tells "The Guardian" that he then got a job working as a security guard at a covert NSA facility at the University of Maryland. He says he then got a job with the CIA working computer security which seems like quite a leap from security guard to CIA computer guy. But reportedly his computer skills, his Internet skills, in particular, put him on the fast track in the intelligence world. Then, he says the CIA posted him to Switzerland under diplomatic cover maintaining computer network security. And then, he left government work for life in the private sector, with high-paying jobs for at least two different intelligence contractors doing the same kind of work he had been doing for the government but now he was working for outside firms and getting paid bank. If you think about it, this guy has had one hell of a career trajectory, right? From high school dropout to Army washout, to making 200 grand a year doing highly classified U.S. intelligence work for elite agencies, all over the course of less than a decade. And all while still just holding the title of technical assistant or something like that. "The Washington Post" quotes one former CIA official saying that the terms the self-described leaker used to describe his positions at the CIA, at least, did not necessarily match the internal descriptions of how jobs are described at the agency. "The Guardian" made this video introducing the world to the man who leaked the NSA`s documents, he was hiding in a Hong Kong hotel room, hiding from the largest superpower on Earth because he, 29-year-old former technical assistant, had just leaked that superpowers tippiest, toppiest, top secret internet surveillance program. If what happened here is what he says happened here, this rather ordinary fellow apparently had access to devastatingly important, very, very secret information from the government`s perspective absolutely could not be leaked without causing great damage to the country. If it was so secret, and so I important that it be kept secret, is it weird that he knew about it? And how many other people know about it, too? As far back as 2010, "The Washington Post" reported a third of all people with top-secret clearances in the country don`t work for the government. They work for contractors. In January, the director of national intelligence reported that more than 480,000 contractors have top secret clearance. Another 580,000 have confidential or secret clearance. That means more than 1 million contractors now, people working for private companies have clearance to see highly classified information. After 9/11, the intelligence world changed. Not just by getting massively bigger. It also changed in response to the diagnosis that part of a reason 9/11 happened is because dots were not being connected. Intelligence was too compartmentalized. Not enough people had access to enough information to be able to see the whole picture, to see how things related to each other. So the intelligence community was changed so that more people can see more stuff all at once. Have those changes made it so your average 20- something guy with a clearance, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, has the post-9/11 changes made it so the average grunt with a clearance has access to way more stuff than your average grunt used to have access to. Before 9/11, would you have to be a more high-ranking person in order to have access to this kind of stuff that just leaked? Does it make a difference so many of the people with clearances now don`t work for the government, itself, they work for companies? They work for contractors? I mean, you can make your case either way, but the two most consequential leakers of this generation are this guy, who was working for a contractor, Booz Allen, and this guy, Bradley Manning, who was working for the military. They both leaked. They were both pretty low-level guys but they both had access to high-level information. What is most notable and most similar about these two stories is not who they were working for directly, but the fact that these guys were among hundreds of thousands of Americans who have high-level clearances -- high- level clearances that provided them as fairly low-level employees to access to really highly classified documents. How can somebody who`s a 22-year-old private first class or 29-year- old technical assistant access documents about programs that are so secretive their disclosure rocks the government to its core? And if you have that many low-level employees all looking at information about your vast invasive surveillance machine that the government will not talk about in public, how safe do you think that information is? It is almost the natural conclusion that one of them, among the hundreds of thousands, is going to decide to leak in the belief that what they`re doing is ultimately for the public good, or at least to satisfy public curiosity. And then, if you are that low-level employee with that access to very highly classified supposedly super-consequential information, and you decide to let this stuff be publicly known, how do you decide what to do with it? If you`re so technically skilled, why not do it yourself? You`re a computer guy. You`re maybe even a computer geek, and I mean that as a term of endearment, why not post it online yourself? Why go through an intermediary? Why go to the press? Why go to two different media sources, as happened in this case? Why pick these reporters in particular? The writer for "The Guardian" on these stories is Glenn Greenwald. He`s been a guest on this show multiple times. I`ve known Glenn for a long time. He`s a longtime national security blogger who`s been very critical of surveillance and of secrecy. He`s a civil libertarian absolutist and one of the most eloquent ones we have. Mr. Greenwald has been outspoken in support of whistle-blowing in general. He`s been particularly outspoken about Bradley Manning. The writer for "The Washington Post" in these articles is Bart Gellman, Barton Gellman. He has a reputation for major scoops about national intelligence. That history, and I think this may be important, has led him to be attacked as a reporter. Him to be attacked not as a leaker, but as somebody who will publish information that the government maybe does not want published. