Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
NBC4 Meteorologist Veronica Johnson joins Kojo to explain today’s storms. Revelations about government surveillance enrage civil libertarians and prompt a spirited defense from the White House and Capitol Hill, but polls show many Americans aren’t so concerned. Former D.C. Council member Michael Brown admits taking bribes. And affirmative action loses its popularity ahead of a Supreme Court decision on its use for college admissions. It’s your turn to set the agenda and discuss the week’s news.
- Veronica Johnson NBC4 Meteorologist
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Your Turn. You can start calling now about events in the news, recent editions of this broadcast or anything else on your mind at 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850 where it's Your Turn.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut first, a look at the weather event that we have all been anticipating today. Joining us now is Veronica Johnson, News 4 meteorologist. She joins us from studios at News 4. Veronica Johnson, thank you for joining us.
MS. VERONICA JOHNSONOh, you're welcome. Good afternoon.
NNAMDIGood afternoon. We saw some rain and wind pass through this morning, but it all seemed less serious than expected.
JOHNSONYeah, well, it was a very ominous sky certainly that we had early part of the day. And what we saw move through this morning was the actual line of storms that we had been tracking and following ever since yesterday that were coming through Chicago and areas of northern Indiana So with that line this morning we did have some heavy rain. Our winds weren't quite as high but we're still waiting for, you might say, round three to move through. And that will be later this afternoon.
NNAMDII was about to say, it sounds like the worst weather will be coming in a few hours. What should we be expecting starting around 3:00 this afternoon?
JOHNSONThat's right. Right now around 3:00 or 3:30 I've got this line that I'm tracking now on radar. It's coming through areas of West Virginia and it's a very electrified line. By that I mean there's a ton of lightning with it, and that's one of the things that we're expecting when it steps into our area about 3:00 or 3:30 today.
JOHNSONThe other thing is we could see, again, a more powerful line than what we saw this morning, some damaging winds with gusts to 70 miles per hour. And with that type of gust it can do some damage across the area, can do some structural damage and take down some trees and lead to some power outages throughout the area. And I'm expecting some large hail with this too. I'm looking at the line now and it's showing some signatures of some possible hail out west and we could see that when it moves into our area.
JOHNSONAnd there's even the chance of an isolated tornado or two. We are under -- most of the area under severe thunderstorm watch until 7:00 pm. Of course what that means is the possibility of getting severe storms throughout the area. And I really think we're going to have it with this line. You mentioned, Kojo, around 3:00 and that's exactly the timing with it, about 3:00 to 3:30 today, hitting areas like Rappahannock, like Marshall in Fauquier County and Culpepper. Even getting closer to our metro area, say Fairfax, Falls Church, D.C., even Quantico, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania by around 4:00 or 4:30 and then moving eastward.
NNAMDIWhen you say around 4:00 or 4:30, what is your expectation about how long this will last?
JOHNSONAh, good question. Here's why I think we'll have some isolated flooding. Right now we've taken down the impact of the heavy rain with this system because the speed at which the line is moving -- it's a pretty fast-moving line. And with a faster-moving line I don't think we're going to see as much flooding. So it's moving along right now at about 45 to 50 miles per hour. It's going to be pretty swift so it's going to be somewhere around 30 to 40 minutes where folks are going to be seeing the really intense rain and the high winds.
JOHNSONIt's going to be about what we saw this morning, a little longer with the expectation of higher winds coming, more damaging winds with it.
NNAMDIWhat exists within the realm of possibility nevertheless -- I'm trying to choose words very carefully because yesterday forecasters were saying this storm could deliver another derecho like we had last June. Is that still within even the realm of possibility?
JOHNSONNo. To be classified as being the derecho, when I mentioned earlier that we, in Storm Center 4 here at News 4 had been tracking the storms coming through northern Indiana, around Chicago and northern Illinois too, that actually was the line that moved through here this morning.
JOHNSONSo the fact that it came earlier didn't have a chance to see the heating. It didn't have a chance to cook under the heating of the day. But this next line that is out ahead of the cold front will actually have a chance to see heating. And I'm looking at the winds. They're -- the wind possibilities, the profile, we've got winds that are going to be changing direction with height. So that's why I said there's the possibility of seeing some isolated tornadoes out of some of these. We're seeing some wind damage possible, as well.
