America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
Guest Host: Tom Gjelten
A secret national security court ruling says the NSA violated the U.S. Constitution. President Barack Obama promotes a new plan to make colleges more affordable. And the Army private responsible for the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history is sentenced to 35 years. A panel of journalists discuss the week’s national headlines.
MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's getting a voice treatment. Then she's going on vacation. She'll be back in mid-September. President Obama proposes a new plan to curb the rising cost of higher education and tough punishment for a leaker. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning is sentenced to 35 years. Joining me in the studio for The Domestic Hour of our Friday News Roundup, are Michael Scherer of Time magazine, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Glenn Thrush from Politico.
MR. TOM GJELTENWe know you appreciate the News Roundup, and you're welcome to join our conversation. Call us on 1-800-433-8850. You can also send us your questions and comment via Facebook, Twitter or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. And one other thing you can now watch this hour of the News Roundup. We have video streaming at our website, drshow.org. I've got all my panelists waving. This is your big chance to be on TV.
MR. MICHAEL SCHERERI guess I should have shaved.
GJELTENGood morning, everyone.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGood morning, Tom.
MR. GLENN THRUSHGood morning.
GJELTENSo we have to begin with leaks. This administration, leakers and the fallout from their leaks has turned out to be a huge headache for this administration. We have the leaks about NSA snooping that Edward Snowden released, and this week, Michael, we found out that there's been quite a debate within the U.S. government about this NSA surveillance that Edward Snowden told us about. Tell us about this court ruling that came out today -- this week.
SCHERERSo from the beginning when Edward Snowden released these documents to a number of journalists, the Obama administration has been trying to figure out how to do the damage control on this. And their most recent plan, as Obama announced a couple weeks ago, is to try in their minds to get ahead of it and show that they are being transparent. That this isn't a, you know, big evil secret government they have to fear.
SCHERERAnd as part of that this week, they released some bad news dating back to 2011 in which the NSA had gone to the secret FISA court -- there's a secret court that oversees secret surveillance -- and admitted essentially to illegally gathering up tens of thousands of documents because of what they called basically a technical glitch.
SCHERERAnd this -- the issue here was that they were grabbing information from the main pipes through which the Internet goes, not from Internet service providers, like Google or Yahoo, but from the actual pipes that this information flows through across the country and across international borders. And they would pull information pegged to someone they were targeting, usually a foreign target, but, in pulling that information, they would also gather up email and email data about emails that were going to Americans, which is not allowed under the current law.
GJELTENAnd in fact, of course, it is not only not allowed under the current law, but it's against the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Very tough words in that ruling, right, Karen?
TUMULTYIt was a very strong rebuke from the judge who was running the court at the time, U.S. District Judge John Bates. He accused the NSA not of just careless errors. He accused them of substantial misrepresentation, and he also pointed out that this was the third time that they had done this in under three years. As my colleague, Ruth Marcus points out today, Judge Bates is no kind of flaming liberal here. He in fact was a deputy to Ken Starr during the Clinton impeachment. He is a conservative jurist and again was clearly quite upset by the NSA's what he saw as willful behavior.
GJELTENNow, Glenn Thrush, there was a Freedom of Information Act request to get this ruling be classified, but nevertheless, it really required a political decision by the White House to allow this declassification to take place, right? And why -- what was going on there?
THRUSHWell, this is the great paradox here. The president has said repeatedly that he welcomes this debate, and this debate has been essentially brought to us by the product of what the administration alleges has been criminal in terms of these leaks. So that is fundamentally the paradox. I think this was the product of FOIAs request by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. But, look, you know, the president yesterday in a very quiet way announced several members of this new panel that will not really, I guess, be overseeing this process but providing recommendations on transparency.
THRUSHAnd two members of the panel really struck out. One was Cass Sunstein, the wife of Samantha Powell, the U.N. ambassador, and a former high-ranking administration official himself. And the other one was Mike Morrell who just retired as the number two man at the CIA, someone who was in the middle of the Benghazi affair and others.
GJELTENAnd his whole life has been involved...
THRUSHSo, yeah, so the question here is to what extent they want to get out in front of this in terms of a public relations exercise. But I'm not really getting any indication that they are embarking on a new campaign of transparency here.
GJELTENWell, Michael Scherer, we're -- when Congress comes back, how big an issue is this going to be? There's been talk of hearings. I mean, are we likely to see legislative changes, you know, surrounding this program?
