Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act in a rare bi-partisan effort. The bill is meant to speed the development of lifesaving treatments, but critics warn it may also allow ineffective or even harmful drugs onto the market.
NSA and FBI directors defended U.S. surveillance programs and testified they had prevented terror attacks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Congress would consider legislation to limit private contractor access to sensitive intelligence. The Senate passed a farm bill and began consideration of amendments to the immigration bill. A federal judge approved an FDA plan to drop limits on one type of morning-after pill. And six months after the Newtown shootings, family members, elected officials and other leaders gathered for a day of remembrance — and a call to revive gun control initiatives. A panel of journalists join Diane for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup.
- Manu Raju senior congressional reporter at Politico.
- Jeanne Cummings deputy government editor for Bloomberg News.
- Shawna Thomas White House producer for NBC News.
Featured Video Clip
Hillary Clinton launched her Twitter account this week, fueling speculation of whether she’s “in the game again.” The panel discussed whether the former first lady and secretary of state is setting the political stage for a 2016 presidential run.
Watch The Full Broadcast
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The National Security Agency chief testifies that secret surveillance stopped dozens of terrorist threats. The Senate begins debate on a bipartisan immigration bill. And President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with relatives of the Newtown shooting victims. Here with me for the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup: Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, Manu Raju of Politico and Shawna Thomas of NBC News. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning, everybody.
MR. MANU RAJUGood morning.
MS. JEANNE CUMMINGSGood morning.
MS. SHAWNA THOMASGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to see you all. Shawna Thomas, where is this young man Edward Snowden? Do we know?
THOMASIt doesn't appear that we know. The last anyone heard of him, he gave an interview to a Chinese newspaper. But he has apparently moved out of the hotel that he had been in in Hong Kong.
REHMYou all were following him.
THOMASYes. We had people staking out this hotel. Supposedly, he has moved of that hotel. Everyone believes he's still either in Hong Kong or in China. But it is unclear where he is right now. And I know, I think, the head of the NSA was saying they don't exactly know where he is right now.
REHMManu, the -- he did give a newspaper interview to a Chinese newspaper. What are they saying?
RAJUI mean, in that interview, it was very interesting because he also mentioned that the United States -- this surveillance program extended into China. And after that interview, he really got a lot of pushback from the Chinese media. The state-run media started to criticize the United States surveillance program. And who knows? Maybe that may have some implications on whether or not the Chinese government cooperates with the United States if the United States does move forward criminal charges and starts to try to extradite this man.
RAJUMaybe the Chinese government may be more sympathetic to Snowden's charges, who knows? But the bottom line is that after that interview, the Chinese government and the Chinese media was very critical of the United States even if the Chinese government officially was silent.
REHMJeanne, some people here in this country calling him a traitor, his acts, treasonous. How are they going to get to him?
CUMMINGSWell, according to some reports, they are already trying to lay the groundwork for bringing charges against him and then extraditing him from Hong Kong. There was a report in The New York Times that there are lawyers in China and Hong Kong and American lawyers who are already beginning to communicate in trying to meet the requirements for an extradition appeal.
CUMMINGSFor instance, under the law, under the agreement that we have with Hong Kong, there have to be some charges that are relevant in both places. And so they are looking for those kinds of charges, and they have found disclosure of classified records is indeed a crime in both places.
REHMI see. I see.
CUMMINGSThey're trying to find those overlapping legal arguments in which to make the case to extradite him. Of course, the investigation is very new, and he has not been charged with anything yet. We can't try to extradite him before he's charged. So that is really the first step.
THOMASAnd what we're seeing is that there are multiple people, you know, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday said she thinks he should be criminally prosecuted. We know on this end, they're trying to figure out how do you do that. So he definitely has something to risk by, you know, not running, basically.
REHMBy not running.
THOMASSorry. Well, by running and by not running. I mean, if he doesn't run, if he doesn't hide, they are trying to extradite him and bring him to the U.S. to seek criminal prosecution.
REHMAnd, of course, the FBI chief still in office, Robert Mueller, is saying that they're going to bring criminal charges. But he couldn't answer questions about exactly what this young man, Edward Snowden, had done because the information is classified.