NNAMDIStart looking out around 3:00 this afternoon. Veronica Johnson, thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIVeronica Johnson is a News 4 meteorologist. She joins us from studios at News 4. It is now Your Turn. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow. In the wake of revelations about a National Security Agency program that collects data on Americans' phone calls, two seemingly well contradictory reactions emerge. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage, filed a lawsuit this week saying the surveillance violates the First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
NNAMDIBut a majority of Americans don't seem to be really bothered by the whole thing according to a poll by the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center. Where do you stand on the NSA surveillance? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. The New York Times says this lack of outrage from citizens may come from our sense of a false choice. It's not about whether the government should vigorously pursue terrorists. It's about whether that pursuit can and should be carried out without trampling on basic rights. Your thoughts. You can also send us email to email@example.com or send us a Tweet at kojoshow.
NNAMDIHouse Speaker John Boehner says Edward Snowden is a traitor for revealing a secret government surveillance program. Senator Diane Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he has committed treason. The man in question says, neither. Edward Snowden telling the Guardian newspaper, my soul motive is to inform the public as to what is done in their name and which is done against them. How do you assess Edward Snowden's disclosure of classified information? Did he, as treason requires, aid and comfort the enemy or is he simply a whistleblower? 800-433--8850.
NNAMDIFormer D.C. council member, Michael A. Brown, pleaded guilty this week to bribery, agreed to jail time and a fine. Brown admitted that during his council tenure he took cash from men he thought wanted to do business with the city. It turned out that they were FBI undercover agents. And we recently learned that as yesterday that this investigation has gotten at-large council member Vincent Orange wrapped up in it. He says he is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's office. The U.S. Attorney's office has apparently taken several documents from his office. What do you think, 800-433-8850?
NNAMDIIt is Your Turn. We start with Quentin in Chantilly, Va. Quentin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
QUENTINHey, how you doing, Kojo? I'm a great -- a great show and I'm a long-time listener.
QUENTINI used to be in the military as well and I understand that there's some things that need to be classified and things like that. I get that, but there are other parts in the government that just are dysfunctional, to be nice about it. But it seems to me that how are we supposed to trust our government to conduct things in secret if it can't do it in the public eye? And I'll take my comment off the air.
NNAMDIWell, let me ask you for clarification on that. What do you mean, how can we trust the government to do things in secret when they can't do it in the public eye? Do you mean that in its public performance government, in your view, simply is dysfunctional?
QUENTINAbsolutely. I mean, I don't think we've had exactly the best track record when it comes to, you know, progressing, you know, issues that are pretty much important. I think most Americans like making sure that we're out of poverty, making sure that we have, you know, adequate education, things like that. I mean, we've made attempts but I really feel like if we can't make a concerted effort in the public sector and things like that, then there should be -- it should be very hard to justify the workings of a secret -- you know, secret court system and all that if there's no way for it to be verified...
NNAMDIWhat would you think would be an appropriate way for the National Security Agency to go about trying to track down terrorists?
QUENTINWell, I mean, that's a very hard thing to do because there are so many different branches that want different things. But as far as not trying to trample on the First Amendment, as you said, or the Fourth Amendment, it would have to be a little bit of a more drawn out process. I mean, sadly enough I think a lot of folks have a lot of access to a lot of information but just don't, you know, go out and seek it.
QUENTINSo, I mean, the public sector, I mean, if you put on a website, you know, these are just like if you have like an estate sale, you have to put it in the newspaper. I mean, you don't have to necessarily divulge all the information but if you...
NNAMDIYou would like to see greater transparency.
QUENTINAbsolutely. I mean, that's the only thing that's really going to keep those courts honest because if -- I mean, they're supposed to be on our side. But, again, if it's a secret, how do we know?
NNAMDII was about to say transparency and intelligence gathering in the same sentence doesn't always seem to work very well. But thank you very much for your call, Quentin. We move on now to Chris in Beltsville, Md. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISGood afternoon, Kojo. Nice to talk to you. People -- you mentioned a poll where people said they were really unconcerned about this information being gathered, and I'm one of those people. This is information that the phone companies have been collecting for years. It's just origin, destination and time of call. And they do that to determine my billing anyway. And with cell phones now they use that to determine whether I'm billed correctly.
NNAMDISo you think the government should have access to that same information simply because the phone company has it?
CHRISWell, it's not -- they shouldn't necessarily have it. I mean, they apparently went and got a fairly large blanket warrant for it. But I'm really not concerned that they have it because I'm a little more worried about the phone company selling that information to someone than the government tracking who I'm talking to and when I'm talking to them. If they need additional information, like to listen to the calls or the data, they need a further warrant for it, at least as I understand it.
NNAMDIYou said you're more concerned about the phone company selling that information. Are you at all concerned that that information can be used to, well, compromise or blackmail you in any way? Or do you feel, look I'm not doing anything wrong at all, so who cares?