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a special word for people who provide information to the enemy of their country. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What word is that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What word do we use? Traitor. Traitor. BARTON GELLMAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I really resent accusations that we`re not patriots or that we are indifferent to the security of the United States if we publish things that the government says are secret. I think what I do is every bit as patriotic as what a soldier does or what an intelligence officer does. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: If you were looking for safe journalistic hands for your story to publish information that the government did not want published, you can see the appeal of talking to that reporter, right? I should mention that from that clip, from "Secrecy" from that movie, the man who`s calling Barton Gellman a traitor in that film is the former chief of information security at the NSA. Barton Gellman, "The Washington Post" reporter who has to defend himself against NSA chargers that he`s a traitor, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for reporting on Dick Cheney`s influence over national security policy. He won a Pulitzer in 2002 for reporting on 2009 and the start of the war on terror. That whole nonsense before the Iraq war about the aluminum tubes that Saddam could only be using for a nuclear program, Barton Gellman is the one who broke the news that the White House knew those aluminum tubes were not necessarily nuclear at all, even when they were saying publicly the opposite. The Connecticut librarians being given those national security letters ordering them to turn over information on people using the library, that was a Bart Gellman scoop. The strategic support branch, a secret CIA-like agency inside the Pentagon answering directly to Donald Rumsfeld, that was a Barton Gellman scoop. Barton Gellman was the one who broke the news that bin Laden had been present at Tora Bora and the Bush administration concluded he escaped from the battle there. In March 2002, six months after 9/11, it was Bart Gellman who broke the news that the Bush administration was making senior officials, senior federal officials do bunker duty, making them live and work secretly outside of Washington to ensure continuity of government in case of an attack on Washington. On 9/11, the news it was Vice President Cheney, not President Bush who ordered the shoot-down of hijacked civilian planes, that news was broken by Bart Gellman. And now, he`s got this new one. Joining us now is Barton Gellman. He`s currently on assignment for "The Washington Post" and also contributing editor-at-large for "Time" magazine, and he`s a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Barton, thanks for being here. GELLMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: Let me ask you first in all of the voluminous reporting on your reporting, are there things about your story that are widely being reported wrong or poorly? GELLMAN: Well, the reaction is problematic because you have a lot of people going around saying that this is nothing different than any other kind of warrant, this is a normal subpoena, it goes to a court, they find probable cause. And then and only then does the government go into the servers of Facebook or Google or Microsoft and extract information. And that misses something very, very big which is that there are secret opinions in the surveillance court which meets only in secret and issues opinions that are only classified that say that rather than having to specify a phone number or an e-mail, those are defined as a facility under the FISA law. You can now define the facility for which you`re permitting a search to be the entire server, an entire network switch over which all library of Congress passes every 14 seconds on the fiber optic cables. That`s the facility that you can search. And the judge certifies this once a year, again, based on evidence and findings that no one else gets to see. And so, the problem here is there is a mass systemic quality to this surveillance, and we have to trust the U.S. government when it says we`re very careful to ensure that we`re not targeting Americans and we`re not using their information appropriately. There`s no check. MADDOW: In terms of the way the companies that are named in that one particular slide, the way the companies have responded. They have responded with seemingly pretty carefully worded, pretty vehement denials that they knowingly have nothing to do with this. What do you make of the way they have responded and does their description of their own behavior comport with what you understand about the program? GELLMAN: They have excellent lawyers, and they`re very -- they`re very well drafted, these statements, or they are addressed to something not terribly relevant. Apple said, for example, at one point, we`ve never heard of PRISM. OK. So you don`t know the code name. You know that the gentleman from the NSA and FBI came