Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOW Home Page
Home
Politics & Economy
Science & Health
Arts & Culture
Society & Community
Discussion
TV Schedule
Newsletter
For Educators
Archive
Topic Index
Search:
Gun barrel
11.15.02
Archive:
NOW Transcript
More on These Stories:




Transcript

ANNOUNCER: You're watching NOW with Bill Moyers. With contributions from NPR news. This week on NOW...

Terrorists buying guns in America, and it's all legal.

GERALD NUNZIATO: We sell anything in this country.

It's very easy to obtain weapons here from gun shows, pawn shops, through newspaper ads.

ANNOUNCER: Why is the justice department refusing to crackdown?

ANNOUNCER: And…he sued to open up the Clinton Administration. Now the founder of Judicial Watch is going after the Republicans.

KLAYMAN: When people pay money for favors, that distorts our democracy and destroys it. It's like a cancer.

ANNOUNCER: Larry Klayman on his controversial fight against government secrecy and corruption. A Bill Moyers interview.

ANNOUNCER: And Colombia, torn apart by a civil war and a drug war. The U.S. role intensifies.

Acclaimed writer Laura Restrepo on the fierce love of life in her violent homeland.

All that tonight, on NOW.

ANNOUNCER: From our studios in New York, Bill Moyers.



MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.

President Bush will soon put his signature on the Homeland Security bill.

And that will set into motion new government efforts that will eventually ask all of us to sacrifice in the fight against terrorism.

How big a sacrifice?

Conservative columnist William Safire painted a startling picture this week in the NEW YORK TIMES. He warns that the bill could mean the creation of a vast government database, with total information on every U.S. citizen.

That's every credit card purchase, every medical prescription, every bank deposit, every web click, and more.

But a double standard has emerged here.

Congress and the White House refuse even to consider curtailing the privacy of gun owners, or to close the loopholes in our gun laws that terrorists exploit to arm themselves.

Take a look at this special report. It's a co-production with KQED, our public television station in San Francisco, and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

NPR's Deborah Amos is the correspondent, Oriana Zill de Granados, the producer.

DEBORAH AMOS: Just after September 11th, disturbing documents were found on the floor of this safe house in Afghanistan.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT TESTIFYING BEFORE CONGRESS, 12/6/01: This is a seized Al Qaeda Training Manual.

DEBORAH AMOS: Attorney General John Ashcroft showed a similar manual in testimony to Congress.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT TESTIFYING BEFORE CONGRESS, 12/6/01: In this manual, Al Qaeda terrorists are now told how to use America's freedom as a weapon against us.

DEBORAH AMOS: But what Ashcroft did not point out: these manuals show Osama bin Laden's foot soldiers how easy it is to buy assault weapons in American gun stores and gun shows.

Al Qaeda and other terrorists organizations have exploited numerous loopholes in American gun laws - loopholes that exist because of consistent lobbying by the powerful National Rifle Association to stop any restrictions on gun purchases. Since September 11th, critics say, the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has chosen to side with the NRA at the expense of the war on terrorism.

Here in the rural Virginia town of Red House, one home grown militant group, five years on one of the State Department's terrorism watch lists, got around American gun laws in order to arm themselves.

They are Americans, many ex-convicts who call themselves Muslims of America, their leader is a Muslim cleric in Pakistan - their self-proclaimed goal - to purify Islam through violence.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the ATF, began monitoring this community four years ago. They asked a local gun store owner for help.

JOHN MASSERINI, OUTPOST GUN STORE OWNER: ATF approached me and showed me some pictures and asked if any of these individuals had been in the store. I said yes.

DEBORAH AMOS: The ATF suspected that members of the group were buying weapons illegally from Masserini's shop. He agreed to install a hidden camera.

With Masserini's help, the ATF had enough evidence to launch a full scale investigation. The group - Muslims of America -- were under surveillance because investigators believed they were one and the same as a militant Islamic group called Jammat Al Fuqra.

SUSAN FENGER, FORMER COLORADO GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATOR: The Fuqra is suspected of at least 17 fire-bombings and 13 homicides in this country alone.

DEBORAH AMOS: Susan Fenger led an investigation of the group in Colorado after weapons and dangerous explosives were found there in a storage locker in 1989.

Fenger gave us this recruitment video seized as evidence, featuring the group's leader, Sheikh Mubarik Jilani.

SHEIKH MUBARIK JILANI SPEAKING ON TAPE: We have already established under the auspices of Muslims of America, Incorporated … the organization is called Soldiers of Allah.

DEBORAH AMOS: Fenger says there are numerous links between Al Fuqra and al Qaeda. The shoe bomber, Richard Reid was trained at the Al Fuqra compound in Pakistan. In the United States, members of Al Fuqra have been convicted in firebombings, murders, fraud and gun smuggling. And they have set up paramilitary training camps at many of their compounds scattered around the United States.

SHEIKH MUBARIK JILANI SPEAKING ON TAPE: You are most welcome to join one of our, you know, advanced training courses in Islamic Military Warfare.

For which, you can get in touch with anybody in the Muslims of America in the United States, Canada, or anywhere, or in Pakistan.

SUSAN FENGER: Wherever you find Al Fuqra, you find weapons. And we're not talking hunting weapons. We're talking assault weapons, as well as explosives.

DEBORAH AMOS: Back in Virginia, Masserini's hidden camera taped members of Muslims of America dodging American gun laws.

This man Bilal Ben Benu is shopping for an SKS assault rifle, a 9 mm pistol, and AK-47 ammunition. Ben Benu is a convicted drug felon which should have prevented him from buying a gun. But he got around the law.