SCHERERI think, yes, I think we will see legislative proposals, and I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of them passed. Whether that will substantially or fundamentally change the program, I'm less optimistic about. I think the issue here for Congress is they know the American people are pretty upset about this.
SCHERERThey want to be seen as responding to it. They want to be seen as dealing with these concerns about privacy and snooping on Americans. At the same time, the vast majority of Congress likes the way the program is working. So it's really a public relations problem, more than a substantive problem. That doesn't mean you won't have some tweaks on the edges, and you may -- I think one of the outcomes of this will be more transparency.
SCHERERI think the kind of releases we're getting now will probably be encoded in law so that there will be ways of the public to actually keep a track -- keep better track of how big the surveillance data is becoming, how many errors are happening, how broad the snooping accidental or otherwise is on American citizens.
GJELTENKaren Tumulty, Americans may not like government snooping, but we also know that this administration does not like leaking. And we did have this really quite extraordinary sentencing of Bradley Manning this week, 35 years. And this is the third time that the Obama administration has brought up prosecution under the Espionage Act and -- but this is by far the most that anyone has ever been prosecuted for leaking to the news media. What does this indicate about the administration's view of this?
TUMULTYWell, it is the, you know, the harshest sentence anyone has ever gotten. Bradley Manning was, you know, did escape the very harshest thing, which is the charge that that he was actually aiding the enemy. But I think it is a sign of, you know, how tough this administration and also how tough the courts are on leakers, even though, you know, there's a lot of talk about protecting leakers. The question is whether, you know, somebody like a Bradley Manning is a, you know, is a whistleblower, and that is certainly what his defense was charging.
TUMULTYBut, obviously, you know, the court simply did not buy that. And then, of course, the entire thing got sort of overwhelmed by Bradley Manning's agreement the following morning on "The Today Show" that he wanted to live henceforth as a woman and be treated, you know, with hormones for that and that he wanted to be referred to as Chelsea Manning. So then that takes the whole story off into, I think, a completely different direction.
GJELTENWell, Glenn, in fact, his defense attorneys had said that his confusion about his gender identity was part of his sort of mental makeup during this whole period. It certainly appears that Bradley Manning was very troubled. What does that indicate about the extent to which he was trusted with so many secrets?
THRUSHI think that is a great question and a largely unanswered question. I mean, wasn't it at the Pentagon that originally put out that photograph that now famous photograph of him riding around a car wearing a blond wig and lipstick. I mean, you know, this is clearly not exactly the guy that you want to have access to all of these secrets. I like to take a little bit of a contrarian perspective here.
THRUSHI mean, has anyone ever been prosecuted for over-classifying things? You know, we're seeing this sort of rampart classification. There's been a lot of documentation of how much larger a percentage of processed documents in all levels of government are now being shielded from freedom of information laws. And you can make the case that clearly what Manning did was illegal and wanted prosecution.
THRUSHThe fruits of some of these disclosures have been useful, for instance, disclosures about how many more Afghan and Iraq civilians were killed in raids by U.S. troops. This information even the administration has admitted as in the Snowden disclosures has been valuable to the debate. So I think there's a larger discussion about how much we are classifying.
GJELTENAnd, Michael, now the administration is going to have some decisions about prosecuting Edward Snowden or possibly, could be. What do we -- do we have any indication of what does this say about their determination to go after leakers like Edward Snowden?
SCHERERWe know for years even before Manning was leaking these documents, actually one of the first documents he leaked was a classified Army document about WikiLeaks and how to deal with the WikiLeaks program. And in that document, it said the way we deal with the danger of WikiLeaks to our national security is we find out who is doing the leaking, and we prosecute them, and we make examples of them.
SCHERERAnd by that punishment, we'll create a deterrence effect. I think clearly that's what the government was going after here. I don't think they fully succeeded. I mean they were going after -- I mean this trial life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Right now, you have -- you end up with a sentence of 35 years. He will be eligible for parole in about seven or eight years given time served.
SCHERERIf you have told me three years ago when these leaks had first come out that the guy who did this would maybe only spend 10 years in jail, I would have said no. He's probably going to spend a lot more. And, you know, I think the message the government wanted to send to Edward Snowden and the future Mannings and Snowdens in our national security apparatus right now is that the rest of your life will be ruined if you do this.
SCHERERAnd I think it's a little bit of a mixed message. I mean Manning will -- has been turned into a hero for a good part of the country and the world. The same can be said for Snowden. And by all likelihood, you know, Manning will have a life after prison.
