What's on Congress' agenda in the final weeks before the August recess? Our panel takes a look at what needs to happen, and what can realistically get done.
The federal government confirms it gathered online information on foreigners from some of the country’s largest internet companies. This follows reports that the White House is collecting phone records of millions of Americans. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon steps down and is to be replaced by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. An IRS official apologizes to lawmakers for lavish spending by the agency at a California conference. The Senate’s oldest member, Frank Lautenberg, dies at age 89. And the economy added one 175,000 jobs in May beating estimates. Diane and a panel of journalists discuss the top national news stories of the week.
- Major Garrett chief White House correspondent at CBS News.
- Karen Tumulty national political reporter at The Washington Post.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
Featured Video Clip
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) reached a milestone this week when he became the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. Diane and a panel of journalists shared well wishes and memories of Dingell, who has held a congressional seat for more than 57 years.
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MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Obama administration defends its secret collection of millions of Verizon phone records and data from Internet companies, saying it's necessary to prevent terrorism. Top military leaders testify before a Senate committee on sexual assault in the armed forces, and the U.S. economy has 175,000 jobs in May. Here with me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Susan Page of USA Today, Major Garrett of CBS News, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us with your phone calls to 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody. Happy Friday.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGood morning, Diane.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning.
MR. MAJOR GARRETTGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to see you all. Karen Tumulty, we've had 24 hours of dramatic disclosures starting with The Guardian and then The Washington Post picked it up.
TUMULTYYeah. This is the story, the extent of surveillance, that is, it's a real paradox because in some ways, it's shocking and some ways, it's totally unsurprising. You know, we have known that in the post-9/11 world that the government had been given a lot more authority to go after what is private information about people. We saw a couple of controversies in 2006, first over domestic warrantless eavesdropping, and then secondly, over the same thing which is getting phone -- people's phone records.
TUMULTYBut a couple of -- first of all, what is surprising about this story is the extent to which the Obama administration is doing this, and I do think that with -- particularly with the Internet, with the, you know, Google, Facebook, Apple being part of this, we now see the government is also looking not just at patterns of contacts, which is what they say they were doing with the phone records, but they are actually searching through the actual material. They are looking at emails. They are looking at, you know, Skype chats. They are looking at actual content.
REHMAnd, Major, what are they looking for?
GARRETTThey're looking for what counterterrorism experts describe as data that bumps into each other and suggest patterns that might be reflective of an emerging or an ongoing terrorist plot. The expert I spent time talking to the last two days about this say much of this data that is analytically sifted falls out, doesn't raise flags, doesn't go anywhere. To be clear, in the case of the phone tracking, it is not the listening-into-phone conversations that is going on.
GARRETTThe names attached to the numbers are not recorded, the numbers are. The location of the calls and the duration of the calls are collected. In the case of Internet traffic, its blogs, videos, chats, emails, all these sorts of things, much that data falls away. But the data that is flagged is then put through algorithms to see if it does bump ever closer to known, let us say, URLs, known email addresses, drop boxes that have been previously flagged as related to or held by terrorist suspects.
GARRETTAnd in some cases, they've allowed the United States government to thwart terrorist attacks planned here in the United States, all done through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, authorities created in the Patriot Act after 9/11, reauthorized in 2006 with different and more precise civil liberties, protections and guidelines which the Obama administration, which would have preferred all this to remain secret, says are being followed.
PAGEWell, we should make it clear that there are two separate programs here. There's the PRISM program that involves email, Skype, those -- that's a program that targets foreigners. Now, it does, they say inadvertently or incidentally, pick up information about Americans, but that's really targeting foreign interest. The one that I think is more controversial, was gonna raise more eyebrows among Americans is this telephone surveillance.
PAGEThis massive database of what sounds like almost every phone call you make in the United States is -- becomes part of a big government database that can be searched after the fact. If there's -- if you have a Boston bombing and you identify a suspect and he's got a phone, it enables them to go back and look at who he called, who called him, one step back from that, who called or was called by people with contact with him, second degree of separation.
PAGEAnd that is, I think, a level of surveillance of Americans who have done nothing wrong, who are suspected of no wrongdoing that raises concerns, both among civil libertarians, kind of traditional liberals and also among conservative -- libertarians conservatives.
REHMSo how much of a change is this in this so-called sweeping surveillance law?
TUMULTYWell, people like Dianne Feinstein, yesterday, were saying with the reports about the Verizon records, you know, look, this is an extension of the actual policy that has been going on for quite a while. And I am not yet sure what kind of political resonance this is gonna have. On the one hand, again, it feels intrusive. On the other hand, however, I think people want a greater level of surveillance after 9/11.
