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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    By Lew Mandell

    The signs of Detroit's decline have been well-recognized for 65 years. Photo courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

    For the past few months, Lew Mandell, author of "What to Do When I Get Stupid," has been our retirement finance guru. He's addressed multiple ways to close the retirement income gap, encouraging boomers to plan ahead before they lose their financial faculties to old age. The best retirement deal, he thinks, is the one that guarantees an 8.3 percent return -- for life: Single Payment Immediate Annuities.

    But Mandell's expertise is vast. When on a teaching stint in Singapore, he explained for Business Desk readers how Singapore runs the state through incentives. And he returns now to offer his up-close view of the making of Detroit's bankruptcy. Forty years ago, the city of Detroit commissioned the young economist to study their economic problems. What Mandell discovered then wasn't new, and what's happened to the city now, he argues, could have been predicted by state and local leaders -- if only they had paid attention to their own commissioned studies.

    Making Sense has done extensive reporting on Detroit, both the city's declines and hopes. See our photo essay "Desolate Detroit: Forsaken City" below and watch our 2011 segment about hopes for the Chevy Volt at the bottom of this post.

    Lew Mandell: Detroit has just been allowed to enter the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. While the world focuses on the latest turn in the saga of this once-great manufacturing city, it turns out that the causes of the city's decline have been well-recognized for nearly 65 years. In fact, Detroit's leaders commissioned studies investigating the city's financial woes as far back ago as the end of World War II. Study after study delivered the same results, which were largely ignored.

    The economic malaise began with the exodus of non-automotive manufacturing jobs from Detroit, just after the Second World War. At first, jobs went to other North Central States, then to the South, and then overseas, culminating with the overall decline in manufacturing in the U.S. Throughout much of this time, Detroit-based manufacturers saw their location become less and less advantageous and perceived little or no interest from local or state governments in keeping manufacturing jobs from moving away.

    Unpopular government policies included relatively high business taxes and what employers perceived as "unbalanced" worker's compensation laws. There was an overall feeling that government was hostile toward business. By the 1970s, rising crime rates helped contribute to the perception that the quality of life in the Detroit area had fallen behind most other, similar metropolitan areas.

    View Slide Show

    In 1972, I was a young economist commissioned by the city of Detroit to study these problems and come up with recommendations. In a year when the nation as a whole was enjoying economic prosperity and automobile sales were at an all-time high, a sizable proportion of Detroit area residents (10.1 percent) was without jobs. Ominously, fully 60 percent of the manufacturing labor force in the Detroit metropolitan area worked directly for one of the big three automobile manufacturers. Non-automotive employment was scarce and appeared to be getting scarcer as firms closed their Detroit operations to locate elsewhere. This substantial and growing dependence of an entire metropolitan area on the fortunes of a single industry was viewed with great apprehension by nearly all elements of the Detroit community.

    To my surprise, this problem was not new to Detroit or to my employer, the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. In fact, my colleagues at the Institute had been asked to do a similar study more than 11 years earlier, the results of which were published in the 1961 book "Location Decisions and Industrial Mobility." But even that wasn't the first. Nearly a quarter century before, my predecessors at the Institute had been asked to do a nearly identical study in the late 1940s, the results of which were published in the 1950 book "Industrial Mobility in Michigan."

    Relocation out of Detroit

    By the time of my study in 1972, the employment situation in Detroit was acute. Manufacturers were so unhappy about their treatment by state and local government that many were threatening to leave the area. As I concluded in my own 1974 book on the situation, "Industrial Location Decisions," many Detroit-area employers wanted out. Employers representing 28 percent of Detroit manufacturing workers (excluding those from the big three auto manufacturers) reported that a move out of the area was probable within the next five years, and an even bigger percentage -- 55 percent -- felt that moving was "not out of the question."

    MORE FROM THE BUSINESS DESK: Detroit May Be Bankrupt, but as an American, You're Not

    A majority of manufacturers who felt in 1972 that a move from Detroit was not out of the question said that if they did move, it would be out of state. This differed from earlier studies when Detroit employers -- if they were contemplating a move -- most often contemplated a move out of the Detroit area to another part of Michigan.

    Contributing to the overall loss of manufacturing jobs was the unwillingness of those who remained in Detroit to expand. While economic growth nationally was robust during this period, employers representing 70 percent of Detroit manufacturing workers said they had no plans for the expansion of plant facilities in the next five years, and a great majority anticipated no expansion of plant facilities over the next decade.

    The results found in 1972 Detroit, where employers representing 28 percent of manufacturing workers felt that a move out of the area was probable, had been building slowly over more than two decades. This should not have been news to Detroit leaders. In 1950, employers representing 13 percent of manufacturing workers said that such exodus was somewhat probable. And 11 years later -- but still another 11 years before my study -- those considering a near-term exodus from Detroit "very probable" was up to 8 percent.

    When asked in 1961, if starting from scratch, where they would locate, employers representing 65 percent of Detroit manufacturing employees said they would locate in the same area as the plant. But by 1972, only 38 percent said that they would remain in the same area. As a harbinger of things to come, 2 percent said they would locate to a foreign country.

    Importance of Wage Rates

    So why would employers want to leave Detroit? For many years, they grumbled about state and local business taxes. In 1950, manufacturing employers cited these tax rates as the most burdensome factor. What manufacturers had to pay their employees -- wage rates -- was further down on their list of concerns -- as far down as seventh, to be precise. A decade later, wage rates were growing in importance, coming in as third on employers' ratings. But the attitude of the city toward industry and taxes still outweighed wages as manufacturers' primary concerns.

    Fast-forward to 1972, however, and a majority of Detroit area manufacturers cited wage rates as the most important factor determining their ideal location. State and local business taxes were still a factor for many too. But employers complained about the high cost of labor particularly in light of their perception of low labor productivity and skills. Business taxes and workman's compensation plans remained a concern, but wage rates had now risen to the number one disadvantage employers associated with Detroit. Indeed, those who indicated they would probably leave the Detroit area cited the enticements of lower labor costs, followed by better taxes or worker's compensation plans, and other labor advantages such as productivity and skills.

    MORE FROM LEW MANDELL: An 8.3 Percent Return on Your Money, Guaranteed for Life?

    By 1972, as a result of the lack of manufacturing diversification in the Detroit area, almost the only advantage of being located in that area was proximity to the big-three auto companies. In fact, firms representing 85 percent of non-big-three manufacturing employees sold at least some of their products to the big three.

    And most of what employers found problematic about Detroit's inhospitality to business stemmed from the powerful unions and government, who appeared to be intertwined. Employers representing nearly three-quarters of non-big-three manufacturing workers said that Michigan's legal climate toward industry was worse than other states', and not one said it was more favorable. Employers also balked at workman's compensation policies and environmental requirements coming from the state. They perceived Michigan taxes and ordinances to be far more oppressive than those of other states.

    Quality of Life

    Contributing to Detroit's woes has been the continued downfall in the perception of the city's quality of life. When asked in 1972 whether the quality of life in the Detroit metropolitan area had become better or worse over the past 10 years, employers representing 69 percent of non-big-three Detroit area manufacturing workers said it had become worse while only 21 percent said that it had gotten better.

    This wasn't symptomatic of general urban decay. In Atlanta, for instance, manufacturing employers reported the opposite: businesses representing 78 percent of manufacturing workers said the quality of life had improved and only 10 percent said that it had gotten worse. When asked to contrast quality of life in Detroit with other metropolitan areas in the United States, just 8 percent of employers said that the quality of life was better in Detroit than elsewhere while 23 percent felt that it was worse. In Atlanta, 95 percent thought the quality of life was better in their area. More surprising was that Chicago employers representing 48 percent of manufacturing employees said that quality of life in that cold, windy city with urban problems similar to those of Detroit was better than in other metropolitan areas.

    Many Detroit-area employers blamed increased crime for the declining quality of life, but whatever the cause, these perceptions fueled desires to get out of the city. Of those who felt that the quality of life in Detroit was no worse than 10 years before, only 3 percent said that it was very probable that they would leave the area in the next five years. This contrasted strongly with those who felt that the quality of life had deteriorated over the past decade, 18 percent of whom said that was very probable that they would relocate in the next five years.

    Any Lessons?

    Many factors contributed to the decline of Detroit. The fact that "Motown" literally owned the U.S. auto industry for a time, created a happy post-war, "what me worry?" boom for manufacturers, workers, residents and politicians. The economic strength of the big-three oligopoly began to crumble after the 1973 "Yom Kippur" war in the Middle East when spiking gasoline prices stimulated demand for more fuel-efficient foreign cars. The slow response of the big-three manufacturers and their unions to the new competitive pressures surely hastened the decline of manufacturing employment in the area, as did a failure to retain industrial diversification.

    What looking at these studies, which range in age from 42 to 65 years old, tells us -- and Detroit -- is that the seeds of the city's decline were known and were of great concern, at least to some, way back at the end of World War II. Manufacturers, other than the big-three, felt so poorly treated by state and local government in terms of high business taxes, oppressive worker's compensation laws and hostility to business that many were ready to move elsewhere. It now appears that local and state leaders paid little attention to the expensive studies that they, themselves kept commissioning, and which kept coming up with the same results, reminding us of the famous definition of insanity attributed to Einstein. Hindsight, it is said, is 20/20, and much has been gratuitously offered to explain the tragedy of Detroit. However, in this case, the real sin was ignoring two-thirds of a century of foresight.