TUMULTYThe Snowden case, too, is also much more complicated by the fact that it's now a case involving Russia and whether they give him asylum.
GJELTENAnd we're going to see more of that. We're going to take a short break. We have a lot of stories to cover this morning. Please stay with us. This is The Domestic Hour of the Friday News Roundup. We'll be right back.
GJELTENAnd welcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten, sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And this is the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. And my panelists in the studio here are Michael Scherer, White House correspondent for Time magazine, Karen Tumulty, national political reporter at The Washington Post, and Glenn Thrush, senior White House reporter for Politico. We're going to be taking some calls a little later in the hour. Remember, our phone number is 800-433-8850.
GJELTENAnd you can watch this hour of the "The Diane Rehm Show" on her website. We do have video streaming for the first hour of the news roundup every Friday. Let's move on to the -- President Obama's bus tour. This president, Michael Scherer, seems to be very enamored of bus tours and campaign-style events. And whenever he's got some tough political problems, he seems like he sort of goes to the people.
GJELTENAnd what was the message, what was the purpose of this week's meeting with the American people via the bus tour?
SCHERERHe's touring Northern New York on a college affordability tour, talking about the issue of something that many, many American families know all too well, that college cost have gone up more than 200 percent in the last decade or so while incomes have nowhere kept up with that. And college, which is becoming more essential for our future workforce, is actually becoming more of a luxury product. And he's proposing a number of ways to deal with this.
SCHERERThe biggest one will take some time to implement, and it will need Congress' help. But it's basically the idea of taking some of the testing and tracking mechanisms that we've been using for K-12 education, bringing them to higher education. The federal government subsidizes higher education to a huge amount. It's $150 billion a year in loans that are subsidized by the federal government.
SCHERERHe's saying that in the future, probably after 2018, the amount of loans that a school will be able to get for its students from the federal government will be tied to how successful those schools are in getting their students into jobs or post-graduate courses so that schools that, you know, are just saddling their students with debt with no way of repaying them will have a tougher time getting federal help to fund their kids' tuition.
GJELTENGlenn Thrush, what is going to be accomplished, do you think, as a result of this bus tour, given the problems that the president has in Congress? I mean, a lot of this stuff requires legislative action. What can he really accomplish without more support in Congress?
THRUSHI think the main thing he is looking to accomplish is to cheer himself up a little bit. He likes to get out on the road. I've been on a couple of these bus trips. Some -- this one he did in Iowa in 2011 was terrific. One he did a couple of months after that in Virginia and North Carolina was dreadful. Look, you know, the president, to put it bluntly, has been sort of bummed out by the current political environment. He likes getting out. His energy level increases appreciably.
THRUSHAnd look at the target audience here. This is the base of the base for him. This is the core of the core, young people. He is going to need to energize these folks for two major battles coming ahead in the next couple of months. The first is getting them enrolled in Obamacare, the so-called young invincibles. If they don't sign up, the whole thing collapses. And the second thing is...
THRUSH...the individual consumer has no idea what is generating the cost. And how the cost corresponds to quality really is a parallel to the health care system.
GJELTENWe need to move on. Now, sort of a parallel to the bus tour in terms of campaign-style events have been these town hall meetings of which we've seen quite a few in recent years. New York Times, this week, did a story about the reluctance of some members of Congress to do town hall meetings. What's behind that reluctance, Michael?
SCHERERWell, members of Congress are not very popular right now, so that's one reason. But you know what, I think the most interesting story coming out of this August is that a lot of the action in town hall meetings has been Republican on Republican. The -- this isn't like 2009 where you had an energized conservative base coming out and slamming the president, and therefore, changing the debate over then it was the issue of health care reform. The issue is still health care reform.
SCHERERBut what you've seen is conservative groups and activists coming and slamming and pressuring Republican members of Congress to do something that almost everybody in Republican leadership in Washington thinks is a terrible idea, which is to tie future funding of the government to a complete defunding and a repeal of Obamacare, which would lead to a government shutdown and most likely significant electoral problems for Republicans, going forward. So that's where the action's been so far this summer.
TUMULTYBut the fact is that these town meetings have really -- essentially since the great success of the Tea Party in the summer of 2009, have turned into theater.