up to your door and asked you to make some arrangements. Somebody else on Facebook had a very interesting statement. Joe Sullivan, chief security officer there, I know him. He`s a good guy. And he wrote, when the government comes to us to ask for information about an individual, we review is carefully and make sure of probably cause and blah, blah. He didn`t say they don`t come to us and ask for the whole thing sometimes. MADDOW: Right. GELLMAN: He just talked about when they come for individuals. So, they were all essentially designed to be evasive. One reason we know that is that the U.S. government has confirmed the outlines of the program in the course of commenting on it or in the course of asking us to withhold certain things from publication. MADDOW: Could the companies, could any of the companies say no? And is it substantively important that Twitter is not on the list of companies that are described as taking part in this program? GELLMAN: I find it very interesting that twitter is not on the list. Now, it`s a younger company and so it wasn`t as big and important in the early days of this program as it is now. But Twitter also has a reputation deservedly for fighting hard for user privacy and in particular in one case when it was a recipient of a national security letter which you`re not supposed to -- and there were certain sealed orders against Twitter. Twitter fought in court for permission to notify the users so that they could object to the subpoena before the judge ruled. That`s highly unusual for a company to do. I don`t know that that`s why Twitter is not in this program, but you can look at it this way --according to the law, the attorney general has the power to compel a company to participate in this program and if the company drags its feet, it can go to the FISA judge, the secret surveillance court and get an order to compel. However, nobody wants to do that. I mean, when you have these sort of giants -- you have a giant clandestine program, you have very large, powerful but also highly regulated company, neither one of them really wants to have a fight. So, there`s a prolonged negotiation. The companies have a lot of room for maneuver. So there`s a five-year gap between the time that Microsoft joins and the time that Apple, which is the last of them join. Apparently, Dropbox is said to be coming soon on these slides. So, clearly, there are technical issues they have to solve, but there are ways that the companies can negotiate the access and the conditions. MADDOW: Do you think that disclosing the contours of this program in a way that you have interferes with the ability of this program to continue or helps anybody who wants to evade this form of surveillance evade it? GELLMAN: It`s a matter of public record already that U.S. government asks U.S. companies to cooperate when it`s collecting intelligence about foreign threats and foreign communications. The U.S. government has said that all along. The most highly classified thing in this briefing, as far as the draft of the briefing was concerned, and he said it three different times, these companies are very important to us, we can`t do anything that would harm them. And what he meant was: reputational harm, market harm, harm to their public images. And to me, when something is classified for the reason that, companies are doing something which the public would strongly disapprove of, is exactly the wrong reason to classify something. It is a strong reason to think it is something we ought to bring to light. MADDOW: Barton Gellman, contributing editor at large for "Time" magazine, currently on assignment for "The Washington Post", and a fellow at the Century Foundation and a very, very busy man. Thank you for helping us understand this. Will you stay in touch with us as this unfolds? GELLMAN: I will, indeed. And you know that guy who called me a traitor, I had him come to my Princeton class I taught on secrecy and we had a great time. MADDOW: And did he recant? GELLMAN: He said, maybe traitors aren`t all bad. MADDOW: Very good. And then he killed you. All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Last year, President Obama took a trip for the Summit of Americas. In preparation for that trip, 55 members of the Secret Service were sent to Colombia two days before the president got there, to prepare security for his visit. This is where they stayed. Lovely place. It has fancy pools. It has green gardens. Fountains. Balconies. Lots to see. Lots to do. And a little time to kill in this magical Caribbean wonderland. What happened in Colombia before the president got there for that trip was something out of the movie "The Hangover" except it did not include Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper or a baby. It rather included the president`s Secret Service. The relevant settings for understanding the course of that night include a fancy local strip club called the Hard Rock Cafe, and a pop excuse me, a fancy local strip club, the Hard Rock Cafe, and popular disco bar called Tu Candela. And then, there was the hooker situation. Back at the fancy hotel after a negotiation of terms and some services rendered, there was apparently a dispute between two guys from the Secret Service and the young lady they had brought back to the hotel with them. She ended up complaining to the local police. The police ended up contacting the U.S. embassy and that ended up with not just them but other Secret Service agents getting outed for also bringing paid lady friends back to the hotel, as well as for some rather epic drunkenness. So, the president`s big trip to the Summit of the Americas is basically total overshadowed, and remembered now for the Secret Service`s