TUMULTYAnd also there is a degree to which we have all just been accustomed to the idea that corporations, I mean, their -- that's part of their business model is selling private information of us. And let's face it, you know, Amazon knows everything I read, and iTunes knows everything I listen to, and, you know, Safeway, in return for a discount card, knows everything I eat.
GARRETTThere is a distinction, and I think it's importantly raised by civil libertarians and those who are maybe new to the idea of civil liberties in this context, which is in commercial transactions, you are, generally speaking, aware of what you give and receive in a commercial transaction. In a post 9/11 world, Americans would like to know the depth and scope of surveillance designed to protect them. And there are times when it can and should be publicly debated.
GARRETTAnd disclosures like this forces this into the public square in a way that those who are administering these programs -- now, in 48 hours, we've gone from a phone tracking system that was not widely known. And believe me, it doesn't just involve Verizon. Every major telecommunications company is involved, and this is on an ongoing, rolling basis. What we saw this week was one court order for April to July, but I guarantee you, there are court orders for the months before and the months after.
PAGEAnd so the American public would like to see more told to them about it, and we've now had some elements of that declassified, which were classified just 72 hours ago.
PAGEAnd here's another difference: Amazon can't put you in jail. And Safeway can't audit your taxes. But the government can. And one reason this raises such concern is a more general concern that conservatives have raised about the size and the power of government. And it goes -- that -- I think that's one reason this is an especially problematic controversy for President Obama because that's been a line of attack against him on the Affordable Care Act and the auto bailout and on much he's done as president. This fits right in to that train of thought.
TUMULTYAnd liberals as well have raised a lot of these concerns. And this is sort of a moment in which a lot of people who used to be dismissed as paranoids, the, you know, black helicopter crowd or, you know...
TUMULTY...as John McCain when he said the, you know, the cuckoo birds. Now, this is their moment to say, I told you so.
REHMAnd we are going to devote a full hour to this subject on Monday. But what I'd like to know from all of you is if the administration has indicated that some plots have been foiled because of this kind of surveillance. Susan.
PAGEYes. Congressman Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that a specific pot -- plot was foiled because of information from this program, and we believe that that was the plot to put explosive backpacks in the New York City subway system. So -- and certainly, last night we got this -- I tell you, among the unusual emails we got last night was on the record statements from the director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper, confirming the programs and defending them as things that were important to the security of Americans.
GARRETTAnd the administration has not said specifically that this plot or that plot was thwarted.
GARRETTOther members of Congress have come much closer to that. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat -- so this is bipartisan -- chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said after a briefing on Capitol Hill about this yesterday afternoon several plots have been thwarted because of this information.
REHMWe have a tweet picking up on what you just said, Susan. "Nobody really cares about privacy anymore, but abuse of power is a different story. The NSA timing near the IRS scandal gives it salience."
REHMSo that tweeter needs to have his own column -- his or her own column because I think those are really powerful points to make.
TUMULTYAnd not just the IRS scandal but the whole, you know, the stuff involving the Associated Press and James Rosen -- I mean, there is a through line to all of these things whether you want to call them scandals or not.
GARRETTAnd I would just say this, Diane, there are a couple of members of the Senate who have been persistent in their questioning of NSA and related agencies. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have been sending letters, probing, probing, pushing to find out more information. They're not solely responsible for this, but there have been members of Congress before these disclosures raising questions asking for the scope, the reach, the depth, the breadth of this surveillance to try to find out what's going on.
GARRETTThey now know a lot more. Congress knows a lot more. And in the case of prism, it's important to point out, it was briefed and discussed with key and very selective members of Congress. But they were sworn to secrecy about their knowledge of it.
PAGEWell, in fact, in March, Sen. Wyden, in a public hearing, asked Clapper if there was any massive data sweep for U.S. citizens, and Clapper said no. And that is a question he's gonna be, I predict, called back and forced to explain to Congress about why that wasn't lying.
GARRETTAnd semantic interpretations will be abounding.
REHMAnd, of course, all of this comes as Susan Rice is named director of national security, and you have Samantha Power who must go through confirmation as the appointment for her to become U.N. ambassador. We're gonna talk more about that as the hour continues. Of course, we'll take your calls. I see many of you are concerned about this issue. And we'll try to work in as many of your comments as possible. Susan Page, Major Garrett, Karen Tumulty, they're all here for you.