RAJUThat's right. That's the constant conflict among the administration in trying to explain both this program, its legal rationale, why it's important. And also, it's hard for critics to criticize him in some ways to come after it by 'cause some of the areas in which they've sought to highlight are classified. So this is sort of a take-my-word-for-it approach, and you know, we'll see how much that works in the court of public opinion.
REHMAnd what about the NSA Director Keith Alexander, what's he saying, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, he has spent a great deal of time on the Hill over the last few days trying to explain the program as best as he can, given that most of it is classified. He's done, I think, a pretty good job of walking this tightrope because he's acknowledged what's in the public domain. That gives him a little bit of room to talk about the PRISM program in particular. There are other parts of the surveillance that's happening that involves emails, that involves social networking, that sort of thing.
CUMMINGSThose things have not come out in full view as the telephone records have. So there's a lot more we don't know about. Now he had closed-door meetings with senators in particular, and he made some progress, it appears. There are senators who went in with a lot of questions who came out who felt reassured, to some degree, by what they had heard.
CUMMINGSBut I think even those like Sen. Feinstein, who is a defender of the program, there are -- even she, I think, acknowledges there may be legislation that they do because, you know, this program has been around for 10 years. We're not in the horror of 48 hours after Sept. 11. They know now what works, what doesn't, how could they target it better. I think that we will see an effort in Congress to make some of this more public, what they can, what they now agree might be able to be made public.
CUMMINGSThe administration is trying to make parts of it declassified so that they can talk about it. The NSA director has promised Sen. Feinstein that on Monday he hopes to make public some of the details around some of the attacks that have been thwarted because of these programs. So while it's an awkward debate...
CUMMINGS...it is one that's taking place, and there could be fruits from it.
THOMASAnd specifically on the legislation that...
THOMAS...Sen. Feinstein kind of talked about, what she said was that she certainly thinks they will have legislation to "limit or prevent" contractors from handling highly classified data. So the kind of worker that Edward Snowden was, trying to put more limits on what they're allowed to do if they do not directly work for the NSA or another law enforcement or intelligence agency.
CUMMINGSBut even that may not work...
CUMMINGS...because he was a rogue. He went outside of his -- where he was assigned 'cause one of the big questions for the administration that they're trying to unravel, one mystery is how he got the FISA court order, the secret court order that went to Verizon to get telephone records. From our understanding, his position as a contractor with Booze Allen working for the NSA should never have given him access to a FISA court record.
REHMI see. I see.
CUMMINGSSo he was...
REHMBut he got it.
CUMMINGS...in the system, right, moving well beyond what it was supposed to be his realm. So they can pass a law like that.
REHMBut on the other hand, look at how much work the U.S. government has contracted out. Booze Allen is only one of many.
RAJUOh, yeah. Since 9/11, I mean, it just really exploded, you know, the amount of people who have access to highly classified information. And that is really the major concern here because, you know, any number of folks could have access to things, and if they want to shine a spotlight and risk criminal prosecution, they very well can. I want to add something on the legislative front.
RAJUThere is also an effort by Jeff Merkley and Mike Lee to -- that's the Oregon Democrat and a Utah Republican joining hands and sort of the civil liberty's left and the civil libertarian right pushing for a bill to declassify some of the legal opinions underpinning this rationale for the NSA surveillance program as well as to try to see whether or not the FISA court, the secret court would detail exactly how it's interpreting the statute.
RAJUOne of the things that has been -- that critics have seized upon is that the secret court has interpreted the law in ways that Congress never intended. So that's going to be one area of push that we're going to see in the coming days.
REHMAnd there's only been one case they've turned down. Isn't that correct?
RAJUYeah. I mean, in -- virtually everything seems to get approved. And now the people who support this law would say that, you know, just the numbers alone don't mean that the court just comes in and rubberstamps everything.
CUMMINGS'Cause they have modified some of them.
CUMMINGSThey have modified...
RAJUAnd there's a back and forth.
REHMModified but nevertheless only refused one. President Obama is getting hit from both sides on this, Shawna.
THOMASHe is. And he's had to -- and he's also, in some ways, getting hit by his own record when he talked about, back in the campaign days and back when he was a senator, that privacy concerns should be sort of paramount to things. And, you know, last week he talked in front of the media and also tried to shift, I thought, a little bit of the blame on to Congress, saying that, you know, your elected members, your elected representatives have known about some of these things, especially the phone program, the phone Verizon program.