drunken, carousing, and perhaps criminal cheapness when it comes to paying for sex while on official business. That was last year. That was the Secret Service scandal in Colombia. Today, a new chapter. Today, CBS News published what it said were excerpts from a draft inspector general report. This, too, is about hookers on foreign trips. But in this case, the hooker patrons were not the Secret Service protecting the president. It`s alleged to be the security detail that was protecting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. CBS citing eight recent investigations including one into the charge that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton`s security detail, quote, "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries. Problem, the report says, was endemic." Oh, wait, there`s more. Another one of the internal State Department negotiations was, quote, "The case of a U.S. ambassador who held a diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park." "The State Department inspector general`s memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who, quote, `routinely ditched his security detail`, and inspectors suspect this was in order to solicit sexual favors from prostitutes." This ambassador was reportedly summoned to D.C. where he was reportedly scolded by an undersecretary and then permitted to return to his post. No word on how much the scolding by the undersecretary set him back. The overall context here, the reason a memo or a draft report is being leaked here is because investigators from the diplomatic security service are saying that investigations like these were blocked or quashed by higher-ups in the State Department. Beyond the alleged hookers issue with the ambassador and the alleged hookers issue with the Hillary Clinton security detail, there`s also a reported investigation into allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. "Engaged in sexual assaults" is weird language, I know, but that`s in quotes from this supposed report. There was another reported investigation into an alleged underground drug ring operating near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, supplying State Department security contractors with drugs. The inspector general`s office so far says it doesn`t comment on draft reports. The State Department today said we take allegations of misconduct seriously and investigate thoroughly. The department`s spokesperson saying, "The notion we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case, any case, is preposterous. Ambassadors would be no exception." State Department says all the cases mentioned by CBS today were thoroughly investigated or still are being investigated, but honestly, with this much this salacious now circulating essentially un-rebutted, this is certainly not the last you will hear of this one. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The president of Iran has been in a helicopter crash. He`s fine. He survived it. The "Sun" tabloid in Britain took the opportunity of the crash to refer to him in print as, quote, "The pint-sized tyrant." "Sun" always keeping it classy. But the way this helicopter crash is being reported on beyond the tabloids is a little bit bizarre. And maybe a little bit important. And only one of a bunch of really weird things going on in the strangest election in the world right now outside of the crazy Republican ticket that`s running in Virginia. So, that`s coming up. Helicopter crash and all. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Taking a very sensitive classified program that targets foreign persons on foreign lands and putting just enough out there to be dangerous is dangerous to us, it`s dangerous to our national security. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Leaking this information is dangerous to our national security. That was Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, top Republican on House Intelligence Committee, making the case that the mere disclosure of these surveillance programs over the past week essentially endangers the effectiveness of the programs going forward. If you talk about the stuff, we can`t do it anymore. That specific argument is now being made on a bipartisan basis. Republicans and Democrats alike, not necessarily voicing outrage about the program, itself, some of them are, but most of them aren`t. Most of them are mostly outraged that we`re talking about the programs. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: For me, it is literally, not figuratively, literally gut wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities. The damage that these revelations incur are huge. REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK (via telephone): This person is dangerous to the country. The fact that he has allowed our enemies to let our sources and methods are is extremely, extremely dangerous. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We ought to be careful that we don`t - - we are not discussing practices that we employ that would help the enemy evade our detection and apprehension. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s a reason why these programs are classified. If every step that we`re taking to try to prevent a terrorist act is on the front page of the newspapers or on television, then presumably the people who are trying to do us harm are going to be able to get around our preventive measures. That`s why these things are classified. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: President Obama and Senator John McCain rarely agree on anything, especially as it relates to national security. But on this, they agree. If you talk about this program, if you reveal the details of surveillance programs like this, essentially you rendered those programs ineffective. The bad guys know what we are doing, so doing it doesn`t work anymore. Is that true? In 2001, the Bush administration had a dilemma. It was just after 9/11. They had the technological know-how to conduct widespread surveillance on phone calls and e-mails, but they thought that something stood in their way. A law from the 1970s said if you want to something about that, gobble up that information wholesale, you have to go to a special court and get approval. The Bush administration decided not to do that, because doing it would risk revealing the program. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind revealed in his book "The One Percent Doctrine", the thinking was that going to the court or trying to alter the 1978 act would somehow expose with leaks or just with questions that we would have to answer for what our systems capabilities were. So, we just went ahead. The Bush administration went ahead with the program, forget the court, and eventually the program was disclosed to news outlets like "The New York Times" and "USA Today" through various leaks though they skipped the extra dangerous step of trying to make it all seem legal. But guess what happened after it got exposed. Guess what happened after the news broke in those papers about what the administration was doing. The program just continued. They just kept doing it. Public disclosure did not forever destroy that program`s e effectiveness. They didn`t close up shop and go home. Oh, now people have heard that we`re doing it. They went on with the program. Maybe with a little more oversight attached to it, but they didn`t stop. Does describing programs like this hurt them? Has it ever over all the times things like this have been leaked over the past decade? Joining us now is Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, senior fellow at Harvard Center for Ethics, and the author of many best- selling books including the aforementioned, "One Percent Doctrine." Ron, thank you so much for being here. RON SUSKIND, JOURNALIST: Nice to be here. MADDOW: Do we know whether or not disclosing this program`s details hurts them? SUSKIND: Absolutely. We have a lot of experience here. There have been instances way back in `01, `02, `03 where certain things were disclosed. It probably did do some damage. But the fact is, on balance, that terrorists, the people who we`re after, understand a great deal about this. Many of their troops, many of their numbers have been caught by it, this nexus of email, telecommunications and financial data, this tripartite nexus. And so, when they say, my God, we`re handing a weapon, to the terrorists. We`re telling them how we do it, the terrorists are very clear, anyone even with a passing interest in this realm of terror understands exactly how this process works because it`s been published many times in many places, in my book, in other books, in the newspapers. And that`s certainly a main issue that they need to be concerned about. How do we get caught? How do we evade them? And so, this whole notion that they say time and again, oh, gosh, now we`ve handed a weapon to the terrorists, now they know how we do it is actually pretty hollow and I think they kind of know that. MADDOW: It seems like we`re getting two arguments. One, this program has been irreparably harmed by discussing the details of it. And, two, this program is very, very effective, we just can`t tell you how. Seems like those are great -- neither of those is an argument for we should be doing this. And we are now as a country having an argument about whether we should be doing this, because we didn`t know to argue about it before because we didn`t know for sure it was happening. We all suspected it. Do you feel we were having a reason debate that`s well-informed? SUSKIND: Well, I think right now what`s happening is people are coming around again and again. So, it takes a while. It`s taken the American people I think a while for their eyes to adjust, if you know what I mean, to saying, wait a second, this is how it works. I`m leaving a data trail wherever I go. And that data trail is one in which they don`t really care about me because I haven`t done anything problematic, but I am leaving a path for them to decide if they so see fit that I`m a problem, a problem for the U.S. government. Dick Cheney way back said, if you haven`t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Well, that`s a kind of a reversal of the way our systems of laws work, of innocent until proven guilty. And ultimately the accuser here is not so much an individual as a computer algorithm that says you made a phone call or a phone call seems to be attached to you, a server, a community of calls that you`re a part of. And thereby, it`s almost like, you know, you start with the lottery subset and next thing you know you`re at the 7-Eleven where they bought the tickets. Well, you`re at the 7-Eleven where that lottery ticket was bought and you may be in that group, and all the while you don`t know that you`re in the last cut of 20 people that the U.S. government`s interested in. All this happens invisibly. Now, the FISA court has a role. We`ve talked about that. But on balance, much of this is operated by a kind of a vast activated matrix to say this is interesting to us, whether it`s a keyword search, you`ve said something in a phone call, whether it`s a type of phone call that`s being made. Whether it`s a connection between a charge, an American Express charge, where a phone call`s made in a particular place. Or overseas, connected to America. I think what`s interesting, though, is that people don`t care nearly