CHRISWell, I feel that the information is not that personal. I mean, if you buy a smart trip car, the metro knows where you go. If you buy an Easy Pass, the state knows where you get on the -- get out -- cross bridges and, you know, go into the toll lanes and out. People are gathering information like that, Facebook, Google, everybody gathers information about the incidental movements of what we look at and what we listen to and who we talk to. And I just don't see that as being -- there's no reasonable expectation of privacy there. That's what I'm talking about.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. You too can call us, 800-433-8850. It is Your Turn. The Supreme Court may rule this month on affirmative action in college admissions deciding whether the university of Texas can consider race in admitting about one-fourth of its freshman class. While the justices weigh the constitutional questions, many citizens have already made up their minds. Two-thirds of Americans say they oppose using race in university admissions decisions, that according to a new Washington Post ABC News poll.
NNAMDIIn fact, support for broad affirmative action beyond college admissions decisions is at a historic low. How do you feel about affirmative action in college admissions? Are you surprised to learn that eight in ten whites, eight in ten African-Americans and seven in ten Hispanics oppose letting colleges use race as a factor? Do you believe that the Supreme Court needs to even think about those polls at all? Should public opinion have any influence at all on how the Supreme Court decides this?
NNAMDIThere are those who say that if public opinion in southern segregated states had any polls taken before the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, they would have opposed desegregation of public schools. But that is not what the Supreme Court took into consideration. What do you think, 800-433-8850? Here is Steve in Salisbury, Md. Steve, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEVEWell, good afternoon and thank you for having me. I think I'm talking about Snowden, the fellow that's on the lamb over in -- somewhere in Southeast Asia. And it's probably a good thing that he is. I agree with the two senators that have spoken out and I believe he is treasonist. He's broken the law. I think it's a very good idea for someone to have a discussion and maybe inform the general public, what does a top secret clearance mean? What is a secret clearance, a confidential clearance? What do those things mean?
STEVEThey're -- actually they're -- I was in the Pentagon for 25 years -- I was in the Navy for 25 years and the pentagon for several years and I held a top secret clearance, and then probably a couple classifications higher than that in fact. And there are reasons. There are people with authority and people with good experience and judgment that take information and they classify it at a certain level. And the description is something like, if I remember correctly, you know, that if this information fell into our enemy's hands, it would cause grave damage to our national security. That's top secret.
STEVESecret is, if it fell into our enemy's hands it would cause, you know, serious damage to our national security, and so on. So I think it's a good idea for us to have a discussion, maybe inform the public, what those security clearances mean. When that fellow took a top secret clearance, he agreed to maintain that -- to maintain and safeguard that information. By not safeguarding that information and letting that information go, he broke the rules. He broke the law. And...
NNAMDIHe broke the law, but did he, in fact, commit treason? The New York Times says in its editorial, if Mr. Snowden had really wanted to harm the country, he could've sold the classified documents he stole to a foreign power. But even that would not constitute treason, which only applies in cases of aiding an enemy with whom the United States is at war.
STEVEWell, it also applies if you turn over top secret information. You remember the Walker case back in the early '80s when the Walker -- the Chief Warrant Officer and his son turned over top secret -- I mean, it was really antiquated information. But they turned over top secret documents to the Soviet Union, which did it cause grave damage to our national security? Well, it was old information but nevertheless it was still top secret information. And those -- he and his son are both in prison for the rest of their lives.
NNAMDIWell, they did violate the law and it was during the, as we called it then, Cold War. But I don't know if that constitutes, in that case, giving aid and comfort to the enemy I guess. They're -- I'd have to look up what they were convicted for. Was it treason?
STEVEI don't know if it was treason, but I know what they did and they're spending the rest of their life behind bars because they took information where they were entrusted with top secret information and they handed that information over to, in this case, to the Soviets...
NNAMDIYeah, they weren't convicted of treason. It's my understanding from a reliable source that they were convicted of spying.
STEVEThey were convicted of spying, you're right. I don't have that information. I only remember it was nearly -- goodness, it was nearly 30 years ago. It doesn't seem that long but nevertheless, the point is that you broke the law. And it's -- those have been given top secret classification for a reason by people with good authority. And he broke their trust. And in breaking their trust he broke the contract and therefore he broke the law.