TUMULTYI mean, I think the usefulness of them for members actually seeking to hear what's on their constituents' minds is not what it used to be. Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago, I was with Sen. Manchin at the state fair in West Virginia, and he said that he has found that fairs and sporting events have become much better barometer because that's, you know, a member of Congress actually invading the space of his constituents as opposed to, you know, town halls and rallies where people are coming for a specific purpose, which is to, you know, essentially engage with a lawmaker.
GJELTENWell, now, Karen, we have two scenarios that could lead to a government shutdown. First one is this effort by Sen. Ted Cruz and others to sort of force government shutdown if there's not defunding of Obamacare. But meanwhile, we've got the budget issue there, and if that's not resolved, that could also lead to a government shutdown. What's the prospect here?
TUMULTYWell, there's -- there are a number of people in the Republican Party, who -- and they're being egged on by organizations like Heritage Action, the sort of political arm of the Heritage Foundation, saying, you know, let's take this fight. You know, this is one we can win. But I think the -- pretty much the entire party establishment, and especially those who are old enough to have been around in 1995, recall the last time this happened. And really, what an electoral disaster it was for the Republicans.
GJELTENGlenn, has this issue eclipse the debate over immigration reform? And might the advocates of immigration reform actually benefit from sort of the heat being lowered on their issue while it's raised on the Obamacare issue?
THRUSHI think they absolutely do. Back to the point of this sort of internecine squabble, you just had -- I think it was either yesterday or this morning -- 80 members of the House Republican caucus signing a letter explicitly saying they wanted a repeal of Obamacare tied to the budget debate. I mean, that's extraordinary -- extraordinarily difficult position to put Speaker John Boehner in prior to any sort of negotiation. So it's hard to see how through regular order, which is the way that the House wants to do these, this gets resolved.
THRUSHBut in the larger sense from the 40,000-foot level, this takes a midterm election, which was looking very promising for the Republicans, and it's still potentially is in the Senate side, but promising for them and the House as well and is turning it more into a wash. This is -- this could threaten. I don't know want to overstate it. But if they move down this road too swiftly, this could threaten sort of the natural order of the second term midterm elections being pretty good for the part out of power.
TUMULTYAnd one thing I find mystifying about is this whole argument seems to ignore the fact that we just had an election -- a presidential election, where, you know, Obamacare was very much on the table and the president was re-elected. So I, you know, to somehow that there -- this idea that there's a whole bunch of new information on the table that would, you know, make things come out -- I just -- I don't understand.
GJELTENWell, Michael Scherer, apparently there are some who think that this is still a very much live issue because we have this group, Heritage Action, which is putting a lot of resources into a campaign to really attack Obamacare. Where is that going?
SCHERERWell, they are one of a number of groups. They have, I think, half a million dollar ad buy right now, mostly online, pushing members of Congress and their districts on this issue. Other groups like FreedomWorks have been having town halls with cardboard cutouts of Republican candidates to put pressure on them. I think what you got to look at, though, is what are the motivations of these groups and how are they distinct from the Republican Party as a whole.
SCHERERTed Cruz is a good example. His motivation right now is to rile up the base and become a leader of the conservative movement within the party. He's being incredibly effective at it. He's headed directly toward a 2016 presidential run. Arguably, this is very good for him. Marco Rubio's signing on.
SCHERERHe is healing the wounds he caused with his Republican base in preparation for a 2016 presidential run. Their interests, though, do not align with, are not the same as the Republican Party as a whole's interest. And they can -- Heritage Action can profit from this. Cruz, Rubio can profit from this while the Republican Party as a whole is hurt by it. And so you have to kind of look at both things at the same time.
TUMULTYYeah. It's probably, you know, defunding Obamacare is probably good for fundraising for FreedomWorks and Heritage Action.
GJELTENKaren Tumulty is a national political reporter at The Washington Post. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR, and you are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And before we move on to other stories, I do have to point out, Glenn, this is, I guess, for you and me, a number of listeners have objected to our raising the issue of Bradley Manning's gender identification as being even relevant to this discussion of his leaking of state secrets.
GJELTENAngie writes, "Shame on you. Riding around in a car, wearing a blonde wig? That has no bearing whatsoever on Bradley's ability or Chelsea's ability to do the job well. Is this the guy we want having access to these secrets? Well, why not? And what does gender have to do with any of this?"
THRUSHWell, the only -- obviously, you know, gender identification doesn't typically impact anyone's capacity to do any job. But if I'm not mistaken, I think Manning's own defense folks brought up the gender confusion issue as one of the reasons why his state of mind might not have been sound during that period of time.