as much as I think most folks thought they would. MADDOW: Right. Yes. SUSKIND: Startling. MADDOW: I think that we`ve started to realize, I mean, this is an argument that was actually made with some eloquence by the guy who says he is the leaker saying, you know, the Internet is a TV that watches you. That this is a device and a tool that you get more out of when you give it more about you. And so we`ve decided to hand everything over. Essentially so that we can get more out of this tool that we all use each day. SUSKIND: Yes. MADDOW: Does that mean that we are inured to the idea that anything we do online, anything that has any digits associated with it at all, should ever be seen as something that is personal to us? SUSKIND: I think people intellectually understand that they`re leaving a data trail. I think we still feel like independent and autonomous people moving through the world without anyone watching us. On balance, that`s true, but what`s created is an enormous digital net in which you are identifiable, and I think those two things, I`m part of this vast digital matrix and I`m an independent person who`s anonymous, those two things are in conflict. I think right now, you`re seeing a moment where much of this that`s already been reported is being reported essentially again and people are going, no, wait a minute, let me think about this. I don`t know if it`s going to change behavior or not. I think we`re waiting for that now. But it`s certainly not something that the community of those who wish to do us harm did not know about. MADDOW: That`s right. And the thing that I -- the thing that for me is intellectually orienting here is if we had been asked to make a decision on this before doing it, would we have decided to do it? Because it happened without us deciding, at least a lot of us knowing we were deciding and that`s the terms on which these debates should happen. SUSKIND: Well, maybe going forward that question will be proffered in some other fashion. As they move forward, because there will be next chapters of next generations of exactly this sort of surveillance activity I`m sure to come. MADDOW: Ron Suskind. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The One Percent Doctrine." and other books -- always good to have you here. SUSKIND: My pleasure. MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The most junior member of the United States Senate is this man, Jeffrey Chiesa. Senator Chiesa has been a senator for roughly five hours now. He was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden this afternoon. He was appointed to the seat by his longtime friend, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The Senate seat was previously held by Frank Lautenberg who passed away last week at the age of 89. A special election to permanently fill the seat that Senator Chiesa is now warming will be held in October. In October on a Wednesday and not 20 days later on New Jersey`s regularly scheduled Election Day on a Tuesday in November. That special election date is because Governor Chris Christie wants that November day to be his election day and his alone. Doesn`t need any energized Democrats raining on his parade by turning out to vote in an election. The deadline to enter primary to run for the Senate seat was today at 4:00 Eastern. Here`s Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey delivering petitions to get his name on the ballot today for the Democratic Party. Also throwing hats in the ring on the Democratic side, Congressman Rush Holt. Also the speaker of the New Jersey assembly, Sheila Oliver. And also, the very profile, very popular mayor of the state`s largest city, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. So that`s the Democratic field. As of today it`s official, nobody else can get in. It`s those four: Frank Pallone, Rush Holt, Sheila Oliver and Cory Booker. On the Republican side this is interesting. You have the former mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, who is a serial campaigner Tea Party guy named Steve Lonegan. He ran in the Republican primary governor`s race twice and lost both times. His competition on the Republican side a woman by the name of Alieta Ecks. She`s also a self-described Tea Party candidate. So if you want to know who is going to be the next senator from the great state of New Jersey after this placeholder guy, we still don`t know, but the Republican field is not exactly a constellation of bright political stars. And the Democratic primary ought to be a good fight. Between four accomplished serious-minded Democrats who are all pretty well regarded and who all have real jobs in politics. On paper on the Democratic side for that Senate seat, it is a great fight. It is a great fight on paper until you look at the other part of the paper that has the poll numbers on it. A Quinnipiac poll out today shows that in the Democratic field Mayor Cory Booker leads by, wow -- he leads Frank Pallone by 44 points, leads Rush Holt by 43 points. Sheila Oliver just got in the race last night, too late to be included in this poll. So, we`ll have to see once they start polling on her as well. But 53 percent to 9 percent and 10 percent? This race is starting as a blowout. We`ll have to see if it tightens up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The current president of Iran has had the job for the last eight years. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he`s known around the world for defending Iran`s pursuit of nuclear weapons and denying the Holocaust and hugging Hugo Chavez`s mom -- controversially hugging Hugo Chavez`s mom. The hard liners at home were not happy about that hugging. The last time Ahmadinejad was re-elected there were giant protests for months, a widespread belief that the only way Ahmadinejad got re-elected was by rigging that vote. But rigged or not, Ahmadinejad stayed president. He has been infuriating the West as Iran`s president for the past eight years. But this week we get a new one. Iran holds elections to pick a new president at the end of this week. And yes, everything having to do with Iran is very geo-strategically important and very serious and it matters who they pick. But honestly, the sheer politics of this election they`re having are amaze balls. The debates, three so far, that itself is not weird. Obama and Romney had three debates, too. But every one of the Iranian debates has lasted more than four hours. And it was at one of these four-hour marathon debates in the second half toward the end of the four hours, when the moderator decided to change things up a little bit. We`re going to try something new, lightning round. At the end of four hours the moderator decided to switch to yes or no questions. One-word answers only. It`s going to be awesome. Who`s with me? I said who`s with me? Nobody was with him. The candidates totally shot him down and refused to go along with that part of the debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AREF: Really? Passing a test? What kind of a tests do you expect us to pass? MODERATOR: It is not a test. AREF: Yes, it is. I will still here out of respect for the dear people of this country. But I will not answer any of your test questions. REZAEI: You know that I am a patient person, I can withstand much. from the beginning, I have been wondering, where this debate is going. You are harming the people watching at home and you are insulting the eight of us. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Talk about taking on the moderator, right? Ignoring the fact that all the candidates were rejecting the whole yes or no questions thing, the moderator nevertheless pressed on with the yes or no thing and tried to force them into it. Here`s how that went. (BEGI8N VIDEO CLIP) VELAYATI: This question cannot be answered with a yes or not JALILI: The question is not complete. AREF: I have no opinion. MODERATOR: You insist (ph) our question is wrong? REZAEI: Yes. GHALDAFI (ph): The question is wrong. VELAYATI: In my opinion, the question is wrong. MODERATOR: Doctor? In your opinion, the question is wrong also? Dr. Haddad? HADDAD: I do not see this question as a good question. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Bad question. Wrong. Bad. So we`re somewhere in the third or fourth hour of this debate. The candidates are clearly very displeased with the format. If you`re the moderator here, obviously you know the thing to do now is to give them all a Rorschach test. The moderator switched from yes or no questions to pictures. He held up eight different pictures, and the candidates had to talk about their feelings about the pictures. There was a farm, a ship, a picture of heavy traffic, a hospital. One of the candidates responded that the picture of a farm made him think about a farm. He also said that the picture of the hospital made him think about Iran`s obesity epidemic. Iran has an obesity epidemic. Iran is just like us. Also, Iran is just like John Boehner. Just as Republican House Speaker John Boehner and other American politicians have endeared themselves to even their political critics by crying a lot in public, it turns out Iranian politicians are crying a lot in this election as well. This is one of the presidential candidates getting so choked up in a TV interview that the station had to abruptly cut to commercial. Another one of the candidates decided to make a long campaign video that was mostly just images of him crying. His own campaign video is him sitting alone in a theater watching things that made him sad and then cry and then they filmed him crying and released that as his vote for me campaign ad. It should also be noted that crying in public has kind of tried and true appeal in Iranian politics right now. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself, he has a reputation in the west as a pugnacious guy but for a domestic audience, he likes to be seen as a frequent crier. And to top it all off, in the lead up to this week`s voting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in a helicopter crash. Ahmadinejad, the current president, the guy whose election sparked all the protests a few years ago, the guy who`s really deeply controversial at home, the guy who certain elements of the current Iranian government are not pleased with, last week, he was in a helicopter crash in the northern part of Iran. He`s fine. Nobody died. But the media reports on the Ahmadinejad helicopter crash put air quotes around the word "accident." As in President Ahmadinejad just survived a helicopter crash. It`s reported to have been an accident. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, yes, right. Again, though, he`s fine. The media apparently thinks he was set up. And the debates all last four hours. And the candidates sometimes mutiny on the moderators and there are Rorschach tests for the candidates to respond to, and there`s a lot of fake crying for positive political effect, including well-produced long campaign videos that are just good the crying. The Iranian elections are turning out to be amazing, even before we find out if they`re going to be rigged again this time too. Voting is on Friday. Watch this space. That does it for us tonight. Thanks for being with us on this fine Monday night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONELL." Thanks for being with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END