REHMAnd we're back with the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup this week with Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post, Major Garrett of CBS News, Susan Page of USA Today. Major, what about these national security appointments? Tom Donilon decided to step down as NSA adviser, and you've got Susan Rice who's going to step into that program. She has been under a lot of scrutiny over the past year because of Benghazi. She does not need Senate confirmation on this. How is all this gonna change foreign policy for the Obama administration?
GARRETTWell, it's an excellent question, and I'm not sure I can give you a conclusive answer about how it's gonna change foreign policy. Certainly, you'll have a different personality within the National Security Council, organizing and coordinating all of the agency input to the president on foreign policy and military policy matters, and that's an enormously important role the national security adviser plays. And Tom Donilon played it. It was quiet. Some would say ruthless power and bureaucratic efficiency.
GARRETTHe was very, very good at the inside game. He was often the last voice that President Obama heard before making a very big decision in military or foreign policy. He was not someone who spend a lot of time on television. He did most of his authoritative work inside the West Wing and managed the process, which can be at times unwieldy between the Pentagon, State Department, CIA, Homeland Security very well. This will be an organizational challenge for Susan Rice.
GARRETTBut I can tell you this: Susan Rice has wanted this job for a long time. I think she's been grooming herself for this job for a long time, hope to get in 2009 when Gen. James Jones got it, the first national security adviser of the president. Then Tom Donilon got it, and she continued to wait her time at the U.N. Then, when there was the idea that she might be nominated for secretary of state, clearly a confirmation battle in the Senate was not something the White House either wanted to wage or thought it could win.
GARRETTSo again, she had to wait. And it was made clear to me at the White House for months that Tom Donilon would probably leave sometime this summer on his own time schedule and that Susan Rice would be the successor. So she knows and has known for some time she would be stepping into this role. She is a bit of a sharp-elbowed person at times. That has won her the favor of President Obama because of the U.N. on issues like Iran sanctions in North Korea. She's been tough, aggressive and successful, and the president likes that and wants her close at hand.
PAGEHere's one concern I've heard, though, that these are both appointments of people who are personally really close to Obama, have been with him for a long time. They're not people who will differ with him or -- they may well challenge him. I mean, both of them, I think, have very strong personalities. But there's a, you know, there's a value to the whole team of rivals approach for a president who tends to be -- any president tends to operate in a bubble.
PAGESo the loss of someone like Hillary Clinton, who had her own independent standing, who didn't, you know, wasn't there -- thanks to Barack Obama -- was there, really, because of her own achievements and her, you know, her almost successful presidential campaign. I wonder if there's a kind of loss there for President Obama and just being able to hear divergent voices within his inner circle.
REHMHmm. And what about that, Karen?
TUMULTYWell, I agree. And it's not just in these national security appointments, it's up and down the line starting with the Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. He did not -- I mean, he picked somebody essentially from within the family. In terms of how it's gonna change the president's world view, I think not much because even though, you know, Susan Rice's world view is really shaped, I think, by what she saw in Rwanda during the Clinton years.
TUMULTYI do think Obama's pretty well set now. It's very much of a realist world view. And I don't think, you know, that the sort of America is indispensible nation that these two women represent, the interventionist streak that they have is gonna hold sway over where the president himself is.
REHMHow is Samantha Power going to be at the U.N.?
TUMULTYWell, I think she is going to be pretty high profile. I think, you know, we a long history of combative U.N. representatives on the left and the right -- the ambassadors, rather. And I think, you know, I would be surprised if she doesn't fit into that mold. I think she's gonna be a very strong voice there.
REHMWill she have a tough time getting confirmed, Major?
GARRETTSo far, the indications are that she will not. I've heard some general reservations among Republicans, can she be tough enough? Can she step into that role immediately? But those are low-level concerns. She's already has the support of John McCain. I talked to Lindsey Graham this week. He said he has no problem with her, would vote for her confirmation. It does not appear to be a problematic issue.
REHMInteresting that Keith Urbahn, the former chief of staff to Donald Rumsfeld of the Pentagon, tweeted yesterday morning, "Jeanne Kirkpatrick is turning in her grave right now. I don't know about you, but it might be helpful to have someone representing America at the U.N. who doesn't think we are the source of all the world's ills."
PAGEWell, I think there will -- she may get confirmed. I don't think it's gonna be a totally smooth sailing. I think she'll be challenged among -- by Republicans who are concerned, kind of about, exactly that point about what is her world view. Where does she stand in terms of -- what does she think about the U.S. role in the world and what the U.S. role has been in the world in the past? So I agree the John McCain endorsement this week was a powerful one 'cause he's so respected in this area.
