Lawfare's Quinta Jurecic on what's next for the January 6th Committee and the steps Congress can take to safeguard American democracy.
In an address from the Oval Office last night President Obama said ‘the threat of terrorism has evolved into a new phase”. He was referring to last Wednesday’s carnage in San Bernardino,California. Two people, a husband wife, opened fire during an office Christmas gathering killing 14 people and wounding 21. In a Facebook post one of the suspects, the woman, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. In his speech last night President Obama outlined heightened security measures but no new military efforts. Join us to discuss the latest on the investigation, the home-grown terrorist threat and heightened concerns about mass shootings.
- Paul Barrett Assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek; author of "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun" and "American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion"
- Faiza Patel Co-director, liberty & national security program, Brennan Center For Justice, New York University School of Law
- Adam Goldman Reporter, Washington Post; former Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the Associated Press; recipient of a George Polk Award and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting; co-author of "Enemies Within"
- Thomas Sanderson Director and senior fellow, Transnational Threats Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Last night, President Obama sought to assure the nation that new steps are being taken to address heightened concerns over the threat of domestic terrorism. The FBI's investigation into the San Bernardino shooting is leading agents as far away as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to talk about the investigation and the president's response, Adam Goldman with The Washington Post and Thomas Sanderson at the Center For Strategic and International Studies. Joining us from an NPR studio in New York City, Faiza Patel at the Brennan Center For Justice at New York University and Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Business Week.
MS. DIANE REHMI do invite you, as always, to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Thank you all for being with us.
MR. ADAM GOLDMANThank you, Diane. Great to be here.
MR. THOMAS SANDERSONThank you, Diane. Great to be here.
MR. PAUL BARRETTYep. Nice to see you.
MS. FAIZA PATELGood morning.
REHMAnd Adam, starting with you, give us sort of a brief review of what the president had to say last night and the reaction we've had thus far.
GOLDMANWell, yesterday, the president addressed the country from the Oval Office, which was rare. Perhaps he did that because of the seriousness of the threat we faced and he wanted to reassure the country that his administration is doing everything possible to defeat ISIS. What I found interesting about his speech is what he didn't announce. He didn't announce any new measures or large scale deployments of force to Syria or Iraq to combat this threat.
GOLDMANWe're going to keep a relatively small footprint there. He did, once again, ask Congress for legislation for use of force in Iraq and Syria and new laws that ban suspected terrorists on the no-fly lists from buying guns. One last point he made was, you know, toning down the rhetoric and not alienating Muslims, either here or abroad who were in this fight with us and avoiding the rhetoric that, you know, Bush said after 9/11, you're either with us or against us or the axis of evil.
REHMAnd what's the latest in the investigation thus far?
GOLDMANSo the latest in the investigation is the FBI is mining, you know, terabytes of information that Syed Farook had collected. I mean, he's 28 years old. There's a whole life, much of it was spent online. I mean, they're literally going to go through all the keystrokes. They have not made any determinations about who radicalized whom. Was she the -- was the wife the driving force?
GOLDMANIt's going to take a long time to figure this out. But that's one theory they're certainly investigating. One of the intriguing developments over the weekend was they located the guy who bought the guns, the two long guns used in the assault. He checked himself into a mental healthcare facility in Los Angeles after the attack. So the FBI certainly wants to question this individual. And as one source told me, we are going to hang this guy upside down and find out everything he knows.
REHMAnd to you, Thomas Sanderson, ISIS released a statement that its supporters carried out the attack, but it's not clear if the suspects acted alone, whether they were simply following the pattern or they were instructed to do so.
SANDERSONExactly. And no matter how you slice it, it's going to be troublesome. If these were do-it-yourself terrorists who acted in furtherance of ISIS and were simply inspired by the organization and by a larger set of factors, that's troublesome. If they were directed, as we've seen attacks in the past, where advice is given, where inspiration is given, where radicalization is part of the process, that would also be troublesome.