When he filled out the required federal background check form - he lied so the background check came up clean.

Vincente Pierre, another member of the group, is also a felon. He did something different to get around the gun laws. Because he would have failed the criminal background check, he had his wife buy a 9 mm hand gun for him. This is known as a straw purchase - one person spots the weapon, another buys it.

JOHN MASSERINI, OUTPOST GUN STORE, OWNER: If an individual walks in and sees something that he wants and he walks out and then somebody else comes in two days later and purchases it, I don't know it. And there's nothing I can do.

DEBORAH AMOS: On September 20, 2001, Ben Benu, Vincente Pierre and his wife were arrested for illegally buying guns. The arrests were part of the post September 11th sweep of terrorism suspects.

GERALD NUNZIATO, RETIRED ATF AGENT: We have a major problem in this country with terrorism and firearms. Terrorists could come to this country and obtain firearms so easy ... We sell anything in this country. Its very easy to obtain weapons here from guns shows, pawn shops, straw purchases, relatives, through newspaper ads.

DEBORAH AMOS: After 9-11, Attorney General Ashcroft ordered law enforcement officials to fight terrorism by any means necessary.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT, TESTIFYING BEFORE CONGRESS, 9/24/01: It's our position at the Justice Department and the position of this administration that we need to unleash every possible tool in the fight against terrorism and to do so promptly.

DEBORAH AMOS: Ashcroft ordered that all government lists - including voter registration, immigration and driver's license lists - be checked for links to terrorists. But there was one list Ashcroft did not want used - the gun purchasers background check.

Every person who buys a gun from a dealer must pass an instant criminal background check. It's called the National Instant Criminal Background check system or NICS. The records of those checks are kept by the FBI. After September 11th, the ATF wanted to review those records to see if any suspected terrorists had bought guns.

MATHEW NOSANCHUK, FORMER JUSTICE DEPT. AND VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER: They wanted to know whether any of them had slipped through the system. The Department of Justice stepped in and stopped the FBI in their tracks. The Department of Justice said no, you can't do that. You can't use the records of approved gun purchasers in connection with a criminal investigation.

DEBORAH AMOS: Attorney General John Ashcroft told the FBI to stop checking the NICS list.

That mirrors the position of the National Rifle Association, which insists that the data collected when people buy guns is an invasion of privacy.

REP. BOB BARR (R-GA): Should police have unfettered access to check the records of everybody who lawfully purchases a fire arm, absolutely not… that is a private transaction and I think they're entitled to not have the government know that they have purchased, lawfully purchased and maintain a firearm.

DEBORAH AMOS: Ashcroft agrees. The result - while he asked Congress to change other laws as part of the war on terrorism, the gun laws were untouchable.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY, (D-MA): Potential terrorists can walk into a gun show, walk out with a gun, no questions asked. Why is the department handcuffing the FBI in its efforts to investigate gun purchases by suspected terrorists?

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT, TESTIFYING BEFORE CONGRESS, 12/06/01: The only permissible use for the National Instant Check System is to audit the maintenance of that system. And the Department of Justice is committed to following the law in that respect.

DEBORAH AMOS: Senator Jack Reed Of Rhode Island says Ashcroft's stance is contradictory.

SENATOR JACK REED (D-RHODE ISLAND): I believe as I think most Americans that if the FBI is trying to track down a terrorist, they should have accessed all information that is available.

DEBORAH AMOS: The Attorney General is an American and he doesn't agree with you.

SENATOR JACK REED: I can't understand his logic, frankly, when you have him talking about the unremitting effort that they are waging against terrorism and then there's this blind spot about the NRA and guns and lists of people who buy them.

DEBORAH AMOS: And when Ashcroft was making his argument to congress, he left out some key information.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT, TESTIFYING BEFORE CONGRESS, 12/6/01: It's my belief that the United States Congress specifically outlaws and bans the use of the NICS database and that's the use of approved purchase records, for weapons checks on possible terrorists or on anyone else.

DEBORAH AMOS: What the Attorney General did not tell Congress in December is revealed in this internal Justice Department memo, obtained by NOW. It turns out that Ashcroft's own Justice Department had just issued an opinion that supported the F.B.I's longtime practice of checking criminal suspects against the gun background check records.

And it said, "We see nothing in the NICS regulations that prohibits the FBI from deriving additional benefits from checking audit log records."

Ashcroft refused to follow his own Justice Department's interpretation of the law, and insisted he did not have the authority to change this law.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), 12/6/01: You are certainly allowed to use the system because these people don't have the right to have a gun.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: The law is as the Congress wrote it and I intend to enforce the law as it has been written and signed by the President.

CHAIRMAN: We wrote it that way because we had to it was the only way we could pass it.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: But if you don't run the checks, you're not going to know who should be denied.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT: There...I don't think.. We are ships passing in the night, or maybe I am a rowboat passing you as a ship. Whatever it is here.

SENATOR JACK REED, (D-RI): I think if the Attorney General felt that there was any confusion about authority, he could have come to us immediately, as he did on the U.S.A. Patriot Act. I mean, here's a law enforcement officer who recommending to the President very serious and very sober steps about detaining people in the United States but didn't ask to allow the FBI to look at lists that have been maintained of gun sales that may have revealed a connection with terrorists.

DEBORAH AMOS: And law enforcement officials say those background checks hold vital leads that would help catch terrorist networks.

JOE VINCE, RETIRED SPECIAL AGENT, ATF: If one of the September 11th terrorists had illegally purchased firearms, that would have been a tremendous opportunity to go in and not only arrest them with a very serious offense but also to find out other relationships that they might have had to other people and where they were acquiring these firearms. It could have really opened up a lot of doors.