NNAMDIYou should also know, however, that some people consider A. that he didn't reveal things that they didn't think was happening already or some people feel B. he is a hero for letting the public know what was going on, when in fact there were congressional representatives who did but who chose not to pass any of that information along. They of course said the information was classified.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break, but it is Your Turn. Give us a call, 800-433-8850, if you want to discuss recent events in the news, recent editions of this broadcast or anything else on your mind. Or you can shoot us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a Tweet at kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn. You are offering your opinion on issues of the day or on subjects on your mind. Phone lines are busy right now so if you'd like to get through, send us an email to email@example.com or a Tweet at kojoshow. I'll do directly to the phones. Here's Alan in Silver Spring, Md. Alan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALANThank you. If Snowden is guilty of treason and treason is aiding and abetting the enemy, what I would have to wonder is who is the enemy in this instance. You know, especially given that the actions that he was exposing were directed against the public at large or if you don't want to say against, directed at certainly.
NNAMDIIf the actions were directed at -- you chose not to use against the public at large, what do you see as being wrong or right about what he did?
ALANWell, I definitely have some qualms about what he did but I definitely see the point of people who view him as a whistleblower. And following the logic a little bit, I can't help but think that, you know, maybe the government regards the public in some sense as the enemy.
NNAMDIWell, here is an email we got from Beth in D.C. that I would like you and maybe others to respond to, Alan. Beth writes, "I keep hearing people express outrage that the government is supposedly reading their emails and listening to their phone calls. Maybe I am missing something but I thought it was gathering phone records, as in billing records and tracking websites as in what marketing companies already do. We have not owned our own phone records since the 1970s when the Supreme Court ruled that your phone bill belong to the phone company, not to you.
NNAMDISo the NSA builds a huge database of call records and web hits that it searches only in specific instances and with a court order. I'm sorry, but I cannot be outraged by that. When I heard Rand Paul say drones will kill Mr. Snowden or that Obama is listening to Senator Paul's phone calls, I am stumped. Help me understand the hyperbolic outrage." Alan, care to offer any assistance to Beth?
ALANWell, you know, I had to sound like I'm trying to have it both ways, but she definitely does have a point. And in reality I'm not -- you know, I'm not as outraged as I sort of feel like I should be about this. But I do wonder about, you know, charging this individual with treason.
NNAMDIYes, that, according to the New York Times, does seem to be a bit excessive. The question is, what should be done? Alan, thank you very much for your call. We go on to Edward in Vienna, Va. Edward, your turn.
EDWARDWell, I just wanted to comment that I get a call based on a vacation I took six years ago, from a rug merchant in Turkey. Every six months he calls up and asks if I'd like to buy some more oriental rugs. Suddenly I can get on a watch list. He may have a brother-in-law that he doesn't keep close track of living in his home and using his telephone. And now I'm on a watch list with a connection to the activities that the U.S. government finds uncomfortable. I'm eligible for rendition at this point. I mean, I could find myself in Guantanamo, not allowed to talk to anybody. It gets pretty scary and...
NNAMDIWell, let me paint a slightly different scenario than the one you painted, Edward.
NNAMDIRather than being on a watch list, if in fact you were receiving phone calls from this guy's relative who happens to be allegedly involved with terrorist activity, would you mind a visit from the intelligence services asking you, well how come you've been receiving these calls and listening to your explanation and taking it from there? Why do you assume that from that phone call you go to a watch list rather than becoming part of this investigation or becoming a possible source in this investigation?
EDWARDWell, I think moving up on a watch list or onto a watch list is the first part of the investigation. So I think that comes before a visit to my house. I've had several agents in my home for a variety of reasons over many years and I'm not uncomfortable with that. And I also used to hold a top secret clearance and worked in the Pentagon.
NNAMDIOkay. But moving onto a watch list merely means you get stopped and delayed in an airport and they ask you the questions there, right?
EDWARDIt's a policy issue or a philosophical issue about my rights as an American.
EDWARDAnd I feel that...
NNAMDINo, I understand the philosophical issue. It's just the practical aspect of it I was talking to you about.
EDWARDWell, practically I don't think the rug merchant is really going to get me in trouble. But there are ways around almost everything that the government has said protect us. For example, I'm not being targeted but I talk to somebody who is.
EDWARDBingo. I'm a U.S. citizen so the NSA and the CIA cannot address my presence in the United States, except they were hand in glove with the general communications headquarters in Britain, which is the equivalent of the NSA over there. And all they have to do is say, we can't touch this fellow but he lives in Vienna, Va. and we'd like you to let us know what crosses your radar screen. And all of a sudden the British, who would be operating overseas in the United States can go after my information and can in fact tap my phone calls because they have the same abilities that we do.