GJELTENRight. That -- and his state of mind. And actually access to secrets has become a big issue and whether or not there are too -- this is certainly -- was underscored in the Snowden case as well, Michael, whether too many people in the government have access to top-secret information.
SCHERERWell, the irony of the Snowden case is that after the Manning case, there was a full government review of who had access to what secrets. There were new trip wires put in place so that a Bradley Manning could not have access to, for instance, all the diplomatic cables for every country everywhere.
SCHERERAnd there were a lot of new rules put in place that had no effect on Edward Snowden's ability to basically go into the deepest, darkest corners of the most secret computers in the U.S. government and pull out a ton of material, so much that it seems clear the government doesn't even know what was stolen at this point.
GJELTENAnd one more email on this issue before we go back to politics. Michael writes, "If an openly gay man, Chris Stevens, can be appointed ambassador" -- and, of course, he was ambassador to Libya and was tragically killed.
TUMULTYExcuse me. I don't believe he was openly gay.
THRUSHI don't -- yeah.
GJELTENOh. I don't know what -- this is what Michael writes. I didn't write it. The question -- there have been openly gay ambassadors. Let's say that.
GJELTENThere have been openly gay ambassadors, and this listener wants to know what is wrong if an ambassador -- if a gay man can be ambassador, what's wrong with a transgender person being in military intelligence?
SCHERERJust to be clear, the issue that was raised by Manning's defense in that trial was not that -- the fact that he was gay or had gender identity issues led him to the leak. The issue was that because of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in the military, because he was ostracized because of his sexuality at this base in Iraq, because he felt like he didn't belong in the military he was serving, that that led to the leak. So the issues -- you know, I don't think the defense raised or anybody's raising here the idea that just because you are gay or have gender identity issues you're a national security risk.
SCHERERThe issue was that in the circumstance he was in in Iraq at the time during Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I mean, there was testimony, for instance, that his roommate in Iraq had stopped talking to him because he suspected he was gay. He didn't have friends. He didn't have anyone he could reach out to. And so what he ended up doing was reaching out online to this sort of hacker community that encouraged him to leak this information.
GJELTENKaren, let's get back to politics because there's been so much developing. And we were talking about the campaign against Obamacare. The key player there is Sen. Ted Cruz. He was in the news a lot this week. He decided to renounce his Canadian citizenship. Tell us about that.
TUMULTYIt was the August...
GJELTENWhat was that about?
TUMULTYWell, Sen. Cruz was born in Canada, and he is supported by many of the exact -- many of the same people who had been raising the issues about President Obama's birth certificate. President Obama, of course, was born in Hawaii, but you can't convince a number of people of that. So we had this sort of entertaining, I think, sideshow this week where Ted Cruz -- I think one of the Texas papers had pointed out that he automatically has dual citizenship as a result of having been born in Canada. So he went through the exercise of renouncing his citizenship.
SCHERERIt was sort of a brilliant political move, I thought, in the middle of the no-news August to basically say, look, I'm a presidential candidate, and I love America.
GJELTENIndeed, that seems to be the message. Michael Scherer of Time magazine. My other panelists are Karen Tumulty from The Washington Post and Glenn Thrush from Politico. We're going to take another break here. When we come back, we'll go to your -- the phones and your questions and comments. Stay tuned.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten sitting in for Diane Rehm. And this is the domestic hour of the Friday News Roundup. My guests are Michael Scherer, White House correspondent for Time magazine, Karen Tumulty, national political reporter at The Washington Post, and Glenn Thrush, the senior White House reporter for Politico. And we are going to go to the phones now. First, I have Joe on the line from Richmond, Va. Good morning, Joe. Thanks for calling.
JOEGood morning, everyone. Yeah, I got two comments. The first one is about the NSA and the government more broadly about their, you know, eavesdropping on emails and such. You know, the bottom line is the government knew what they were doing. The got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Now, they're just making excuses to cover their butts is what it boils down to.
JOEAnd everybody knows -- the bottom line is the government seems to forget, as well as the NSA, they work for the taxpayers. The taxpayers aren't here for the government's benefit. And to another point about the Republican Party -- I happen to be a Republican but not from the Wall Street crowd. If the Republican Party is so concerned about budgets and so on, where were they at when they were voting to bail out Wall Street and the banks?