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    You've got to hand it to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. He's consistent. No wishy-washy budget deals for him. Only all or nothing will do.

    So he and another half-dozen conservatives denounced the budget compromise reached by fellow Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray because, although it reduces spending, it doesn't do enough.

    "We are going to have a debt crisis in this country," he told FOX News the day the $85 billion compromise was announced. "It is going to continue to destroy jobs. It's going to disrupt the function of our government."

    Wait, isn't that what happened when the government shut down because there was no compromise?

    Republicans like Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner and the nearly 170 other GOP members who voted to pass the budget plan Thursday evening suggested that the opposition is losing sight of the bigger picture. ("Read the deal and get back to me," Ryan said dismissively on MSNBC to critics of the plan.) Boehner snapped that outside conservative activists who oppose the agreement are "using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals."

    But this will not be the first time we've lost sight of the bigger picture. This week's memorials for the great South African leader Nelson Mandela provided three glaring cases in point.

    The first wave of foggy coverage occurred when President Obama shared a passing polite handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro. The world did not shake. Communism did not end. Cuban émigrés in Miami did not take to the streets. Yet, the greeting dominated coverage and analysis (overshadowing an actual kiss the president accorded Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who had canceled a state visit to Washington earlier this year over a national security spying dispute).

    The Obama-Castro handwringing also ignored what the president actually said in his Mandela tribute. "There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people," the president said, in pointed comments that could have been directed at Castro or any of at least a half-dozen leaders crowded on stage that day.

    The other non-story that overwhelmed coverage of a historic day was fun but excessive. I admit I shared the picture of the president posing for a "selfie" with the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Denmark on Twitter. It was cute. It was funny, especially because Michelle Obama seemed so unamused.

    But never in a million years did I think it would consume (and obscure) so much of the Mandela coverage. Is it because we can't resist a caption contest?

    And then there was the story of the fake interpreter. There is no question it was an insult to the world's deaf and an international security threat to have a man on stage whose defense for not knowing sign language was that he could be violently schizophrenic.

    But did that deserve more attention on a day when thousands gathered in Pretoria -- in long lines that reminded me of the first free South African elections -- to pay final tribute to Mandela?

    I never cease to marvel how efficiently we can minimize real news -- whether it be rare proof that Washington has a little bipartisanship left, or history unfolding on another continent.

    I'd feel a little better if we could at least try to remember the big picture.

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    EmbedVideo(8002); Ann Patchett reflects on fiction version nonfiction and the state of books today in a conversation with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown. "Nonfiction is easy and fiction is hard." That's according to Ann Patchett, author of "Bel Canto"...

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    Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed the media after a school shooting in suburban Denver Friday.

    CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday that a school shooting suspect died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound and was found in a classroom at Arapahoe High School in suburban Denver.

    At 12:33 p.m. local time, a male student entered the school and asked for the location of a specific teacher. Robinson said that when the teacher discovered the student was looking for him, the teacher immediately left the school, in an effort to get the student to follow him out of the building.

    Two other students were shot, Robinson said. One of the injured students is in serious condition and is undergoing surgery at a nearby hospital, and the other is currently undergoing treatment for their wounds as well.

    The name of the shooter was not released, but the police believe that the shooter was the only person who was armed in the school on Friday afternoon.

    Arapahoe High School junior Carrie McDaniel was in her Spanish class when she heard faint gunshot sounds. "I knew it was serious when someone came running into the classroom and said 'there's been gunshots," she said. The class immediately turned off the lights and waited for police.

    When police arrived, the students were instructed to leave the classroom and then to run across the street, she said.

    "Everyone was crying and everyone was confused," she said. "It all feels like a dream."

    Robinson said that families are now being reunited with students at the nearby Shepherd of the Hills church.

    McDaniels met her mother Laura, who was visibly shaken, remembering the day nearly 15 years ago when two teenage shooters killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves at Columbine High School, only miles away from Arapahoe.

    "I was remembering the day that Columbine happened, like a flashback," Laura McDaniel said. "(Carrie) was 2 and her daycare was on lockdown. It felt like the same scene with helicopters all around us."

    The shooting also comes a day before the one-year anniversary of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    BREAKING: Hospital spokesman: 1 student in critical condition after Colo. high school shooting reports

    — The Associated Press (@AP) December 13, 2013

    Updated from 3:30 p.m. EST:

    BREAKING Colorado emergency official: Police responding to active shooter report at Denver-area school

    — The Associated Press (@AP) December 13, 2013

    Denver Post's Ryan Parker is live tweeting from the scene at Arapahoe High School:

    This is the front #Arapahoe high school right now pic.twitter.com/WwuxcWPeEE

    — Ryan Parker (@ryanparkerdp) December 13, 2013

    Everyone is being order to get away from the school by the police right now. Police helicopter is now overhead #ArapahoeHighSchool

    — Ryan Parker (@ryanparkerdp) December 13, 2013

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    With my girls @Breshawebb@simoneshepherd@TiffanyHaddish& other funny ladies I got to meet at our #SNL showcase :) pic.twitter.com/X1D5gT2GOJ

    — Gabrielle Dennis (@GabrielleDennis) December 2, 2013

    Under fire for the absence of black female performers, Saturday Night Live held special auditions Monday night for seven to eight performers in order to find a new cast member come January. Executive producer Lorne Michaels told The New York Times Thursday he's committed to that timetable.

    The last female black performer at S.N.L. was Maya Rudolph, who left in 2007.

    "All told we've seen about 25 people," Michaels said. "A lot of the people we saw are really good. Hopefully we'll come out of the process well."

    The criticism began when cast member Kenan Thompson announced he did not want to continue performing as black women in drag, and fellow black cast member Jay Pharaoh said the show needs to hire a black woman.

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    Here at PBS NewsHour, we decided that there was no better way to get in the holiday spirit than with a good old fashioned cookie-off. So we asked all of our in-house bakers to share their favorite holiday cookie recipes -- some passed down from Nana and some adapted from a favorite source.

    The result? Ten delicious kinds of cookies and a newsroom full of judges. The winners? Our taste buds. And yours! For your baking (and eating) enjoyment, we hope you enjoy these recipes!

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A student walked into a high school in suburban Denver today armed with a shotgun and shot two other students before apparently killing himself.

    Authorities in Arapahoe County have not identified the gunman yet, but did say he was looking for a specific teacher. Students were seen walking away from the school with their hands in the air as the building was evacuated. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson explained the procedure.

    GRAYSON ROBINSON, Arapahoe County, Colo., Sheriff: Think were they were safer inside their locked schoolroom classes then they would have been had we allowed them to exit. And that was part of our strategy and part of our protocol. We are now slowly, but methodically allowing students to leave the school in groups.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today's incident falls just one day before the one-year anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shooting. And it happened just eight miles from Columbine High School, where two teenagers killed 12 classmates in 1999.

    Federal authorities arrested a man in Kansas today on suspicion he was plotting a suicide attack on an airport in Wichita on behalf of al-Qaida. Officials charged Terry Loewen, a 58-year old aviation technician, with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and providing support to a foreign terrorist organization.

    U.S. attorney Barry Grissom outlined some of what Loewen allegedly planned to do.

    BARRY GRISSOM, U.S. Attorney: He researched flight schedules to determine when there would be a maximum number of individuals at the airport. He -- he assisted in acquiring components which he believed were part of the building of the bomb. He talked about his commitment to this crime and his commitment to martyr himself as part of this horrific event.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Officials said they were continuing their investigation, but no further arrests were expected.

    The family of a missing American man with secret ties to the CIA urged the U.S. government to take care of its own today. Robert Levinson vanished in Iran nearly seven years ago. An investigation by the Associated Press found that he was working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission.

    For years, the U.S. has publicly described him as a private citizen on private business. We will dig deeper into the AP's findings with the editor of the story after the news summary.

    In Syria today, soldiers surrounded an industrial area near Damascus to fend off attacks from an al-Qaida-linked rebel group. The action took place in Adra, northeast of the capital. Rebels reportedly killed workers and their families who live there and largely support President Assad.

    Ukraine's embattled president held talks today with opposition leaders in an effort to resolve a three-week-long political crisis. It stemmed from Viktor Yanukovych's decision to scrap a trade deal with the European Union. During today's meeting, Yanukovych said he will sign it, and he also offered amnesty to protesters facing criminal charges. But the opposition said those promises still fall short.

    French troops battled rebel fighters in the Central African Republic's capital today. Some 1,600 French peacekeepers are working to disarm the rebels and restore calm to Bangui. Violence between Christians and Muslims has left more than 500 people dead just in the past week. About 160,000 others were forced to leave their homes.

    RACHEL DIMAGUE, police officer (through interpreter): There's a lot of shooting here. We don't know how to live anymore. The children have left to take refuge. We are a country at war.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pleaded for an end to the bloodshed during a radio message to the country. He warned, the world was watching and would hold them accountable.

