06/16/2013 10:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

BOTH SIDES NOW : After 9/11, Is Obama's NSA Really a Version of Hoover's FBI?

Talk about 'Beyond Right & Left' -- when Franken-Rove clash with Scahill-Beck over the NSA program, knee-jerkers are confused. So Huffington & Matalin debate domestic snooping not by Hoover against protestors in the '60s but by Obama after 9/11 and Boston. Is Snowden an Ellsberg or Manning?


True, Bush's cherry-picked intelligence on WMD was abusive, Cheney's "unitary government" philosophy extreme and Rudy [Mr. 9/11] Giuliani a near-parody on terrorism...but it's also true that our intelligence agencies failed to "connect the dots" before September 11th. Seven years after USA Today and the NYT first revealed this NSA program, how can we now better enhance safety without shredding privacy? Then: women at work (again!); what's wrong with the HPV vaccine; what's wrong with the case against Zimmerman.

On the NSA & Snowden. We listen to Edward Snowden grandiosely assert he had the clearance to tap anybody and Obama respond, in effect, that our dangerous world means Ben Franklin was wrong to conclude that we couldn't sacrifice a little privacy for more safety. That right?

Not to Arianna, who highlights the HuffPo headline "George W. Obama" about our growing national surveillance state. "For Democrats to trust blithe assurances from a Democrat in the White House is meaningless...Of course we can't have 100% security no matter what we do and obviously Obama didn't want this debate since we're having it [only because of Snowden]. I don't trust Bush-Cheney or Obama-Biden."

Mary concurs that there's now "a major mistrust of major institutions...because of the surveillance state and the myriad scandals like the IRS and Benghazi. In the Bush White House, we tried to protect civil liberties as much as possible." While the NSA program is "a useful tool," she goes on to worry that a) aggregating all phone calls plus a FISA warrants system "is a hammer to kill a mosquito" and b) it would be preferable "to better target likely suspects and collect more human intelligence instead of just killing them."

Host: "Better targeting suspects would be nice but the whole point of meta-data analytics and algorithms is to look for calls or patterns that can 'connect the dots.' Sounds like you're against the Bush-Obama NSA program." Mary pushes backs that there's no simple yes-no answer as both women warn about potential abuses in the wrong hands.

Since the Supreme Court concluded in 1979 that there's no reasonable expectation of privacy when you merely send a letter (or make a call) & since we ok public cameras and TSA pat-downs for enhanced security & since we consent to Google, Facebook using private data to place ads, why not comparable information to stop bombs? Is this debate ultimately about disrupting or thwarting real threats against abstract, slippery slope, sky-is-falling rhetoric "Big Brother...1984...Nixonian...King George...Cointelpro...police state?" (Joked Bill Maher: "the only time Republicans complained about Big Brother was after we elected a 'Big Brother.'")

Which raises the issue of partisan trust. No D or R should give a blank check to a White House merely because of party label. But it seems rational to, say, trust an Obama over a Bush if the former runs as a "against-dumb-wars" constitutional law professor who's well-known as a deliberate decision-maker and twice handily beats GOP warriors associating with the Giuliani School. Don't we have elections to choose the person we trust with our lives and then live or die with the results (JFK-Cuba), with congressional, judicial and Fourth Estate oversight, of course?

Many ardent critics of Obama on Big Data are either a) liberals who conveniently refuse to acknowledge that there are plotting terrorists (I for one am happy my last subway ride with family didn't blow up) or b) conservatives who want it both ways depending on the event - robustly chiding 44 as weak-on-terror after say the Boston Marathon or as "over-reaching" if he continues a Bush program that appears to work (see 'Hannity' every night).

Arianna objects to comparisons between private use of data and public use "which can get you thrown in jail" (after a jury verdict). And she complains more generally about a national surveillance system that earns private contractors multi-billions and allows them to actually issue security clearances. Mary notes that "profits alone aren't a bad thing" and the reason for this privatization is because government has failed to follow the law previously. "And what's the penalty for violating the current law? Apparently not enough."

When asked how they'd ratify or change the current process - "what's your cost-benefit analysis?" -- each lauded the new debate and urged that we allow the process to play out.

Ok, is Snowden an Ellsberg or Manning - will he end up being lionized or imprisoned? Mary says he should be prosecuted for "treason". Arianna seems to agree with Ellsberg that Ellsberg is more like Snowden than Manning. (The Pentagon Papers leaker was indicted and his case later thrown out after a hung jury and disclosures that the government had engaged in illegal wiretapping and break-ins.) His 1971 disclosure was a classified history of the Vietnam conflict that revealed numerous examples of government lies; so far, authorities don't know much about the accuracy of Snowden's claims of "abuse...and criminality.")

On Working Women and on Rape: when will GOP Learn? PEW released a survey showing that women are the primary bread-winner in 40 % of all families (including single-moms) with children under 18, and a quarter of all married couples with young children. And we listen to Erick Erickson (founder of and occasional BSN panelist) and Lew Dobbs maintain that it violates the laws of nature and is "anti-science" for liberals to urge women to work because two-income families supposedly are more likely to lead to more broken families.

Consensus alert! "This is such a ridiculous, retro argument," argues Mary. "It's a false choice to say it's either, neither, or both." Each family has to decide and balance work and child-rearing for themselves. "It's wrong to say a wife working reveals a bad man while a wife not working means a bad feminist. "

Arianna agrees that this is a wrong and "antediluvian debate" both because of course women should be able to choose their work and home life but also because "there's a third women's revolution beyond Friedan and Steinem about women in the workplace accepting men's definition of success and stress. It's not sustainable for anyone to work 12 hours a day -- change in the workplace is in everyone's interest."

Also this past week, the House Judiciary Committee voted out a bill to prohibit abortions after 20-22 weeks of conception, with its author, Rep. Trent Franks (R - AZ) saying that "the incidence of rapes resulting in pregnancy are very low" (30,000 a year). Mary is asked whether elected Republicans should take a class on how to avoid using words like "rape" and "abortion" in proximity which serve largely to continue the record 2012 gender gap. She objects to any implication that the GOP is "Cromagnan" here rather than taking a principled stand for human life after viability. Arianna disagrees with the Judiciary abortion bill (unpassable and "grandstanding") and thinks that comments about rape are foolish but marginal.

Quick Takes: HPV, Zimmerman, Turkey. Increasing number of parents don't vaccinate children against the sexually transmitted HPV virus because of concerns about promiscuity and safety. Mary stresses that parents, especially moms, have to make the final gut decisions since the shot is too new to be able to know conclusively that there aren't problems -- Arianna too worries about too little generational testing.

They both worry that Prime Minister Erdogan moved too quickly and militantly to clear out protestors from Taksim Square concerned about the growing Islamic state in Turkey and both express concern about the racial aspects of the Zimmerman trial since there are no eyewitnesses and one of the parties is dead. Arianna deplores how, at the least, the defendant appears to have "been trained from youth how to look at black people with suspicion." From a different perspective, Mary urges that "we have to move past the vitriolic hurling of racism in these situations." Whatever the verdict, should "stand your ground" state laws be reconsidered in light of this tragedy. Mary thinks not.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

Send all comments to, where you can also listen to prior shows.



Both Sides Now is available
Sat. 5-6 PM EST From Lifestyle TalkRadio Network
& Sun. 8-9 AM EST from Business RadioTalk Network.