The chair of the Rules Committee in the Senate, Minnesota Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar is interviewed. Major data leak reveals spyware sold by Israeli company could allow governments to target opposition.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That doesn`t -- that does not mean that it will. But I can feel the kind of will intensifying just in terms of the folks I`m talking to as well.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, thank you so much for making time tonight.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: You bet, Chris. Thanks for having me on.
HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Monday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour, this fine Monday night. Happy to have you here.
There`s a lot going on tonight. First of all, you should know that right after me tonight, after this show at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, it`s MSNBC`s special live hour with the Democrats who walked out of the Texas legislature, who left the state of Texas under threat from the Texas governor that they would all be arrested on their return.
By leaving the Texas state capitol, by leaving the state, so they`re beyond the reach of Texas law enforcement, these Democrats are preventing a quorum in the state legislature back home, which means that in very practical terms, they`re preventing Texas Republicans from passing draconian new voting restrictions. At least for now.
They could have gone anywhere outside of Texas. They chose to come to Washington, D.C. specifically to ask for federal help, to ask for new federal protections that could set a floor on voting rights that no state can fall below. That of course is the idea behind the For the People Act. The For the People Act is busy not passing the United States Senate right now basically because of one conservative Democratic senator named Joe Manchin.
The Texas Democrats have met with him directly. They have met with other senators as well. They`ve met with White House officials up to and include the Vice President Kamala Harris.
These Texas Democrats are away from their families, away from their jobs and businesses, away from their beloved Texas. They`re likely to be staying away for weeks to continue to press this case and to make sure there is no quorum at home. Like I said, they are literally facing arrest when they do go back to Texas.
And now, six of these Texas Democrats have tested positive for COVID in recent days. It was five when this "Texas Tribune" headline went up. It`s now six. They are just in the middle of the whirlwind right now in so many ways.
Again, we here at MSNBC are going to be running a special live hour with them next hour right after this show. So you`ll want to make sure to be here for that. Again, that starts at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight right after me.
We`ve got a lot on our plate, though, here tonight. There`s a lot going on. We`ve got a bit of a breakthrough on this story that we`ve been covering a lot lately about the translators who worked for U.S. troops in Afghanistan during America`s 20-year-long war in Afghanistan. These translators are now being hunted by the Taliban specifically because they helped American forces. Particularly among U.S. veterans, who served combat tours in Afghanistan, there`s been a real urgency and real worry about whether we`re getting these Afghans who helped us out in time. Since U.S. troops are already all but gone from Afghanistan now and the Taliban is on the march.
Well, as I said, today was a bit of a breakthrough on that story. Today, the Pentagon and the State Department did finally make some concrete announcements for the first time that they`ve got plans in place at least for the first 700 or so of these translators and their families. We had thought that they might be flown to Guam, to the U.S. territory of Guam to have their applications to come to the U.S. processed. Turns out that is not the plan. They are not going to Guam, but as of today the State Department and the Pentagon does have a plan for where they`re going to send these folks, the first group of them at least.
We`ll be updating you on that tonight. Again, bit of a breakthrough on that story that we`ve been covering so closely.
We`re also tonight going to be looking at this blockbuster reporting making headlines literally all over the world today about a company that`s been selling military-grade surveillance technology to governments all over the world. Even if you, you know, never click on a dodgy link sent to you from someone you don`t know, even if you always change your passwords and they`re really hard to guess, even if you keep all your software up to date and your devices up to date and you have all the latest security patches and you have two-factor authentication and all that other annoying stuff they tell you to do, even if you do everything right this is spying software that can see every single thing that you do on your phone, and everything about you that your phone can discern including your exact location. It can turn on the microphone on your phone without you knowing or the camera on your phone without you knowing.
Forty governments around the world are supposed to be by contract, they`re supposed to be using this technology for law enforcement, and against, you know, hostile foreign spies for counterintelligence.
But in this huge reporting project that launched headlines all over the world today, more than 80 different reporters working in dozens of different countries, what they found is that the people who are actually being targeted with this total surveillance capability, they aren`t necessarily criminals and gangsters and spies.