    Today was the third and final day for mourners to pay respects to Nelson Mandela as he lay in state in South Africa. Officials estimated 100,000 people lined up to file past his casket in Pretoria, but up to a third of them had to be turned away. Police struggled to maintain order, and some in the angry crowd broke through the barriers. Mandela's state funeral is set for Sunday in Qunu.

    The U.S. Senate spent its second straight night in all-night session, extending its continuous working streak since Wednesday. Shortly after 7:00 this morning, senators overwhelmingly confirmed Deborah Lee James to be the next secretary of the Air Force. She's the second woman to head up the military branch. Republicans have drawn out debates on presidential nominees in retaliation for new Senate rules that limit the use of filibusters.

    The date is set for President Obama to deliver his 2014 State of the Union address to Congress: January 28. Speaker of the House John Boehner sent the invitation today, and the White House quickly accepted.

    Stocks rose slightly on Wall Street today, as investors remained cautious ahead of next week's Federal Reserve policy meeting. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 16 points to close at 15,755. The Nasdaq rose more than two points to close just below 4,001. For the week, both the Dow and the Nasdaq fell roughly 1.5 percent.

     

     


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    Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

    It was one year ago Saturday when reports came in of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. By the end of that day, 20 children and seven adults --including the shooter's mother -- were killed before the gunman shot himself.

    That day at Sandy Hook Elementary is one that will continue to haunt our country. And the tormenting question of "why" will forever go unanswered.

    Shortly after the shooting, parents in Newtown began actively advocating for gun violence prevention. And throughout the year, extensive news coverage examined gun control, mental health and school safety.

    At NewsHour, we wanted to know how the events at Sandy Hook and the year since have affected you. Have your views on gun violence and mental health changed? Do you think differently about school safety? These are some of the responses we've received from Facebook and Twitter:

    "Schools should be protected by armed guards. I worked in banking most of my life. The banks were protected by armed guards. Why would we do any less for the children, our most prized assets?"

    -Linda Nash Gray

    @NewsHour No. My right to self protection in an increasingly violent culture is a freedom needed more now than ever.

    — kjcopp (@kjcopp) December 12, 2013

    "If a tragedy such as Sandy Hook cannot get us to the point where we can enact common sense background checks and ending sales of weapons that have no valid purpose other than mass killing, then nothing ever will."

    -Facebook user Chris Nanoski.

    @NewsHour, as a country we have an obligation, that we r not meeting, to provide better access to mental health services.

    — Kacie Buzzard (@kwbuzzard) December 12, 2013

    "Perhaps it has been the lack of response to the outrageous acts of gun violence, but I believe more than ever in stricter gun control. I am a gun owner by the way."

    -Facebook user Suzanne Aubrey Myers

    @NewsHour gun control is not the answer

    — Marquist Parker (@Marquist10) December 12, 2013

    "I think this tragedy is much more complicated than the questions posed. It regards a very disturbed individual that did a very horrible thing. I think that part of the education budget should include much better school security. Other than that, I see nothing else that can help prevent this type of thing in the future."

    -Facebook user James G. Lakes

    @NewsHour Depends on who you ask. Isolated from violence? Or submersed? #TwoAmericas

    — Farrah Parker (@LeavUrImge2FDP) December 12, 2013

    "Mental health care is not a priority as it should be."

    -Facebook users Mary Laidman

    @NewsHour The issue at hand is people with mental health issues can only be helped if their families/friends admit there is a problem.

    — Michele Humbert (@mbec69) December 12, 2013

    "For me, the most important lesson that was finally, albeit partially, learned from the Newtown incident is that we need to identify and help youngsters who exhibit lack of social integration, whatever the cause."

    -Facebook user Pamela Royce

    Saturday, Dec. 14, marks the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, but the discussion is far from over. Weigh in with your thoughts below.

    H/T Colleen Shalby

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In March 2007, an American and former FBI employee stepped into a taxi in Iran and then vanished. He's rarely been heard from since.

    But, as Jeffrey Brown reports, there are new details emerging about what U.S. officials knew about his circumstances and when.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It's been nearly seven years since retired FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in the Iranian resort region of Kish Island. In 2010, a hostage video showed Levinson was indeed alive.

    ROBERT LEVINSON, captive in Iran: I have been treated well. But I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three-and-a-half years. And please help me get home.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That spurred his son and wife to post their own plea for help in his return.

    DAVID LEVINSON, son of Robert Levinson: Please tell us your demands so we can work together to bring my father home safely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But the trail went cold. For years, the U.S. government maintained Levinson was a private citizen on a business trip at the time. But, yesterday, the Associated Press reported Levinson was actually contracted as a spy for a rogue CIA operation when he was taken captive, a story not published for three years at the agency's request.

    Today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney criticized the report.

    JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: I'm not going to fact-check every allegation made in the story you referenced, a story we believe it was highly irresponsible to publish, and which we strongly urged the outlet not to publish, out of concerns for Mr. Levinson's safety.

    More recently, obviously, President Obama raised Mr. Levinson's case in his phone call with President Rouhani.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the meantime, Levinson's health and whereabouts remain unknown.

    And joining me now to discuss the new revelations in the Associated Press report and the decision to publish is the story's editor, Ted Bridis.

    Welcome to you.

    TED BRIDIS, Associated Press: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, who is Robert Levinson, and what does it now appear he was doing in Iran?

    TED BRIDIS: Robert Levinson was a former FBI agent.

    He was an expert. He was brilliant in money laundering expertise, Russian organized crime. He had a number of areas of expertise. When he left the bureau to make money to help fund his seven children's college education, he reached out to the CIA, which tapped his expertise and brought him on as a contract officer.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, he reached out to the CIA, but it turns out he worked for part of the CIA, which is part of the story here. And another part of the CIA didn't know what he was doing.

    TED BRIDIS: That's right.

    The CIA is essentially divided into operators and analysts. And operators run the assets and the spies out in the field. And there's a very specific reason for this. They're very good at their job. They have established practices and procedures, security protocols to prevent spies from running into risk, from being turned, from being fed bad information.

    The analysts on the other side digest and ingest the information from the assets and the spies in the field. And in this case, Bob was contracted with the CIA analysts.

    JEFFREY BROWN: To do what? To look at corruption, I understand?

    TED BRIDIS: They tasked him with several different responsibilities to collect information. And he was very good at it.

    In fact, he was remarkably good at it. And, in fact, the analysts were thrilled with his work product. I mean, it was both voluminous and it was insightful. And, you know, they were certainly getting their money's worth out of these CIA contracts.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So he disappears in a scenario where many in the CIA and in the operations, they don't know that he was working for them in the first place?

    TED BRIDIS: In fact, he goes to Iran, Kish Island, in March of '07, and he disappears.

    The CIA immediately is asked, what is our responsibility? What is our sort of exposure here? And the analysts say, we have not talked to Bob lately. And the reason was because he had been communicating with some of the analysts privately on their personal e-mail accounts. He had not had a live contract because it had not been renewed.

    But they were in talks about renewing his contract. But this was all understand that he was going to Iran to meet with an American fugitive, at the behest of the analysts.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the aftermath, the government didn't make any of this public, of course. But this has been a very big deal internally at the CIA, correct?

    TED BRIDIS: This was scandalous.

    With respect the analytical side of the CIA, this was the biggest scandal since WMD debacle in Iraq. Three analysts were forced from their jobs. Seven were disciplined, a complete overhaul of the way that analysts at the CIA are allowed to engage with outsiders, make contact, make contracts, because one of their contractors had turned up missing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The government did, in fact, pay the family a $2.5 million settlement, right?

    TED BRIDIS: In fact, the government immediately paid the family the full amount of the contract that was up for renewal, as well as a $2.5 million annuity that would give them tax-free payments going forward while he was missing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, to this day, the government still says that he wasn't a government employee. Now, that's as opposed to a contractor? Parse that for us.

    TED BRIDIS: Very specifically, it is technically accurate to say he wasn't a U.S. government employee.

    Contractors are not considered, in federal parlance, to be employees. His contract also had not been renewed yet. So there was -- there was that sort of ambivalence, the fact that he didn't have a current contract. But he was directly going to Iran. The analysts knew he was going to Iran. He was expected to produce a report on his trip to Iran for the CIA.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We saw the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, call this highly irresponsible of you to publish this. I gather you had spent three years not publishing it. Why did you go ahead?

    TED BRIDIS: So, the AP learned about this in 2010. We learned about his CIA ties.

    We have gone to the administration and said, we -- we feel the need to publish a story about an important scandal and debacle inside the CIA, mismanagement. The administration has provided in the past some specific persuasive and sort of temporal reasons to hold the story temporarily.

    There was always an investigative lead to run down or a potential meeting that might yield some promising leads on bringing Bob home. And at each point, the AP divided not to publish. The more recent time, we went to the administration, and they couldn't provide a specific reason why not to publish.

    They said that the improving relations, the thawing of the relations possibly with the new election of Rouhani may yield some assistance, but there was nothing specific. There was no diplomatic progress for three years on this case.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, briefly, in the meantime, still nothing is known about his whereabouts or condition?

    TED BRIDIS: That's right. We don't know where he is. We don't know who is holding him.