REHMBut they didn't all know, did they?
THOMASNo, they didn't all know. The ones who had clearance, the ones who were involved in making intelligence decisions...
THOMAS...are the ones who did know. And we saw some of them come out and say, we've seen this before. But the PRISM program, the one that was about Google and Apple and all of them, that one was fairly new to people.
REHMShawna Thomas of NBC News. We'll take a short break here. Do want to remind you were are video streaming this first hour so you can see as well as hear the program. 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Manu Raju of Politico, Shawna Thomas of NBC News, Jeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News. Here's an email from Phil in Indianapolis. He says, "I think I understand the issues surrounding Snowden's release of information. But I do not comprehend the grave harm he created. Did he just prove our politicians are hypocrites? Will other nations no longer think we're truthful?" Manu.
RAJUWell, that's certainly the risk, I mean, especially if, you know, the United States is saying one thing about the extent of their programs or not saying anything at all. And then this program reveals that the leaks reveal that we are reaching into other countries, you know, as Snowden said. And I mentioned earlier about the outreach or the surveillance extending into China. I mean, that is one area that's very sensitive. So that's one the real fears among intelligence officials and administration officials like we saw with the WikiLeaks leak that once you reveal some of these really secretive information, you could really upset diplomatic ties.
REHMAnd here's an email from Carrie, who says, "So much for contracting out jobs to create the appearance of fewer government employees and at greater expense because you know those companies charge a premium for their profits." Jeanne.
CUMMINGSWell, certainly. Farming out work isn't necessarily as cost effective as it can be in some cases. You take them off the government payroll, you're not paying them benefits, you're not paying retirement. There are some savings if you then move those workers off into the private sector. However, this is -- the bigger issue here is a security issue, which is what the legislation in the Senate would be aimed at.
CUMMINGSAnd that is if they're a government worker, we know where they are, and, you know, we can keep track of them. The ways -- the contracts that they would sign or the grounds upon which they would be hired could be very clear about what's criminal and what's not. So you would have more control over the system.
REHMAnd here's another from Ed in Charlottesville, who says, "When the NSA tells us they prevented terrorist attacks, what are they referring to: massive bombings in the U.S. or a small military action in another country?" Shawna?
THOMASWell, I think that goes back to something we were talking about earlier is that we are not totally sure what they're referring to in all cases. Now, the director of National Intelligence, Clapper, talked about a couple of things with NBC's Andrea Mitchell last week. But for the most part, the reason why Sen. Feinstein came out and said, we want to declassify these terrorist threats that the U.S. has thwarted, is so that they can have that conversation a little more openly. But a lot of that is still classified.
CUMMINGSThe two that they've talked about was they prevented a mass transit bombing in New York, and they prevented a bombing of a newspaper office overseas.
REHMAnd here's the last from Max. He says, "If the NSA program stopped a dozen plots, why couldn't it stop the Boston one? Even with a warning from the Russians seems like a smokescreen to me." Manu.
RAJUThat's certainly an issue that continually is being risen here in the aftermath of this program being released. You know, this is -- that Boston investigation is still ongoing. We don't have all the details yet of why this sort of fell through the cracks and how these men were able to carry this plot out. We'll see whether or not this program had -- was even on to these two individuals before they carried it out.
REHMAll right. And let's move on to what Congress has also been focusing on immigration, Jeanne. The Senate began debating an immigration reform bill. What's in it?
CUMMINGSWell, the bipartisan authors feel like they got through the first week OK. And that's a big accomplishment.
REHMThis is the so-called Gang of Eight.
CUMMINGSThe so-called Gang of Eight. They started the week with most of the amendments they were concerned about focused on border security. What's in the bill? The bill includes path to citizenship with certain requirements, you know, paying fines, having a clean criminal record, waiting in period of time, et cetera. There are bars to becoming a citizen for those who are here. It also includes enhancements to the border to try to prevent future immigrants from coming in illegally.
CUMMINGSThat part of the bill is the section they were focused on all this week for the most part because Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican member of the Gang of Eight, is convinced to get the Republican votes to really get this bill through in a strong way. That has to be enhanced. They have to have tougher provisions for securing the border. There was an amendment by Sen. Grassley of Iowa that the authors feared very much.