GJELTENOK, Joe. I got a -- you got two very different questions there, but on the NSA question, I got a -- 'cause I've been personally covering this. Now, the NSA people say that they have to do surveillance in order to defeat terrorism -- this is part of their counterterrorism effort. Do you have any sympathy for the NSA surveillance program from the point of view of fighting terrorism?
JOEThe short answer is no because it comes back to what one of your guests yesterday said, if we can't trust our own government, you know, they get caught lying constantly. If not lying, bending the truth like the judge that had made that ruling, think they -- they're falsely presenting information to a judge who is to supervise, oversee the NSA.
JOESo if they're going to lie to a judge, who else are they going to lie to?
GJELTENAll right. Thank you, Joe. Karen.
TUMULTYYou know, I think one of the issues here is that the procedure in the FISA court is not a sort of what people think of as a court procedure where there's an adversarial, you know, somebody there arguing the other side. And I think -- and also, there's just the sheer volume and, you know, the technical nature of the thing these judges are presented with. And that is certainly something the president wants to address and, I think, probably is likely to be part of a congressional discussion of what to do about the FISA court system as well.
THRUSHI think one of the fundamental issues here is that these two separate matters are lack of knowledge of the existence of these programs versus the operation of these programs. I think those are two separate questions. And I think one of the mistakes, I think, in retrospect, from what I have been hearing from the administration officials, people from the past administration as well, is not sort of viewing them as two separate tracks, telling people more about -- broadly at least, about what you are planning to do versus your operational procedures.
THRUSHIf they had done a better job in letting people know what they were doing in a more specific way, I think the level of trust would be a little bit better. I'm not sure that would have made a great deal of difference, but I think the fact that we didn't know anything about these things has exacerbated the issue for the White House.
GJELTENMichael, we were talking before this show went on the air, contrasting this administration's commitment and record on transparency with another famous administration, that of Richard Nixon. And now, this week we got the final batch of tapes from President Nixon in his office. What did we learn from those tapes?
SCHERERWell, who would have guess that Richard Nixon would have run the most transparent administration in the history of this country. Three thousands hours of tapes have been released. About 700 hours they haven't put out for, what they say, are privacy or national security concerns. But we're not expecting more at this point. What is amazing is that, here's a guy who perpetrated probably the largest, if not one of the largest, cover-ups or attempted cover-ups in American history from the Oval Office.
SCHERERAnd he is a guy who taped almost every moment of his cover-up. And so in this latest batch, you have him -- the day he announces a new attorney general, Elliott Richardson, to the American public and says, my new attorney general will be able to appoint a special prosecutor, that night, he goes home back to the White House, calls Richardson on the phone and says, I don't think we really need a special prosecutor.
SCHERERI mean, he was saying one thing to the American people and something completely different to his own staff. And it's all remarkable listening. I mean, the Johnson tapes, too. It was a great thing for America that these presidents decided to do this, in retrospect, horribly stupid thing.
GJELTENYeah. Horribly stupid, but a great thing for America. But Karen, I don't think we can expect to hear any more of these in the future, right?
TUMULTYYou know, in fact, in the Clinton White House, everyone was so afraid of subpoenas that they didn't even take notes during meetings, or if they did, they would destroy them immediately afterward.
GJELTENOK. Let's go back to the phones now. Benjamin is on the line from Orlando, Fla. Good morning, Benjamin.
BENJAMINGood morning. Thank you so much for sharing some of your time with me.
BENJAMINMy comment was in reference to the Bradley Manning case. A lot has been made about his actions, one way or the other. I just -- as a prior service Marine, once you put on the uniform, you can no longer do anything to damage the United States, and it wasn't so much that he released evidence of potential war crimes. It was more along the sense that he didn't vet what he released. He just grabbed the -- just way too many files and gave it to a foreign entity, and I just genuinely can't get through with that.
BENJAMINThere's alternatives. He could have released it to some kind of American journalistic entity, maybe a congressional entity of some kind, but he did not.
GJELTENWell, Michael, actually, President Obama made this point that there is a -- there are channels for whistleblowers, but there are also people who have argued that that he sort of overstated how many opportunities there really are for people to blow the whistle and what they consider misconduct.
SCHERERNo, and if you read the transcript of the court proceeding or the court martial proceeding, Manning is now making this argument. Manning has admitted that what he did -- and, you know, maybe he's just posturing for the court to get a more lenient sentence. But it certainly sounds, if you listen to what he's saying, that in retrospect, he has reevaluated his actions. And while he still maintains that his motivations were pure, he wasn't out to hurt the country. He was doing it out of conscience because he thought what was happening was wrong.
