The Pros And Cons Of Gathering Biometric Data

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Michael Schmidt, reporter, The New York Times
Michael German, senior policy counsel, ACLU
Rick Nelson, senior fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies

The FBI plans to move forward with a facial recognition system that's set to be fully implemented by 2014. Facial recognition is just one part of many biometric tools the FBI eventually plans to use to gather and store intelligence information, including fingerprint searches and iris scans.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Anybody who watches police procedurals on TV knows the term AFIS. That stands for the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. And over the next couple of years, it's being updated, and we're going to have to get used to a new acronym, NGIS, the Next-Generation Identification System, which incorporates an improved fingerprint system and all kinds of other biometric data, from face recognition to iris scans.

Some intelligence analysts hope that more data will allow law enforcement to identify and stop criminals and terrorists more easily. Others worry the program violates people's rights to privacy. In a moment, we'll talk with intelligence experts on both sides of that debate.

First we want to hear from you. If you've gathered intelligence in law enforcement, the armed forces or in the business world, how could this kind of information be useful or be abused? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, Farhad Manjoo on how to compete with Apple - if you can. But first, FBI monitoring. Michael Schmidt covers federal law enforcement for the New York Times and joins us on the phone. Nice to have you with us today.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And the so-called Next-Generation Identification System is being phased in. I understand some parts of it are already up and running.

SCHMIDT: Yeah, the FBI, dating back to 1924, has kept large, you know, pieces of data on people. That was fingerprints back then. But in recent years, they've been evolving into palm prints, into iris scanning, facial scanning and all sorts of things. And they're slowly moving forward with this, with the, you know, the deployment, most recently, of the facial scanning, which allows for basically a computer to find matches of people, of potential criminals, with mug shots in a large database.

CONAN: Everybody has come pretty much to rely on fingerprints as being almost perfect, not entirely, but almost perfect. But how good are these new systems?

SCHMIDT: Well, I guess that's the big question. The FBI says that this will allow them to do more and be more efficient and track more people. But we haven't really seen these things used that much. Most recently, they had a new program where they had a fingerprint scanner that they were giving to officers around the country, that they could use on the street to look at people's - you know, to check people's identities.

And they say that this has turned up, you know, people who were wanted on warrants for murder and other crimes. But at the same time, you know, I guess we haven't had enough time to really assess how efficient and how good they are.

CONAN: And with the facial recognition system, where are they going to get the pictures? Are these just mug shots of people who have been arrested, or are these pictures from anywhere and everywhere?

SCHMIDT: Well, they say that it would be just be mug shots, that they don't - you know, they say they won't be just taking pictures from your Facebook account or stuff like that. And what they would do is there would be - a computer would be matching the face of the person they're trying to identify with pictures in their repository, and then it would be giving - the computer would do this, and then it would give the person who's doing the review a list of people that could match that.

CONAN: So at that point it would spit out some possible matches.

SCHMIDT: Correct, and apparently it would rank them.

CONAN: As most probable, or by percentage of probability. So I get that. There's also other identifying factors, I guess biometric scars and tattoos.

SCHMIDT: Yeah, it's funny. You know, this has sort of been around for some time. The NYPD for many years has had a database of scars and tattoos, where you can actually go - you could go into it and type in, let's say, you know, scar on, you know, you know, the left side of someone's face, and a list of different people who've been arrested would come up or a list of, you know, different notations about that in police reports would come up.

And this is the FBI's, basically, attempt to take this to a national level and to have a large, you know, way that if, you know, we're not just identifying people in New York City but identifying people across the country based on tattoos or scars or, you know, other body markers.

CONAN: And would local law enforcement provide information? I mean for example, you mentioned the New York City police. If you got arrested in Queens, would that information then get sent to the FBI with your mug shot and your fingerprint and your information on scars and tattoos and even your iris?

SCHMIDT: Yeah - well, you know, I don't know as much about the iris stuff, but what I do know about the programs that they've had is that most of them are reliant on local law enforcement cooperating with them, providing them with information. Because, you know, these are the folks that are out there (technical difficulties) actually, you know, have developed the fingerprints and have developed different information, and they are - you know, that information is fed into the FBI.

Not every local law enforcement, you know, office or, you know, police, you know, group is doing this, but as time goes along, these - hypothetically these databases will become bigger and bigger as more states and local, you know, authorities get onboard.