DEBORAH AMOS: Doors that are closed, critics say, because of Attorney General Ashcroft's long term alliance with the NRA.

MATHEW NOSANCHUK, FORMER JUSTICE DEPT. AND VIOLENCE POLICY CENTER: For Attorney General Ashcroft to force the FBI and the ATF to conduct the post-Sept 11th investigation with one hand tied behind their backs, the same time that he's reading, you know, the immigration laws as broadly as possible ... really underscores more than anything his allegiance to the agenda of the gun lobby.

DEBORAH AMOS: Preventing law enforcement from looking at gun background checks isn't the only issue getting in the way of terrorism investigations. There are many other loopholes in gun law that allow terrorists to buy guns in this country. Retired ATF agent Gerry Nunziato says terrorists from all over the world use loopholes to buy large quantities of military style weapons here.

GERRY NUNZIATO: Eleven percent of firearms recovered worldwide that were sourced in the United States were sold by gun dealers that resided in Florida.

DEBORAH AMOS: One recent case in Florida was especially alarming.

JAY WHITE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There was an individual named Jorgensen who was purchasing firearms, AK-47s, Mak-90s in the Tampa area.

DEBORAH AMOS: Jorgensen bought 800 Mak-90's from several gun stores, loading them on to small planes. U.S. Customs officials say the guns were headed to the FARC guerilla movement in Colombia, a group on the U.S. terrorism watch list. Jorgensen was caught because he illegally exported the guns, but buying 800 guns at a time is perfectly legal. There isn't much of a deterrent either for sending them overseas illegally. Jorgensen's punishment was probation.

ATF AGENT McCRARY: This is our ATF gun vault.

DEBORAH AMOS: ATF investigators told us this case is not unique.

Jorgensen was able to buy 800 of these assault weapons without raising any red flags because of two major loopholes in existing gun laws. One loophole involves buying large quantities of guns.

GERRY NUNZIATO: Large purchases of firearms are sometimes regulated by ATF if they're hand guns. If an individual buys more than one gun from the same dealer in a five-day period, this is reported. Long guns and shotguns are exempt from it.

DEBORAH AMOS: So you can buy as many assault rifles and shot guns as you want.

GERRY NUNZIATO: So somebody buying 900 or 1000 long guns to export to this country, the only way they would know about it is when the guns were recovered, or if somebody informed ATF through a confidential source. The gun dealer would rarely call ATF and say I just sold 900 guns.

DEBORAH AMOS: A Mak-90? Tell me about this gun?

DARYL McCRARY, ATF AGENT: A Mak-90 is a sport derivative of an AK-47.

DEBORAH AMOS: Another loophole Jorgensen exploited had to do with the ban on military style weapons. The Assault Weapons Ban was intended to ban all dangerous assault weapons. But it doesn't. It allows the sale of assault weapons made before the ban. And it also allows gun makers to produce "sporting copies" - cheap knock-offs - of lethal weapons.

MCCRARY: A Mak-90 could be as much as $300 or less legally, an AK-47 being fully automatic could be several thousand dollars.

DEBORAH AMOS: This gun could be used legally for sport and illegally on the street.

MCCRARY: Yes.

DEBORAH AMOS: Because this is a powerful weapon?

MCCRARY: Yes. Exactly.

DEBORAH AMOS: And it is not difficult to convert this cheap knock off into a fully automatic weapon just as deadly as the banned AK-47.

These knock offs are now the favorite of terrorist groups worldwide. ATF agents told us they have recent cases involving terrorists from the Irish Republican Army, the Hezbollah and the ELN of Colombia, all buying large quantities of military style guns in the United States.

Guns in the hands of these guerrillas in Colombia could now be pointing at U.S. soldiers. The United States has more than 200 special forces soldiers stationed in Colombia.

SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): We have to be more sensitive to individuals coming into this county, using our laws, gun show laws and other laws, to take advantage of us.

DEBORAH AMOS: Do you think if the majority of Americans understood that terrorists were able to use the loopholes in our gun laws to buy guns, do you think they would sit still for no change?

SENATOR JACK REED: Oh, no, they would demand, in fact they would ask us why we hadn't moved more promptly... What we've learned from Sept. 11th is that terrorists will likely try to use the weapons that they find here... to harm us. And that I think should send us to the point where we begin to look again at closing some of these loopholes.

DEBORAH AMOS: But Senator Jack Reed says every effort to fix the gun laws is met with resistance from the NRA, and now, from the Attorney General and the Bush administration.

SENATOR REED: There's a constant drumbeat from the NRA and their allies that ah, that try to discredit any attempts at gun control as not protecting the American public, but eroding fundamental rights. And that drumbeat is persistent and loud.

DEBORAH AMOS: A drumbeat that carries political weight. Despite the recent sniper incidents, in last week's elections, candidates fearful of losing votes did not touch the issue of gun control.

And remember the Muslims of America? Their compound in Red House, Virginia is a forty minute drive from this gun show. Because of yet another loophole in American gun laws, there are still all kinds of military weapons you can buy here - as many as you want.




MOYERS: My first guest tonight is no stranger to viewers of NOW or to controversy. He's a maverick whose friends admit he can be eccentric and his critics say he can be outlandish.

During the 1990's, he filed over 80 lawsuits against the Clintons and members of their administration, but now he's taking on some top Republicans.

His name is Larry Klayman.

He's the founder of the public interest law firm, Judicial Watch. And his idea of fun is trying to kick down a door some public official has marked secret.

Here's Larry Klayman early this week after the latest court hearing on his lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney.