PAGEBut we've seen the secretary of -- the proposed secretary of labor go no nowhere. The proposed head of the EPA go nowhere. I think the confirmation in a second term can be tough and especially when a president is battling a series of other controversies. You know, this surveillance controversy we talked about at the beginning of the show, it makes every other single thing President Obama wants to do a little bit harder.
PAGEHarder to get...
PAGEWell, I don't wanna predict she won't get confirmed. I'm just -- I just predict there's gonna be something of a fight.
PAGEAnd that tweet from someone who is a respected figure in that part of the Republican Party, I think, is a sign of that.
GARRETTBut I would also say there are times in politics where you make fights and there are times when you have too many fights to make. And I think this might be where one where the Republicans have so many places where they can hold grievances against the administration. Samantha Power might be someone who finds her way to a slightly more simplified confirmation process just because there's so many at the battlefronts Republicans might find more useful.
PAGEHere's a Machiavellian thought, which is they would really like to fight against Susan Rice, right, because on Benghazi.
GARRETTBut they can't.
PAGEAnd they can't 'cause it's not a confirmable post. So do they choose to wage more of a battle on Samantha Powers than they might have otherwise done so.
GARRETTAnd if there were ever more evidence that the president considers Republican grievances about Susan Rice's role in the Benghazi talking points to be utterly meaningless, it is this promotion.
REHMWhat about Samantha Powers, Susan Rice and apparently, Hillary Clinton, who all wanted the U.S. to go into Libya? Is that going to come up here?
TUMULTYWell, the question is how this affects now that debates over Syria. But at this, you know, the president had his view, they had their view and the president prevailed. I suspect that is gonna be the case once again. But they -- I mean, you could see -- and I'm not the foreign policy expert here, but you could see them arguing for a more interventionist stance in Syria than this country has -- and this administration has been willing to do so far.
PAGEBut previously, President Obama overruled all his entire national security team, including Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, and David Petraeus of the CIA on the issue of how much to do for Syria. So I don't know that these new voices may have that same view. But as Karen said previously, that doesn't meant the president's gonna change his mind.
REHMLet's talk about the generals who appeared on the front page of The Washington Post yesterday hearing these or presenting information to the Congress on sexual assault in the military. There was one female figure in that lineup. I thought that was sort of a curious way to come before the Congress on this issue. Susan.
PAGEIt made kind of a point, didn't it?
REHMIt sure did.
PAGEThese are Joint Chiefs who are handling these issues of sexual abuse in the military and, by their own admission, not handling them very well. That was the -- I don't -- I read in one news account, this the first time in modern history that the full panoply of the Joint Chiefs were at one hearing at one time to talk about one topic.
REHMAnd that topic is whether or not they should continue this line of command in regard to sexual assault.
GARRETTRight. Does the military have its wherewithal to continue in this political environment? The current situation, which is if you have a grievance, you have to bring it to your most closely-ranking superior officer. And then they have a lot of latitude about what happens to that complaint and its adjudication. And Congress is a very much of mind to change that and change that in very significant ways.
GARRETTAnd the military, looking at the statistics, doesn't have much of an argument to say that the current system is working or that they have been sufficiently sensitized to the issue or -- and the military does have a history of training its way out of some problems it doesn't address historically. And given the opportunity, it has trained its way out of some problems. But it's been dealing with this issue for some time, and it's very hard to assert to members of Congress, we're training our way out of this one.
REHMEspecially if your commander is the person who's been involved in sexual assault.
TUMULTYBut that witness table looked exactly the way it would have looked five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. What looked different was the other side of the dais and the number of women who are sitting on that Senate Armed Services Committee. So whereas you had somebody like Saxby Chambliss suggest that, you know, somehow hormones are partly responsible for this problem in the military, you had Claire McCaskill, a former prosecutor, saying, look, this is not about sex.
TUMULTYThis is about power, and it's about violence. And she was backed up on that point by a Republican woman, Deb Fischer, of Nebraska, and that is what is different about it this time.
REHMBut you wrote a piece this week saying that Republicans have not learned their lessons from the 2012 election on this issue.
TUMULTYWell, I was struck because at the exact same day that this happened, we had a conference at The Washington Post where the governor of Mississippi, when asked why it is that the -- that -- Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi was asked, why is it that this country is so mediocre with education? And he blamed it on women going into the workforce, which, you know, the -- if you look at the data, there are a lot of countries in this world where -- they rank a lot higher, their school kids do than ours do on any standardized test you wanna give them, and yet they have a higher proportion of mothers in the workforce.