EDWARDAnd they can exchange that information after it has been acquired with the CIA or NSA because they have agreements to do exactly that.
NNAMDIAll because you've been talking with a rug dealer in Afghanistan or some other country.
EDWARDOr somebody doesn't like the way I mow my lawn. You know, it could be for any reason. It could also be that somebody thinks that information that I was -- that I had access to 25 years ago as been compromised and they're doing legitimate investigation into that.
NNAMDIWell, but what would that have to do with the NSA spying program if anybody could pick up the phone and say, look we suspect this guy -- he's my neighbor -- of something?
EDWARDI think it's the slippery slope argument, which I normally don't like very much. But I think philosophically the feds have to understand they really, really have to take their hands off Americans, not merely say, well we are not targeting Americans within the United States.
EDWARDThat's a very carefully worded phrase.
NNAMDIOkay, Edward. Thank you very much for your call. We got a Tweet from Corrine who says, "Regarding the NSA, the issue is secret laws and secret courts, both completely unacceptable in a democracy." It's Your Turn. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. We got to Andrew in Alexandria, Va. Andrew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANDREWYeah, hi. I just hear a lot about a focus on a person versus focus on a process. And what I would appreciate him doing, if in fact he did do it, is basically go to maybe the oversight members or a few of them and say, can I have a meeting with you and discuss some things that I'm concerned about. And then this in-house kind of thing, let them come back, you know, with some kind of discussion with them.
NNAMDIWell, the oversight members of congress, according to the administration, were being briefed about this on a regular basis. And if you listen to Senator Diane Feinstein and a few others, they knew that this was going on. They didn't see very much that was wrong with it. So it is conceivable that had he gone to them they would've said, what's the problem here young man?
ANDREWOh, right. Well, I'm just -- I didn't hear that part that he actually went, not just to his manager but somebody above them and said, look here are my concerns. What can we do...
NNAMDINo, I don't know that he did that. I don't know that he did that at all. I don't think he did.
ANDREWYeah, I don't know. That's what I would've done. It's a chain of command kind of thing where, let's do our own policing. And then if that's not working to his satisfaction, then he -- I just feel like it was a baby bath water. Now we're focused on what charges -- you know, we're focusing on a person versus focusing on process. So that was the problem for me.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Andrew. The Supreme Court rules unanimously this morning that a biotech company cannot patent human genes that occur naturally. That case involving an attempt by Myriad Genetics to patent breast cancer genes it identified and isolated to develop a test for who is at risk for breast cancer. Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said the company cannot patent something it did not actually create.
NNAMDIThat ruling's seen as a victory for patients and for researchers who argue that patents on genes hinder research. But the company argued that the patents were warranted, given the years of work it spent identifying the genes that are linked to some breast cancer cases. That did not fly. Do you agree with the Supreme Court that companies should not be allowed to patent human genes, a rare unanimous ruling? What impact do you think that ruling will have on cancer research?
NNAMDIIt's Your Turn, 800-433-8850. Here is Justin in Washington, D.C. Justin, your turn.
JUSTINHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me. Going back to whether or not colleges and universities should use race as criteria for admittance, it is my understanding that race is used to bridge the gaps that minorities face in terms of social barriers and economic barriers. So it would make more sense to me so instead of using race, to use simply socioeconomic criteria (word?) using, you know, household income or something of that sort rather than simply race. But that just seems more logical to me.
NNAMDIThat seems to be what is trending these days in terms of an approach that ought to be taken nevertheless. And there's also the approach of colleges requiring simply greater diversity among the ranks, seeing diversity in and of itself as part of an educational objective, if you will. But I guess we'll have to see how the Supreme Court rules.
NNAMDIBut the trends seem to be that people think that socioeconomic status might be more important than race at this point.
JUSTINRight. And I certainly agree with that point.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. If you'd like to join that part of the conversation, the number's all the same, 800-433-8850. Here is Lisa in Frederick, Md. Lisa, your turn.
LISAHi. I'm just a little confused as to all of the rhetoric around everyone being surprised that their phones are allowed to be tapped. My understanding is that it goes back to the Patriot Act. And I don't recall citizens being up in arms during the Bush Administration and the implementation of the Patriot Act that gave...
NNAMDIWell, a couple of things, couple of things, Lisa. First and foremost, clarification. They're not tapping phones. They are accessing phone records indicating what call went from where to where. They're not actually listening in on those calls. And there was a great deal of objection, you may not remember, to the Patriot Act when it was first introduced.
LISAWell, we didn't make enough of a deal, and trust me, I was one that was -- am opposed to the Patriot Act.
NNAMDIThere you go.