It`s exactly who you`d think would be targeted with this kind of surveillance technology by a government that didn`t feel like it faced any rules for doing such a thing. They`re targeting human rights activists, opposition leaders, dissidents, journalists, rival politicians. Some foreign leaders appear to be using this software to spy on their own family members.
The scope of it is like a science fiction movie. But it is real. It`s now been documented, again, in dozens of countries around the globe, tens of thousands of individual phone numbers being associated with this type of spying.
The question of what can be done about it is more interesting and sort of more of an open question than you might think. We`ve got expert help here on that tonight joining us in just a few minutes. I`m really looking forward to that discussion. So like I said, there`s a lot going on in the news today, including some big important and sort of complex moving stories we`re going to try to cover over the course of this hour.
There`s also in the news today one story that I will admit I feel sort of - - it`s not complex. And it`s not brand new. But I do feel a little bit catty and totally vindicated about it and I just have to tell you about it for a second.
This is a story that dates back to 2015, the summer of 2015. When a man named Donald Trump first announced he was running for president. You`ll remember what that announcement looked like.
The very next day after that announcement, we ran a segment here on this show about what appeared to me to be fairly convincing evidence that the Donald Trump presidential campaign launch seemed to be the first presidential campaign launch in U.S. history where the candidate actually had to pay actors to show up and pretend to be supporters of this candidate who was announcing his campaign. And there was a few different components of that reporting, on what led to us surmising that and putting it on TV the day after Trump announced.
First of all, CNN had reported on the day of the announcement that weirdly somebody who appeared to be part of the event was out on the street in front of Trump Tower like carnival barking to try to build up the crowd. It was a pushy guy literally out on the sidewalk in midtown Manhattan in front of this building where the announcement was going to happen, trying to persuade random New York City pedestrians and tourists that they should step inside, folks, come on in, it`s free, we`ve got air-conditioning in here. There`s a free show, come on in. I mean, that was -- that was weird enough.
Also, we had sent a producer to the event. Our producer at the Trump announcement actually heard people in the VIP section talking about how to them it seemed like maybe this supposed crowd of Trump supporters actually included a considerable number of people who were being paid to be there, who weren`t legitimate Trump supporters.
We also talked to an anti-Trump activist who said that he had attended the launch that day and gotten the same vibe that our producer did. He had then found social media postings from the event not from people who are actual Trump supporters who wanted to brag about the fact that they had been there. In fact, there was a suspicious dearth of posts like that. Instead, what he found were social media posts from New York City actors, people who use -- regularly use their social media accounts to promote acting gigs in which they have participated. That was the social media record of the event.
So piecing all that together and then by the day after the Trump campaign launch "The Hollywood Reporter" actually got its hands on an e-mail sent out by a company called Extra Mile Casting. Extra Mile, it`s a little bit of a double entendre. This is like we`ll go the extra mile for you. But also this is a company that provides extras -- extras for photo shoots and movies and TV shows and stuff.
Extras are -- they`re acting jobs but it`s not people who have speaking roles generally. It`s warm bodies in the background of a scene somewhere, particularly if you need a lot of them. People who are otherwise trying to get better gigs as actors will sometimes take a gig as an extra just to make extra cash.
One point in my life when I had very little money and was piecing it together with multiple jobs I worked as an extra on a few different film sets. I wasn`t an actor but you could get paid 50 bucks or 100 bucks just to stand around and do what they said and you probably wouldn`t end up on camera anyway. Kind of fun. Easier than a lot of my bad jobs.
But anyway, you hire extras like in bulk, right?
You don`t have to be too discerning about it. It`s like I need X number of people to appear in X place at X time. They should all be dressed like this. They should behave this way. And then you know, there`s the terms of the deal.
In total, it`s X hours of work, they`ll all get a flat fee of X dollars by the end of it. These are regular gigs. This is not an infrequent thing. There`s nothing scandalous about it.
This company extra -- the extra mile in New York City does this. This is their business. Nothing wrong with it. Totally respectable business, totally legit.