CONAN: And they're obviously computerized. So if you're in New York - let's use again that as an example - you could check somebody's fingerprints with the FBI and get an answer in a matter of seconds?

SCHMIDT: Yeah, and when I went out to the - I went out to the headquarters for this in West Virginia earlier this year. And what they were even saying is that they would have thresholds where let's say you were a teacher in New York and, you know, the city of New York would make a notation in this computer that if, let's say, you were arrested in a different part of the country, it would be notified back in New York that you'd been arrested let's say in Seattle on something else.

So it would be a way of tracking you. So it's basically trying to link all the local law enforcement with, you know, with the national to have a better feel of what's, you know, obviously what these people are doing.

CONAN: And one of the, sort of, science-fiction aspects of this is that some people claim that this can not only help to catch people who have committed crimes, it can also help prevent crimes.

SCHMIDT: Yeah, I don't know as much about the preventing of crimes and predicting things, but there's - this does raise an enormous amount of concerns in the civil liberties area, because now the government has more and more information about you. And it - it's unclear. You know, they say that there'll be safeguards, and it would only be used for people who - you know, it would only be used to go after criminals.

But, you know, as we've seen that, you know, lots of things can happen with that information. It can - you know, it can be taken. It can be stolen. It can be, you know, used otherwise. And I - you know, I think those are the concerns that, you know, you'll probably hear about the programs.

CONAN: We're going to have people on both sides of the argument joining us in a couple of minutes. The other aspect of this, we've been talking about biometrics. The other aspect of this that people are concerned about would be DNA.

SCHMIDT: Yeah, that's another thing that we've seen, sort of, evolve. You know, obviously we all know DNA in the sense of, you know, you know, television shows where DNA is used to, you know, get to the bottom of, you know, a crime or whatever. But it's even something that's being used, you know, by border control folks for people coming into the country.

And it's - you know, it's actually illegal now for a company to take your DNA, but certainly the government has, you know, been building a repository of this stuff, you know, over the years.

CONAN: We want to hear from those of you who are in the data collection business, intelligence collection, if you will, either in law enforcement, the military or in the corporate world. Give us a call. Would these systems be useful? How might they be abused? 800-989-8255. Email is And let's begin with - Peter's(ph) on the line with us from Amherst, Massachusetts.

PETER: Yes, I worked with biometrics overseas in Iraq, and I saw - we saw great success with those systems because we were able to take fingerprints off of people who we were working with, either through checkpoints or detainment, and match it to, you know, samples of fingerprints and match it to, you know, samples of fingerprints that were found on exploded IEDs and weapons and things like that, and match these guys to crimes that happened throughout the country.

So this is, in my opinion, a very good tool for law enforcement and broadens their level of, you know, being able to get these guys for crimes that they might not be able to match them with otherwise. Thank you. I'll take my comment off the air.

CONAN: Well, Peter, let me just a clarification? You still there? I guess he's left us and trying to get his reaction off the air. And I've heard of these systems. He mentioned biometrics, and I think it was facial recognition in Iraq, Michael Schmidt, as well as fingerprint data, which he specifically referenced.

SCHMIDT: Yeah, there's this thing called the quick-capture platform, which allows troops in the field to take someone's fingerprints and have them run, you know, from the middle of, you know, the battlefield in Iraq. I was actually in Iraq in 2011, and I was able to spend time with a group that tracked this stuff. And basically it was an explosives team that would work to extract DNA information, as the caller was just saying, put it in a database and find out where it was coming - they were even able to find fingerprints on this stuff.

Now this was something that really helped the Americans as they tried to, you know, go after the insurgency and find out who was behind these - was it the same bomb maker making the same bombs? You know, was there a certain group that was behind these, you know, it was the same DNA showing up, et cetera.

But what happened is that as the U.S. left, they were trying to teach the Iraqis to do this, but the Iraqis never really caught on to it. And one of the problems that the Iraqis had, was that whenever there's an explosion, instead of taking sort of, you know, you know, what we'd see in a crime, a crime show in the States where they'd pick up every piece of evidence and look, you know, at everything, what the Iraqis do when there's an explosion is they kind of just wash things off, clean things up and sort of move along, and there isn't the same amount of data collection.

So this was something that was really helpful for the United States but something that the Iraqis have not been able to use.