CUMMINGSThey felt like if Grassley's border security measure got attached to the bill, it would be -- it could kill the bill because it set a standard that essentially we had to have a firm control of the border before anybody could even apply to become a citizen. That did fail. Now, what the authors, though, as of last night were doing was they were recognizing that Grassley amendment, and there's one by Sen. Cornyn, that's an important amendment. They got to try to come up with something. So they're beginning to negotiate over what can they add on the border security section in order to get more Republican votes.
RAJUYeah. I mean, the Cornyn amendment's going to be key here. That's one thing that we'll be looking out for the next week or so. Whether or not the -- there's this group of Republican senators who are meeting and negotiating right now. What are they including? Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Hoeven of North Dakota. Whether or not they can put together package almost, you know, for lack of a better word, a Cornyn light package.
RAJUSomething that would add border security language but not go as far as the Cornyn plan, which includes a requirement include 90 percent apprehension rate over the Mexican-U.S. border for illegal crossings. And once that threshold is achieved, then the pathway to citizenship would be triggered. That's just a standard that's too high for authors of this bill. So whether or not the -- these Republicans who are meeting can come up with border security plan that will not put off Democrats and bring on Republicans, that is really the only chance of getting a significant Republican support, potentially 70 votes in the Senate.
REHMAnd Jeb Bush came out in favor of it.
THOMASHe did come out in favor it. But I think part of the reason why it is so important to sort of work some of these things out that Sen. Cornyn is trying to work out in the Senate side is they're looking to the House side. And you had John Boehner say this week, you know, he really wants to see something happen in the House of Representatives before they go out for their August recess.
THOMASAnd the only way you're going to get enough people on board on the House side is to have some of those stronger border provisions. And Sen. Cornyn knows that, that if you're going to come up with any two bills you can actually reconcile to do something about immigration in this country, it's going to need a strong Republican backing.
REHMGo ahead, Manu.
RAJUOh, I'm sorry. I was just going to say there's actually an interesting debate going on within the Democratic leadership right now on how far exactly to go in appeasing Republicans on border security 'cause there are some line of thought even -- including by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat, on whether or not to simply just push forward a bill that would get a handful of Republicans, get 60 votes what they need to get.
RAJUAnd just make that the strongest bill possible and have that -- the Senate's bill that would have to be reconciled with the House. Don't worry about getting more Republicans and trying to water it down in some ways to win Republicans because you're going to have to compromise with the House anyways. So whether how Democrats navigate this will be interesting to see in the coming days.
REHMAnd wasn't there some talk about getting this through before July 4?
RAJUYeah, that's right. That's -- Harry Reid wants to get this done.
RAJUAnd, you know, there was only one vote this week, as Jeanne mentioned. So next week is going to be critical. They may work through the weekend, which is very rare in the United States Senate, and they'll try to get it done before they leave town at the end of the month for recess.
THOMASAnd what we're seeing out of the White House is still a somewhat hands-off approach. They released their sort of statement of administrative policy saying they supported the bill that was written that was brought to the floor. That is clearly going to be amended through the process this week and next week. But the president invited or had four of the Gang of Eight -- the Democratic four of the Gang of Eight senators who had work on this legislation over to the White House.
THOMASThe White House is being tight lipped about how that meeting went. But they're -- what they're saying as a whole is they want to be supportive of this and basically behind the scenes. They don't want too many of the president's handprints on it so as to give them cover, the Senate cover, to do what it's going to do.
REHMAnd what about the farm bill, Manu?
RAJUYeah. That passed the Senate this week. That was, you know, one of the issues that left -- it was left hanging out during the last Congress when House Republicans sort of walked away from the measure. There is a big -- there's still -- you know, now, this time, John Boehner, after it passed the House, it's a five-year plan. It deals with -- it's a really sweeping proposal, and it deals with things as -- probably the most controversial measure between the House and the Senate plan is over food stamps and how much to pare back the food stamp program.
RAJUHouse Republicans wanted to cut food stamps much more significantly than Senate -- than the Senate did in its plan. But this time around, the House Republicans knew that after the last election cycle in the end that they really got criticized, especially in rural states, over not passing a farm bill. They see the parallel of that. So John Boehner wants to bring this forward even though it's divisive within the Republican conference, and we're probably going to see an effort in the House to get a bill forwarded, at least begin negotiations with the Senate.