KLAYMAN: It went very well. We laid the foundation to have the government held in contempt. That is the Bush-Cheney Administration for failure to obey the court's orders.

MOYERS: Judicial Watch and other groups claim the Vice President acted improperly in meeting secretly with officials from the energy industry while the white house was shaping its energy policy.

Larry Klayman is himself a conservative, but there's nothing partisan about his indignation.

Welcome to NOW.

KLAYMAN: Thanks, Bill.

MOYERS: It's been quite a week for you.

Earlier in the week, one judge gave you the green light for proceeding on your case on behalf of your client Gennifer Flowers against the Clintons.

I mean, everybody knows about Gennifer Flowers, but a lot of people do not know about the energy task force. It's just not as sexy.

What's at stake here? What are you asking the court to do?

KLAYMAN: What we asked the court to do, Bill, was to hold the Bush/Cheney Administration in contempt of court.

If it was good enough to hold the Clinton Administration when it didn't obey the law in contempt, then the Bush/Cheney Administration should be held to the same standard.

You know, you had the Hillary Clinton task force...

MOYERS: On health.

KLAYMAN: On health, which... incorrect information was provided to a court of law, the court sanctioned Hillary Clinton and that task force quite severely.

And now Vice President Cheney is acting exactly the same way: he's keeping things secret, he doesn't want to come forward and tell us who's on that committee, and he's using the law in an abusive way, because he's making arguments which the court has really described as manufactured or frivolous just to delay things.

MOYERS: Well, what's at stake here? Why are you in such a hurry?

KLAYMAN: Because the American people deserve to know as soon as possible.

Not only is the energy bill coming up for consideration in the next few months-- this is a high priority of this new Republican majority in Congress-- but we're fighting the war against terrorism.

And we have already found documents-- because we have Freedom of Information Act requests, that's when you get information from the government-- which show that these energy companies were trying to influence the Bush Administration to drop sanctions and trade embargoes against companies... against countries like Libya, which are on the terrorist watch lists.

Is the Bush Administration laying off of Saudi Arabia, which many people think is perhaps the biggest terrorist state in terms of sponsoring terrorism, because of links of the oil industry with Saudi Arabia?

Is it because the President's friends and Vice President's friends are enmeshed politically and economically there?

The American people need to know these things.

MOYERS: Judicial Watch is... and along with the Sierra Club, and here you've got a conservative and a liberal group in the same legal process here.

Already you and the general accounting office the National Resources Defense Council have forced the Administration to come up with a lot of documents, right?

Already?

KLAYMAN: We have.

But the key documents, Bill, the documents inside the bowels of the White House, inside the energy task force itself, we know that the Vice President and his staff met with people like Ken Lay-- who the President calls Kenny-boy, that's how close he is to George W. Bush-- six times.

And he met with other energy industry and environmental lobbyists.

MOYERS: This is Ken Lay of Enron.

KLAYMAN: Of Enron. We need to know what went on, because the reason for the law and the reason why these communications with third parties has to be opened up, is because these people pay big money to get big favors.

And we need to know what went on behind closed doors.

When the Vice President meets with someone on his staff, that is what they call deliberative process privilege.

You can take a legitimate privilege or an executive privilege.

But when you meet with outsiders, third parties, like the head of Enron responsible for the biggest corporate fraud and bankruptcy up to Worldcom in American history, then you need to know what's going on.

And that's the reason for the law.

And Republicans voted for that law, and now they should follow that law.

MOYERS: So why are they in contempt, the Bush/Cheney Administration?

KLAYMAN: Because on a number of occasions, the court has given them deadlines to produce documents or to object as to valid reasons why they are not producing them.

Rather than obeying those court orders, the Bush/Cheney Administration flouts the court process and says, "we're above the law."

The Judicial Watch motto is "no one is above the law."

And what they're trying to do is simply run out the clock, get beyond the next election cycle in 2004, and, you know, if it comes out then, fine, because they're home free.

MOYERS: What do you think they're trying to hide?

KLAYMAN: What you're going to find are documents which show that... and low level staffers sometimes aren't the brightest people in the world.

It's not because they're not intelligent, it's they don't realize the political ramifications.

They probably wrote stuff like, "This company gave us X amount of money in the campaign, and we'd better listen to what they have to say."

And undoubtedly you'll find those kinds of documents.

We found them during the Clinton Administration when we were looking into the sale of trade mission seats by Ron Brown to companies.

And people will try to get credit for their illegalities.

MOYERS: I was working on a documentary beginning to investigate how Ron Brown, the Secretary of Commerce at the time, was selling access to government when he died in that plane crash in Europe.

I know you think there was foul play around that plane crash.

I don't, but I do agree with you that Ron Brown was selling influence.

KLAYMAN: Well, what we know is that Ron Brown was the master of that, and it was actually PBS Frontline which did the first story on that, and they agreed with what Judicial Watch was doing at the time.

MOYERS: Larry, it seems odd to hear a conservative concerned about corporate influence over government.

KLAYMAN: We're skeptical of government.

Liberals and conservatives don't want the government regulating their lives directly, getting into privacy issues, threatening them, which we've seen in a variety of administrations.

But we're concerned not just about corporations, we're concerned about anybody that gets in there that tries to pay money to get favors, because the basis of this country is that everybody is created equal and we all have equal rights.

And when people pay money for favors, then that distorts our democracy and destroys it.

It's like a cancer.

MOYERS: You know, you're criticized often by your conservative friends for being the liberal's favorite conservative.

For coming on shows like this and giving conservatives a black eye for playing into Ralph Nader's hands, but it seems to me liberals and conservatives should be able to join on certain issues like an open government and integrity in government.