SANDERSONIf it were a case where, for example, the underwear bomber, where they actually built a bomb or provided weapons or instructions for the pipe bombs, that would be a third form of engagement with ISIS. All of those are troublesome. In this case, it appears, as of right now, that this is more of an inspired attack type of scenario and that is terribly difficult because those people have few, if any, connections to outside collaborators. They have low signatures.
SANDERSONThere are not a lot of factors or indicators that would lead law enforcement or intelligence to find individuals like these two.
REHMAnd to you, Paul Barrett, it's still very unclear what they intended to do with this incredibly large arsenal of weapons.
BARRETTYeah. Well, I think that's true and I think the fear is that perhaps the attack that we saw was not the only assault that they were planning. And the fact that they were able to assemble a small arsenal of four weapons, two AR-15 style rifles, two semiautomatic pistols and thousands of rounds of ammunition, is an indication of how relatively easy it is in the United States, even in a state like California, which has about the toughest gun control laws that exist in the U.S., how easy it is for people who do not have criminal records to acquire firearms and ammunition.
BARRETTSo that is another thing we've seen demonstrated again by this horrible episode.
REHMAnd to you, Faiza, you are urging people to put this kind of attack into context with other kinds of attacks.
PATELThat's right. I mean, one of the things that I thought was a bit disappointing about the president's speech yesterday is he talked about terrorism and he mentioned three incidents. He mentioned Fort Hood. He mentioned a shooting in Chattanooga earlier this summer and San Bernardino. But he failed to mention the attack on the Planned Parenthood facility just earlier last week as well as the attack on the African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
PATELSo I think one of the things that is important is to insure that when we look at threats, we place the threat from shootings or other kinds of violence inspired by al-Qaeda or ISIS alongside the threat from other kinds of violence. And we've certainly seen a lot of right-wing inspired violence over the last several years. You know, according to a few studies, the empirical evidence shows that the number of deaths since 9/11 from al-Qaeda/ISIS type of violence is half of the number deaths that we've seen from right wing ideology linked violence.
PATELSo I think that's a really important thing to keep in mind and I wish the president had done so.
REHMAdam, do you agree with that assessment?
GOLDMANI do agree with her assessment. And the FBI has undertaken studies looking at these mass shootings since the year 2000. Hundreds and hundreds of people have been killed in mass shootings, whether it's Oregon, whether its Columbine, whether is Aurora in the theater, whether it's Newtown. And I always emphasize, what could be scarier than somebody acquiring weapons and going into a school and killing small children in piles? But yet, Faiza's right.
GOLDMANYou know, the president and the administration, they failed to engage on that point.
SANDERSONDiane, I would add that both Adam and Faiza are right to point out the context here and why hasn't there been a mobilization against these other mass attacks that were not caused by individuals such as these two. But it is important to point out that there has been a declaration by ISIS to attack Americans, to attack the French, the Canadians and Germans and others. And when you have a call to battle like that and you have 900 individuals in the United States who are under investigation and potentially many others who are in (word?) with ISIS' mission that you have to fear that there are going to be others like this and that this will not be the only duo or individual that, again, acts in furtherance of what ISIS wants to accomplish.
REHMOf course, it is more than a little disturbing that the FBI, the CIA, nobody saw this coming, Adam.
GOLDMANThe FBI has subjects under investigation in the Los Angeles area that this guy, Syed Farook, was in contact with. In a news conference, reporters, two days ago, Comey made the point -- people asked, well, why weren't you looking at him? And Comey made the point, look, we monitor a lot of people. It could be somebody in a fraternity that we're looking at. That doesn't make all 50 or 60 members of that fraternity suspects in a terrorism investigation.
GOLDMANYou know, the FBI conducts predicated investigations and the idea that you would be associated with somebody and perhaps like his Facebook page and that would put you under investigation by the FBI, I myself might find that troubling.
REHMAnd Thomas, what's so curious here is that this couple does not fit the profile of someone the FBI might suspect.
SANDERSONYes. Through the eyes of Americans and others, you wouldn't expect a couple, recently married with a child, to do this. But I can tell you from my interviews along the Syrian/Turkey border, there are many, many fighters who've come there with their families. Their children are aware of what's going on. The children are radicalized. In many cases, the wives support them. So it is not uncommon to see this in the battle space.