    Congressman Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, today, the assessment is that he's being held by part of the Republican Guard. But, frankly, it's an assessment, and it's an old assessment. In the absence of evidence that he is dead, the U.S. government has to assume that Bob is alive and make efforts to bring him home.

    The family today said those efforts have not been satisfactory. And, today, the family, in a sort of tacit acknowledgment of his CIA work, said, it is time for the U.S. government to step up and bring one of its own home.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ted Bridis of the Associated Press, thank you very much.

    TED BRIDIS: You're welcome. Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to North Korea.

    The execution of one of the isolated country's highest-ranking officials is raising questions about its stability.

    NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our report.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Until very recently, Jang Song Thaek was considered the second-most powerful figure in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. But on state TV today, his remarkable demise was made official.

    NEWS ANCHOR (through interpreter): The special military tribunal of the Ministry of State Security of North Korea condemned Jang Song Thaek as a wicked political careerist, trickster and traitor, in the name of the revolution, and the people ruled that he would be sentenced to death. The decision was immediately executed.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Married to the aunt of leader Kim Jong-un, Jang ascended the country's ranks rapidly following the stroke of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, in 2008. And he rose further still following Kim's death in 2011.

    Though not a career military man, he was made a four-star general and was fond of appearing in his white military uniform at state events. He played a key role in shaping economic policy and was considered the architect of the country's joint ventures with neighboring China.

    However, in Beijing today, a spokesman was tight-lipped regarding the news of his death.

    HONG LEI, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): This is North Korea's own internal affair. As a neighboring country, we hope for North Korea to maintain stability, economic development, and a happy livelihood for its people.

    KWAME HOLMAN: As with word of his execution, Jang's removal from office was broadcast on state TV earlier this week, as the 67-year-old was taken from a Central Committee meeting by uniformed guards. He was accused of a litany of crimes, from gambling away $6.3 million, to womanizing, to attempting to overthrow the leadership, to not showing proper enthusiasm for his nephew's achievements.

    In Seoul, South Korea, the high-level purge has put officials on guard.

    RYOO KIHL-JAE, South Korean Unification Minister (through interpreter): Generally, in the past, we have seen that efforts to crack down on internal insecurities then lead to external provocations. We are paying close attention to such a possibility this time as well.

    KWAME HOLMAN: Next week, the country marks the two-year anniversary of Kim Jong Il's death.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Late today, the White House announced that the president has received an advisory committee's recommendations on revamping the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. And The Washington Post reported that the NSA can crack cell phone security codes, giving them the capability to listen in on private calls and text messages.

    Tonight, chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner continues her conversations with lawmakers on reforming government surveillance.

    MARGARET WARNER: Documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have triggered six months of explosive revelations and recriminations. The documents showed the vast reach of NSA data collection, of phone calls, texts, Internet searches and e-mails vacuumed up, stored, and analyzed, the targets, not just foreigners, but many Americans.

    In August, the president announced two reviews of NSA activities.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And a general impression has, I think, taken hold not only among the American public, but also around the world, that somehow we're out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported that one advisory group has drafted a host of recommendations, including new rules for collecting and storing phone data and tighter standards for spying on foreign leaders.

    REP. MIKE ROGERS, R-Mich.: There has been no willful use to misuse the privacy of just your phone numbers, not even your name.

    MARGARET WARNER: Last night on the NewsHour, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers defended the NSA's activities, saying more than 50 attacks had been thwarted as a result.

    And you know that to be the case?

    MIKE ROGERS: I absolutely know that to be the case.

    MARGARET WARNER: But leading critics, like Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have urged the president to rein in the NSA.

     


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    Image by NASA

    If you can get away from the city lights, the Geminid meteor shower peaks late Friday night and early into Saturday morning. Weather permitting, 90 to 120 meteors per hour will be visible in the night sky starting around midnight. After the moon has set and before the sun rises, at about 4:00 a.m. local time, stargazers will get the clearest view of the shooting stars.

    The annual meteor shower will last until Dec. 16. Bill Cooke, lead for NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a press release:

    "The Geminids are my favorite because they defy explanation. Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids are by far the most massive. When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500."

    And if clouds are blocking your view tonight, you can watch the meteor shower from your computer. NASA and Slooh will be running live web streams of the meteors tonight. Cooke and two of his colleagues, Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw - will be hosting a live Web chat on the Geminids from 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. EST.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does the execution say about what's going on in North Korea?

    We have two views. Robert Carlin had a 31-year career at the CIA and the State Department focused on Korea. He's the co-author of the new edition of the book "The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History." And Sung-Yoon Lee, an assistant professor of Korean studies at Tufts University's Fletcher School.

    Welcome to both of you to the NewsHour.

    Robert Carlin, let me begin with you.

    How surprising is this?

    ROBERT CARLIN, former CIA and State Department intelligence analyst: Surprising.

    I wasn't surprised that Jang fell from power. I had thought for some time that was going to happen. I was surprised...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why did you think it would?

    ROBERT CARLIN: Because he's been up and down in the leadership before, because he's very ambitious, a little bit cocky, and is the sort of figure who you don't want too high up in the North Korean leadership, a little bit dangerous.

    He had a lot of enemies. He made enemies. He had some friends, but he also had a lot of enemies, and he was very vulnerable. So it was only a matter of time. Whether or not it would be this theatrical was the question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Professor Lee, just a matter of time?

    SUNG-YOON LEE, Tufts University: Yes, indeed.

    In a totalitarian system, the de facto number two man is an unenviable position. The de jure number two man poses no threat, and North Korea has such an individual who is charged with ceremonial activities like receiving foreign dignitaries. But because Jang Song Thaek has been considered as the de facto number two man for at least 10 years, he becomes a target.

    And in a totalitarian system, oftentimes, the life of the number two man is short and precarious.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robert Carlin, what about his relationship with the son? Kim Jong-un is just about to observe his second anniversary of coming into power. What was known about that?

    ROBERT CARLIN: Nothing.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nothing?

    ROBERT CARLIN: Seriously. Seriously.

    No, we don't know anything about really the personal relationships in North Korea. So we have to judge on the basis of photographs, little bits and pieces of information. If you go back and you look at the indictment of Jang, it suggests, if you can believe it, that he's been under observation for some time, that he was throwing his weight around, that they knew it and they were watching him and, they were just waiting for the right moment to take him out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Professor Lee, is it -- they charged him with a long list of crimes, gambling, womanizing, not showing respect to Kim Jong-un. Do we believe all this, or do we just -- I mean, what do you make of that?

    SUNG-YOON LEE: Well, some of it is credible. North Korea was very kind enough to give us a detailed account of Jang Song Thaek's offenses, unwittingly even admitting that the economy is in a catastrophic situation.

    Catastrophe is the word that North Korea used. Also unwittingly, North Korea in detail admitted that there was a plot, an attempt to overthrow the Kim family regime. Now, in the people's paradise, paradise on earth, so-called, the leader is omnipotent. He is almost a deity. And even to dream that one day a person like Jang Song Thaek may try to overthrow the Kim family is a taboo.

    That taboo now has been broken. And I think this bodes ill in the short term for the long-suffering North Korean people, because we can expect more purges and violence and accelerated, enhanced, intensified internal repression in the short term. But in the long term, I think it is hard for me to imagine that Kim Jong-un, now 30 years old, although it is entirely feasible he may live another half-century, it's inconceivable to me that he will have a long and happy, healthy life.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robert Carlin, you agree, though, this, in the short term, this bodes ill for the people, that this suggests not only instability in the regime, but that others are going to be purged, as the uncle was?

    ROBERT CARLIN: You know, it is only 24 hours since we heard this new. And I think the best thing analysts can do and observers and pundits is sit back and wait at least a week.

    There's a lot of dust that has to settle. This is an entirely new situation that we're confronting on the outside. And so we're laying on a lot of our fears and preconception on this, without really understanding where he might go. He might equally pardon a lot of the people, rather than execute them. He might show how benevolent he is and say, well, you were misled by this man, but I'm the great leader, and I can -- I can forgive you your sins.

    We don't know what he's going to do. And -- and my advice, again, is, let's watch. Every single day, let's watch the information come in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Professor Lee, it sounds like you feel more certain that in the short term, bad things could happen to some of these people who were around Mr. Jang?

    SUNG-YOON LEE: That's right.

    And to Kim Jong-un, I think this is an affirmation of his impetuous, brash nature. Over the past two years, we have seen an accelerated path of internal repression and external military exploitation, marked by two ballistic long-range missile tests and a nuclear test earlier this year.

    Purges have, of course, the primary purpose of removing any potential from the scene -- potential rival -- pardon me -- from the scene. But there is a secondary objective, which is to instill fear. This demonstrative effect, the theatrics, the swift execution of such a high-profile person suggests that Kim Jong-un is now quite confident, recklessly so, perhaps, and probably prone to miscalculation.

    The system he inherited is -- makes him one of the world's richest men, presiding over one of the poorest countries, with his finger on the nuclear button. And that's a very bizarre and dangerous formulation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're arguing -- or your point is, Robert Carlin, that a little time needs to pass. And does that mean the rest of the world should hold off passing judgment here?

    ROBERT CARLIN: Obviously, every country has to make its own decisions on what it thinks is moral and immoral and proper government behavior.