SCHERERHe now says that the way he went about doing this was wrong. That he shouldn't have released this much material, that there were internal ways he could have raised these issues, and I think that's absolutely right. The -- in the intelligence world, in this world, you know, whistleblowers are still very much a part of our country. They perform a very good service, but the scale of what he did -- I mean, he was downloading entire databases. He hadn't read those databases. He didn't know what he was releasing when he released it.
GJELTENBut, Glenn, you made the point earlier that interests were served by some of the revelations that came from Bradley Manning.
THRUSHYeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's indisputable. I mean, we now know a great deal more. Again, I think anyone who has seen that horrific tape -- and I watched it from start to finish of the helicopter attack that killed the two Reuters journalists.
GJELTENDid you really watch it from start to finish...
GJELTEN...because there have been some...
GJELTENThere were some issues about the larger context.
THRUSHI mean, I watched -- I don't, you know, actually I don't know if I watched it from start to finish or watched whatever -- 25 minutes or whatever was available on the net, but it was -- I mean, forget about the individual facts of that individual incident. I don't think a lot of Americans know the brutality of these engagements that we're in. I don't think people really have a reckoning of that. And back to that point about sort of the environment for whistleblowers, it is not a good environment to blow the whistle, and it had -- it has never been that way.
THRUSHGovernments don't tend to do that. Karen's colleague Dana Milbank has been talking about writing a series of columns about a Defense Department whistleblower who is currently, I think, unemployed and has ran out of money in terms of trying to get restitution. I mean, this has been an ongoing question. Governments, you know, federal governments from time -- for time immemorial have had a really ambivalent attitude towards this stuff.
MR. KAREN TUMULTYAnd, in fact, what she believes the whistle on was the mishandling of remains at Arlington Cemetery. So this, we're not talking about, you know, things that would jeopardize national security here.
GJELTENLet's go back to the phones now. Janice is on the line from Gloucester, Mass. Good morning.
JANICEYes, good morning.
GJELTENAnd you are on "The Diane Rehm Show." And you have a question or a comment I'm betting.
JANICEWell, a combination of both. I'm a transgender person, and I'm a disabled Vietnam veteran. And I served in Vietnam at a top secret clearance.
GJELTENA top secret clearance.
JANICEYes, I was a, at the time, male clerk in Korea. And I went along a chain of firebases along division and headquarters. But the reason I'm calling is I was deeply, deeply offended with one of your members of the panel implying that people like me, you know, shouldn't serve in the military or incapable just because we wear wigs or have GID. It's incredibly insulting to say something like that and the -- but...
GJELTENWait, you know, wait...
THRUSHNobody said that, not even close.
GJELTENI think we need to correct you on that, Janice. And we did make the point that this was an issue that was raised by Bradley Manning's defense attorneys.
JANICECorrect. But somebody on your panel said -- implied that because Chelsea -- and Chelsea is the name that she prefers to go by, and it's only polite to use that name. And she -- during -- part of the defense was the argument which that because the military still -- don't ask, do not tell with both people's sexuality. It has nothing to do with transgender issues.
JANICEChelsea, still, was under a lot of fear of being discharged and losing all her benefits even though Don't Ask, Don't Tell was going, and that was part of the argument which I kindly disagree with. But she was still -- and every transgender person, there's a lot of them in military that still can be discharged and lose all their benefits because we still cannot serve.
GJELTENI appreciate that comment. That is something that we need to keep in mind. I also want to point out that I read an email earlier from a listener, who wrote that, "If an openly gay man," and he referred to Chris Stevens, "can be appointed ambassador, what's wrong with a transgender person being in military intelligence?"
GJELTENAnd I read that email, but I think we have to correct that listener. We do not believe that Chris Stevens was openly gay. So we don't want to let that perception stand. I want to go now to Anthony who's on the line from Riverhead, N.Y. Good morning, Anthony. Anthony just disappeared on me. How about Anna from University Heights, Ohio? Good morning, Anna.
ANNAHi. Good morning. How are you? Thank you for taking my call.
GJELTENI'm good. You bet.