LISABut this is all vestiges of the Patriot Act. And a lot of people sat back and their congress people certainly sat back and said, we needed this to prevent terrorism. I'm not saying that I agree with it. I'm saying that I don't understand why people are surprised because they've had the right to do this since post 9/11. In fact, if you say so many words in succession, you pop on a list where your phone is automatically wiretapped. It just so happens that that has been...
NNAMDIWell, I suspect...
LISA...in effect since 9/11.
NNAMDI...I suspect that's why some members of congress have been taken by surprise by the response to this because they, like you, thought most Americans knew that this stuff was authorized. And even if they did not know the details of it, felt that it was going on. I think now that the details of it have been exposed is where the outrage is coming from. The fact that people knew that something of this nature was going on but they did not know the extent of it. And it's the extent of it that seems to be leading to the outrage.
LISAOkay. So I'm going to go a step further with that. I think that sometimes the extent of the outreach is tied to who the administration is that's implementing it. Because there were lots of things that were done under the Patriot Act during the Bush Administration that very many of the same people we're hearing from now -- your earlier caller Steve will -- I could end up in a rendition -- all under the Bush Administration when people justified rendition.
LISAOh, because we're under threat, we're under attack. But now all of a sudden everyone's up in arms that oh, my goodness, not that they're tapping the phone to your point earlier...
NNAMDIWell, let me cut to the chase. Let me cut to the chase. Are you implying that this is because there's a Democrat in the White House, or because there's a black person in the White House?
NNAMDIWell, how do you account for the ACLU which is not generally seen as a right-wing organization.
LISAI happen to be a member of the ACLU, and the fact of the matter is the ACLU, we fight to the far left of everything and everyone. That's the bottom line. The ACLU does not want any restriction, any privacy infringement at all.
NNAMDIWell, I'm saying why did they not go to court in a previous administration?
LISAYou know, I think there was push to do so, but they couldn't get any traction.
NNAMDIWe'll get a clarification on that before this broadcast is over.
LISAPlease do. They definitely were opposed to the Patriot Act.
NNAMDISo you actually think that even Edward Snowden may have been motivated because of race?
LISAYou know, I'm -- I won't go so far as to call him a treasonist. I will go so far as to say having known people who have contracted with the NSA, I'm really disappointed that he would do what he did and then run off the China of all places in the world to hide, because no one's more oppressed than the Chinese in the sense of -- I just can't. I just think that there's something more to his motivation. There are ways to be a whistleblower, and this is not it.
LISAAndrew, I think, implied on an earlier call, if he could have done something different, and if this really rises to the level of needing to be a whistleblower situation, it could in fact -- he could have done more. The reality is they're looking at...
NNAMDIBut if this...
LISA...the number of calls that were made to what numbers, what numbers came in. They're not actually allowed to go into your phone record without a subpoena. That's been the law for years.
NNAMDIBut if this -- if this is part of a move to bring down the black Democrat in the White House, why would John Boehner say that Edward Snowden is a traitor?
LISAI think John Boehner, and everyone else in Congress, needs to get on board because they realize this really does harken back to the Patriot Act. And the more people start talking about it, and the more you have people -- and there's another law, and I can't remember the name of the provision, but something else went in to effect post the Patriot Act in 2004 that has allowed these types of quote unquote "intrusions" on our privacy, and no one in Congress identified in Congress at the time, no one said anything. No one complained.
NNAMDIAll right. Got to take -- go to take a break, Lisa, but if you'd like to join the conversation, you too can call us at 800-433-8850. It is Your Turn. You can offer you opinion on any of the topics that are currently in the news or anything else on your mind. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Your Turn. Here's an issue you might want to offer your opinion on. A long battle over the morning after pill ended this week when the Obama administration stopped fighting for age restrictions on who can buy it. With that decision, women and girls of all ages, not just those over age 15, should now be able to buy Plan B emergency contraception over the counter. Some say the decision comes from a president who is not comfortably re-elected and doesn't have to worry about campaign ads blasting him for approving emergency contraception for 11 years olds.
NNAMDIDo you agree with the string of court rulings that says the morning after pill should be available without regard to age? What political calculation do you think the Obama administration in making in choosing to halt its fight against the universal availability of Plan B? 800-433-8850 or send us a tweet @kojoshow, email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is Ramzi in Fairfax, Va. Ramzi, your turn.
RAMZIGood afternoon, Kojo. Wonderful to be on. I just wanted to bring a point. I'm extremely happy the Supreme Court ruled against the attempt to patent that the company was bringing to court.