SANDERSONNow, we're in the United States. We don't have a sense of the battle space or a mindset that would give us an opportunity to say, okay, maybe a couple with a child could be a potential problem here.
REHMThomas Sanderson, he's with the Center For Strategic and International Studies. Short break here. Your calls, your comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd here with me as we talk about the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., Adam Goldman. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author of "Enemies Within." Thomas Sanderson is with the Center for Strategic and International Study. Faiza Patel is with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. And Paul Parrett is with Bloomberg Businessweek. He's the author of "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun" and "American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion."
REHMPaul Barrett, the question I have for you is, it would have seemed obvious that all of this weaponry was being accumulated. Who missed that? What about his mother?
BARRETTWell, that's a fascinating question about whether mom was aware of what was going on. And if she was, what her social responsibility was to do something about it. Similarly, I suppose, you could ask the same question of whether, you know, neighbors, friends were aware of this unusual activity and might have asked questions. On the other hand, there is no official -- there's no authorities who have the responsibility to keep track of how many firearms a law-abiding person is accumulating. There have been proposals for things such as one-gun-a-month laws.
BARRETTThose -- but even that wouldn't prevent someone from very deliberately going out to a neighborhood gun store, as long as their record was clean, passing the background check and acquiring one firearm, another one, a hundred rounds, a thousand rounds. In this country, that's the way things work right now -- even in California, where the rules are far tougher.
REHMFaiza, would you have thought that someone in that family might have spoken out?
PATELI think there's an assumption in that question Diane, which is that there are some kind of obvious signs that somebody is about to become a terrorist. And I think that is something we also saw in the president's speech, where he said something like, you know, we should -- Muslims have a responsibility to root out those who have these ideas in their midst. And everything that research has shown us over the last decade and a half is that there are no obvious signs that people can pick up on that somebody is about to go out and shoot up in this horrible way.
REHMFaiza, if I might take issue. I wasn't talking about just Muslims. Rather, anyone accumulating that number of weapons, apparently in the garage, apparently in the home. Wouldn't someone have seen that and begun to think, what in the world's going on here?
PATELI mean, I think that's a fair question and that's a question that we've seen raised in the context of a number of mass shootings, where sometimes the family, in fact, has had a number of guns in the house. And it's considered typical, I think, in some American households to have a large amount of weaponry at hand. I don't know about this household. What we've seen so far from the statements of the family is that they didn't notice anything to be worried about. Should they have? I really couldn't say.
SANDERSONLet me also note that Farook came from Pakistan. His mother, obviously, grew up there and came to the United States at some point.
REHMBefore the marriage.
SANDERSONYes. But I'm talking about Farook's mother.
SANDERSONAnd, first of all, weapons in Pakistan are an ornament for a man. To have weapons is very common. So that's one issue to be concerned of. And, in the United States, guess what? To some degree it is as well. Now, you can hide these weapons. They are not that large. You can accumulate ammunition over time. And it's not difficult to hide these things from people you want them hidden from.
GOLDMANI would make the point too and say, in Farook's case, we know from his online -- on these online marriage sites that he was a part of, that since the age of 22 he had been actively shooting. So it seemed like at that point he was an enthusiast. We also can look at what happened in Chattanooga. That individual who had those firearms, he also had been a long-time gun enthusiast in a place like Tennessee. So I think the number of guns -- there were four -- I don't think that particularly would have drawn attention. Obviously, if you stumbled into a bomb-making factory in the back of that house, you know, that is something that we might have asked, well, why do you need bombs?
REHMHow would you create or make these kinds of bombs? Were they homemade or were they purchased?
GOLDMANThese were homemade pipe bombs. They're not difficult to make. I mean, people have used and detonated pipe bombs in this country for years, whether targeting law enforcement or others. You know, al-Qaida puts out -- al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula puts out something called the Inspire Magazine. You know, make a bomb in your mom's kitchen. It was a very famous article in that particular issue. So, you know, there are others as well. There was a plot to blow up the New York City subways in 2009. You know, they constructed these bombs that weren't that difficult to make.