But the day after Trump announced his presidential campaign and there was all this sort of corroborating circumstantial evidence that maybe there was something a little weird and artificial about the crowd, the "Hollywood Reporter" did obtain an e-mail sent from that company, the Extra Mile. An e-mail blast sent out to their list of actors, their list of potential extras who they hire for all sorts of different gigs.
It said: Hi there. We`re working with our associates at Gotham Government Relations. We`re working with them on a big event happening Tuesday, June 16th. This is an event in support of Donald Trump and an upcoming exciting announcement he`ll be making at this event. The event will be televised.
That`s an important thing for people who are considering extras gigs.
We`re looking to cast people for the event to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him in support of his announcement.
The e-mail continued, this is great: we understand that this is not a traditional background job. Meaning it`s not the traditional acting job we`d usually be hiring you for as an extra.
They say, quote, but we believe acting comes in all forms, and this is inclusive of that school of thought. The event is happening live and will be from 8:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Then in all caps, that`s less than 3 hours.
Meaning even if this sounds disgusting to you, it`s less than three hours. And the rate for this event is 50 bucks cash at the end of the event. Isn`t that an easy way to make money?
Quote: We would love to book you if you are interested and still available. Please let us know.
So the day after this reality show guy Donald Trump announced his campaign for president we reported on this story. I mean, it`s kind of a remarkable thing, right? The guy was being treated by the Republican Party and much of the political press as a normal Republican candidate. But it`s not normal for a politician to have to pay people to pretend to support his campaign. That`s sort of crazy, right?
Especially because at that campaign launch event filled with actors Trump went out of his way to talk about his huge crowd and how much bigger his crowd of supporters was compared to the other candidates at their launch events. Yeah, he paid for them. That`s a story, right? By rights that should become like a foundational thing that you know about a candidate.
It`s like finding out that a politician has a secret second family. You can like never forget that and talk about what their stance is on light rail. You`re always thinking like isn`t that the dude who had the secret second family?
A politician paying fake supporters to pretend to be there in support of his candidacy? That`s crazy. You can never escape that, right?
So the day after Trump announced his presidential campaign, we covered that that day, we got so much shade for that. It was like we stepped on their tail, the way they screamed.
And the Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski denied it in the most uncompromising terms. He said: There is nobody who believes that when Donald Trump goes somewhere, he does not generate the biggest, largest, and most rambunctious crowds on the planet.
He said: Mr. Trump draws record crowds at almost every event at which he is a featured speaker. The crowds are often large, often record setting, and enthusiastic, often with standing ovations.
He said: This whole story about hiring actors for the campaign launch was a lie, a lie, a lie, fake news, fake news.
He said, quote: It is just not true, unequivocally. The Donald Trump campaign and Donald Trump did not pay anybody to attend his announcement.
That was Trump`s campaign manager in 2015 when we first covered that story, and they screamed bloody murder. Boy, did we get a raft of shazizzle for our coverage of that story.
Now that same Trump campaign manager admits that actually the story was true. The same Trump campaign manager telling "Business Insider" that it really was, quote, $50 for every person to come in to stand in Trump Tower.
Ah, now they admit it. We knew it from the beginning. We reported it from the very beginning. But all the lies and the denial and the volume of the complaining and the counterattacks, right, somehow kept us from being one of the foundational things we understood about this little disastrous adventure we`ve just been through in American politics and history.
He did not start off with any actual supporters. He started off as just a famous person on TV who had to pay to fake it, to appear to have political support that he did not actually have. But faking it was good enough. You pay to fake it well enough, and for long enough, and if that`s what it looks on TV -- looks like on TV, eventually you can turn the fake appearance of support into actual support.
Which ought to be a little bit of a soul-searching thing in terms of the American reckoning with authenticity in politics, right? I mean, for all the ink and breadth wasted even now on the appeal of Trump in the Republican Party and his political future and his grip on his supporters, that part of how his presidency came to be sort of ought to be set straight in the political record.
Today, technically, it was. We`ll see if history records that as fact.
Also today, we learned that it was not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different Trump cabinet officials who during the Trump presidency were referred for potential federal criminal prosecution. Five cabinet secretaries referred for federal prosecution during the one brief term that Trump was president.