RAMZII think it's actually become a large issue that companies are focusing too much on markets. There are many diseases, chagas, for example, that there is no market, and it is easily treatable and they could find a cure, but because they can't patent, or they can't market easily, they choose to avoid those. And they -- it also is worrisome, because I think as we progress in medical technology, many companies are going to try and just secure a patent preventing other scientific researchers from coming up with another solution just for a market share or more economic gain.
NNAMDIThat seems to have been on the minds of the Supreme Court when it made this decision, but that way at which technology is advancing, there are those who feel that this issue is not quite over yet, but Ramzi, thank you very much for your call. We move onto Ben in Berryville, Va. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENThank you very much. I agree with the previous caller, but I think the deeper issue is, is that the technology -- the pace of technology and biomed and say cell phones and other kinds of IT just moves too fast for current patent law, and congressional inaction is what I think is why the Supreme Court even had to weigh in on this. It'd kind of like a goalie in soccer. If it gets the goalie, everybody else didn't do their job.
NNAMDIWell, it's also like a goalie in soccer to the extent that the goalie who manages to save a penalty always moves before the shot is taken, and Congress seems to be moving after the shot is taken, and some people feel should be ahead of the curve. Do you feel...
BENRight. I mean -- I mean, we agree -- we all agree that companies need to be financially incentivized and motivated in order to patent, in order to make money, in order to fix, find solutions for problems. Nobody disagrees with that. But to patent a gene that then blocks other research and blocks like there's mutations of this gene that is in the data. Because it wasn't just the gene itself, it was that they were also holding onto the data that also shows the mutations of these genes which they didn't patent, because it's their test, they didn't have to release that, and those mutations may also be indicative of other -- of causing the same kind of cancer.
BENSo it's -- that's all there. And kind of to dovetail to your last topic which was the morning after pill, here's my question. If a teacher sees signs of abuse in a child, they're legally bound to report it. If a mental health professional sees, you know, their patient threatens to harm themselves or others, they're legally bound to report it. If a pharmacist knowing sells a morning after pill to a 12-year-old girl, do they report a statutory rape? I don't know the answer, but I don't hear the question being asked.
NNAMDIWell, that's a fascinating question that you asked, and one that a lot of legal minds better than my own are likely pondering even as we speak. Ben, I'd also like you to respond to this email that we got from someone who said, "Patenting genes is akin to patenting a very specific color in the spectrum of visible light, appalling and anti-science and kowtowing to the wealthy and the corporate world."
BENAgain, you know, they patented the gene because they wanted to recoup their financial investment, and, you know, we need to recognize that companies are going to invest in things they can make money on. They're companies. They're designed to make money, and we need to set up a system where their interests, and the people's interest are aligned, and that's the role of government.
NNAMDIAn intriguing question just crossed my mind about the issue you raised, and that is, if an 11 year old comes to buy the Plan B pill, that may not necessarily be an indication that that 11 year old has already been, shall we say, involved. So for a pharmacist to report statutory rape when that interaction may not yet have taken place might be premature.
BENIt might be but, you know, the -- if we don't ask the question, and we don't develop guidelines very, very early on, you're going to end up with one -- a couple states going overboard and then the spirit of this ruling not being enforced and it dragging on forever and ever.
NNAMDIOkay, Ben. Thank you very much for your call. Let's see what Evelyn in Silver Spring has to say about this. Evelyn, your turn.
EVELYNHi. Enjoy your program.
EVELYNI'm much -- I'm a senior citizen, and I remember way back when what happened with girls and now this -- all this talk by men about no abortion, no morning after pills, no nothing, because they want to be in control and everybody should just have babies and give them away, and you know. I am all for this. And this thing about somebody maybe statutory rape, I think, you know, you're reaching for something to make this that it's not a good idea. And even -- even those who might have been raped, still need the morning after pill.
NNAMDIIn addition to which somebody could be buying it for a friend. You don't know who somebody is buying it for.
EVELYNYeah. I -- but, you know, to cut everything off because of the far out maybe is just trying to find reasons not to have something.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Evelyn, for participating. It's Your Turn. Now onto Laura in Washington, D.C. Laura, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURAHi, Kojo. I don't know that I agree with Evelyn. I'm -- I work I public health, and 17 years ago I wrote -- I remember a long research paper trying to analyze the politics behind emergency contraception and why it wasn't relabeled at that point. But, you know, even -- even being an advocate for it for so long, I now find myself 17 years later with a 13 year old, and I just feel like if she were to walk into a pharmacy and want to get Plan B, it -- it would be because she was raped or exploited, because the boys her age she wants nothing to do with them.