REHMFaiza, there have been questions as to whether one person radicalized another or, indeed, whether the intention right from the start was to carry out some act of terrorism. What do you make of that?
PATELWell, I mean the facts aren't all in yet.
PATELSo it's a little bit difficult to say whether or not the wife was actually somehow sent -- kind of a honey-trap kind of situation, which is, you know, one of the ideas out there. On this issue about whether somebody radicalized somebody else, I think that's a really difficult path to go down. Because even though we see this idea of radicalization talked about in the newspapers and even the president mentioned it in his speech yesterday, it is very -- there's no known process of radicalization. All of the experts agree that there is no -- there are no signs. There is no profile of a terrorist.
PATELAnd so I think it's really important to be cautious in suggesting that there is such a profile and such overt signs. Because what that means is that if somebody doesn't pick up on those signs -- whether that's the family, the friends, the people who go to the mosques that these people go to, or frankly law enforcement -- that they somehow messed up. And I don't think that's necessarily the case. And I think these things are far more complicated than when we try and translate them into sound bites.
GOLDMANYeah, I would echo -- I would echo that point. You know, we have to be really, really leery of saying, well, he started praying more, went to mosque, bought a Quran, you know? We don't want to start reading into, you know, fundamental rights as an American and suggesting there's something nefarious about that. Because why stop with Muslims? Why not continue with Jews? Why not continue with Christians assembling firearms who start going to church in Texas? I mean, where does it end. And we have to be really, really, really careful about going down that path.
REHMThomas, you believe that the Internet and social media played a big role here.
SANDERSONWell I think it's -- first, we don't know the extent to which it played a role. But I think that in many cases many of these young people and older people too are nourished by what they see on the Internet. There are both push factors and pull factors that bring people to a point of violence like this. And some of the pull factors are what they see on social media and on TV and on the Internet. And that is, an Islamic State under assault, traditional Muslim and Arab lands under assault, a sanctified land like the Islamic State that demands defense and a sense of purpose and a mission in doing so.
SANDERSONAnd so there's a lot of things that appeal to people, whether they are on the margin socially, economically and politically, or whether they are well-integrated in middle class, they may see a mission bigger than what they have currently.
REHMAre you surprised to -- at all surprised to learn that this young man was born here in this country, grew up in this country, and then somehow we see this happen?
SANDERSONI'm not surprised. It's just less likely that someone who grows up in the country would conduct an attack like this versus someone who recently came in from a battle area where they would be more likely radicalized by their experience.
REHMAnd to you, Paul Barrett. The New York Times has a front-page editorial on guns -- stronger gun laws, and even perhaps banning some types of guns. Where are you?
BARRETTYes. Well, I think -- I'm very glad you pointed to The New York Times editorial because I think it -- I think people need to pay attention to a shift in the debate. The New York Times called for a degree of gun control that no one else -- not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not the most aggressive gun-control groups are calling for. The New York Times called for the outlawing of the possession and sale -- not just the sale of new assault weapons, but the possession as well. Something that actually implies the idea that people would have to give up weapons that they now legally own in their homes.
BARRETTAnd that's something that would raise the prospect of something that the gun-rights groups have been warning about for years, which is, what the liberals really want to do is confiscate some or all of your firearms. So The New York Times took a very powerful, very aggressive stance. And the question is, is that what President Obama was talking about last night? Is that what Hillary Clinton was talking about? I think it's not. But I think we now need to reset that debate and see whether other liberal proponents of gun control are willing to follow the lead set by The New York Times.
GOLDMANI would note that, too, something the president said about banning guns, not allowing suspected terrorist on the no-fly list from getting guns. If you are on the no-fly list and you are the subject of an FBI investigation, they are going to be watching you in various ways. If you try to buy a weapon, they will probably know about that. So I'm not sure how that, in itself, is a game changer. Maybe it's a stop-gap. But it seemed to me...
GOLDMAN...sort of an empty proposition.