    But why we would -- why we would express that right now is beyond me. It seems to me, it's -- if we're worried about the situation in North Korea, and we're uncertain about what is going to happen, it doesn't make any sense for us to make it worse by voicing criticism of the North Koreans.

    Just wait. Watch. If our militaries need to tweak up their watchfulness, we can do that quietly. The North Koreans will understand it. We need to get past this jittery period. Neither of us knows what the other is thinking right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you.

    Robert Carlin, Sung-Yoon Lee, we thank you both.

    SUNG-YOON LEE: Thank you.

    ROBERT CARLIN: Thank you, Judy.

     


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    MARGARET WARNER: Senator Wyden, thank you for joining us.

    SEN. RON WYDEN, D-Ore.: Thanks for having me back.

    MARGARET WARNER: As you know, the president is now reviewing NSA surveillance policy. If were you advising him, what would you say to him is the most important problem he needs to fix?

    RON WYDEN: The most important issue is to make it clear that security and liberty are not mutually exclusive. We can have both.

    For example, on this whole matter of collecting millions and millions of phone records on law-abiding Americans, now, this country wants to be safe, and all of us on the Intelligence Committee know it's a dangerous world. But the evidence doesn't support the proposition that there is a significant measure of safety that's added as a result of collecting all these records on law-abiding Americans.

    MARGARET WARNER: The head of the NSA, Keith Alexander, said in testimony that 50 terrorist plots had been foiled by this exhaustive surveillance.

    You don't buy that? I mean, you're a member of the Intelligence Committee.

    RON WYDEN: Congressional testimony doesn't support that proposition.

    In fact, John Inglis, one of the deputies there, when he was asked actually unpack that assertion that really found, when he had to address it specifically, that it was at most a couple. And part of this is that there has been what I call a culture of misinformation among the intelligence, you know, leadership. Consistently over the last few years, the intelligence leadership has said one thing in public and then quite another in private.

    MARGARET WARNER: With its growing technological reach and prowess, do you think the NSA has been given license to collect data overseas in too aggressive a manner? Is the technology outstripping the policy?  

    RON WYDEN: There's no question that the technology has dramatically changed this debate.

    For example, it used to be that, because there were technological limitations, those technological limitations provided a measure of privacy for Americans. Now, with essentially no technological limitations, the technology can do practically anything, the only way to strike the appropriate balance between liberty and security is to embed that balance in the law.

    MARGARET WARNER: What did you make of the eight big U.S.-based Internet giants this week, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, coming out and actually saying they thought the balance between the power of the state and the rights of individuals has gotten out of whack?

    RON WYDEN: The statement from the companies has enormous implications.

    One very thoughtful technology organization which Intel belongs to, an important employer in my state, estimated that the damages in terms of lost revenues as a result of these NSA practices would approach $35 billion between now and 2016. And I think they think it's going to be bad for the country, bad for their customers here, bad for their brand overseas.

    MARGARET WARNER: Do you even know how many Americans are being swept up, have been swept up in this NSA surveillance that is actually targeted on overseas terror threat?

    RON WYDEN: Suffice it to say, we have asked this question in classified sessions, in public sessions, and largely have been stonewalled.

    Now, of course, some of the information that has been declassified, you know, recently indicates that thousands of Americans have had information, you know, collected on them. And that really leads to the central privacy question.

    The advocates of the bulk collection of all these phone records on law-abiding Americans say this is not surveillance. They're saying it is data collection. And they're saying, we're not listening in and, for that reason, it's not surveillance.

    I want it understood for your viewers that, when your government knows who you called, when you called and for how long you called, they're getting a lot of private information about individuals. For example, if the government knows that you called a psychiatrist three times in 24 hours, once after midnight, they know a lot about you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, they say they have no intention of abusing this to control, harass, prosecute, intimidate American citizens. It's to understand their connections with other people who may be connected to foreigners, foreign terrorists who mean harm to the United States.

    RON WYDEN: The argument that we're not going to abuse them because we have a bunch of our own little internal, you know, rules, that's not in synch with the Constitution.

    The Fourth Amendment doesn't say, you can invade people's privacy, but it's really kind of OK if the government then sets up some sort of general rules to make it OK. The Fourth Amendment, in effect, says you have got to have reasonable grounds to believe somebody is involved in terrorist activity, nefarious activity in order to get -- get this information.

    All along, people like me were told, look, you're raising all these concerns, but the reality is, the FISA court is going to make sure that everything is OK. Well, what we have learned in the last few weeks is the FISA court repeatedly said things were not OK, in effect saying that they were lied to repeatedly, to the point where they couldn't see how there was much of a system of rules at all.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about another thing that came up that was very, very contentious, at least internationally.

    And that was spying, eavesdropping on leaders of friendly countries. Have we reached the point in which the diplomatic and political risk outweighs the benefits of having that information?

    RON WYDEN: If you are on the Intelligence Committee, you do know that we have been interested in the intentions of foreign leadership for a long time.

    I do believe that, while it's appropriate to do a review with respect to foreign leaders, for the reasons you're talking about -- because, obviously, there has been great concern among foreign leaders and statements made that could affect national security relationships and trade relationships.

    MARGARET WARNER: In this post-9/11 world, however, is there any reluctance on the part of lawmakers to second-guess the intelligence professionals, given that the cost of being wrong is so high?

    RON WYDEN: The government has emergency authorities that basically say, when there's a threat, they can go get the information, get the warrant later.

    Of course protecting the safety of the public has to always come first. And I don't take a backseat to anybody in terms of that. What concerns me is that what's always been the constitutional teeter-totter, and what you think about the founding fathers, it really comes back to that. They always said, our system works when you have liberty and security in balance. The teeter-totter is just kind of right here.

    We haven't done a good enough job of striking that balance. We can be fair and respectful of the intelligence leadership and do a better job of striking that balance.

    MARGARET WARNER: Senator Ron Wyden, thank you.

    RON WYDEN: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House said the president's own policy changes now are not expected until January.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Shields and Gerson. That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson. David Brooks is away tonight.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

    Glory be. Congress has passed a budget.

    Mark, is this something -- does this mean the gridlock is coming unlocked, or is this just a one-time thing?

    MARK SHIELDS: Hold the champagne, Judy. I mean, Congress hasn't passed a budget. The House has passed a budget.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, by -- that's what I meant.

    MARK SHIELDS: That's right.

    And perhaps for the first time since 1997, the Congress will pass a budget. I mean, that -- Bill Clinton was president, Trent Lott was Senate leader, and Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House.

    It's baby steps. It's not a giant stride. It's not to be confused with the Connecticut Compromise, which led to the adoption the United States Constitution, or the Missouri Compromise that postponed the Civil War for 40 years. But it is -- we had no bar, as opposed to a low bar, but an act of civility and compromise and leadership on the part of particularly Paul Ryan in the House, the Republican, and Patty Murray, the Democrat, in the Senate gave us at least encouragement that the Congress could, in fact, act positively.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so, Michael, do you see sunshine and cooperation down the road, or is this...

    MICHAEL GERSON: I think that would be highly desirable and highly unlikely.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MICHAEL GERSON: Paul Ryan and Speaker Boehner sold this to their own caucus in the House by saying, we need to keep attention on the failures of Obamacare and not draw attention to our own divisions by having another counterproductive budget fight.

    That argument is hardly the prelude to ambition, OK? This deal succeeded in many ways because it was small. It had small reduction -- reductions in entitlements, non-medical entitlements. And it had small increases in discretionary spending. This is the reason it could pass both sides.

    And that -- I think what we have seen is a truce in the budget wars, and not a new governing coalition, unfortunately.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Mark, when it comes to bigger fiscal issues, tax reform, this doesn't mean that that may be any easier now, right?

    MARK SHIELDS: I don't think it means anything for tax reform, quite frankly. I think tax reform is a long way off.

    I mean, we didn't go to either party's core concerns here. I mean, the Democrats didn't give up anything on entitlement reduction or curtailment. The Republicans...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In fact, they stayed away from that.

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: That's right. And the Republicans stayed away from a tax increase. It was, you won't go near mine, I won't go near yours. And they met in the middle and dealt over the territory they could. But I don't see that.

    I do think, Judy, both parties needed a win, and they were -- coming in. The rollout of Obamacare had been botched, is the euphemism, but it had been disastrous to Democrats in recent polls. And, quite frankly, the closing of the government had been brutal to the Republicans, so they could not in any way risk that.

    And I think the chances of the debt ceiling, which we're looking at in another three months, I think the chances of the Republicans going to the mat, mattresses again on that is very remote.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one interesting thing that did come out of all this, Michael, was Speaker Boehner made a point two days in a row to take after these conservative, outside conservative groups that were opposing the deal, telling Republican members not to vote for it.

    In fact, we want to show, remind everybody of something the speaker said when he talked to some reporters yesterday. Here's just a portion of what he said.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Frankly, I just think that they have lost all credibility.

    You know, they pushed us into the … to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government. Most of you know, my members know, that wasn't exactly the strategy that I had in mind. But, if you will recall, the day before the government reopened, one of the people -- one of the … these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work.

    Are you kidding me?  