The first one was Trump`s interior secretary, Ryan Zinke. Remember the guy who used to run his personal flag up a flagpole whenever he was in the building at the Interior Department?
Zinke was investigated for corruption by the inspector general at the Interior Department. The result of that investigation was that they referred Zinke to the U.S. Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution. The Trump Justice Department, surprise, declined to prosecute Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He was first.
Then the second one was Alex Acosta, Trump`s labor secretary. He was also investigated for serious misconduct in office. He was referred to Justice Department prosecutors. Again, the Trump Justice Department declined to prosecute Trump Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.
Third was Trump V.A. Secretary Robert Wilkie, the V.A.`s inspector general discovered potential criminal conduct by Wilkie, referred him for potential prosecution to the U.S. justice department. The Trump Justice Department also declined to prosecute Mr. Wilkie.
Then was only earlier this year we learned it was Elaine Chao too, Trump`s transportation secretary, investigated by the inspector general at her own department on corruption charges. The result of the investigation was that Elaine Chao was referred to federal prosecutors for potential criminal prosecution.
And the Trump Justice Department declined to prosecute her too. It was amazing that there were four of them.
Now, today, numero five-o. Wilbur Ross, Trump`s secretary of commerce, the inspector general at the Commerce Department, has announced that their investigation of Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross turned up evidence of potentially criminal behavior. They turned up evidence that he provided false testimony, in his case about the Trump administration`s efforts to undermine the accuracy of the census. He falsely testified.
And the findings were serious enough that the inspector general referred Wilbur Ross to the U.S. department of justice for him to be potentially criminally prosecuted. The office of inspector general at the Commerce Department says that referral to the Trump Justice Department was made last year, January 2020. Despite the criminal referral there, despite the findings of the investigation that led to the referral, the Trump Justice Department once again declined to prosecute cabinet secretary, in this case, Trump Cabinet Secretary Wilbur Ross.
That has got to be a record. I mean, honestly. I`m not sure there is a U.S. government corruption index that`s comprehensive enough to look this up in some sort of comparative way. But in any other presidency, any other single term of a president, have we had five different cabinet secretaries investigated by their own government agencies which found sufficient evidence of potentially criminal misconduct to refer them to federal prosecutors for federal prosecution? Five of them?
I mean, what are there, 15 cabinet agencies? That`s like a significant portion of the cabinet. And he was only president for one term.
That says something about who the Trump administration had running the government and how they did it. It also says something about the Justice Department under Donald Trump, that in all five cases where cabinet secretaries were referred to them for prosecution, five times in a row they decided nah, let`s move on. What are the odds this will happen again?
People talk about the challenge that Biden`s Attorney General Merrick Garland has, running the U.S. Department of Justice in the wake of what happened there under Trump. Yeah. Yes. Yes.
Anyone looking into the handling of all five of those criminal referrals of Trump cabinet officials, were those all thoroughly and properly considered? All five of them just happened to be nothing to worry about? Might the Justice Department look at any of those again? Do you think those were all properly handled?
Today, a 53-year-old Trump supporter from Long Island in New York was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for threatening to kill a federal judge who heard the criminal case involving Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Today, a 38-year-old man from Tampa, Florida, became the first defendant to be sentenced for his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Federal prosecutors had asked for 18 months in prison in his case. His defense team said he should only get probation. He ended up getting eight months in prison.
Today also the first hearing was set on the house select committee that`s going to investigate the January 6th attack. This is a committee hearing that we had known was scheduled for next week July 27th. Today, we found out what`s going to happen during that hearing. They`re going to hear from multiple police officers who were attacked and in some cases quite grievously injured by the Trump mob that day.
Republicans finally today announced their selection for the five members of Congress they want to serve on that committee. Nancy Pelosi has the right to say yes or no to any of them. But in terms of who the Republicans have nominated, it is this rainbow chorus of -- this Benetton ad. This rainbow chorus of five House Republican congressmen, two of them are named Jim. Three of whom voted not to certify the official result that Joe Biden won the presidential election.