REHMAnd, this morning, the Supreme Court declined to review the ability of cities and states to prohibit semi-automatic assault weapons that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition. And they are the very ones used in some of the nation's most deadly recent shootings. We have a number of callers waiting. Let's open the phones, 800-433-8850. Let's go first to Andy in Utica, N.Y. You're on the air.
ANDYI just think it's a little naïve to think that you can prevent this with gun laws. Several of these terrorists have been pretty educated. A few of them are engineers. They could build their own guns, just like they're building the bombs. You know, the technology needed maybe would be some technology to detect the chemical signatures of gun powder in public areas or things like that.
SANDERSONYou can make a gun through 3D printing. You can now print in over three hundred materials, from chocolate to carbon fiber and high-density plastic. I was at a factory in Switzerland where I saw them making engine parts for Formula One cars. You can create weapons from these thermal plastics that are -- may not allow a weapon to be used a thousand times, but enough times to do that. Now having 3D printing for one of these individuals is unlikely but not impossible. They are proliferating. So getting weapons is simply easy for these guys to do. And restricting them may not be the panacea that some people think it is.
REHMPaul Barrett, do you want to comment?
BARRETTWell, I think the degree of gun control you'd need to have in order to have any significant impact would be quite extreme, far beyond anything we're debating. The debate over universal background checks, over tinkering with this rule or that rule at the margin, that's all fine. And I personally am in favor of, for example, making background checks universal. But the notion that that would stop the determined fanatic from acquiring firearms is completely implausible. The only approach to gun control that would conceivably begin to make it more difficult for dedicated fanatics to acquire firearms would be to begin scooping up the firearms that are already in private hands, the some 300 million guns that are already out there.
BARRETTThat is a form of gun control which has been tried in other countries, but doesn't seem to be practical in this country.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." No practical way to deal with the issue of guns? Thomas.
SANDERSONI think I would agree with Paul and others who have made this comment. It will be very difficult to reduce the number of guns to the point that it would be difficult for militants -- violent extremists like this -- to get a hold of them. And so I don't know what practical difference it makes. Certainly the background checks, the no-fly list, mental health checks -- these are all important things that prevent others, not just the San Bernardino types, but others in the United States who have conducted mass killings from getting guns. And that would be an important move. But I -- we're not going to get to the point where we're going to keep guns out of the reach of these militants.
GOLDMANLet's remember the Boston bombing. The Tsarnaev brothers obtained a gun illegally. And the FBI actually tracked down where they gun came from. I think it originated in Pennsylvania.
REHMAll right. Let's talk for a moment about the individual who purchased the long guns -- two long guns -- and who has now checked himself into a mental health facility. Is he protected from inquisition by the FBI while he is a patient in an institution?
SANDERSONI'm not an attorney, but I can tell you that I'm almost certain he would be protected from that. I think that given any sort of mental-state declaration that he may be offering prevents him from being questioned.
REHMPaul Barrett is shaking his head.
BARRETTNo, I think that, respectfully, I would say that's almost certainly not the case at all. I'm unaware of any legal prohibition to the FBI going into a hospital or any other kind of facility and questioning whoever they want to question.
SANDERSONI would be surprised if statements from someone who is checked into a mental hospital could then be used in a case, for example.
BARRETTThat's a different question. Sure. Sure. What I'm referring to be used in court is something else.
BARRETTBut are they questioning this guy right now? I would bet the mortgage.
SANDERSONSure. I would sure agree with that.
GOLDMANRemember, they question Tsarnaev in Boston in the hospital. So they were able to access him.
REHMSo did he admit himself to this mental health institution in order to protect himself from that kind of questioning?
GOLDMANWhat I know right now, two federal law enforcement officials told us he checked himself into that hospital at some point after the attack. We don't -- it seems suspicious, but we don't know his motive.
REHMAdam Goldman of the Washington Post. And we'll open the phones for your questions, comments, when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here's a question for you, Paul, from Charles in Houston, Texas. He says, is it legal for a person to buy a gun legally at a gun dealer and then later sell it to another person? If private sales like this are legal, that would seem to be a major loophole in the law.