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Michael, what does this tell you? The speaker is going after people in his own party.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, narrowly, this was clearly a backlash to the manifest failure of the shutdown strategy, which I think most people recognize.

    My friend blogger Peter Wehner says that Republicans have apocalypse fatigue. They are just tired of confrontation in this way. But there is something broader going on here. I think the leadership has decided, it tried to appease Tea Party groups, the activist groups. But they are unappeasable. They criticized this deal before it was printed.

    And there's very little incentive to accommodate a group that is going to criticize you anyway. So I think the leadership has made the decision that this is an important part of the coalition, but it can't define the Republican Party and it can't bully the Republican Party. And that's -- this is just the beginning of an institutional reaction to Tea Party activist groups, it seems to me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you make of this? Is this the beginning of a serious split, or just a momentary thing?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think, Judy, first of all, in the speaker's statement, he acknowledged that he had been bullied and pressured into the closing of the government. They forced it upon him, that they had capitulated. The Republican Caucus had capitulated to the demands of those who wanted to close the government and the repeal of Obamacare.

    What was fascinating in the entire debate -- I was up watching the House debate -- was that there was no mention at any point of the repeal of Obamacare. There was none of that language. It was all common ground and all of rest of it.

    This was a declaration of independence by John Boehner from -- from these groups and sort of reasserting his leadership of the caucus. I mean, I think it's fair to say, for the first time in this session, he's really acted like the speaker. And I think that was -- that was clear.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is that going to have repercussions, though, for other things he tries to do as the leader of his party?

    MARK SHIELDS: I think his position -- I think his position is stronger within the caucus. I think there's -- I mean, you had a budget deal that was supported by Eric Cantor, by Paul Ryan, by Nancy Pelosi, and by President Barack Obama, which is -- I think, probably strengthens the position of the speaker.

    MICHAEL GERSON: And, Mark, by 66 percent of the Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives...

    MARK SHIELDS: That's right, which is conservative.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Most conservative group.

    This was a huge victory, personal victory, a small deal, but a huge personal victory for the speaker.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But do you see -- Michael, just quickly, do you see this leading to problems going forward for the speaker and his own Tea Party members?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, the problems existed.

    The question is whether the leadership was going to push back or not. Now we have seen Mitch McConnell push back. We have seen Paul Ryan push back. We have seen Speaker Boehner push back. We have seen the Chamber of Commerce in key races fund more mainstream Republicans. I think this was a serious response to what is going on.

    MARK SHIELDS: I would just point out, Judy, that the Republican leader of the Senate has come out against the deal, Mitch McConnell.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    MARK SHIELDS: So has the Republican whip in the Senate, John Cornyn, both of whom face Tea Party challenges. Six of the seven Republican candidates in the House now running for the Senate have opposed this deal. So there is still fear and apprehension.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But the budget is still -- is in some question?

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARK SHIELDS: I think, right now -- I think the Senate is -- we think of the House as the real problem. I think, right now, the Senate is a lot more of a problem for the passage of this than is the...

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL GERSON: They're very close to culture. They have -- he has supporters for cloture.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meaning -- meaning closing...

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL GERSON: Yes, closing the debate, right.

    MARK SHIELDS: Getting to 60, it's -- but it is really tricky at this point.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, while -- just before we leave the subject altogether, watching all this, the president -- and we have watched new -- a number of new polls come out this week showing his approval rating down, the lowest of his presidency, in the last couple of weeks, Michael.

    There are some staff changes at the White House. What does all this say about what is going on one year into the second term?

    MICHAEL GERSON: Well, the deal was an example, to some extent.

    The president had almost no influence on the deal. He was marginal to it. It didn't embody any of his legislative priorities, very much a bystander in this. Now, you can never count a president out. President Bush in his second term, at a low point, did the surge in Iraq. This is an inherently powerful position.

    But the president faces real challenges. The Senate is very much up for grabs, which would be a huge blow to the president. There are increasing questions in the polling about his credibility, particularly because of some promises on Obamacare, and his competence. These are long-term challenges for the president as he tries to, you know, reconstitute his influence.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, what the president has going for him right now with the reservoir, is people do like him. But he's taken a hit, make no mistake about it, Judy.

    You have got 54 percent now in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll disapproving of the job he's doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Highest ever disapproval.

    MARK SHIELDS: The highest ever.

    And you have also got half of voters saying they're disappointed or dissatisfied in his performance in office. So, there is no question. The people he is bringing back, John Podesta was a superb chief of staff under Bill Clinton.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bringing him back as a senior adviser.

    MARK SHIELDS: And Phil Schiliro is a gifted congressional liaison, knows the Hill very well.

    But even as he's bringing these people, which is an acknowledgment that he had to do something, he's never gone really out of his comfort zone. He's never done the equivalent of reaching out to a Jim Baker, who had run the two campaigns against Ronald Reagan...

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Who was Ronald Reagan's -- right.

    MARK SHIELDS: ... and bringing him in as a chief of staff.

    And I think -- you know, I think that still remains a little problem. It's still an insular operation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This kind of thing, though, Michael, can make a difference for the president in getting his agenda...

    MICHAEL GERSON: It can.

    But I'm afraid his problem, his main problem is not a personnel problem right now. It's the implementation of Obamacare, which is a huge challenge, with very disappointing uptake, with dislocations in insurance markets because of regulation, with new taxes coming on in the new year.

    This is the substantive challenge he faces that's not going to be solve by personnel issues.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The last thing I want to ask you both about is, we know tomorrow is the anniversary of the terrible shootings at Newtown, Connecticut. Today, on the eve of that, another terrible school shooting in Colorado, where the shooter took his own life.

    Mark, do we look for anything to be done about these school shootings? There have been 27, I believe, since Newtown around this country.

    MARK SHIELDS: Judy, I was -- I was so wrong about Newtown.

    I just thought the size, the dimension, the scene of Newtown, of the slaughter of the innocents would really move public opinion. It hasn't. I don't know what it will take.

    MICHAEL GERSON: It is extraordinary the mixed influence this had on the states.

    In some blue states, you have more restrictive laws, in some red states, less restrictive laws. It just shows how geographically and culturally polarizing this issue is, but increasing agreement on the issue of mental health. The administration made the announcement this week -- 37 states have increased funding for mental health.

    That's a common ground issue and a real issue that I think needs to be confronted.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, again, our -- as we have said, our heart goes out to the families of everyone involved in Newtown.

    Michael Gerson, Mark Shields, we thank you both.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.

    MICHAEL GERSON: Thank you.

     


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, the evolution of a writer.

    Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: "The tricky thing about being a writer or about being any kind of artist is that, in addition to making art, you also have to make a living."

    So writes Ann Patchett, author of such acclaimed novels as "Bel Canto" and "State of Wonder," of her work of a writer as nonfiction. Her new book, "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage," collects essays she's written over the years on various slices of life.

    And she joins us now.

    Welcome to you.

    ANN PATCHETT, author, "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage": Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So this idea of having to make a living, you realized that in your 20s?

    ANN PATCHETT: When my parents told me to leave.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: But there you were, and you're wanting to be a novelist in your early 20s, and the choices are waiting on tables and things like that.

    ANN PATCHETT: And teaching. I don't know why they seem like parallel careers. Those were my two choices. I could teach. I could wait tables. I could cook in a restaurant. Food and teaching were the two skills I had.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you found writing.

    ANN PATCHETT: There were problems with both. One, I was too tired. If I was a waitress, I was too tired at the end of the day when I came home to try to write.

    And with teaching, there was never any time. I wasn't so tired, but there was never any time, because I was always doing lesson plans and grading papers. So I decided to make my living as a magazine writer. And I found that it was really easy and fun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you honed your skills. I mean, you...

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes, I did. I mean, I learned how to take criticism, how to get things done quickly, how to cut 1,000 words out of a piece when they lost an ad, so they didn't have as much space.

    I became very flexible. And I think I really lost my ego at 17. I could go back to the ego offices at 17 and see if I could find it now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What does this represent to you when you look back? When you went back to look at the essays, and you thought of putting them all together, what did you see?

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes, actually -- I saw that my best work was my most personal work, which is odd, because my fiction is very far afield and has nothing to do with my life.

    But, when I wrote nonfiction, my best work was the really personal stuff. When I was doing...

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do you think explains that?

    ANN PATCHETT: I have no idea, maybe just some sort of balance in my brain.

    The reporting pieces I did, when I looked at them again, didn't seem very interesting. But the pieces that I had written about taking care of my grandmother, about my dog, about marriage, about work, those were the pieces that were just better.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you -- it is interesting because you say in here that you like the fact that, in your fiction, the reader ends up knowing nothing more about you, the writer...

    ANN PATCHETT: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: ... than when he or she started the book.

    ANN PATCHETT: Right. Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And yet, in the nonfiction, the personal is what works?

    (CROSSTALK)

    ANN PATCHETT: It's very personal.

    And it's interesting, because I published in a wide field. So, no one was reading all of my nonfiction pieces. And I could write very personal things, thinking, well, you know, maybe this person is going to read that and someone else is going to read this.

    But putting them all together, all of those personal pieces side by side, was very cringe-inducing. And even when I finished the book, it took me a long time to decide that I wanted to publish it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One of the themes is, as you have said, is about relationships, all kinds.