KLAYMAN: You know, Bill, those people that criticize us - and there are very few - those people are usually Republican consultants in Washington, DC, who claim they're conservatives.

But true conservatives and true liberals believe in honesty and integrity. And what's more important than political philosophy is integrity.

It was our second American President, John Adams, who said, "Without ethics and morality, you will not have liberty." And he was a conservative.

MOYERS: I do not doubt your commitment to democracy or your commitment to integrity.

I don't agree with many of your lawsuits.

Some of them strike me as esoteric or frivolous and that you...

KLAYMAN: Which one?

MOYERS: Well, the suit on.... Well, example. You're suing Vice President Cheney right now for what he did when he was chief executive officer of Halliburton. I mean, you're going after a public official for what he did in his private life.

KLAYMAN: But I'll tell you why we're doing that, and that's probably not the one that you think is frivolous.

But we're doing that because the Vice President and the President came in and they said, "Look, there's all this corruption. We're being accused of not actually regulating what's going on, but assisting what's going on. And we want everybody held accountable."

And here's the Vice President, he sits on the board of directors, he's a hands-on person, he's very bright.

He approves the change in accounting.

He does not disclose that to the American people, to investors.

That change in accounting inflates the profits, and people rely and they then lose their life savings.

Well, he should be held accountable like everybody else.

And it was George W. Bush who said, "we want everybody to be held accountable."

So if Judicial Watch doesn't do it, it certainly wasn't going to be Harvey Pitt of the S.E.C.

MOYERS: You've also filed suit against the man who's going to be the House Republican leader in January, Tom DeLay. Why did you do that?

KLAYMAN: Because we're not hypocrites.

Because within two weeks of the Republicans taking control of the White House, they started to do exactly what Bill Clinton did, which was to sell access to public officials.

They even went so far, Bill, right after 9/11, to sell national security briefings to donors for $1,000 a pop.

And if Republicans do it, we're going to hold them accountable just as we did when Democrats did it.

MOYERS: I know Washington.

I know how rough they can play politics there.

Are you getting any retaliation for these suits, for your breaking ranks?

KLAYMAN: You know, each administration learns from the other.

The Republican administration and the Bush administration has threatened Judicial Watch on three occasions through people that I know.

First, Bob Novak, a very renowned conservative columnist, was told at church-- believe it or not-- by a justice department official, "what are we going to do about this claimant?"

Then I get calls that they're investigating me personally, that they want to see me in jail.

This is exactly what Clinton did.

And you know, it tells me I'm doing my job right, because if I'm not getting people mad and if I'm not getting them to that point, we're not having an impact.

But they know me well enough that I'm not going to turn the other cheek.

And recently, a federal judge sent a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney with regard to these threats and intimidations because you cannot intimidate a lawyer on a case. That's obstruction of justice.

MOYERS: Larry, I hope you'll come back after the New Year and talk as a conservative about what's happening in Washington politically.

I mean, your side, your conservative friends, will control the House, the Senate, the White House, and the courts. How do you feel about that?

KLAYMAN: Well, first of all, I'm not sure they're my friends. They are Republicans... But they're not necessarily Conservatives.

And what we've seen, Bill, briefly, is $100 billion farm bill. That's not conservative.

30% steel tariffs, that's not conservative.

The Homeland Security bill, which is rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, which simply increases government, but doesn't solve the problems in the intelligence agencies.

So I would submit that what the Republicans want to do is not terribly conservative.

MOYERS: Larry Klayman, we will come back...

KLAYMAN: Thank you.

MOYERS: …to continue our discussion. Thank you for joining us tonight on NOW.

KLAYMAN: My pleasure.




MOYERS: Every now and then the lines of some verse stored away long ago when I was a schoolboy come floating back to the surface of my mind.

These four lines, for example: "You cannot choose your battlefield, the gods do that for you but you can plant a standard, where a standard never flew."

I don't know who wrote those lines; if by some chance you know, email me at pbs.org.

But I'm pretty sure what summoned them from their slumber in my memory.

It was the story of Wynona Ward, and her program, Have Justice, Will Travel.

It's reported for NOW by producer Robe Embriano.

ROBE IMBRIANO: As the leaves begin to fall upon rural Vermont, the miles on this SUV start to pile up. With the cold weather, come more incidents of domestic violence.

Wynona Ward is the highly unlikely founder of Have Justice, Will Travel, an organization that provides legal services to victims of domestic violence in this area...victims trapped by abuse and pastoral isolation.

WYNONA WARD: I think one of the things that people don't realize is that Vermont still in many areas is very rural. The difference between rural domestic violence and domestic violence in urban areas is the difficulty in reaching out for these services, the difficulty in getting them. You can't hop on a bus and go downtown and fill out welfare papers here. You've got to have transportation, it's a very big problem.

Many women live 30 to 40 miles away from the courthouse, many of them, in fact, live that far away from a large grocery store or a doctor's office, say nothing about getting into a town to see a lawyer. It is just not possible for them to do. So we go to them, in their environment where they are comfortable, and where we can provide the services they so desperately need.

ROBE IMBRIANO: Ward's law firm on wheels travels from home to home dotting the mountainsides. Some neighbors in these parts are miles away from each other - too far away to hear a squabble or a beating. For these victims, mostly women, Wynona Ward may be their only way to escape the abuse.

CONNIE: I had a great sense of shame over what had happened to me, and she knew that I was ashamed. I also knew her family because I grew up in this area, and um, I'm a seventh generation Vermonter.

ROBE IMBRIANO: Known by just about everyone around here, Connie Button's isolation was in plain sight.