BARRETTThere is no national requirement that a private sale go through a background check. There certainly is no law banning private sales or private exchanges of guns. There are some states that require a background check even for private sales. And when you hear the debate about universal background checks, or you hear the debate about the gun show loophole, this is what people are talking about, private transactions, whether it's at the county fairgrounds on the weekend or just across the backyard fence, you know, the argument is that all of those transactions should be subject to background checks.
BARRETTAnd, you know, there's a lot of popular support for that proposal but so far the NRA and their allies in Congress have succeeded in keeping it off the table at the national level.
REHMHere is another perspective from Jamie, who describes herself as a grieving mother in Missouri. She says, I tried for years in the context of my custody battle for my children to have my ex-husband's arsenal of weapons removed from his home or locked up in order to protect my children. There is no legal recourse to do this. My 17-year-old son is now dead. Somehow we must address this viscous cycle of fear-based aggression that leads so many individuals to want to possess so many guns. I'm so sorry, Jamie, for your loss. Paul Barrett?
BARRETTWell, you're -- if that terrible story suggests that there was a suicide or an accidental shooting of a young man, which it sort of sounds like it is, that's yet another whole front in the gun debate, one which we really haven't gotten to today. In fact far more people commit suicide with guns than kill each other with guns, and that's yet another whole area of inquiry and again goes to what that correspondent there is talking about, which is that the arsenal in private hands can be dangerous and volatile even if you don't have fanaticism, even if you don't have criminality.
BARRETTIf you have a household that has multiple guns and a distraught 16- or 17-year-old, well, you've got a very dangerous situation right there.
REHMAll right, let's take a caller in Fairfax, Virginia. Sima (PH), you're on the air.
SIMAYes, good morning. I wanted to make a comment, which (unintelligible) that while I completely support gun control and even gun ban, but I wanted to direct the question to the issue of war on terror and this California couple being possibly terrorists. The question I have is that why is that in the narrative here, there is not this question that the United States is the closest ally to Saudi Arabia and Qatar and United Arab Emirates. And Washington Post reports that they are the biggest financial support for ISIS, and in fact last year they gave them $40 million.
SIMASo (unintelligible) bin Laden came from Saudi Arabia, and the 9/11 attackers were all from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
REHMAll right, Thomas?
SANDERSONLet me first mention that I think the biggest funder of ISIS is ISIS itself. They have set up a locally derived portfolio of funding sources from oil to extortion to antiquities theft and control of granaries, et cetera. So I don't think that the Gulf States are the number of supplier of funding. However, there are certainly individuals, and I have gone all throughout the Gulf, I've been to fundraisers in Kuwait, I've been to Qatar, and there are plenty of people who are offering money to the fighters of all stripes, ISIS, the Nusra Front and many others.
SANDERSONThe Saudi Arabia question is a very difficult one. There is no doubt about that the ideology comes from Saudi Arabia, this extremist Salafi-jihadi ideology has been pushed by a number of individuals in Saudi Arabia and other folks across the Gulf, and that is a tremendous problem. But the Saudis also provide us with intelligence. They are partners of ours in a number of realms. But it is a highly imperfect relationship, to say the least.
REHMAnother caller, Susan in Baltimore, wants to know, what exactly is available to President Obama as an executive action regarding guns? Can he require that the no-fly list be used to restrict gun sales? President Nixon froze wages and prices during his administration, which seems a far more far-reaching action. Adam?
GOLDMANWell, he would have to go to Congress in regards to the watch list. I'm not sure what action he could take unilaterally with guns himself. Maybe Paul could answer that.
BARRETTYeah, well, there are some things that the president can do, and in fact the White House staff right now is examining how to expand the definition of individuals who are in the commercial business of selling guns. Their goal is to change that definition so that more people who today are seen as informal gun sales people and who do not have to run background checks on their customers, would be grouped in with people who already have federal firearm licenses.
BARRETTAnd the president is within, I believe, the next three to four weeks going to make a proposal for how to expand that definition, and following about a nanosecond later will come the NRA's threats of lawsuits. And we're going to have quite a big conflagration over that issue. Stand by, as I say, three, four weeks from now.
REHMAll right, and to Ron in Miami, Florida, you're on the air.