    ANN PATCHETT: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another theme is about writing.

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just the writing life.

    ANN PATCHETT: Yes.

    I am sure every writer has this and probably every newscaster, that people are always coming up to me and saying, my daughter wants to do what you do, my godson, my tennis partner. Could you talk to my next-door neighbor and my cousin and tell them how to get a book deal and tell them how to get an agent and tell them if they should go to graduate school?

    So, I decided, I am going to make a clearinghouse. I'm going to write down every single piece of writing advice I have, from how to work, how to get your skills honed, to how to sell a book, to whether or not you should go to school. I will put it all in one place.

    And then when anyone says to me, will you have coffee with my son who wants to be a writer, I could say, he has to read this essay first.

    (LAUGHTER)

     ANN PATCHETT: And if he still wants to have coffee, if he has any questions left after reading this essay -- and no one does. I think "The Getaway Car" covered everything I know about writing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what -- what is the difference then for you in writing fiction and nonfiction? Is it a physical difference? Is it time of day? Is it everything or...

    ANN PATCHETT: It's that nonfiction is easy and fiction is hard.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That's it, huh?

    And that's for me...

    (CROSSTALK)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nonfiction is easy?

    ANN PATCHETT: Is easy, is fun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ANN PATCHETT: I will take almost any assignment. If somebody calls me up and says, will you write this piece, will you write this op-ed, it's 4:00 in the afternoon, it's due at 7:00 in the morning, that's fun to me.

    Fiction is always really a labor. The hardest piece of nonfiction I ever wrote isn't anywhere close to the easiest piece of fiction I never wrote.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And why is fiction always a labor?

    ANN PATCHETT: I think because, in fiction, you have to make up every single thing, right? What's the story? Who are the people? When does it start? When does it end? What happens?

    In nonfiction, you know all of those things. It's really more about writing. And I'm very comfortable writing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But is fiction more enjoyable because of the freedom of making all that up?

    ANN PATCHETT: No, it's not more enjoyable.

    And, probably, I should figure out why I'm so much more interested in doing something that I think is really hard. But, somehow, the thing that is hard for me feels more noble. I don't know.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, your new book is "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage." Good title.

    ANN PATCHETT: Thank you very much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ann Patchett, thank you.

    ANN PATCHETT: Thanks for having me on.

     


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    drone horizon shot

    Probably the first thing that a drone aficionado will tell you is to not call them drones - call them UAS -- for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

    After Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' announcement that he hopes to begin home delivery by UAS in the not-too-distant future, there's been renewed interest in the nonmilitary uses of the technology. Even the Senate has called for hearings on the subject. From fighting fires to tracking orangutans --potential for drone use can be found in most sectors of society.

    real estate drone A real estate company's drone gives a neighborhood tour

    Industry and commercial use

    Jeff Bezos' announcement of Amazon.com drone delivery has grabbed recent attention, but industry has been using UAS for years.

    The oil industry uses drones to check pipeline condition. Farmers use them to keep track of crop progress. And, as seen above, real estate agencies are using drones to give a buyer's eye view of neighborhoods to those far away.

    Earlier this year a Shanghai company attempted a first by delivering cakes with drones. Deutsche Post is testing drove delivery services -- flying trial packages of medicine across the Rhine.

    Federal Aviation Administration clears way for drones in oil patchCompeting with Amazon, Deutsche Post to test mail dronesDrone Boosters Say Farmers, Not Cops, Are the Biggest U.S. Robot MarketPie in the sky: Chinese authorities shoot down world's first cake drones

    World Wildlife Fund dronesThe promise of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and applications on the ground, World Wildlife Fund

    Science and the environment

    UAS can also be used by researchers interested in covering a wide area. Plus, drones are mapping archeological finds in Peru and protected sites from looters.

    The World Wildlife Fund and zoologists are using drones to map habitat and combat poaching. And, drones are making inroads in medicine. Florida is considering using UAS to combat mosquitoes and drones already deliver crucial medicines to remote locations.

    Peru's archaeologists turn to drones to help protect and explore ancient ruinsEye in the Sky: Drones Help Conserve Sumatran Orangutans and Other WildlifeDrone could become mosquito weapon in Florida KeysDrones handle all kinds of work in Arctic -- and there's lots more to doDrones proving useful in polar regions to study the melting of the ice WWF plans to use drones to protect wildlifePETA eyes drones to watch hunters, farmers

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police Drone

    Law enforcement and safety

    The UN recently started using drones to monitor the situation in the north of The Democratic Republic of Congo. The United States already uses drones in border enforcement. And, Marseilles, France is considering using drones to patrol crime-torn neighborhoods.

    In both nations using drones for law enforcement has raised issues of privacy and civil liberties. But drones are also used by authorities for safety -- locating victims of car crashes and natural disasters and giving valuable information on forest fires.

    Drones proposed to tackle Marseille crimeUnited Nations starts using drones for peacekeepingNASA's Western State Fire MissionDHS built domestic surveillance tech into Predator dronesSeattle residents remain skeptical about police drones

    U.S. drone development continues to expand

    U.S. Air Force drone crew

    As our piece on the challenges of regulating the growth of drones shows, the industry is ready to take off.

    Congress ordered the FAA to let more drones start flying by September of 2015 and before that, states and federal governments will have to deal with the issue of the safety of the already-crowded skies.

    Currently, you cannot fly a UAS over a regulated height without a tether. A tethered drone can't pass the FAA's flight test, and can't be marketed. The Air Line Pilot's Association wants UAS pilots doesn't want thousands of drones in the air until safety issues have been solved.

    There's also been questions raised about privacy concerns.

    The recent battle in a Colorado town over licenses to shoot down drones is just one manifestation of public concern. At FAA approved test sites, drones will be able to fly without the tether.

    You can keep track of US drone development by following the links below:

    New America Foundation's Drone CensusFederal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Road Map

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    JOHN LARSON: And now, back to school safety. In the year since the Newtown massacre, the national focus has been on gun laws and mental health programs. But largely out of sight, thousands of schools have implemented changes they hope will keep their students safe. For more about this, we are joined now from Phoenix by Kevin Quinn. He’s the president of the National Association of School Resource Officers, a non-profit whose mission it is to make schools safe. Mr. Quinn, thank you very much for joining us. Resource officers are, I’m sure, more than just a policeman with a gun standing at the front door. What, exactly, are they?

    KEVIN QUINN: Oh, absolutely. You know, school resource officers are properly trained, uh, police officers from the local jurisdiction that are assigned to a school on a full-time basis. Again, like you said, they’re more than just, let’s just put an officer with a gun standing at the front door, waiting for something bad to happen. These officers are completely integrated into the school and into the school system as part of the faculty, as part of the administration team.

    JOHN LARSON: Were there resource officers in Newtown?

    KEVIN QUINN: Yeah, there are. They had an officer assigned to the junior high school and one school resource officer assigned to the high school.

    JOHN LARSON: But not at the elementary school.

    KEVIN QUINN: No, sir.

    JOHN LARSON: Putting officers in a lot of these schools, obviously very, very expensive. To what extent have the tightening of budgets, especially at the state level, uh, impeded some of these changes?

    KEVIN QUINN: Yeah, I’m sure right now, with Sandy Hook only being one year ago, some of the budgets haven’t quite caught up to the needs and the necessities of school safety. Um, I do know that the federal government just released a grant for about 300—little over 300 new school resource officers around the country. That grant was just awarded back in October. So, we’re going to start seeing an increase in the number of school resource officers right now.

    JOHN LARSON: Any evidence so far that they’ve been able to interrupt a school shooter coming in?

    KEVIN QUINN: You know, there hasn’t really been a lot of school shootings that have occurred on campuses where there is a school resource officer per se. You know, if you think about it, you’ve got a police car sitting in—sitting out in front of the school and you’ve got a police officer on the campus. You know, any kind of outside intruder, they may not pick that school to go on—to go on campus and carry out the attack.

    JOHN LARSON: In the year since Newtown, what type of changes have schools been making?

    KEVIN QUINN: In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of schools starting to take a step back and—and look at their crisis plans, look at their emergency plans, um, look at school—the physical school security, as well, putting into effect the—the planning, the drills, the practices, and things like that.

    JOHN LARSON: In addition to the drills and the planning we’re hearing about some new technologies that are being involved. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

    KEVIN QUINN: Yeah, there’s a lot of technology out there now. Everything from automatic locking doors to films that we’ve heard about that—you put a film over windows that enables the glass not to break as easily to bullet-proof backpacks and armored bunkers that you install inside of school buildings.

    JOHN LARSON: Now, II’ve read about the bunkers and the bullet-proof backpacks. Are these actually being put into play?

    KEVIN QUINN: You know, I haven’t heard of any schools that have actually gone through with it yet. I’ve seen a lot of the marketing out there and I don’t know as far as the cost is concerned if that’s gonna be an obstacle in doing this.

    JOHN LARSON: Kevin Quinn joining us tonight from Phoenix. Thanks very much.

    KEVIN QUINN: Thank you, sir.