TUMULTYSo, again, it -- it's -- I don't know if it's that they don't know how to talk about these issues yet, or whether it's the actual mindset that needs to be changed.
GARRETTAnd back to the point at hand with the military and the way it's currently structured. A commander can completely vacate a conviction.
REHMAnd has done so three times.
GARRETTAnd done it. I mean, vacate a conviction. So -- and think about it this way. If you are in the military and you're a woman who has been harassed or abused, you have a sort of a couple of step process you have to go through mentally with your -- within the confines of your own career. Do you bring this up? Do you invite the abuse that may come your way just because you've raised a complaint?
GARRETTAnd then you know the commander could vacate the sentence even if you're successful. Does it create a climate of either predatory behavior -- and it's not all throughout the military. It's worth pointing that out. And does it also create an atmosphere where those who have been abused don't want to come forth because they're afraid the system will work against them? Even if successful, things can be overturned. And that's what Congress is looking at most closely.
REHMAnd let's talk about the IRS. They gave an apology this week for videos of those conferences that took place three years ago.
PAGEThat's true, and that's an important point, that clearly there were abuses and a lot of misjudgment, millions of dollars spent in ways that look quite inappropriate. But they were in 2011, and those -- that kind of spending has been drastically curtailed since then. However, easy to criticize the IRS. The IRS makes it pretty easy to criticize, I have to say.
REHMYou bet. And...
GARRETTYeah. I think we can safely say none of the participants are prime time players.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's another tweet: "If the government wants to know who I'm talking to, more power to them it -- if it keeps the country safe." And that's precisely the point, Susan.
PAGEThat's true. And when you ask about issues like drones, you find real public support for it because it's a way to, Americans think, attack terrorists without putting Americans at risk. But that doesn't mean this won't be a controversy. I mean, Karen made the point that this may not be -- you go out and talk to Americans about what they care about. They care about jobs, the jobs numbers that came out today.
PAGEIs the health care plan gonna work the way it's supposed to? Over issues like surveillance of phone records. But that doesn't make this an insignificant issue. I do think this is gonna be a big problem.
TUMULTYThey also -- Americans also worry about why didn't they catch those guys in Boston?
REHMExactly. All right. Let's look at the economy, which created more jobs than expected this time.
GARRETT175,000 in the month, non-farm payroll increase, but the unemployment rate ticked up from 7.5 to 7.6 percent. People say, how does that...
REHMI don't ever understand that.
GARRETTWell, what happens is, in this month, is a classic illustration of it. When more people look for jobs, the larger the labor force because participation is counted twice -- in two ways, rather, not twice, but in two ways. Do you have a job, and are you looking for a job? And more people are now looking for a job, which economists will tell you is, generally speaking, a healthy sign...
REHMA good sign.
GARRETT...that people think there is better -- a better prospect for them to find employment. So what you have is a continuous, month-by-month, not spectacular. We haven't had a spectacular month of job growth for quite a while. But we have persistent and within expectable or predictable patterns of job growth. And that's what the White House said about this morning, not great, but good and solid upward trajectory.
TUMULTYIt does. It just -- right -- more and more, it seems like every month it's bringing us more statistics to suggest that the economy has now picked a direction, and it's not as fast as people would like, but that it's set and that the recovery is, in fact, here.
PAGEIt also shows us that some of the cuts in spending from the sequestration have not had the catastrophic effect that some people worried it would. And, you know, we lost some tax breaks on Jan. 1. There was concern that might slow down the recovery. The recovery seems to be, as you say, kind of modest, but steady.
GARRETTOne thing I would say about sequestration cuts, there is some sense in the White House certainly, and even among some Republicans on Capitol Hill, that by September or October, and if the sequestration cuts continue into the next year, the bite will begin to become larger, be more economically noticeable. And I don't think we've heard the last about the economic impacts of this spending cut.
REHMYeah. What about manufacturing? That has not gone anywhere.
GARRETTWell, it hasn't leapt forward.
GARRETTThe auto industry is showing signs of consistent gains. There is some export growth in the economy, not nearly as much as the president and his economic team would like to see. And you see it in pockets of the country where their manufacturing incentives are being created by the state governments. But in the main, it is still a lagging element of the U.S. economy.