But as the Republican Party remains in complete thrall to the guy who really did, I swear, hire paid actors to pretend to be his political supporters at his presidential campaign launch, as he really did have five different cabinet secretaries referred for federal criminal prosecution while he was still serving his only one term as president, while he continues to both lead the Republican Party and insist that the last election result wasn`t real and shouldn`t count, Republicans are using his lie about the last election to justify restricting voting rights all over the country.
Democrats are still trying to make some kind of progress toward defending voting rights against the Republican attack, although Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia appears determined to stop his own party from doing that.
Today, there were dozens of women arrested on the street in Washington, D.C. between the U.S. capitol and the U.S. Supreme Court. This was a women- led protest with Poor People`s Campaign, involving Indivisible and lots of other groups engaged in civil disobedience to press for the Senate to pass the For the People Act. This is part of what they`re calling a summer of direct action to try to remove the impediments to passing that voting rights legislation in Washington. Again, dozens of women arrested today in Washington pressing the For the People Act.
Today in Atlanta, Georgia, a United States Senate committee, the Rules Committee of the U.S. Senate held its first field hearing in 20 years. This means it`s an official hearing of this U.S. Senate Committee, but it was held abroad. It was held out in the field, in this case in Georgia as Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar brought that show on the road to hear on the voting rights issue from Georgia officials and Georgia voters about what has to this point been unsuccessful efforts to fend off new draconian voting restrictions from Republicans in that state.
It`s one of those days where it`s sort of all at once, all hands on deck.
Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us live next.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Let me go to you, Ms. Butler. You saw many voters with ballots, as a former election official in rural Morgan County. Do you agree the new law will result in fewer voters casting ballots in future elections and how do you think it`s going to impact the citizens in your county?
HELEN BUTLER, GEORGIA COALITION FOR THE PEOLE`S AGENDA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: It definitely will make it more difficult. Various hurdles that they will have to get across to even exercise their right to vote. It will take away the ability of people to have more polling locations, drop boxes inside, the hours that they`ll be able to vote.
KLOBUCHAR: What do you mean hours?
BUTLER: The farmers. You have people that do farming. They work late hours. They won`t be able to get there by 5:00. If they do they lose revenue.
So those are the kinds of things that will happen as a result of these barriers that are put in place. They may be able to get over the hurdles. But my God, what kind of barriers will they have to do to get there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Amy Klobuchar today chaired a U.S. Senate hearing that was uprooted from Washington and moved to Georgia and held in Georgia instead. This is the first time the rules committee in the Senate has held a field hearing in 20 years.
But Senator Klobuchar decided that the issue of voting rights was worth hitting the road for.
To go understand in person what new Republican-installed voting restrictions mean on the ground in states where they are being enacted.
So the committee, at least the Democrats on the committee who showed up, Republicans didn`t show up for this, but Democrats on the committee heard testimony from Georgia voters and elected officials including Helen Butler who you just heard from there. Ms. Butler served on the board of elections in her rural county in Georgia for more than ten years until this year, when a provision in Georgia`s restrictive new voting law allowed local Republican officials to remove her from the board this month so they could take full partisan Republican control of her county`s elections administration.
Helen Butler called the takeover of local elections boards the most egregious part of Georgia`s restrictive new voting laws because these new partisan boards can potentially overturn any election results they don`t like.
Helen Butler and other witnesses at the hearing today urged senators that they need to pass federal voting rights legislation to backstop voting rights nationwide. In Georgia, to block Georgia`s new restrictions. Not to mention those passed in 16 other Republican-controlled states just since the 2020 election.
That said, there is still no clear path to getting that voting rights legislation through the United States Senate. At least it doesn`t appear that way tonight.
But joining us now is somebody who knows better than we do. She`s the chair of the Rules Committee in the Senate, Minnesota Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar.
Senator, it`s great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.
KLOBUCHAR: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So the Rules Committee does have responsibility for things related to federal elections. Lots of rules committee chairs in the past have sort of ignored that part of the purview, ignored that part of the committee`s remit and focused on other things that are like administrative things for the Senate.
You`ve decided to max out basically what the committee can do in terms of that part of its purview. Tell us how that led to this decision today, this remarkable decision, for the first time in 20 years to take the Rules Committee out on the road, out to Georgia.
