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August 18, 2006
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NOW Transcript - Show 233
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Transcript - August 18, 2006

*Please note that this is a rushed transcript. The corrected version will appear as soon as possible.


There's a major development in a story we've been following closely this year - the NSA warrantless wiretapping. President bush has said he personally authorized the program in his capacity as commander in chief.

But yesterday, a federal judge in Detroit ruled the program violates the constitution.

The case began with a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a group of scholars, authors and journalists who have been researching or reporting on various aspects if the war on terror. One of those journalists is Tara McKelvey, a senior editor of American Prospect Magazine.

BRANCACCIO: Tara, thanks for doing this.

MCKELVEY: Thanks for inviting me.

BRANCACCIO: So, the judge's ruling that this program is unconstitutional is being called by the Bush administration a "terrorist surveillance program." Now, you're a mild mannered American reporter. How could—that program possibly affect you?

MCKELVEY: Why would I be included in this? I'm writing a book about Abu Ghraib and the people who were held there, and what happened to them. So, I'm interviewing some of the former detainees, and these people have been arrested by American forces and at one point were suspects in—supporting the insurgency.

BRANCACCIO: And, when you're doing these interviews—what, you're calling from the United States sometimes?

MCKELVEY: I go to the Middle East as often as I can and meet with the people there, but afterwards I do talk to them on the phone.

BRANCACCIO: And, so it's your concern that maybe that government is listening in?

MCKELVEY: There's no way of knowing whether the government's listening in. I mean, I can't exactly call up the NSA (PH) ask them.

BRANCACCIO: Have you heard like clicks on the line? Have federal agents visited you at night?

MCKELVEY: Yeah. I mean // I'm completely unparanoid, so I never would have thought that anybody would be spying on me or doing anything like that. But, the program the way it's set up, is it's perfectly plausible that they'd be listening in the conversation that I'd be having. So, it's a little disconcerting.

BRANCACCIO: Well, give me an example—who are you talking who when they hear that the government monitors phone calls that originate in the United States to maybe a place like the Middle East, how might that change their behavior?

MCKELVEY: Well, the people I'm talking to already are very suspicious of Americans. I mean, they've been held prisoner—some of them for good reason—some of them for—for no reason at all. There's one woman in particular named "Victoria," who I interviewed. She had been held at a US detention facility in Iraq. And, it was very difficult for her to trust me or to talk to me, and she described the way soldiers used dogs on her, and how close the dogs got, and how they barked and—and—and terrified her. And, in the conversation she was crying on the phone and so on.

And, I kept telling her that she could trust me and I wouldn't reveal her secrets. Nobody would know anything that she didn't want to be told later on. And, afterwards when I thought back on that conversation and how she had given me her home address and directions to her house, and really exposed herself, I felt like that—I had somehow betrayed her by telling her that I was giving her complete—you know, secrecy.

BRANCACCIO: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he's obviously very disappointed in the Federal Court's decision, even though the wire tapping program is expected to continue pending the federal government's planned appeal. But, the administration says they need this tool to if they're on—in hot pursuit of a potential terrorist, they need the ability to listen in on these phone conversations.

MCKELVEY: Yeah. And, I want the government to have every tool available. I want them to stop terrorists. I wanna keep our country safe. On September 11th I was in Washington, and I watched the Pentagon burn, and I ran to get my three children. I never wanna go through that again.

If there are ways for us to stop another terrorist attack, I'm all for it. And, there are rules in place for them to wire tap and for them to eavesdrop.

And, they can—eavesdrop on somebody immediately if they want to. They have 72 hours before they need to get a warrant. But, that's why we have laws. It's not something that you can just decide on a whim and change things around. And, if the administration doesn't feel like the laws that are now in place are sufficient, well, they can go to Congress and say, "We need to change them." But, none of that happened.

BRANCACCIO: Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert (PH) is quoted as saying that this wire tapping program may have helped expose those alleged terrorists in that London bombing plot the other day. So far no corroboration of that, but there's that declaration. The work you do, for instance, working on this project to better understand the abuses of Abu Ghraib, you think that's more important than stopping a plot like the airplane plot?

MCKELVEY: Well, I think first of all, writing a book about Abu Ghraib is important for us as Americans. We need to understand what happened to—in that prison. I mean, it's created a huge international scandal and we're still dealing with the fallout and we'll probably be dealing with it for generations.