TUMULTYBut there was one good bit in the factory orders numbers this week that -- you know, they were pretty unimpressive generally, except for the fact that the orders for durable goods were up by 3.5 percent. And people watch that very closely because they see it as an indicator of how confident businesses are feeling and as they look beyond what's in front of them right now for their long-term planning.
REHMAnd, of course, you had President Obama going to North Carolina yesterday, talking about his plans to produce or increase interconnectivity.
PAGEThat's right. To have more Wi-Fi, more broadband, Internet service at schools. It's something he's been talking about for months. I have to say it's something that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, but he does continue to talk about it.
REHMSusan Page of USA Today, Major Garrett of CBS News and Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post. Short break. Your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd a number of people would like to remind us that the surveillance we are hearing about, reading about, seems Orwellian in nature. His novel -- George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" was published 60 years ago, the exact date, June 8, 1949. So let's go to the phones here, to Little Rock, Ark., and Ericson, you're on the air.
ERICSONYes, ma'am. This is my first time calling in. How are you?
REHMFine. Thanks. Go right ahead.
ERICSONWell, I had a question about misusing rights. And I remember one of your guests saying earlier that perhaps the Republicans have a problem with someone being at the U.N. who doesn't see the United States as some sort of number one country, gift-from-God type of thing. I quite think that would be possibly a good thing for the country to have and maybe a different direction for us to start leaning.
REHMWhat do you think, Susan?
PAGEWell, I think he's -- our caller is illustrating some of the debate that we may hear as this nomination goes forward.
REHMAbsolutely. To Hyattsville, Md., Samuel, you're on the air.
SAMUELGood morning, Ms. Diane.
REHMGood morning, sir.
SAMUELMy thing is -- about the surveillance is that I feel like if you don't have anything to hide and you got something to say, or you're not involved in any illegal activity, my opinion is, what is the problem if the government is looking at your phone records or who you talk to? I don't know why people are paranoid about stuff like that.
REHMWhat do you think, Karen?
TUMULTYWell, I think there are a lot of people who feel that way.
PAGEI don't feel that way.
GARRETTParanoia is a...
REHMYou don't feel that way?
PAGEI don't feel that way.
GARRETTParanoia is a separate issue, really, because all of these things must happen with the consent of the people. The government is doing things on behalf of public safety, and the public has a right to scrutinize the scope, the depth, the breadth of what is being done in their name for their safety. And the sticky wicket here is, if you talk to experts, they say look, all right, as Susan indicated, this backpack bombing scheme in New York.
GARRETTIt was foiled by the system. How was it foiled? Well, there was, as I indicated earlier, an email drop box that was related to a known terrorist suspect. It was flagged in a data collection. The dots were connected. It went to Colorado. It went to New York. It went back all through this analog process, all right? Now, disclosure of that process, showing how we did that teaches those who want to do us harm things we'd rather not have them learned, OK?
GARRETTAnd so, that's where this problem arises in the public's genuine and, I think, legitimate thirst for knowledge about what's being done in its name for public safety, and those who are carrying out these programs revealing things that maybe instructed to all of us but similarly instructed for people who want to do us harm.
PAGEBut just back to the caller, we have a constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. It doesn't mean you have a constitutional protection as long as you're not doing anything wrong. The standard in the past has been, traditionally, that you have to go to a judge and show there's some reasonable cause.
PAGETo think there's a reason to look at what you're doing.
PAGENow, in an age of terrorism and an age of high technology, some of those rules have changed and being redefined.
PAGEBut I don't think it's -- I disagree with those who say, if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't need to worry about the surveillance.
REHMOK, what about Supreme Court's decision regarding taking a DNA swab from the inside of your cheek if you are arrested for any reason at all?
PAGEAnd, of course, the court decided that you could do that, but the dissents were pretty scathing.
PAGEAnd to my mind, it goes to the same thing. Obviously, it's not all one way or the other. There's a balance to be struck, and the debate that we're gonna hear is about where should that line be drawn.
GARRETTAnd quickly, Diane, on the search and seizure, absolutely, you have a constitutional protection against that. Those who would advocate on this data sifting would say it is not about searching and seizure. It's about a collection of data. And if there is something that is legitimately flagged for investigative processes, then you have to go to court and obtain that second warrant to conduct a search or seizure type of activity under an investigative mandate.
REHMHowever, we know that that court has been bypassed on some occasions.
TUMULTYAnd the other criticism of the court is that it has been a rubber stamp for the administration. That the court, in recent years, has never denied a request by the administration.
REHMAll right. To Johnny in Columbus, Ohio. You're on the air.
JOHNNYHi, Diane. How are you doing?