So the crime scene would be contaminated as - you couldn't get reliable information out of it. But these techniques were used to identify Iraqi civilians. Were there any complaints that they were getting the wrong people or that rights were being abused?

Yeah, I guess that's the problem sometimes when, you know, you're in the midst of war is that there aren't - you know, the Iraqis don't have the ability to sort of, you know, try and hold the Americans accountable on these kind of things and advocate for them not to use these things when the U.S. is basically sort of dominating the country and trying to stop these explosions.

You know, you'll have NGOs that would raise this issue, but at the same time, you know, there is so much going on in Iraq and so much violence that I'm not sure how the Iraqis would be able to, you know, sort of advocate in front of the Americans and say hey, you know, we don't want you to do this. There was barely a government functioning in Iraq at the time.

CONAN: All right, and we're going to take a short break in just a few seconds, but getting back to the FBI and NGIS, the Next-Generation Identification System, how does the FBI respond when people say Big Brother?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think what the FBI - Well, what the FBI has told me is they say look, this is just for tracking bad guys. This is - you know, this is just a way for us to be better at going after, you know, criminals, and this stuff is not going to be used for any other reasons, and there's legal - you know, there's legal reasons for why we can't use this for other stuff, and there's precautions in place, you know, to stop that from happening.

And they would say that this makes their - you know, their ability to work more efficient, and it's, you know, it's just, it's like fingerprints, but it's just, you know, something slightly different.

CONAN: Michael Schmidt of The New York Times. Two opinions on this from different sides of the argument when we come back. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. We're talking about the new system from the FBI to collect and exchange fingerprints and other biometric information. Eventually, that could include iris scans, photographs for facial recognition systems and palm prints.

To many in law enforcement, it's a long-needed tool to help identify criminals and terrorists. Others worry about invasion of privacy. We'll hear both arguments in a moment. If you've gathered intelligence in law enforcement, the armed forces or in the business world, how might this information be useful, or how might it be abused? 800-989-8255. Email You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guest is New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who covers federal law enforcement. And joining us now are two people on different sides of the argument: Rick "Ozzie" Nelson(ph), a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he directs the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program. He's with us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you with us.

RICK NELSON: Thank you.

CONAN: And Michael German, a senior policy counsel for national security and privacy at the American Civil Liberties Union, a former FBI agent. He spent 16 years there and joins us now in Studio 3A, as well. Nice to have you with us.

MICHAEL GERMAN: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And you and the ACLU, what's the concern here?

GERMAN: Well, the concern is that there appears to be a vast expansion of this program happening without sufficient transparency and oversight to make sure that it's being done in a way that protects privacy. And that expansion is both in what is being collected, what these databases are gathering, but also in the mission of the NGI program.

CONAN: The mission?

GERMAN: Sure. As Michael suggested in your earlier segment, what the FBI has repeatedly said about their criminal justice information system is that the purpose is identifying bad guys, you know, that a guy arrested in San Diego we can prove is the guy who's wanted in Minneapolis. And we all want that to happen.

But the problem is now that the program is expanding. For instance, one of the programs that we're most concerned with is a Department of Homeland Security program called Secure Communities, where NGI is being used as the conduit to run everybody arrested throughout the United States through a DHS database to determine their immigration status. And that often isn't criminal but rather a civil program.

So it is again this expansion, often without the approval of the state and local authorities who are submitting their prints in violation of their agreement with the FBI about how that information is handled.

CONAN: And let's turn now to Ozzie Nelson, and Ozzie, from your experience, how might this really help law enforcement?

NELSON: Well, it certainly can. I want to back up just a little bit and, you know, note that the largest facial recognition database in the world right now is Facebook, with 900 million users. And the amount of information that the public and private sector is collecting on a daily basis, whether it's Google or Facebook or Yahoo! is just immense.

CONAN: Big difference, you do it voluntarily, you provide it voluntarily to Facebook. It's not the state, and Facebook can do many things, but it can't put you in jail.

NELSON: It can't, but unlike with Facebook and unlike with Yahoo!, we do have the public, we do have legal recourse with the FBI. There is congressional oversight, the representatives of the people address the FBI. There's testimony here. We also have, you know, the Congress makes laws regarding this. This is one of the areas where we're woefully behind.