KLOBUCHAR: Rachel, over 400 bills introduced across the country, 28 of them signed into law. And exhibit A is the one in Georgia. And as we learned today, the devil is in the details. It`s yes, about the water that will be denied voters in line, non-partisan volunteers as we learned yesterday, Stacey Abrams and I did an event in Cobb County, and voters had waited for seven hours, for five hours.
But what we also learned today, and I want to thank incredible committee members, Senator Padilla, Senator Merkley, Senator Ossoff, as well as Senator Warnock, the other senator from Georgia, who testified today.
This is what we learned -- the runoff period, 28 days. Used to be nine weeks when Ossoff and Warnock won, reduced to 28 days. And guess what, Rachel, you can register to vote 29 days. So, no new voter can register and you cannot vote on weekends in the runoff but you can in the general. Everything is done to sow confusion.
Limited hours for the ballot drop boxes. Less ballot drop boxes. Limited restrictions when it comes to mail-in balloting. It`s one thing after another.
And you brought up one of the most egregious things, and Senator Warnock has a bill to fix it, that basically takes the power that was instilled in the local officials and the local election boards and then basically says hey, state election board, we`re going to throw off 2/3 of your members, we`re going to replace them with our own, so it`s a Republican legislature and then if we find a few technical violations, we`re going to get rid of your local election officials.
This is a pure smackdown of voting rights, and it`s why we went there and it`s why the solution is the For the People Act. Basic national vote --
MADDOW: The For the People Act obviously is the subject of all sorts of activism and strategizing and work and speechifying, and we`re seeing sort of pressure in all the different ways that it comes including this increasingly dramatic direct action events, people engaging in peaceful civil disobedience, blocking traffic to try to -- including today in Washington. Dozens of women arrested trying to do anything they can to move people`s conscience to pass this thing.
Is there any movement where it counts inside the U.S. Senate among your colleagues who haven`t been willing to either change the Senate rules to get to a place where Democrats can pass this without Republican votes or to potentially change minds in terms of turning no votes into yeses?
KLOBUCHAR: There`s many paths. First of all, I would abolish the filibuster, and I know some of my colleagues aren`t yet in the same place. There is the possibility of carving out an exception for voting rights, such a key constitutional value. As Reverend Warnock said at Ebenezer Church on Sunday, every vote is a prayer. You could also, and Senator Manchin has indicated willingness to look at a standing filibuster where we force our colleagues to stand there day after day after day. That is ultimately how civil rights legislation passed.
There is the John Lewis Act and the House is starting hearings right away this fall to get the data we need to put forward an expansion of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court shot it down in the Shelby decision, major pieces of it. You could also add to that bill.
Then we have right in front of us the two infrastructure packages. I`m not talking about the bipartisan one. I`m glad that`s continuing to proceed. But this is the one that will include housing and child care. You can include election infrastructure, Rachel. And you can tie incentives for voting with that package.
And then finally, we have the Justice Department. You know, with Vanita Gupta there, Kristen Clarke, this isn`t Bill Barr`s Justice Department anymore. And there is a big focus on going after these egregious discriminatory laws.
MADDOW: The type of election infrastructure you were just describing there that could potentially be put in the infrastructure bill but again can pass through reconciliation, can pass with 50 Democratic votes even if Republicans decide not to support it, is there agreement among Democrats about including election infrastructure as you describe it in that bill?
KLOBUCHAR: I don`t think you`re going to see opposition. Remember, Senator Manchin and I have been working on the product and it`s not finished yet. But we had a lot of provisions in there for basic federal voting rights. This is one that Stacey Abrams, Barack Obama were supportive of, and it didn`t have everything in for the people but it did have some really good provisions.
So if you`re for that you`ve got to be for election infrastructure and you could tie some incentives to that election infrastructure. So I`m not as concerned about that as I am about the limitations we have with reconciliation, as I am about our colleagues. I think they`re going to be good on it.
And so that`s what we are working through right now. And let me make clear, it is no substitution for basic federal voting rights and for the For the People Act or for that matter, the John Lewis bill.