CUMMINGSWell -- and there are big differences between where the two chambers are. So there's certainly no guarantee in this Congress that anything will ever pass. There -- the advocates for passage of the measure note that they are, right now, only as far as they got last year. They got a Senate bill last year. They got it out of committee in the House, and they couldn't get it out of the floor because Boehner lacked the votes. The big difference, a sticking point is going to be on food stamps.
CUMMINGSAnd there's a big gap where the Senate has cut 4 billion, and the House wants about 20 billion -- huge difference between the two of them. And the Senate is kind of digging in its heels there, and that -- with that wide a margin, that could become a real -- that could break down negotiations for a final bill.
THOMASAnd there are shifts in the farm bill in the Senate version on how they deal with subsidies and sort of trying to get rid of direct payments to farmers and kind of shifting that to a larger crop insurance program than we currently have, and how those differences are going to be worked out with the House are still a little bit unclear too. But as my colleague said, almost 80 percent of the farm bill is food stamps, is nutrition programs, and that's over $760 billion. And that is something that they're -- a contingent of House Republicans see you can take money away from that, and that's a good way to save money for the country.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jeanne, let's talk about the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act and the most contentious issues.
CUMMINGSWell, this has turned into really a fight over how the Congress is going to force the military to deal with its sexual assault problems.
REHMAnd whether it is...
CUMMINGSWhether it is?
REHM...going to be able to force the military to behave differently in regard.
CUMMINGSWell, I do think we're going to see legislation passed. It's a matter of what it is. There's an argument in the Senate -- or there was in the Senate -- this week over a proposal by Sen. Gillibrand of New York that would have taken these cases out of the chain of command. So...
CUMMINGSWhich means that instead of the commander deciding whether to hold a trial and whether to try to discipline someone for charges, that decision would be made in the Pentagon by the JAG attorneys. And so it would separate the two from the rank-and-file military and bring it back to the Pentagon. There are Democrats who don't like that idea, and that was probably Sen. Gillibrand's biggest problem. Among them is Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, who very much wants to pass legislation that wakes up the Pentagon on this issue.
CUMMINGSHe disagreed on how to do it.
CUMMINGSAnd his belief is if you're going to -- you have to keep it in the system because those supervisors are the ones who will have the best effect in changing the culture and enforcing the rules.
REHMAnd the problem is that, in many cases, it's those supervisors who may be guilty of sexual harassment themselves.
CUMMINGSRight. So that's why -- that's very true, and that's why there are other proposals that will pass in all likelihood. Among them is a proposal that no commander can unilaterally overturn a finding of sexual assault against a member. They -- the House passed a bill that would impose a minimum two-year sentence in jail. They -- there is other legislation that would protect anyone who reported a sexual assault. So there isn't one bill. There are lots of proposals. We have one big fight over one particular proposal.
REHMAnd how did Sen. Gillibrand react?
THOMASSen. Gillibrand did not react too well. She was definitely incensed, and she basically put out a statement and also talked to a lot of media outlets, saying that she plans on bringing back what she was trying to add to the bill and committee when it gets to the floor as an amendment. And that will make the public debate around it even bigger because then you'll have all of the senators involved.
RAJUYeah. And it's actually an interesting vote. I mean, it really crossed party lines. I mean, you even had Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican who rarely votes with Democrats, siding with Sen. Gillibrand on this issue. You know, it's a difficult thing for Carl Levin, the chairman. He wants to pass the Defense Authorization bill. That is the main thing that his committee does, that they do every single year.
RAJUIt's a big defense policy bill, and he believes that if he went against the military on this issue, that he would have a harder time passing this bill. That said, he does believe that what he did will make it harder for these commanders to simply ignore or not take, you know -- or not act appropriately when the sexual assault charges come forward.
REHMAll right. And finally, before we break and go to the phones, let's talk about the Plan B, one-step plan, Shawna, and what the administration has finally decided.
THOMASWell, they had taken to court the idea of providing Plan B, which is the morning-after pill that can help women not get pregnant after having unprotected sex, that they did not want to have it be provided over the counter to those who are under 17, and that they were basically coming out against the ruling. An appeals court said, no, you can't do that, and the White House and the administration decided to back off.
REHMFinally backed off. And so -- but will there be some restrictions?
CUMMINGSWell, there are a few questions left, but there aren't going to be many.