But, it doesn't have anything to do with the eavesdropping program. // And, another thing I wonder is if they're inner—if they're—if they're listening in on these conversations the way that Scotland Yard was or the way apparently some Americans were helping out, is in the States, like they have so few people who even speak Arabic, you know, who are in these counter terrorism programs.

Like, do they even understand the conversations they're listening to? I mean, it seems like they might make it more efficient to invest in Arabic linguist rather than try to wire tap people.

BRANCACCIO: It's interesting, though. I hear when I run around the country reporting for this program, I talk to people to about some of the stuff and many Americans tell me, "Look. They have nothing to (NOISE) hide." They live law abiding lives. They don't really care the Americans might pick piece of one of their conversations, if they were to call their daughter who's on some program abroad type of trip. They got nothing to hide, so what's the problem here?

MCKELVEY: Yeah. And, I agree. I mean, like if you really wanna listen to my calls, go ahead. It's like not that fascinating. In fact, like most the conversations I'm not even that interested in, so you can listen all you want. But, the problem is back to this woman like Victoria, you know, I've made promises to her that I really wasn't in a position (NOISE) to make telling her nobody would ever hear what she had told me. And, it wasn't true. It may not have been true. And, that has had an effect on what I do.

BRANCACCIO: Well, Tara, thank you very much.

MCKELVEY: Thank you.

BRANCACCIO: Welcome to NOW and here's something to soothe your tired eyes—Yellowstone National Park.

We are here at a time when some members of congress are talking about re-writing the endangered species act to make it more friendly to business and land-owners. Here at the park one of the act's signal successes was the re-introduction of endangered grey wolves. But, now those wolves are doing so well they are moving out of the park and into neighboring valleys.... Where they seek the open space provided by cattle ranches. Now, wolves and cattle don't mix well.

What got our attention was how cattle ranches and environmentalists are working together on this. William Campbell produced our report.

BRANCACCIO: Bringing the endangered gray wolf back to Yellowstone National Park was a bold and controversial experiment. Returning the stealthy predator to a region where they had been completely exterminated seventy five years ago has helped restore the natural balance of the world's first national park.

But some wolves now roam outside the park's boundary.... And that's a problem for the ranchers whose lands lie at the park's perimeter.

RANCHER: I don't understand how these animal, wolves and mountain lions, have more rights than people.

BRANCACCIO: As you can see, giving the wolves a second chance doesn't sit well with a lot of people 'round here. The reason the wolves were killed off to begin with was to help early ranchers settle the west.

Doug smith has been hearing a lot about that. He's (with the park service) and the leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.

SMITH: The idea of bringing wolves back, to many people, was an insult.

BRANCACCIO: So, lots of pushback on this notion of, "what should we do about, perhaps, reintroducing them?"

SMITH: A lot of pushback. And I don't think this is an overstatement. Given the mythology of wolves; the stories of wolves; the culture of animosity that goes back, not hundreds, but thousands of years, I would say that wolves are one of the most controversial wildlife species in the world.

BRANCACCIO: Cuz that's one of the challenges here. Is that the wolves can't read the sign, as to where the park boundary is. And so, they go out of the park boundary. And increasingly, they're mixing with ranches, and—and other populations, who do not want them around.

SMITH: That's true. And the reintroduction was designed to be boundary-less. We did not expect the wolves to pay attention to the boundary. And we told everybody that.

BRANCACCIO: The 66 original wolves have multiplied to about a thousand, and just as the wolves are moving out of Yellowstone, more people are moving into the region. They're building houses, businesses, on former ranchlands. Suddenly, the ranchers, the wolves and environmentalists all have something in common—a need for open space.

This is quite a development. An animal the ranchers never wanted, forced on them by the endangered species act, is helping create a coalition that might help both the ranchers and the wolves survive.

Wolf project leader Doug Smith is busy each winter studying and tracking the growing population of wolves in Yellowstone Park. Armed with a tranquilizer gun and darts, he hunts from the air.

SMITH: Ok there are three up ahead see them in the open

SMITH: It's a hit. It's a hit. It's a hit.

BRANCACCIO: Smith fits a few wolves in each pack with radio and satellite collars to track these beasts when they leave Yellowstone. The trick is to keep the sedation light.

BRANCACCIO: This spring alone, dozens of wolf pups were born in Yellowstone. The numbers are high enough that federal officials have proposed removing the Yellowstone wolf population from the endangered species list.

But for the wolf reintroduction to be truly successful, biologists say these fast moving animals need to expand hundreds of square miles throughout the entire northern Rockies. That translates into wolves roaming over a lot of ranches.