JOHNNYThere are some good topics brought up, and one of them is that, right now, a lot of people are worried about, you know, jobs and other things that don't deal with privacy. And I think -- but if this phone scandal comes to life is that, what is the government doing while we're not paying attention to them? And one of the things I noted that they do -- I used to work for a credit bureau that the Department of Homeland Security put a tap on to. They have direct access into the databases. And, you know, it's like who controls, when they're allowed to tap in there and what goes on with that.
TUMULTYYeah. The story we haven't talked about today is the The Wall Street Journal's report this morning that the government has access to a lot of other data, including your credit card purchases.
GARRETTAnd how is that switch flicked in this case of this caller? How, you know, it's on. We're receiving data. Oh, now it's off. We're not. Who flicks it and why? What are the procedures? And what is the ongoing scope of all of that? And how comfortable are people with that general sense of the government, on a basis that they're not fully aware of, collecting housing and keeping data on their private lives?
TUMULTYI do think it is incumbent, and I don't think there is a security -- a national security problem. It is incumbent on the government to explain better why they are doing this and what they are getting out of it. But again, very often, I think that administrations, Democrat and Republican, claim national security when they just don't want to have that conversation.
REHMHow much more is there going to be about this over the weekend, more disclosure, more information, more widespread collection of data that we don't yet know about?
PAGEWell, 48 hours ago, we didn't know about all of this so...
PAGE...who knows what we'll find out the next 48 hours.
REHMExactly. All right.
GARRETTAnd Congress will be asking questions about this. There will be hearings and there will be testimony.
REHMI would certainly hope so. Let's go to Detroit, Mich. Good morning, Chuck.
CHUCKHi. I have a question about the Affordable Care Act. A friend of mine has multiple medical issues, and she said that she's afraid that the government is gonna have a lot of control over what she can -- how she can be treated, what were -- what will be acceptable and what wouldn't.
REHMThere's an awful lot of questioning out there as to what's gonna happen, how it's gonna happen, how much you're gonna pay. Go ahead, Karen.
TUMULTYWell, there's a lot in the new law that encourages science and the government and everybody to discover which treatments actually work, which are really worth the money that we are spending on them. But, at this point at least, the law prohibits, for instance, Medicare from making actual reimbursements decisions based on that, which is sort of a lapse in logic here. But that sort of is where the law stands at this point.
REHMOK. And I want to ask you all about Frank Lautenberg, the oldest U.S. senator. He died this week. He was buried this morning. You had a story about him, did you not?
PAGEOh. I think it was the other long-serving lawmaker that...
REHMOK. Well, I have a story about Sen. Lautenberg. At my 30th anniversary gala at the Mellon Auditorium, I got there a few minutes late because of traffic, and Sen. Lautenberg was waiting for me as was the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. But Sen. Lautenberg stayed there and talked to me about how important he felt this program was, and I was so touched. He was not black tie as everybody else was. He had come direct from Capitol Hill. And I shall miss him.
TUMULTYI must say, my favorite Frank Lautenberg quote is that if one party is shameless, the other party cannot afford to be spineless.
GARRETTAnd one thing I would point out, if you're trying to catalogue Frank Lautenberg's importance in the legislative life of this country in the late 20th century, and you're pleased that you don't encounter smokers on commercial aircraft...
GARRETT...you have one person and one person only to thank. Well, principally not only because many people were involved in that legislation. But he was the quintessentially important driving force behind doing something which, when he first proposed it, was thought impossible, banning cigarette smoking on commercial aircraft. And he did it. And American Aviation has been forever changed since, and as a nonsmoker, I would say for the better.
REHMAnd what do we learn about Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and the politician he has chosen to sit in temporarily for Frank Lautenberg?
PAGEHe's appointed his attorney general, his former colleague at a law firm, Jeff Chiesa. I hope I'm saying that name right. I've never heard of him before. And we may not have to pay attention to him long because he's not running for election to the seat he's been named to fill. This was such an interesting maneuver by Gov. Christie. He pursued the opening in the Senate seat in a way that helps him but does not help his fellow Republicans win that seat.
REHMBecause Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, is going to run.
PAGEHe is going to run. There are some other Democrats who are gonna run too. But the fact that this primary comes up pretty quick in the special elections in October probably helps Cory Booker win that seat. There are some Republicans who were thinking about running. But the failure to get a consensus Republican name to that seat as an interim position, it doesn't give the Republican candidate to kind of launching pad that he or she might have had.