CUMMINGSNo. This is pretty much a slam-dunk win for those who wanted to make Plan B available to all women of childbearing ages.
REHMAll right. Short break here. When we come back, we'll open the phones. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup. Time to open the phones. First to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Janine.
JANINEHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
JANINEWith regard to the NSA incident, much of the media focus has been on the individual who is reported to have released the potentially sensitive info. And since the perpetrator is a contracted manpower, to what extent is the government holding the offender, Booz Allen Hamilton, accountable for their employees' actions and the security breach potentially, you know, that happens from all this?
REHMAll right. Booz Allen Hamilton. Manu.
RAJUYou know, it's not clear yet exactly how much this will impact Booz Allen. I mean, it hurt them actually in their -- the stock market immediately after. But, you know, whether or not, this, you know, the administration clamps down on Booz Allen, I'm not sure that it actually will, other than, as we mentioned earlier, the legislation that Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce to limit contractors and their access to classified information.
REHMBut how can they do that because they're already so?
CUMMINGSThere are thousands and thousands of them.
CUMMINGSAnd you can't replace them overnight, and it's -- and you probably end up just hiring the same people, so you hope you've got, you know, trustworthy people in the jobs right now. And let's face it. You don't want to be the head of Booz Allen Hamilton this day. It's just mortifying for the company, I'm sure, that over 90 percent of their contracts are with the federal government. They are totally dependent on the government and the money that they're paid by it.
CUMMINGSSo they were aware -- they were the ones who reported Snowden missing. And so they were already trying to find him because he had asked to leave -- to get a medical leave. And then they checked in on him, and they couldn't locate him. So, you know, I'm sure Booz Allen Hamilton is working with the federal government to try to find him.
REHMAll right. To San Antonio, Texas. Good morning, Lisa.
LISAGood morning. Thank you so much for your show and for this opportunity to get to voice some things that I don't feel I get a chance to say from Texas.
LISAI am a Democrat, for full disclosure. I am also a Texan. And I served my country as a Russian linguist in the past, a couple of decades ago, so I think I can speak freely. I am concerned about what the NSA may or may not do, what our country may or may not listen to. But what I've heard so far is that they aren't listening to our phone calls. And I know, as a former intelligence personnel, that this job is critical to doing -- being able to protect our people, to be able to solve crimes. And I -- things of that perspective often gets lost in this huge uproar over our privacy, and it's a very difficult question where the line is.
RAJUYeah. It's interesting because, the American public is sort of split on this issue. You know, when you ask -- and it really depends on how you ask the questions. Some polls have shown then, overwhelmingly, that the American public is concerned about this because when they ask the question about whether or not they support looking into ordinary Americans without describing it as something that would need a court order and then million of Americans will be affected, when you simply say that it would affect ordinary Americans, a majority of the public raises concerns.
RAJUBut when you describe it as something that would require a court order, that affects a wide swath of folks including an attempt to get terrorists, then all of a sudden you see a majority of Americans support this. And so that's what you're seeing right now play out, an effort by the administration to explain to the public that this is an attempt to get terrorists. And that's why we're going to see more of this in the coming days.
THOMASWhich is why they -- that Congress is trying so hard as well as, in some ways, the administration to figure out what they can declassify and explain the program better. And we saw so many members come out of these behind-the-scenes meetings not able to say what really went on in the meeting but able to say, I feel better. And they think if they can tell more of the American people about that, the American people would feel better.
CUMMINGSAnd I think the caller raises a really interesting perspective because it's one that ordinary Americans most -- the vast majority of us don't have. And that is from the inside, looking in. And if you're a member of Congress or you're a member of our intelligence community and you blocked one bombing in downtown New York, you think you're going to give that program up? You know, I mean, you want to be the one who…
CUMMINGS…doesn't see it on their watch.
CUMMINGSSo -- and that's, I think, a very different perspective but an important one for everyone to bear in mind.
REHMAll right. To Louisville, Ky. Good morning, Jeannie.
JEANNIEGood morning, Diane. This is about the 27-year-old man that's in China hiding out. Maybe I've seen too many spy movies. But has anyone really thought that somebody might be behind him? He goes to work for three months from temp agency into extremely delicate security place. And then all of a sudden he's blown the lid on everything and runs away. Who's funding this guy?
REHMPeople are looking into that very question, aren't they, Manu?