..and ranchers like Martin Davis really don't want the wolves back on their land.

There are some people who look at these pictures who say, "oh, look how cute, look how fuzzy, the wolf." What do you think when you think of these wolves around here?

DAVIS: Wolves and livestock don't mix. That's the reason they were eradicated back when. I look at them as a predator instead of something cute and fuzzy.

BRANCACCIO: A fourth generation rancher, Davis and his family have run a spread in Montana's Paradise Valley, just north of Yellowstone. It's tough work and profits are hard to come by. The wolves don't help.

They've attacked one of Davis's heifers and killed a calf. Other ranchers in the valley have also had losses. Although wolves account for only a fraction of the cattle that don't make it each year, wolves mean ranchers must spend extra time and money checking on their herds, sometimes in the middle of the night.

DAVIS: We—we had some college kids that came by to—to ask questions about wolves and—and ranching. And—one of the questions I asked them was that if—any of them owned—any kind of a store. And the one girl says, "Yeah, my dad owns a hardware store." It was back on the east coast somewhere. "Well, it would be just like your dad having to leave the backdoor open at night and saying, 'I hope the thieves don't steal too much tonight.'"

BRANCACCIO: Since the wolves were reintroduced, more than sixty have either been captured and relocated or simply shot for killing livestock in southwest, Montana.

MALCOLM: They killed one right out here. About 4 or 5 hundred yards over there. In the fall one year. They killed a replacement heifer calf there.

BRANCACCIO: So you lose an animal and it comes right off the top?

MALCOLM: Off the top. Off you net profit.

BRANCACCIO: Rancher Bruce Malcolm has lived and ranched in paradise valley all his life. He was on the Montana governors' task force that helped draw up a new wolf management plan that will eventually remove special protections for wolves and treat them like any other wild animal.

MALCOLM: Well, first of all, we had a predator that we did not want. We—we did everything we could to—to stop them from introducing the predators. We—we said if they wanna have it in the Yellowstone Park, that's fine. But, we don't want it in Montana. But, the powers to be and so forth—you know the story today. They're here. So, the—so, now, we're gonna try to live with them. And we've tried to adapt and tried to make management plans to—to survive.

BRANCACCIO: Under the new rules, ranchers have more options to manage wolves. They can now shoot to kill, but only when wolves are trying to attack their livestock.

BRANCACCIO: Don't you ever just want to shoot them Martin!

DAVIS: I know that—other people say, "well, if I would have seen them, I'd of shot them." but—that's not the—that's not the answer either I don't think. And especially when they're—when they are an endangered species.

BRANCACCIO: That may not be what you were expecting to hear from a rancher... so what's going on here? It turns out that in recent years, a threat to the ranchers' survival has appeared that in many ways is more frightening to ranchers than the wolf: real estate developers. Many baby-boomers want to move to the wide open spaces of Montana. The resulting pressure for development has ranchers and wolf friendly environmental groups talking about ways to preserve open spaces... for both themselves, and the wolves.

Consider the Madison valley 50 miles west of the Malcolm ranch. The valley is famous for its large cattle ranches, migrating elk herds, and blue ribbon trout fishing. Like other parts in the west, this valley is feeling both the bounty and the pressure of new sub divisions and summer homes.

Devona and Lynn Owens ranch on the northern end of Madison valley. Ten years ago they concluded that encroaching development was going to be a real threat to their ranch and way of life. He helped organize a group of ranchers to look at this.

OWENS: It starts in the corner right there in back of the cows and runs north for a mile and then it goes west and it goes west about three, four, five miles.

Subdivision right over there by where that small stack is and the machinery. That was a hay field and two years ago that got sold and they're subdividing that.

The ranchlands group come along and we've got enough clout now and reputation now that we are actually able to work with a lot of the environmental groups.

BRANCACCIO: Now it's my understanding that—there was a time when in—the environmental community didn't have much use for people in your line of work. Do you think that's changing?

DAVIS: Yes, it—it really has. Like about ten years ago—we were considered by a—a lot of the environmental—society that we were—we were the bad guy. We wanted to get rid of all predators and—all of this. And—now they've kind of switched around. 'Cause what they're saying, well, when the rancher is there, so is open space. When the rancher is forced to leave, that's when the subdivisions and the condos and that kind of stuff shows up. So I'm starting to hear, "well now I like wolves, but I like ranchers too. Now how can we keep both together?"

HOLDEN: If you look at this entire landscape here it is owned by ranchers, it's all private land. Ranchers really protect open space for wildlife. They are very valuable assets because we can't purchase all that property for wildlife and they are doing the stewardship for us.