RONFirst I'd like to -- how you doing?
REHMGood, thanks. Go right ahead, sir.
RONOkay, first I'd like to say this is another example of which almost just came out of the mouth of your panel there, this is another example of payola of our government by the gun lobby. And secondly I'd like to say I just read today that 72 members of Homeland Security Department are on the terrorist watch list.
REHMIs that true?
BARRETTWell, let's not forget that I think Ted Kennedy was on the list at one moment.
BARRETTYou know, people who have different spelling of their names or go by different forms of a formal name can somehow wind up on the no-fly list. There's no doubt about that that happens, and that's a fault.
REHMAnd some reporters, I'm told, are on the no-fly list.
REHMIs that true, Adam?
GOLDMANI am unaware of an American reporter being on the no-fly list.
REHMNow that's interesting because...
GOLDMANThat might be true, but...
REHMYeah, over the weekend I heard some conservative commentator say that there are hundreds of reporters on the no-fly list.
GOLDMANI would think that would be false.
REHMDo you know anything about that, Paul?
BARRETTNo, I don't, and hundreds of reporters sounds a little bit like an exaggeration.
REHMInteresting. Okay, let's go to Bruce in Locus, North Carolina, you're on the air.
BRUCEHi Diane, thanks for taking my call.
BRUCEI'm a big fan. I just want to make a comment. On the media, a lot of reports you hear, like the one in California, the reporters usually refer to the arsenal found as a large arsenal, as if it was unusually large amount of firearms found. And any amount's large to find with a terrorist or criminal. But I live in a rural area of North Carolina, and it's just not uncommon at all for people to have 20 rifles and 10,000 rounds of ammunition in their home. It's I think -- I'm sure in the rural areas that it's different than a lot of the other areas of the United States, but I just know a lot of people that have huge amounts of firearms and ammunition.
SANDERSONI do, too, and these are individuals who are in rural areas, where they use their guns frequently, and they're enthusiasts, they're hunters, et cetera. But these are two individuals inside an urban area with pipe bombs with 5,000 rounds of ammunition. The number of guns they had was not extraordinarily high. It was four, I believe. The ammunition is fairly high, again, for an urban area, and the pipe bombs obviously are a separate issue. That's not a gun issue.
SANDERSONBut that is an indicator that they intended to do something with those rounds.
REHMAll right, to Brian in St. Louis, Missouri, you're on the air.
BRIANHi, thank you for taking my call.
BRIANAnd I'd like to thank you, Diane, for exercising your free speech rights. I think this is important to society as a whole. My question is why the governments make such a big deal out of these tiny, little attacks. The biggest attack that ever came close to doing anything to a society was the Twin Towers portion of the 9/11 attack. Everything else had no chance at really affecting America at all.
BRIANAnd we effect -- we change the laws, we shut down our air grid, we did all kinds of things. They've never done anything to us. Why do our governments not say, okay, people, it's scary, this is bad, it's scary, people died, and we're so sorry your people died, but it's not anything to America, we are on top of this. Any attack that could do anything to America we're aware of.
REHMFaiza, do you want to comment?
PATELI mean, I think it's a fair point, which is that, you know, sometimes you have people like the FBI Director Comey saying, you know, ISIS is the biggest threat to the United States in memory. And if you sort of step back and look at it from a historical perspective, you know, clearly these people are not the Soviet Union armed with nuclear weapons. And so it's important to keep that in mind.
PATELBut at the same time, I think it's very difficult for a government whose first job is to secure the country's people to take a more kind of laissez-faire attitude towards a threat like this. And it is a real threat. It's just not maybe an existential threat to the United States, and that needs to be kept in perspective alongside all of the other threats that we face, including from gun violence more broadly, including from other types of groups who are inspired by other ideologies.
PATELAnd again I go back to Charleston, to Aurora, to all of these horrible incidents, and, you know, we just need to have a sensible attitude towards this stuff.
REHMA sensible attitude meaning there are people out there who are simply going to use whatever kinds of weapons they have and kill people, Adam.