CONNIE: Vermont is a beautiful place, and I think that there's a strong sense of community. And I do feel like people rally around to help each other. But I also think there's some of "My neighbor's business is my neighbor's business. And I don't get involved in my neighbor's business."

ROBE IMBRIANO: Besides distance and social pressure, many rural victims can't afford an attorney. But that doesn't stop Wynona Ward. Neither does the fact that often she's all alone in a distinctive vehicle on a deserted road… driving right smack into the middle of a dispute that's already turned violent. It doesn't stop her because before she became a lawyer, Wynona spent a lifetime training for this job.

HAROLD WARD: She couldn't reach the throttle very well, so I even put an extension on the throttle pedal that was made a little special for her.

ROBE IMBRIANO: For almost 20 years, Wynona Ward was a truck driver, along with her husband, Harold.

HAROLD: Wynona and I ran team, running a lot in New England, then we started running coast to coast. We moved a lot of theater shows, CATS, LES MIZ, a lot of ice shows for Disney. Moved the patriot missile launcher, basically anything that I could hook to the back of the truck.

WYNONA: We had a sleeper that was big enough so that we had a refrigerator, microwave, a sink, a hanging closet. A big bed. We had our cat with us for over ten years.

HAROLD: I literally helped build this truck. Every work station, I was the helper. I know it's got over a million miles, I know that for a fact.

WYNONA: We've been married 33 years, and we were together five years before we were married.

HAROLD: We met as 8th graders in, I believe it was '64.

WYNONA: I was like, wow. Here I am living on the wrong side of the tracks in town, and this boy from up on the mountain wants to go steady with me. And what it ended up becoming was my way out of home.

ROBE IMBRIANO: Wynona was happy to get away from home, but most of all, she was happy to escape her father.

WYNONA: He had abused me, he had abused everybody in the family - all my siblings and my mother. When my father sexually abused me, it was very traumatic. But what was much more traumatic for me and much more difficult for me to deal with was when I watched him beat my mother, choke my mother, throw things at her. That was what was so traumatic.

ROBE IMBRIANO: But Harold didn't know.

WYNONA: We never talked about it because it wasn't acceptable and it was shameful. I certainly did not want Harold or anybody to know that I had been abused.

ROBE IMBRIANO: In fact, it was almost 25 years later before Harold found out. They were on the road, when Wynona got a call that her brother had abused a little girl in the family.

WYNONA: My reaction when I heard that my brother had done this was one of pain. Very very painful, because when we were children, small children, at least until I was ten years old, my brother and I were very close. We were buddies. And so it was very painful to learn that he had done this. But more than that it was painful for me to realize what this child had to be feeling. It took me back to my own childhood where I was abused in a very similar way. And I said, "it has to stop. It has to stop here. It can't keep going on."

ROBE IMBRIANO: Wynona worked to get her brother convicted, then to keep him in jail. She learned so much, one of the prosecutors suggested she go to law school.

She got her college degree writing papers in the truck's sleeper cabin, and didn't decide to go to law school until she was in her mid-forties.

Now 50 and a practicing lawyer, Ward drives over 30,000 miles a year and has seen hundreds of clients despite no funding from the state of Vermont.

WYNONA: I'm spending about half the amount of time, which is about 40 to 50 hours a week doing legal work, and then I spend somewhere around 30 to 40 hours a week doing administrative and grant writing and fundraising. Right now I have two attorneys and I have a paralegal and I have an administrative assistant - all who have empathy for victims if they weren't a victim themselves. I pay myself about 25,000 dollars a year.

ROBE IMBRIANO: Even if there were any restaurants nearby, the staff couldn't afford to eat out much. Wynona and Harold still work where they sleep, just like the old days in the truck. Only these days, she sleeps better. Despite the sacrifice - or maybe because of it - Wynona believes hers is a road more traveled.

WYNONA: Everyday in this country, we have more and more women that are working in social services, more women that are entering the legal field, more people that can have empathy for victims. And if you can have empathy for victims, then you can do what I do. Different donors have asked me, "Well, how are you going to expand 'have justice'? There's only one Wynona." But I say to them, "no, you're wrong. There are many Wynonas out there."




ANNOUNCER: Next week on NOW: critics of drug development say Madison Avenue's new hard-sell techniques put medicine at risk.

Their purpose is not scientific truth, so they can decide which data to publicize and which data to bury.

How ad agencies are now involved in the actual science of prescription drugs…

Next week on NOW.




ANNOUNCER: Coming up on NPR radio.

JOHN YDSTIE: Hi, I'm John Ydstie. Join me on the radio for weekend edition from NPR News.

In 1937, two young men set out to climb the highest unclimbed peak in North America. Their harrowing adventure is the subject of a new book and we'll meet one of the climbers tomorrow.

Find your local public radio station on our web site, npr.org.




MOYERS: We listen now to a voice that speaks from the wounded heart of a country wracked by war.

The country is Colombia, and we're deeply involved there.

It's the third largest recipient of American aid, and the president is sending special forces to Colombia to help guard a 500-mile oil pipeline, partly owned by Occidental Petroleum Company of California.

He says it's all part of the global war on terror, meaning we'll be hearing a lot more from Colombia.

Those U.S. Special Forces are heading into a country drenched in blood.

It's a familiar sight in Colombia, the gruesome toll of a civil war that has lasted almost 40 years.

But there's another war going on here.

Colombia is the frontline of America's war against drug traffic.

The U.S. provides many millions of dollars every year to arm and train the Colombian military, and to wipe out coca crops that supply cocaine to the huge American market… dropping herbicides that defoliate the fields and turning them into refugees in their own land.