BRANCACCIO: Janelle Holden is the executive director of the predator conservation alliance based in Bozeman. She is one of a growing number of conservationists reaching out to ranchers.

HOOLDEN: I think the environmental community is realizing that we have a lot of values in common with ranchers, that they are not our enemy, that we can help them if we work with them and we can reach common goals like protecting both livestock and wolves.

TRAPP: And what you do to find a wolf.....

BRANCACCIO: state biologist Jon Trapp is teaching Jim and Marla Gardenhire how to track collard wolves, and how to fire non lethal cartridges to scare them away.

The Gardenhires are retired ranchers who spend their summer working as old fashion range riders with Montana state wildlife managers to keep wolves from messing with livestock on public and private land.

TRAPP: If you come over the hill and the wolves are chasing the livestock and you get to that range then smack them. That is the ultimate because as soon as they get hit by that they realized that doing that was bad.

BRANCACCIO: Another retired couple, Marylyn and Jim powers are back for their second summer riding in the Madison valley as part of a joint project between the predator conservation alliance and the Madison valley ranchlands group.

BRANCACCIO: The ranchlands group now has 380 members lane Adamson is the full time director.

Give me a sense of why this ranchland's group, was formed.

ADAMSON: Well, in the ranching industry over the last 20 years, there's been a lot of economic challenge. The ranchers in this valley saw that other ranchers were selling out and their places were being subdivided. And then, they'd leave.

And, some of the ranchers just wanted to stay in ranching. And, thought, "we need to figure out how to do that."

And, we discovered a real earth shaking truth that we didn't realize. There's other people that love this place as much as we do. And, they're as willing to invest time, energy, and resources into addressing those issues.

BRANCACCIO: The ranchland group has set a place at the table for new comers that can afford large tracts of land that will be open for cattle and hunting. New comers like a pair of wealthy people named roger and Cindy Lang.

GRAHAM: Roger and Cindy Lang are conservation buyers who purchase this place to—to make it better. They love wildlife and they love wild places and—they instructed me to deliver that.

BRANCACCIO: Todd Graham manages the Sun Ranch for the Langs. The ranch is enormous: 18 thousand acres. The ranch used to belong to a Hollywood movie star. Now Graham is managing the Lang's grazing operation for 1600 cattle. There's also an upscale eco-tourist lodge for trout fishing and horseback riding. It created 20 new jobs. They are pulling out most of the fences and replacing them with movable wire to allow the valley's elk herd to migrate to the mountains. With the elk come the grizzly bears and a new wolf pack that moved in from Yellowstone park.

GRAHAM: Wolves are said to be right here in the mouth of Bad Luck Crick Canyon. And then we put 250 cow calf pairs somewhere here. Right close to them.

BRANCACCIO: That's not very far.

GRAHAM: That's not very far.

BRANCACCIO: But, here you have a boss who's suggesting you gotta figure out a way to live with these—these predators.

GRAHAM: That's right, that's right. This stuff with predators? How do you run livestock in the middle of a pack of wolves? I had never even seen a wolf when I moved here from Wyoming. Never, had—had no idea what they were about.

BRANCACCIO: Luckily, Vicki Backus does. She's got a pretty cool job: predator deterrent specialist for the Sun Ranch. She's a motorized version of the range riders. All summer Backus sleeps between the wolves and the cows. Fact is, most wolves can't stand people.

BRANCACCIO: Sometimes the wolves still manage to attack the sun ranch cows. Lethal action was taken ... against individual wolves, not the entire pack.

GRAHAM: Despite all our efforts at trying to haze them we have three dead heifers, one wounded heifer and through a state issued permit we have killed two wolves in hopes that we can keep our cattle alive and live with this pack of wolves through the longer term.

BRANCACCIO: Before the Lang's bought the sun ranch it was surveyed for three sub-divisions. Now most of the ranch will be put in what's called a conservation easement which legally prevents it from ever getting developed. That's a lot of open space for the wildlife of Madison Valley.

GRAHAM: People moving in from - from who knows where see nirvana when they get here and the people who have been living here for 30 years see things going to hell in a hand basket. And so we've got to balance that.

BRANCACCIO: Ever since the first cattle grazed the prairies, wolves and ranchers have been mortal enemies. But, in the reality of the new west, the old foes may both be considered endangered species.

And while there is not quite peace in this Montana Valley, the wolf does have ranchers and wildlife advocates talking and working together.

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