ANNAI think that it might be good just to take a step back and reflect just about the entire conversation about Manning. I think it's no wonder that you guys are getting calls from transgender people and from LGBT people and from straight people who are offended just by the entire characterization of your comments, you know, just simply refusing to use the name that Manning has chosen, Chelsea Manning, referring to her by her chosen pronoun, her. And also, I don't think the guys did a very good job of clarifying exactly what it was that Manning's defense said impaired her state of mind.
ANNAIt wasn't her -- it wasn't "gender confusion," which is really an offensive term that you guys have been using all over the place. It was actually the environment, as you did clarify later. But I do think that listeners are not going to do a very good job at differentiating between those two. And I frankly don't think that you had done a good job of differentiating in your mind between those two things. So it'll be just good if people were more educated about transgender issues if they were going to expand it only journalists have the opportunity in platform today.
GJELTENOK. Appreciate your call, Anna. Michael Scherer.
SCHERERI would add to that I think the context we're having this conversation is important to know that for decades in United States intelligence community, national security apparatus, homosexuality was seen as a liability, that it was -- you could lose your security clearance if you were found to be gay and that, you know, lie detector tests in the '70s and '60s would ask about sexuality and things like that.
SCHERERIt was considered something to use as blackmail against you. And it prevented or forced underground, you know, generations of gay Americans from serving in that way. That is no longer the case. You know, the intelligence committee no longer sees homosexuality as a liability in and of itself. And I don't think that was the case in the Manning case either.
GJELTENMichael Scherer of Time magazine. I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Glenn, you wanted to make a point.
THRUSHYeah. I just wanted to add that, you know, let's broaden the conversation now and look at a parallel story that's been in the news recently and that is the issue of just this apparently rampant sexual harassment and issues of chain of command in the military. I mean, it's not just transgender folks or gays and lesbians who have been having historic difficulties but women as well.
GJELTENLet's go now to Kevin, who's on the line, from Houston, Texas. Are you there, Kevin?
KEVINYes, sir, I am. One of your -- two things. First, one of your participants was aghast at a video online showing the death of some journalists. OK. First, the point number one. This is a war. For example, at World War II, we burn entire cities to the ground full of quasi-innocent people. We don't do that anymore. In fact, we've gone to the point of developing bombs that are full of concrete and no longer explosive so we could use them in the neighborhoods. When there's a firefight going on, we could take out a single building with no explosion.
GJELTENWell, I guess those are good points. But would you say that it's not a good idea for people to see what the military does? I mean, the accusation here was that these video tapes should not have been released. Do you have a quarrel with that?
KEVINI do have a quarrel with their -- what they released because it doesn't just inflamed opinion because there's no context given for any of this information. Context is everything. If you understand the nature of war, people die in war. We have -- we, the United States, have gone out of our way to the point of putting our own soldiers and airman and everybody else at risk trying to minimize civilian casualties. We try and focus our energies on killing the people who we need to kill. We don't indiscriminately bomb Iraqi cities. We don't indiscriminately bomb Iranian -- or excuse me -- Afghani cities.
GJELTENOK. All right. Good enough. Glenn, do you want to say something?
THRUSHWell, I just, you know, I think -- I am a reporter. My career is about maximum disclosure. And I think the more people get to see both in terms of the images and in terms of documents provided it doesn't sacrifice the safety and security of the country, I'm for it. So the more we get to see particularly when we're committing -- and we're again in a situation -- looking at Syria right now, where people are talking very seriously about intervention -- I think it is useful and instructive for people to see the material implications of those actions.
TUMULTYAnd there's also a criticism I think by a lot of people that nature of modern warfare, for instance, drone strikes, have sort of sanitized it in many ways in the minds of a lot of people. And I do think that does argue for more disclosure.
GJELTENKaren Tumulty is national political reporter at The Washington Post. My other panelists this hour have been Glenn Thrush from Politico and Michael Scherer, correspondent for Time magazine. Very quickly, we want to point out, remember two legends in the arts who died this week. Marian McPartland, jazz pianist and for more than 40 years host of the NPR program "Piano Jazz," died of natural causes Tuesday night. She was 95.
GJELTENAlso, Elmore Leonard, the brilliant crime novelist whose best-sellers included "Get Shorty," "Freaky Deaky" and "Maximum Bob." He died Tuesday morning at his Detroit area home. There was no one who wrote dialogue like Elmore Leonard, and we will miss him. He was 87, recently hospitalized after a stroke. This has been the Friday News Roundup, the domestic hour. I'm Tom Gjelten. Thanks for listening.
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