Caught in the crossfire of leftist guerillas and right wing militia, trapped between drug traffickers and government forces, the Colombian people struggle to survive in a culture where death has become a way of life.

What's happening in Colombia can be almost too much to bear.

BILL MOYERS: Colombian writer Laura Restrepo gets to the core of her native country's struggle...with a journalist's attention to detail and a novelist's insight into the inner life. Her novel, LEOPARD IN THE SUN is about a feud between two Colombian drug families. Her latest novel, THE DARK BRIDE, is about people trying to stay alive in Colombia's wild oil country. Welcome to now.

I was in Colombia only once, 40 years ago, this year, when I was a young man working for the United States government, the Peace Corps.

MOYERS: It was such a country of promise then. It was-- there was so much euphoria about what Colombia had ahead of it. And now, I know it is wracked by this drug traffic, by war.

LAURA RESTREPO: Yes, well, I-- I have the feeling that we're a country that's not going to be anymore. We are going to be a country that's going to disappear. I believe in ten years from now, we will not exist anymore as a nation. In the modern world, it's not such a big deal for a culture or a people to disappear. Nobody seems to care too much.

We have over 50,000 violent deaths a year-- around five million people in displacement, either inside the country, fleeing from war, or outside the country. We have a terrible civil war that's being fueled by the millions of dollars that come from dr-- drug trafficking. We have the pressure of the United States sending military aid.

MOYERS: In fact, if I remember my figures correctly, the United States sends about five to $600 million in economic and humanitarian aid, and two and a half billion dollars in military aid.

LAURA RESTREPO: That's right.

MOYERS: That's five times what we spend for social and humanitarian causes.

LAURA RESTREPO: And it--

MOYERS: And what is that doing?

LAURA RESTREPO: It multiplies everything to a scale where you cannot control. We have terrible problems. We're a backward country in many ways. We are a very unjust country. We're a country with huge differences between the rich and the poor. We know that. That's our big guilt. We have to deal with that.

LAURA RESTREPO: I watched your shows on-- on drug addiction here in the United States. And I was amazed to find out that what we Colombians, as a country, would need is just the same as all the victims here in the United States, all the drug victims-- drug addicts. The hundreds of people that are in jail because of drug problems.

We need just exactly the same thing. And that is, to have the drug problem not treated as a police or military problem, but as a problem of health, culture, education, prevention-- treatment. To look at it in the face. We-- we are disappearing as a nation. And I believe you're having, in the United States, great problems, because you don't-- don't want to look at the problem as it is.

MOYERS: You mean the drug-- traffic is greater than ever.

LAURA RESTREPO: The drug-- yes. Yes.

LAURA RESTREPO: Everyone--

LAURA RESTREPO: --has lost the war on drugs. You cannot-- it cannot be otherwise. It's a problem of supply and demand. There's such great consumption of drugs in-- wealthy countries that the poor countries like Colombia, you can understand that a poor peasant, that doesn't-- hardly have-- food to give to his family, who grow cocoa leaves. Because-- he can sell them.

MOYERS: And your military, with the United States support, has been spraying those cocoa fields--

LAURA RESTREPO: Well, this is a-- very large problem. The problem of spraying and fumigating the soil with very poisonous-- substances which are forbidden in the rest of the world.

LAURA RESTREPO: what happens is the point-- the poisonous substances they're using to fumigate end up with the other crops, too.

I don't understand it at all. It's very difficult for us Colombians to understand. You see, we know that all drug that comes out from Colombia gets into United States and other First World nations. So, we ask ourselves, we know we have a responsibility, a big responsibility. We have to face it. We have to end with drug traffic.

But why only us? In a way, we feel that it's part of a need of the American government to put responsibility outside your country, to look for people who are different, look different, talk different, and sort of take evil on them. And tell the people, it's not us, it's not our problem. It's them. They're bad.

MOYERS: Okay.

LAURA RESTREPO: They're evil.

MOYERS: What the government and it's advocates say is, "Well, we go to the source of the supply."

LAURA RESTREPO: But they will always grow cocoa if they're buying it here.

MOYERS: Because of demand for it.

LAURA RESTREPO: If there's a demand.

MOYERS: How does the United States look to you in Colombia? I mean, it--

LAURA RESTREPO: Well, the United States is a country I love very much. I love it's culture. I love it's people. Many of my dearest friends live here. I don't like-- is your government. Your-- successive governments. I don't like my government either. And they work very close together, so it's not a matter of Colombia against the United States. It's a matter of people from Colombia and the United States against our governments.

MOYERS: And why don't you like the governments of the United States?

LAURA RESTREPO: I believe they're very hard on the rest of the world. They don't know the rest of the world. They don't care about the rest of the world. They do not have the slightest idea of all the hatred that's growing in places. Imagine-- of-- I am 53 now, Bill. And for all my life I have only known violence. The main thing for me is that my boy can grow up and now having my boy killed, and rest of my family.

This is an obsession. It's hard to live with it. And I am only one among 41 million Colombians. And they all have the same problem. And I'm not saying that the only problem we have is this war on drugs. But it is a main part of the problem.

MOYERS: Some people resent it, and hate us as you say. Many people want to come here and live.

LAURA RESTREPO: But it's not--

MOYERS: Is that simplistic?

LAURA RESTREPO: --the United States. It's not the United States that people dislike. It's the government. It's their foreign policy, which we find very unfair. You know, we need health. We need education. We need food. We need every-- any-- everything but war. And the only thing we get is military aide. And now, this fumigation thing that's going to devastate our soil.

MOYERS: The spraying of the crops.

LAURA RESTREPO: The spraying of the crops. So, how can we admire government that forces us into us with the complicity of the Colombian government of course.