GARRETTBut it does give Gov. Christie, in his re-election bid, a clean wide-open field where he can run up a large, likely, likely victory margin, which I no doubt predict, I can predict with certainty, if he runs for president, it will be amplified as a way to suggest he runs strongly in a blue state, and Republicans ought to take a serious look.
REHMAnd now, I want to welcome Congressman John Dingell to the program. Good morning to you, sir.
REP. JOHN DINGELLHello, Diane. Good morning to you, and thank you for what you do.
REHMWell, thank you for having now become the longest-serving member of Congress in this country's history. How does that make you feel this morning?
DINGELLWell, it feels good. But remember that just serving in the Congress is a great privilege. We're the highest directly elected representatives of the people. And on top of that, it is the people's house. But more importantly, it is not how long, my dear friend, you served but it is how well.
REHMAnd indeed that is the case. However, there an awful lot of people out there right now who do not think that Congress is working very well. What would you say to them?
DINGELLI'll just say thank you for your friendship, thank you for your help because a lot of them has helped me to get here, and a lot of them has helped me stay. It's something that you remember because they're helping me to retain, I think, perhaps the finest and most important job and power in the hands of the American people.
REHMI think Karen Tumulty has a story about you.
TUMULTYYes. Congressman Dingell, this is Karen Tumulty. And I must say one of the most interesting and enjoyable interviews I have ever done in my entire time in Washington, which you may not even remember, was back in 1993. I talked to you about your father and how his service in Congress really shaped your view of what you were here to accomplish.
DINGELLWell, I gotta tell you in all truth, Dad was one of the great influences in my life. And I remember the interview, and I appreciate your friendship. And I happen to know how good you do it. I thank you.
REHMAnd, Major Garrett.
GARRETTWell, just one thing, Congressman. As you mentioned, it's one thing to serve a long time. You now have a untouchable place in American history. But I would also just point out to the audience who's listening, John Dingell was powerful before he had power conveyed onto him simply by seniority. He was a strong voice for a number of legislative issues. He knew the process incredibly well.
GARRETTMatter of a fact, if I can quote you, Congressman, you would often tell adversaries, you know, you work on the politics, I'll take care of the process, and I'll beat you every time. And frequently you won important battles. And there is a legislative history that you are a part of that I guaranty historians will look at and admire for generations to come.
DINGELLWell, you're very kind. The process -- the fairness of the process is of exquisite importance. And knowing how to make it work is something. You can't be an effective legislator if you don't understand how this is -- how this place works and how the rules function.
REHMAnd, Susan Page.
PAGEI just like to say congratulations, Congressman, and all best wishes ahead.
DINGELLWell, God bless you and thank you all. You're most precious and kind. And it feels good. Now, we're gonna go back to work.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks so much for joining us, and congratulations to you. Our love to your beautiful wife Debbie as well.
DINGELLShe is -- Debbie is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
DINGELLShe is smart as a whip. She is loyal as a dog. She is beautiful as the spring. She is incredibly able. And she is very wise.
REHMA good combination. Thanks again and congratulations. John Dingell, he has now become the longest serving member of Congress in our country's history. Quite an achievement. I've got a couple of callers here. I'm going to go to Newton, Mass. Good morning, Craig.
CRAIGGood morning. Thank you for taking my call.
CRAIGI have just a quick question, sort of -- a bit -- I guess a pushback or just a challenging question about the idea of the mass monitoring of emails and phone records. One of your guests suggested that, well, if we show our cards to, you know, potential terrorist, then the terrorist will know how to get around those ways of being monitored.
CRAIGBut I was gonna argue the flipside, and I just want to see what you guys thought of this, that maybe -- it's like -- in the urban centers, crime is down. And one of the reasons that I like the analyst who said that crime is down is because that everyone is aware of how much more surveillance is happening.
GARRETTRight. And what I was saying was representing the voice of those in the counterterrorism community who do have sensitivities about this. I was kind of speaking on their behalf. And I think there is ample room for conversation about this. And the classification of successful plots doesn't necessarily mean we're gonna hand over the keys to our surveillance practices going forward. Every surveillance practice changes. Every security practice changes.
GARRETTAnd I think the country, based on reaction to these two stories, is hungry for more data, would like to know more about it, and the counterterrorism committee, I think, is gonna have to change its attitude about this particular point.
REHMBut just think about the Boston bombers. We would not have caught them so quickly if it hadn't been for those surveillances.
GARRETTPublic and private surveillance.
REHMIndeed. All right. Major Garrett, Karen Tumulty, Susan Page, have a great weekend.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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