You know, if you use Moore's Law, where the speed of technology, the power of technology, is increasing every 18 months, our laws and policies certainly aren't. And yes, with Facebook you are volunteering information, but there are a number of instances where these organizations have used this information without the users fully understanding what this is.

And so going forward, I'm comfortable to some degree, comparatively speaking, with the FBI utilizing this information. Again, this information is not randomly collecting information. These are people that come into contact with law enforcement, like a mug shot, or they are people that apply for civil government jobs, such as with the FBI or the CIA, or military personnel who willingly give their information up. So this isn't the random gathering of information.

And if that information is used inappropriately, there is a legal recourse for our average citizen to deal with that, and that does not exist with Facebook. Anyone who's had their identity stolen can tell you the legal resources available are not as useful.

CONAN: And as you look ahead to the system, you're confident? Abuses are possible.

NELSON: Well absolutely abuses are possible, but that's why it's so important that we have a dialogue, and I think that what Mike is doing and the ACLU is doing is important because we have to have a conversation about what the right balance is between privacy and security. We're behind in that discussion. We have to determine what - how much security we want and how much of our privacy we want to give up, and we haven't figured that out yet. And the technology is advancing so rapidly, we're getting further and further behind.

And I also want to reflect that it's not just about the U.S. citizens, that's obviously the number one priority, we need to respect their civil rights and privacy of our U.S. citizens, but the FBI has a larger situation here. There's only 14,000 agents in the FBI, and they're trying to stop things like international property rights theft from nations such as China. They're trying to stop cybercrime. They're trying to stop terrorism. And we need to ensure that they have the tools that they need to stop those crimes because that's really where they're focused.

CONAN: And Mike German, I know that one of your concerns is that, in fact, this is not going to be more efficient, that it's going to provide a flood of data that's going to overwhelm the FBI.

GERMAN: Absolutely, and this is particularly true in regard to the photographs being submitted. If you look at the privacy impact assessments that the FBI has written on these programs, for something like fingerprints it mostly is criminals. But there are some innocent people whose fingerprints are being submitted.

Obviously when I became an FBI agent, I submitted my fingerprints. But like Ozzie said, that was a voluntary thing. You know, but now, you know, we're expanding who we're fingerprinting: teachers, truck drivers. You know, a lot of different people are now having - who are innocent, not suspected of any criminal activity, have their information being submitted to these databases.

That's also, with fingerprints, been true with what's called latent prints, where at a particular crime scene, the police collect a print that they don't know who it belongs to, and they submit it to the system, and that...

CONAN: Well, because it might turn out to have been the criminal.

GERMAN: Right, but it also might not be. You know, if the crime scene was a hotel room, you might have been there a week, month, you know, but as you start to expand these programs into something like DNA, which is far more persistent, the likelihood of having that type of information collected and retained in these databases of completely innocent people is expanded, particularly with photographs.

And under the PIA, when the FBI expanded this to include photographs, they still have to be submitted by a law enforcement entity, which is good, but the problem is it doesn't indicate where the law enforcement has to get it. So I could download your Facebook page, give it to a police agency, and they could submit that to the FBI, and there's nothing in the FBI's rules that say that they wouldn't accept that.

So, you know, with ubiquitous surveillance going on now, with video cameras and other surveillance techniques, there's a lot of photographs of completely innocent people out there that may end up in these databases.

CONAN: Ozzie Nelson, is there such a thing as too much information, too much data?

NELSON: Again, the amount of information that's going to be collected on us by private sector, governments or whatever is not going to go down in the foreseeable future, if ever. So there are always going to be - you know, and the use of third-party data, if a bank, you go into a bank, and you are videotaped by their cameras, how is that information being used? Can the FBI buy it? Can other vendors buy it? And what can they use it for?

These are the challenging questions that we really - again, we haven't grappled with as a society as you really need to do. One thing I have to commend the FBI on, again, there are concerns. The FBI is not a faultless organization, and they have made mistakes in the past. But they are trying, in my opinion, to be very transparent.

This conversation itself is indicative of that.

CONAN: We did ask them to provide somebody to appear on the program with us, and they declined.


NELSON: Well, that's their prerogative, but we are here discussing it, and a lot of the information that we're discussing is stuff that's publicly available on their website or testimonies. You know, Mike has a PowerPoint brief that he pulled off the Internet. So again, they're trying to put there out there because I don't think that the FBI gains by having a secret discussion that doesn't take into account the privacy.