MOYERS: Which brings me to your novel, THE DARK BRIDE. Your protagonist in here, the chief character in here, is a woman name Sayonara.

LAURA RESTREPO: That's right.

MOYERS: Tell me about Sayonara.

LAURA RESTREPO: Well, she's a prostitute. in the middle of the oil territory in Colombia.

LAURA RESTREPO: And I went there.

LAURA RESTREPO: and then, I began meeting all these old prostitutes that had been young, and working by the time the Tropical Oil Company was in Colombia, and Colombia was being exploited in the 40s and 50s by an American company, known in Colombia as the Troco (PH), the Tropical Oil Company.

And they began telling me these wonderful stories about them, and the oil workers, So it was wonderful talking to them in this very dangerous place with shooting and bombings all over the places. And every now and then we would have to go under the table until the shooting stopped.

LAURA RESTREPO: And of course, when you talk of prostitution, you know the dark side. And I wanted to look on that side, too. And I believe some characters, some of the prostitutes in the book reflect that part of the story, the very-- sad-- degraded part of the story.

But there was this other side, which I found fascinating. The first thing they-- these prostitutes, as all women tell you is, "I'm so romantic."

They keep falling in love, although the first thing they tell them as-- as the-- Sayonara's madria (PH), you know, her teacher, tells her-- the-- the old woman that takes her into this world, and teaches her how to behave there, the first thing that she tells her-- is not to fall in love.

MOYERS: Uh-huh.

LAURA RESTREPO: The only thing you can't do in this job is fall in love. And that's the first thing that she does. She falls in love with an oil worker.

MOYERS: Is Sayonara a metaphor for Colombia?

LAURA RESTREPO: I wondered it to be so, as I think every Colombian is living inside or outside Colombia, there is-- this living in extreme difficulty, which marks all of us. And at the same time, I don't know why-- we have such a joyous, free life.

We enjoy life. The presence of death, having it always so near, always as a possibility, makes life shine, and human warmth be felt very strongly.

MOYERS: Someone who knows Colombia said to me just the other day, "Death has become a way of life there." Is that too extreme?

LAURA RESTREPO: No, it is so. But then, I would put it this way. Death, risk, and danger are always awful things. It's not a matter of falling in love with them. But of falling in love exactly with the opposite. When life-- when death is near, then life shines, with-- with a very special glow. And I believe that's what you feel when-- when you go in Colombia. It's a murderous country, it's a dangerous country. Maybe the most dangerous country in the world nowadays.

But then, for example, I find it a privilege to be there, because there's a joy of life. There's a-- a sense of-- of-- of history, a need of future. People are very deep into that. That's, I believe, why as a journalist, or as a writer, it's-- it's wonderful to work there, because anyone-- if you walk by the street and tell anyone-- ask anyone to tell you their story, they will do it-- which-- with great pleasure.

Because having someone listen to you, having someone here, in such a lonesome country, such a-- forgotten with it's own tragedy, just to have someone listen to your story is a way of giving it-- sense to it.

And I could tell you hundreds of stories, wonderful, heroic, joyful stories of people struggling for peace in very creative ways.

MOYERS: In a civil war. Peace in the civil--

LAURA RESTREPO: In the middle of the civil war. People who say, "I do not want to be either with the paramilitaries, or the guerillas, or the military. I want to live here. I want to stay in my country. I want to protect my children with no arms. I don't want to have anything to do with arms. And it's the strength of the unarmed people what you're beginning to feel there-- to experiment there.

MOYERS: The strength of the unarmed people.

LAURA RESTREPO: Unarmed people. Yeah, of course. There's armed people all over the place.

MOYERS: What-- in a culture where death is paramount, in a culture where there's so much fear, war all around, what is the role of the story teller the creative imagination in times like these?

LAURA RESTREPO: What I feel is our role is to keep history alive. Listen I talk to many people when I write my books and one of the problems is that I have the feeling that everything has to be said now. Because I know if I come back a week later, that person might be dead it is so.

So I'm so eager to listen to everything to put it down to write it down, so our children can read it. sometimes because because you have the strong feeling that your world is disappearing and wonderful people are disappearing with it.

So I think we have a big sense of guilt before our children and it is we are leaving behind a destroyed country. And we know in a way it's our responsibility, we haven't been able to do better for them, they're not going to have a place to live.

And so a way of making up for this a very small, modest way is to leaving something written. So we know we don't understand the world we're living in in Colombia we don't understand. It's too hard it's too big the problem is huge. We don't understand it very well, but what I try to do is to pick up small pieces and leave them in my books.

because I think that maybe when my son is older and people of his generation. Maybe those books can help them put pieces together maybe they'll be able to understand a little more than we did. Maybe they'll have the opportunity to have a better life.

MOYERS: In the meantime, there is the one person or many who read the story you tell. I mean when I read THE DARK BRIDE when I realized that you were writing about a town that I'd been in forty years ago. I came to see more about that town through your eyes than I saw about that town forty years ago

RESTREPO: Well that's wonderful I'm so glad

MOYERS: Well that's what a story does…

RESTREPO: That's what you try to do. I care very much about my people, I love my people very much. I know people are suffering a big deal in my country so what I like to do is tell them your life is worthwhile it's a beautiful life your struggle is heroic something will come out of this.

MOYERS: Thank you very much Laura Restrepo, THE DARK BRIDE is a beautiful book.

MOYERS: That's it for this week.

I'd like to hear from you, so let me know what you think by going to pbs.org.

For NOW, I'm Bill Moyers.



about feedback pledge © Public Affairs Television. All rights reserved.
go to the full archive