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    RICK KARR:  The future of aviation could be an aircraft light enough to be carried by a grad student, rugged enough to take off from a grassy field, and flexible enough to do just about anything in the air. Not firing missiles -- this one’s designed to chase storms in Tornado Alley. But it could just as easily search for someone who’s missing  ... relay communications in an emergency ... monitor a pipeline for leaks ... maybe even deliver packages.

    BRIAN ARGROW: You want to do this mission?  Put in this set of sensors. You want to do this next mission?  Put in another set of sensors and communications capabilities and so forth.

    RICK KARR:  Put the right equipment on board, and drones could be useful to lots of different industries and government sectors -- so useful that sales of the pilotless aircraft might just ... take off. Within a couple hours’ drive of this field near Boulder, Colorado startups -- and established aviation companies -- are gearing up to meet that expected demand. The manufacturers are part of a statewide effort to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to put of the six drone testing sites it’s about to announce in Colorado. If the state has an edge over the twenty-three others in the running, it may be this man. Brian Argrow is a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. He’s been studying drones for nearly twenty years ... and he taught some of the engineers who develop new drone technology here.

    BRIAN ARGROW: The idea that you're going to sit at a console with a joy stick in your hand, with a video feed coming from cameras on the aircraft and you're going to be flying' that around in the air.  No. That's technology from the '80s and '90s. It's a new century.  And autonomy. That will be the-- that will be the future.

    RICK KARR: So, essent-- essentially what we're talking' about is a flying robot, then, in a sense.

    BRIAN ARGROW: It's already a flying robot.

    RICK KARR:  People who build these flying robots ... would prefer that the public -- and reporters -- not call them drones. One of the terms they prefer is “U-A-S” -- for Unmanned Aircraft Systems -- and the “unmanned” part ... is another big selling point.

    BRIAN ARGROW: A U.A.S. can-- doesn't care that-- if a pilot's tired or whatever.  It'll sit there until it-- you either tell it to come home or it runs, you know, low on fuel or whatever.

    RICK KARR: A UAS also doesn’t earn a pilot’s salary. And most use less fuel than manned aircraft. Bottom line, they’re cheaper to fly -- so much cheaper that businesses that today can only dream about using manned aircraft ... could end up flying their very own drones. For example, architects and real estate developers might want their own so they could have them fly over buildings and scan them so that they could create 3-D models of the buildings ... and the surrounding neighborhood. Argrow thinks U.A.S’s “killer app” will be in agriculture. The founder of a startup in a Denver suburb is betting on that. 

    ALLEN BISHOP:  I think it’s going to be just a windfall of opportunity

    RICK KARR:  Allen Bishop’s firm Reference Technologies builds drones that take off, hover, and land like helicopters. He thinks they’ll be as common on farms as tractors and pickup trucks.

    ALLEN BISHOP:  Corn, wheat, there’s all types of diseases that infect those plants. Historically they would call up the local sprayer and he’ll spray the entire field. With this technology - you send this unit out and it can determine the segment of the field that’s infested and that’s the only part that needs to be sprayed.

    RICK KARR:  That would save money for farmers ... and could mean less residue from chemicals that treat agricultural diseases in the food on your dinner table. Some of Bishop’s drones look like the four-rotor ‘copters you might see hobbyists piloting by remote. But these are flying robots that pilot themselves.

    ALLEN BISHOP:  Our big unit. can take off from this parking lot, and land on the pitcher’s mound at Coors Field. With hands off.

    RICK KARR:  Wow. Wow. You just program -- you just program the GPS?

    ALLEN BISHOP:  You use the GPS maps and you go click, click, click -- the waypoints. You look for any obstructions along the way. And about 30 minutes later, it’s on the pitcher’s mound at Coors field.

    RICK KARR:  Hopefully not during a ...

    ALLEN BISHOP:  We wouldn’t do it during a game.

    RICK KARR:  That model can stay in the air for five hours with twenty pounds of equipment on board. Right now, there are over hundred drones flying in the U.S. Five years from now, the Federal Aviation Administration projects there’ll be about seventy-five-hundred. By 2025, an industry group expects tens of thousands. Bishop is even more optimistic.

    KARR to BISHOP: How many drones do you think will be commercially in the air in the US in 10 years?

    ALLEN BISHOP:  In 10 years, hundred thousand plus. a hundred thousand - easily.

    RICK KARR:  But right now, FAA rules make it next to impossible for farmers, corporations -- pretty much any part of the private sector -- to get the permits that are necessary to FLY them. Even Bishop doesn’t have a permit, so he doesn’t fly his drones -- to a baseball stadium or anyplace else -- unless they’re tethered to the ground with fishing line. If the FAA were to make it easier for the private sector to buy and fly UASs, a trade group estimates that Colorado’s drone industry would do twenty million dollars worth of business in first year alone, then grow exponentially. But efforts to boost the industry have been flying into a stiff headwind.

    With thousands of these birds in the air in a few years there are some concerns: first, that these might run into conflicts with existing manned aircraft. Secondly, a lot of these birds in the air ... are also eyes in the sky.

    RICK KARR to MAES: When you first learned that Colorado was pushing to become a testing site for drones.

    DENISE MAES: Sure—

    RICK KARR: What was your first reaction?

    DENISE MAES: Well, in some ways it was, whoa, wait a minute, right.  We-- don't have, in my mind, what the privacy rules should be in place before we talk about any sort of escalation, the-- including the-- drones up in the air.  We haven't laid the appropriate groundwork for them.

    Denise Maes is with the ACLU of Colorado. She says firefighters and law enforcement have legitimate reasons to use drones -- like search and rescue operations. But she worries those same eyes in the skies will end up being used for what she thinks are less-than-legitimate purposes.

    RICK KARR:  If you have a drone that's being launched for the purpose of finding a hot spot in a fire, and en route it gathers private information about private citizens on their private property and retains that data, and then later wants to use it in a criminal proceeding or-- that's the problem. 

    RICK KARR to MAES: So it sounds like, really, this is one of those slippery-slope arguments, in a way.  Once you put drones in the hands of law enforcement, they're just going to kind of keep expanding the way that they use them.

    DENISE MAES: That's certainly what-- we fear.  And I think-- the rush to-- get the permits, get the technology going, launch them, and we'll fix them as they come up is not-- is not good policy-making.

    RICK KARR:  The Air Line Pilots Association also wants drones to remain grounded while regulators develop rules for them. The union wants Federal Aviation Administration to make sure UASs don’t compromise the safety of nearly a quarter million manned aircraft in the country.

    SEAN CASSIDY:  I think the way that they’re going to do this effectively is to do it very methodically, not to suddenly, completely, clobber the integrated airspace with an abundance of UAVs

    RICK KARR:  Sean Cassidy is a union vice president and a former Navy pilot who captains passenger jets. His union wants every unmanned aircraft to have a human being at a set of remote controls every time one takes to the skies, even if it’s capable of flying itself.

    SEAN CASSIDY: Somebody physically onboard the airplane or physically on the ground flying that airplane has to have an understanding of the performance characteristics of that vessel, they have to understand what the consequences are if they misuse it. You can’t just walk off the street just like some kid flying a game machine.

    RICK KARR:  Cassidy says the good news is that the FAA’s plan for bringing drones into the nation’s airspace proposes some kind of pilot certification.  It also requires high-tech safety systems for drones that can sense -- and avoid -- collisions ... keep the radio link with the control station secure from malicious hackers or terrorists ... and more. But the bad news, he says, is that Congress ordered the FAA to let more drones start flying by September of 2015, and he thinks that may be too soon.

    RICK KARR:  What’s a reasonable timeline for this?

    SEAN CASSIDY: I think the reasonable timeline is the one that’s the safe timeline, I don’t think the technical and safety work that’s required is going to be accomplished by then

    RICK KARR:  Colorado drone entrepreneur Allen Bishop says he’s sympathetic to the professional pilots’ concerns because he’s a private pilot. But he’s not sympathetic to fears that drones will invade the public’s privacy, because there are already devices that can do that -- the public just doesn’t think about them.

    ALLEN BISHOP:  We're not going to make apple take the camera out of their iPhones - not going to happen. We have initial negative things about things we don't understand or things we can't control and drones or UAS clearly fall into that category. They're high tech devices. They have extraordinary capability - they fly.

    RICK KARR:  More than anything, Allen Bishop just wants to be allowed to let his drones off of their leashes ... so they prove to everyone that they’re as useful as he thinks they’ll turn out to be. Aerospace engineering professor Brian Argrow can already do that -- the FAA rules that keep Bishop’s UASs on leashes don’t apply to researchers at state universities, so Argrow’s team has been flying them for years. He understands the frustration with the slow process of getting them off the ground. But drones present complex problems, so he’s not sure he’d advise regulators at the FAA to move any faster.

    BRIAN ARGROW:  What's the alternative?  You know, everybody-- a free for all where everybody goes out and flies these things and you start bringing' down manned aircraft

    RICK KARR:   Argrow sees drones being a big part of future of aviation, maybe even as big as Allen Bishop and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos are predicting. He just thinks it’ll take a little longer before they’re cleared for takeoff.


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  • 12/14/13--12:49: #COLORADO
  • DENVER (AP) - Colorado school shooter had gun, machete, three incendiary devices in backpack, ammo strapped to body.

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