GOLDMANWell, you know, if people privately acquire weapons who don't have a criminal record, they stay off of Facebook, they stay off of Twitter or social media, and they don't any of the FBI or even local police departments' tripwires, I don't see how we're going to stop them.
SANDERSONOr there's an expectation that we should have zero risk and that we should have no faults, and no one gets through the screening, especially after 9/11, and we spent hundreds of billions of dollars on homeland security. And the reality is you will not remove all risk, and attacks will happen.
REHMTo Sudfar (PH) in Houston, Texas, you're on the air.
SUDFARHi Diane, my -- thank you for taking my call, first of all.
SUDFARMy question is really to a gentleman, I don't know who said that, that in Pakistan it's an ornament for a man to keep a gun. So I originally, I am from Pakistan, so I disagree with that, and actually gun laws in Pakistan are far more strict than in the U.S. Nobody can buy a legal gun, and gun licenses have been banned for a number of years. So all the -- the problem of guns in Pakistan are more illegal guns. So those have to be taken out by security. But it's not in the culture of Pakistan. It's only along the border of Afghanistan, that area, tribal areas, where it's ornament, and which is outside the law of Pakistan.
REHMAll right, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Thomas, do you want to comment?
SANDERSONAbsolutely. The problem is illegal guns, and this gentleman is from Pakistan, so I can't provide more expertise than he can for sure. But it is widely accepted. Most of my friends there have weapons, legal or otherwise, Along the border and other places. But, you know, the question goes back to what this mother would have seen and expected and, as I said, whether in Pakistan or in the United States, where you do have a lot of guns available, it would not jump out as unusual to have two assault rifles, where you announced already that you're a gun enthusiast.
PATELSo I'm from Pakistan, and I have to agree with your caller, which is that the problem in Pakistan is illegal guns. I do think that there's a big difference between somebody in a border area of Pakistan carrying a gun and having a gun at home and somebody in the United States doing that. But again, the guy was a gun enthusiast. He apparently had a legitimate reason for having it. So I don't think that we can put too much of a burden on his mother to think that something was going on here.
REHMAll right, to Becky in Raleigh, North Carolina, you're on the air.
BECKYGood morning. Some months ago there was a speaker or an interviewee on NPR from Australia or New Zeeland, I believe it was Australia. He had been a politician when some of their gun control laws were being overhauled, and he discussed some of the difficulties of making guns illegal throughout the country and how many politicians were vilified, but eventually they accomplished it and how dramatically deaths from guns have declined since the laws were changed.
BECKYAnd I'm wondering if in such a large country as Australia it was successful, why is there such reluctance here on the panel to say that something similar could be accomplished in the U.S.
BARRETTYeah, well, first of all, Australia is a considerably smaller country than the United States. It's not comparable in that regard. But your caller is correct that after a mass shooting in Australia in 1996, Australia imposed a variety of new rules on gun ownership. It had a basically mandatory buyback program that resulted in hundreds of thousands of rifles being turned over to the government and destroyed. And in the years since, Australia has in fact seen a vast decrease in the number of mass active shooting situations.
BARRETTThere is a tremendous statistical debate about whether ordinary crime has actually shifted considerably, but that's something you can do in Australia. And hats off to the Australians for doing it because they don't have a Second Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms is not enshrined in their fundamental political document. The United States is different.
REHMAll right, and that's going to have to be the last word from Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek. Clearly the discussion about what happened in San Bernardino and the discussion of what needs to be done or what can be done about guns is going to continue for quite a while. Thomas Sanderson is with CSIS. Faiza Patel is at the Brennan Center For Justice at New York University School of Law. Adam Goldman is a reporter for the Washington Post. Thank you all so much.
SANDERSONThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Susan Glasser and Peter Baker are veteran political journalists who closely covered the presidency of Donald Trump, he as the New York Times chief White House correspondent, she as a…
For months it looked like Russia was waging – and winning -- a battle of attrition. But last week Ukrainian forces made dramatic gains on the battlefield, retaking vast areas…
From McCarthyism to January Sixth, best-selling author David Corn says the G.O.P has a long history of using paranoia, grievance, and tribalism for political gain. His new book is "American Psychosis."