RAJUThat's definitely a concern. Were any foreign governments behind this? We don't know the answer to that question yet, but it's certainly one that's being raised and looked up by both the media and the government.
REHMAll right. To John in Orlando, Fla. Good morning.
JOHNGood morning. How are you today?
JOHNI'm delighted to see on video stream for the first time.
JOHNAnd your hand signals to the control room.
JOHNI want to just kind of go to a light note maybe, on the immigration bill, on the reform. At the moment, all a Cuban has to do is put his tool on Miami Beach, and he's welcomed with open arms. How is Marco Rubio handling that situation? It looks like it could give him some difficulty.
RAJUThis is a difficult issue for Marco Rubio. There is no doubt he's really stuck his neck out to try to put together bipartisan compromise. But he's sort of in a tricky spot because, of course, he's keeping eye out for a 2016 presidential run. But he needs those conservatives, the same conservatives who despise this bill and what they consider amnesty for folks who are here illegally.
RAJUThe -- he's trying to try to placate those folks on the right while trying to put together this compromised proposal through the Senate. You know, right now, he's sort of straddling both those lines, but he's going to have to make a choice on how far to go in supporting this bill depending what happens on the floor debate.
REHMSomeone has sent an email asking whether it's true that Rubio has been quoted saying he would not support the immigration bill if it benefits LGBT families. Any truth to this, Jeanne?
CUMMINGSWell, that amendment is -- he opposes it. There are lots of people who oppose it in the Senate. And it's unlikely -- highly unlikely to be attached for that reason. The question -- one of the things on the right that's playing behind the scene is that the evangelical community has really stepped up in support of this legislation. And they are creating Bible-based messages for why this legislation ought to pass. That's a critical constituency for many Republicans who want to vote for this bill, and that is their safety net when they go back home to run for re-election. Keeping that community in the game is the price of that amendment.
REHMSo the LBG -- LGBT group gets traded off?
JEANNIEMm hmm. If that amendment passes, the evangelicals are gone.
RAJUAnd yeah, we already saw that happen in the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Patrick Leahy, the chairman, decided not to offer that in the committee because the Democrats who actually support that plan said they would have been forced to vote against it because had it been added, it would have disrupted the bipartisan compromise. Rubio, Lindsey Graham, others said they couldn't support it any longer.
REHMAll right. To Dallas, Texas. Good morning, Joe.
JOEGood morning, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm good. Thanks.
JOELove your show. Thanks for doing it.
JOEI keeping hearing this 90 percent number getting thrown around on immigration. We're going to have 90 percent, you know, we're going to catch 90 percent of the border crossings. Well, you know, these are senators throwing this number around, and when we don't know how many people are crossing over, there's no way to know when we reach 90 percent.
THOMASWell, and that's some of the reason why they're trying to figure out a compromise to kind of take this 90 percent number out. It is really hard to thing to calculate and especially calculate it at that level. So what we'll probably see happen is that maybe it's not a percentage. There's some other way they're going to calculate border crossings, but that remains to be seen. And I think a lot of people that the 90 percent number is just too high of a bar to substantiate or, you know, put into law.
REHMIndeed. All right. To Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Good morning, Sally.
SALLYGood morning. I want to make a comment that when it's being said that big events have been thwarted because of what the government is doing, what it doesn't say is is it really necessary to collect these vast amounts of metadata from ordinary people's calls? Or are they way overdoing it, and would these events have been prevented by a much more focused program?
REHMAll right. Jeanne.
CUMMINGSThat's definitely a core question that is being asked on Capitol Hill. The answer from the administration is that it's hard to tell because it's not one data point that leads to thwarting a threat. It's that data point which leads to the next data point which leads to the next.
REHMAnd then connecting those dots.
CUMMINGSYes. And then you connect it and create the picture. So that -- the argument from the NSA director was you don't want to lose the dots that you've got if you're having some success. That said, the, you know, the Boston bombing, we didn't need PRISM to be, you know, tuned into that one. The Russians were telling us for having say...
CUMMINGSSo, you know, there are human errors made at times, but the answer...
REHMDo you think that's what it was or simply our not paying enough attention to what the Russians were saying?
RAJUThis could very well be a problem. I mean, you can have the most sophisticated surveillance program in the world, but if a couple of folks are just, you know, ignore some sort of data points or warnings or red flags and -- or look into and it doesn't turn out to be much and drop the ball, then it could turn out to be something serious like we saw in Boston.