LAURAThey're all immature and gross. So I think -- I don't know where the line should be, but I...
NNAMDIWell, let's -- let's talk about...
LAURA...but I do feel like 11 is way too young, and I think 13 is too young.
NNAMDIWell, if -- let's -- let's assume that she was at the very least taken advantage of. What do you think should happen in that case?
LAURAWell, then I think somebody like a pharmacist should recognize it and report it and get her help.
NNAMDINo. I'm saying, what would -- what do you think should happen if the -- if Plan B -- Plan B, the morning after pill, was not available in that situation?
LAURA...available, but -- but I think her parents should be notified at that point, and also some outside help before it's issued to her.
NNAMDII'm fascinated. When you first started thinking about this and advocating for it 17 years ago, did you have any children at all?
LAURANo. No. I was in graduate school at Hopkins.
NNAMDIAnd do you think it's having a child that's caused you now to be ambivalent about it?
LAURAOh, absolutely. I mean, and knowing what's going on in a 13 year old's life, and knowing, you know, that older men...
NNAMDIBut you were 13 once. Couldn't you remember that when you were in graduate school?
LAURAI don't remember 20 year olds being interested in me when I was 13. So...
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Laura. We move on now to Jason in Takoma Park, Md. Jason, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JASONHey, Kojo. Thanks for having me. I hope you're well.
NNAMDII am well.
JASONI guess what I wanted to offer is kind of steering back to NSA story that's come out.
JASONFull disclosure, you know, I'm a service member in the Army and served previously in an intelligence gathering capacity although not anymore, and I think I -- I can understand the fear that's come out when -- when a story breaks like this, but perhaps it would be reassuring to some of your listeners, perhaps not to others, but in the military itself, and the NSA counterpart to work, their work mirrors our own. There are rigid and robust training measures that they require soldiers to do who work as intelligence gatherers, for wherever an intelligence collection and a civil liberty intersect.
JASONEverything that's enumerated in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights is part of that training mechanism, even to the point where you have to test that you -- to demonstrate that knowledge. So I can only imagine in the NSA it's at least at that level of being robust if not more.
NNAMDISo you're saying that employees of private contractors presumably go through that same training, and if in fact the individual who disclosed this information went through that same kind of training, what do you think should have been the effect of that training on him?
JASONI can only -- like I said, it would be a bit of speculation, but I can only imagine, since the people at the NSA that this story revolves around, like I said before, mirrors our work that we do on the military side.
JASONIf it's a part of our training, it's got to be...
NNAMDIA part of their training too.
JASONRight. With regard to this individual, I would have to probably echo one of your earlier caller's statements. There is something to be said when you decide to take on this badge of honor as an intelligence gatherer or an analyst. There are certain realities you have to face. You know, I'm hesitant to judge this person. I don't want to take...
NNAMDIWell, a lot of people rushed to judge on Daniel Ellsberg more than 30 years ago, and you saw how that went.
JASONYes, sir. Yes, sir. And, you know, I just think perhaps if -- if the people were perhaps a little bit more informed about these training mechanisms, perhaps their fears would be alleviated just a bit.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Jason, and on now to Eileen in Bethesda, Md. Eileen, your turn.
EILEENHello. Talking about this fellow in NSA, my surprise is that everybody is looking at this about whether it's illegal, whether he's a traitor or not, but the thing that strikes me the most is no one forced him to agree to keep this secret, and he signed a contract that he would not divulge what he had.
NNAMDIWell, if you signed a contract that you would not divulge the information, and when you looked over the information you felt that the information indicated some wrongdoing, which is not to say that there has been wrongdoing, but you felt that the information indicated some wrongdoing, would you keep it secret anyway?
EILEENI would leave where I was working and then...
NNAMDIBut you would still it a secret?
EILEEN...try -- no. I would then try to go to Congress or somebody higher up to have it disclosed. But I think -- and again, I don't want to be judgmental like the other...
NNAMDIYeah. But even if you leave -- even if you leave you can't disclose classified information because you've left.
EILEENYes. But, I mean, you can go to the lady that's head of the Intelligence Committee.
NNAMDISenator Diane Feinstein?
NNAMDIAnd try to tell it to her?
EILEENAnd talk to her. And I think that to me there is something a little grandiose in feeling that you at 28 have more knowledge than the court -- the court and the executives.
NNAMDIThat's going to be the last comment. You get the last word, Eileen. Thank you very much for your call. Thanks to all of those of you who participated because it's Your Turn. You offered your opinion. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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