MADDOW: Minnesota senior senator, the chair of the Rules Committee, again, who just chaired the first field committee for that hearing in 20 years, Senator Klobuchar, it`s great to have you here. Thanks for being here tonight.
KLOBUCHAR: Great to be in Georgia. Thanks a lot. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right.
We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Update your phone regularly. Change your passwords. Make your passwords strong passwords. Don`t click on links if you don`t know where they`re from or you don`t know where they`re linking to.
If you live in the modern world, these are the rules we have been told to follow to keep our phones safe from hackers, right? We have talked ourselves into this sort of calming story. That the way you can protect yourself from being hacked, from being robbed, from being spied on through the phone that you do everything on is to follow those kinds of rules, to keep up good cyber hygiene, right? Have two-factor authentication on everything. Have good passwords. Don`t get phished, right?
I mean, all of those things are definitely still good things to do. They all have value. But today saw the launch of a massive international reporting project about something that is apparently in wide use by dozens of governments around the world, and it is something that defeats all of those defenses and more.
One of the partners in this gigantic reporting project is the "Washington Post." and "The Post" made a good simple video they launched today in which they described what I mean here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST)
REPORTER: One of the most concerning things about our reporting is it is clear there`s now what they call zero-click attacks. That means a malicious actor sends something to my iPhone, for example. It comes to iMessage. But it never appears on iMessage, right?
I don`t see it. I don`t hear it. There`s no tipoff that there`s something bad happening. And yet it can get in and it can begin to peel back the layers of all the security on your iPhone.
And so you don`t have to make a mistake. Really all of us are vulnerable. Even people with recent devices, even people who do the right things and like keep up their passwords and make sure that their software`s updated. This kind of technology can still get into your devices and turn your life upside down on a table in front of people you`ll never meet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The big scary sci-fi-like worry of this technology is that without you doing anything wrong, without you noticing anything different on your phone, without your phone appearing to be different in any way to you, all of a sudden, everything on your phone and everything you have ever done on your phone is available to people who do not wish you well.
They have your texts, your calls. They can even record the audio of your calls -- your voicemails, your photos, your videos, your location, in real time. They can turn on the microphone of your phone remotely. They can turn on the camera of your phone remotely.
And it doesn`t matter if your phone is using encryption. What you can see on your phone they can see. All of it.
That is the technology at the center of a massive new reporting project that comes out of a French journalism non-profit called Forbidden Stories and the human rights group Amnesty International, along with 16 other news outlets from around the world like "The Wire" in India and "Le Monde" in France and the "Washington Post" in the United States.
Basically, what this reporting project starts with is that these groups obtained a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers associated with devices - - associated with phones they believe may have been attacked with this technology and they farmed out the work of figuring who these numbers belong to, they farmed it out to more than 80 journalists all over the world who then did the shoe leather reporting. And what those reporters around the world found is that although this technology is being marketed by the Israeli firm that makes it, it`s being marketed for use by law enforcement and counterterrorism, it appears instead that this technology is being used by governments to target journalists and human rights activists and opposition figures all around the globe.
The private Israeli company that licenses this technology to governments around the globe says they designed it so it can`t access phones inside the United States. The company also says that all of the reporting from all of these news outlets is all based on wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories, they deny everything.
The question is because this technology exists and is being sold like a weapon to dozens of governments around the world, is this just what the future is? Do all of us who use smartphone technology have to essentially concede in some part of our brains that everything we do is being watched by hostile actors in a government somewhere?
Or is this a fixable problem, either as a matter of technology or as a matter of law? Turns out that is a more interesting question than you might think. And that story`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: The phrase they use is zero-click. Spying technology that lets a government agency into your phone to see everything on it, absolutely everything, including potentially not just your location but what your phone can hear if they turn on its microphone, what your phone can see if they turn on its camera, all of your calls, all of your texts, all of your emails, all of your location data, all of your apps, everything.
Access to absolutely everything without you having to click on a malicious link or mess up in any way to invite that spyware in. Zero-click.
New revelations about dozens of countries using this zero-click technology to track not criminals and spies and, you know, gangsters but journalists and human rights activists and opposition politicians. New reporting about this happening around the world is so inflammatory, so worrying that it generated this amount of reporting in the last 48 hours.