REHMAll right. To Gettysburg , Md. Good morning, Stan.
STANGood morning, Diane.
STANI have a message for you from a young lady named Jen Hits. (sp?)
STANDo you know her?
REHMSir, I need your question.
STANOK. My question is, well, let's get on about then of the subject -- is the subject bad or good for the American people? That's what we should be getting out of not only this but every other item before Congress. And instead, we're getting a lot of who's right or wrong.
REHMAnd that's what's been going on for an awfully long time.
CUMMINGSI think on the NSA investigation at the moment, both sides are trying to find out the information. It started out with some partisan shouting, and it may end with some partisan shouting. But at the moment we're at right now, I think Democrats and Republican, Senators and House members are going into these sessions trying to find out the facts.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's talk about Hillary Clinton. She seems to be back in one sense. She has nearly 500,000 followers to her Twitter feed. She put out one Twitter feed, got 500,000. How does her profile fuel speculation that she's in the game again?
RAJUYou know, I think it was one thing that she put in her bio. It said TBD, you know?
THOMASThe world went wild.
RAJUI wonder what that means, possibly a 2016 run. Well, certainly, you know, after she left the secretary of state office, she was, you know, took some downtime. We didn't see her for awhile. She's starting to reemerge like with this Twitter account and also become more involved with the Clinton Initiative...
REHMThe speech in Chicago yesterday.
RAJUThat's right, and where she discussed -- focusing on issues involving children. I think you'll see a lot of focus on sort of this -- the Clinton Foundation efforts, nonprofit work, potentially traveling the globe and doing some domestic work on women's issues in the run up to a possible run.
THOMASAnd yesterday, it was her first -- I think it was explained -- her first public speech since she left the secretary of state's office that she was not paid for. So it was a big thing. She was introduced by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, talked mostly women's issues. I think one of the things that we thought was interesting in my shop was that things like Syria, which had started to bubble up that day, bubble up yesterday, were not really mentioned in the speech.
REHMShe did not talk about that.
THOMASShe did not talk about those kinds of things. She is trying to make a portfolio for herself at least publicly right now that involves women's issues, that involves children's issues.
REHMAnd doesn't involve foreign policy.
CUMMINGSWell, she's got those credentials already in her pocket.
REHMYeah. Absolutely. Well, you know, there an awful lot of people who continue to question. In her travels, what did she actually accomplish? How do you respond?
THOMASWell, she -- one of the things by making her secretary of state, someone who had run for president and come so close, former first lady, that whole thing was -- it all gave sort of a certain cache that if the president of the United States can't come to your country, Secretary Clinton can, and everybody knows her. And at the very least it helped repair some of our relationships around the world, having her be that face of the United States and traveling so much. I mean, one of her things yesterday was that she's still jetlagged because she visited 112 countries. And that was one really big important part of who she was a secretary of state.
REHMAnd now this new initiative on children, Manu.
RAJUThat's right. I mean, I think you'll see a softer focus for Hillary Clinton heading into 2016 trying to, you know, point to some of these issues involving children, women's issues that people that, you know, are going to support and be, you know, she find generally favorable. At the same time, you're going to see folks continue to attack her record at the State Department, including over Benghazi as House Republicans push forward on that issue.
CUMMINGSAbsolutely. It's -- we have a reporter who spends a lot of time in Iowa. And he did a story for us recently where he noted, she may not know if she's running for president, but they're already running against her. That's all they talk about.
REHMJeanne Cummings of Bloomberg News, Manu Raju of Politico, Shawna Thomas of NBC News, have a great weekend.
THOMASThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Casey Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Danielle Knight. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
Most Recent Shows
Secretly-recorded videos have reopened the fight over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. We examine new hurdles for the organization, the political response and the latest in the battle over abortion rights in the U.S.
A novel about Vivian, a young Irish girl sent by rail from a New York City tenement to Minnesota in the early 1900s. She was one of thousands of abandoned children sent to live with rural families for a better life. But not all ended up in loving homes.
An estimated 11 million Americans could see their disability benefits slashed next year if Congress fails to take action. The White House and Republican lawmakers have opposing solutions. Social Security's disability fund and how to keep the program solvent.