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Week In News: Spying, Weapons And Currency


It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Coming up, we'll hear from Brazil where President Dilma Rousseff promised on Friday to speak with members of antigovernment protests which are sweeping cities around the country. But first, this week, further information emerged about just how far-reaching the National Security Agency's ability to collect data on American citizens actually is. Then just yesterday, the U.S. government took decisive action against the man claiming responsibility for leaking the information.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The U.S. government is bringing criminal charges, including charges of espionage, against Edward Snowden.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: ...prosecutors have now charged Ed Snowden with espionage.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: NSA leaker Edward Snowden has now been charged formally with espionage, theft and conversion of government property.

LYDEN: James Fallows of The Atlantic joins us, as he does most Saturdays, this time from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Hello there, Jim.

JAMES FALLOWS: Greetings from the Northern Plains, Jacki.

LYDEN: We are glad to be keeping up with you.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked the classified documents, now, he's allegedly been holed up in a Hong Kong hotel. You know, how is it that formal charges haven't been made yet? And where are we in the extradition process?

FALLOWS: There was a revelation this past week again - an unauthorized one, but apparently accurate - of the three counts the U.S. government plans to file against him: one of espionage, one of theft and one of conversion of government material. Those are not in the same category as treason, which, of course, is a capital offense in many countries, including the United States, but they are ones in which they will presumably begin the extradition process soon with Hong Kong.

LYDEN: You know, he has been so voluble. Why hasn't the U.S. moved until now?

FALLOWS: Answer one is I don't know and I don't think anybody knows. Answer two is they, the U.S. government, want to be sure they have things in proper order, because this will be a controversial process in Hong Kong and around the world, including some caveat Hong Kong has used in the past of saying that if people are being extradited for political purposes, it may look at - look on it in a different way than a purely criminal extradition.

LYDEN: Jim, let's go to Europe. President Obama visited Europe this week, as you know. Next week, he goes off to Africa. He went to Northern Ireland for the G-8 Summit, and then he made his way to Berlin where he addressed thousands of people on the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate where the Berlin Wall once stood. In his speech, he quoted former President John F. Kennedy. What did he say?

FALLOWS: The explicit references he made were to the speech John F. Kennedy made 50 years ago in Berlin, the famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech. But the policy recommendation that President Obama made was similar to one that Kennedy had made in early June of 1963 where he talked about the long-term danger of a nuclear annihilation. President Obama did resume the call for serious nuclear reductions of all the major nuclear powers.

What struck me about this is it's interesting how many presidents, as they go on in their term, begin to think that the existence of nuclear weapons itself is an issue. You saw this even with President Reagan during his meeting at Reykjavik in the mid-1980s.

LYDEN: Turning to a different topic, Jim. The financial markets this week went through some violent shifts following the Federal Reserve's announcement on Wednesday that it's working on a timetable for holding back measures it takes to keep long-term interest rates down. You know, in light of the frenzy, there's something called the Tobin tax. Could you explain what this is?

FALLOWS: The idea of the Tobin tax, which was named for the late Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin of Yale, was to make it harder and less profitable for this kind of speculative frenzy to happen on world exchanges. And his idea was to have a very, very small tax either on foreign currency exchanges or financial exchanges of any kind. You know, well under 1 percent - a tiny little fraction - that would not get in the way of real investment decisions - things you're going to hold for a month, for a year, for five years - but that would be an impediment to this kind of second-by-second day-trading panic whose affects we saw this past week.

LYDEN: Jim, last week, Creve Coeur, Missouri; this week, Sioux Falls. What's going on?

FALLOWS: It's part of a new reportorial project that I'll tell you about next week.

LYDEN: You always get someplace interesting. James Fallows is national correspondent with The Atlantic. You can read Jim's blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Thank you so much, Jim.

FALLOWS: My pleasure, Jacki. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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