We were so overwhelmed by the amount of new reporting out of the international reporting -- this international reporting project, the Pegasus Project, that we actually compiled links to all of the different stories from all 17 different news outlets all around the world. We compiled it all in one place and posted it on Maddow Blog so it`s easier at least for you to find. Again, 17 different news outlets in multiple countries around the world, we`ve got links to all of it at Maddow Blog right now.
Joining us now is David Hickton. He`s a former U.S. attorney and the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security.
As the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, he tried the first ransomware case ever taking on by the U.S. Department of Justice way back in 2014. He is used to breaking new legal ground in cyber realm.
Mr. Hickton, it`s really nice to see you. Thank you for making time to be with us tonight.
DAVID J. HICKTON, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH INSTITUTE OF FOR CYBER LAW DIRECTOR: Nice to see you, Rachel. Thanks for inviting me to participate in the conversation.
MADDOW: Have I explained any of this in a way that seems wrong to you or that you think misses what`s important about it?
HICKTON: No, your explanation was excellent, and I`d like to address the question you left us on the break. Do we have to face the choice between security and our First Amendment privacy rights? And my answer is no.
We don`t have to face that choice, that`s a false choice. But it`s tricky because of the emerging cyber technology that has become so ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Here we have another reminder, especially with a government which is alive with the United States, that the use of this for good reason to stop terrorists or to stop crime comes with it the risk that it can be used for bad reason.
And I want to stress that this is an emerging story. The company involved said that they are being maligned and that this is just a compilation of numbers and there has not been actual spyware placed on the phone. I think the researchers from the Pegasus Project, which did a great public service to the entire world have debunked that argument. But for the moment, there`s a contest about what exactly happened here.
But as we look at this, what it appears to be is a situation where the technology was licensed and then sold to governments, maybe authoritarian governments, which used it for the wrong purpose. And it may have led to the death of at least two journalists.
MADDOW: If you were a journalist working abroad in a country with an authoritarian government, a country that`s believed to be a client, believed to have purchased this technology for whatever its purposes are, what would you do to protect your sources? There are journalists and indeed activists and lawyers and opposition figures all over the world right now who are realizing that they`ve been working in countries where the government has the ability to do this, and they`re worrying that they`ve put at risk their own lives and, importantly, for journalists in particular, the lives of the sources they have used to do their work.
What would you do if you were in that situation?
HICKTON: Well, the worry is justified, and I would be very careful about having devices in this country because we know since time and memorial that the playbook of the authoritarian is to discredit the media, to destroy institutions. And some of these brutal authoritarians actually kill their adversaries and they keep the public in the dark by exactly these steps that have destroy institutions. And some of these brutal authoritarians actually kill their adversaries and they keep the public in the dark by exactly these steps that have been taken here.
I think we can deal with this, but it`s going to require some international agreements. We might not get full agreement because it`s hard to imagine how an authoritarian government would agree. But we might be able to get partial agreement on creating a no-use list like the no-fly list we have for the airlines. Or perhaps we can have some changes in the licensing agreement that would reflect some rights to sue or some other rights for the people who are hurt by this.
I think the step taken by Attorney General Garland today on another matter related to seek legislation in connection with the pursuit of journalist phone records is a very, very good example and a very good step.
The fourth estate has protected us here in this country for years and the fourth estate is one of the great protectors of freedom around the world. I know some people sometimes like to run down the media. But this is a perfect example of where good reporting has put us in a very good place. And the test that I`m using right now, and I suggest to others, is anyone who wants to protect the House who`s in law enforcement or national security should welcome this Pegasus report.
MADDOW: David Hickton, former U.S. attorney, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh`s institute for cyber law, policy, and security -- Mr. Hickton, thank you for your time tonight. It`s invaluable to have you here. Thanks.
HICKTON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: That`s going to do it for me for now. But do not go anywhere because MSNBC`s special presentation with the Democrats who walked out of their state capitol, who walked out of their beloved state of Texas in a last-ditch effort to try to save voting rights in that state, that MSNBC special presentation is live, and it starts right now.