And even someone like me, who leans to the security side of the equation, at the end of the day I'm a U.S. citizen, and I want my privacy protected, and I want my civil liberties protected, and we have to find the common ground. And if both sides run to the respective corners of rhetoric, where it's got to be security or privacy, we're going to fail as a nation. And we have to come together and figure out the best way.

And we need Congress to take a larger role in determining what that is.

CONAN: Let's get some more callers in on the conversation on people who've collected intelligence, either in the business world or for law enforcement or the military. Dave(ph) joins us on the line from Mechanicsburg in Pennsylvania.

DAVE: Hi, how are you doing? I'm going to make two quick points. You had mentioned something about banking videos and walking into establishments and how that data's going to be - how that data is going to be given in and possibly purchased, I think what we're going to wind up seeing is announcements on the front of public facilities that say if you enter these facilities, you are subject to videotaping and surveillance. And it's going to be a common catch-all.

The bigger picture here is I'm not concerned about the FBI's database. They want to share this information with everyone. So they're going to be sharing it with other people's databases. Who is doing the oversight on these federal programs? Who's making sure that this personally identifiable information is - these systems themselves are being built in a complaint manner, in accordance with federal law?

CONAN: And is that - do you have direct experience?

DAVE: Yes, I do, federal and commercial.

CONAN: OK, I guess that would go to you, Mike German.

GERMAN: I think he's exactly right that there is so little transparency into what actually happens on a day-to-day basis, not just with the NGI databases but with all law enforcement intelligence databases and such a premium being put on the concept of information sharing without sufficient regard to whether that information is appropriately collected or shared is a big problem. And the fact that, as Ozzie suggested, our privacy laws haven't kept up with technology, and that's both for the private sector and the public sector. And so, you know, being in compliance with the law is not necessarily very protective of people's privacy because the law is so inadequate.

CONAN: Dave, thanks for the call.

DAVE: OK. Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an email from Xavier(ph) in Independence, Missouri: Law enforcement already employs software that can scan hundreds of license plates per second and run checks on tags for outstanding warrants and such. What would prevent law enforcement from using the same type of software scanning hundreds of faces per second to identify everyone at a ballgame or in the airport or at a rock concert? And, Ozzie Nelson, we've heard of attempts to do that when there might have been a threat at the Super Bowl or something, and they want to run facial-recognition systems.

NELSON: Again, this is where we have to make a decision in what we want to do. If there's a viable threat where a stadium is known to be a potential target for a terrorist organization and they have mug shots or some sort of facial recognition, facial photo of these individuals and they're going to scan the stadium to try to find that individuals, I think that's a valid thing we want the FBI to do. We want them to provide that level of security. I think that's reasonable.

Again, they're not taking these cameras and peering them into our bedrooms. They're going to a public place, and they're trying to (unintelligible) for the public security. And again, what's good about law enforcement using this as opposed to the private sector is that there's legal recourse. If someone is misappropriately - appropriately identified, they have legal recourse to take action to do this. This happens all the time even with fingerprints. As Mike said, if you go to a crime scene, you pick up fingerprints of people that are not involved in the crime, they don't end up in jail.

CONAN: There's a question though, Mike, about how long that material stays in the system. Particularly people with DNA, they can get swabbed when they're arrested. Does that DNA information then stay in the system forever even if they're never brought to trial, charges are dropped?

GERMAN: I'm unclear on what all the rules are with the different systems, but certainly, what we're concerned about in this case is the collection. And right now, there are many states that are collecting based on arrests rather than based on a conviction. And what we've seen is, you know, where we have protests and mass arrests at protests, all the protesters' DNA could be collected even though no charges are ever pursued. And that then can remain in these systems for as long as the government wants to keep them.

CONAN: Mike German, senior policy counsel for national security and privacy at the American Civil Liberties Union, a former FBI agent. Also with us, Rick 'Ozzie' Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who directs the homeland security and counterterrorism program. They're with us here in Studio 3A. Michael Schmidt, of The New York Times, is still with us as well. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And I wanted to bring you back in, Michael Schmidt. We're talking about 2014 before this system is supposed to be fully implemented if everything rolls out and there's no tremendous bugs or delays in the system. How long before that are these various parts going to come out?

SCHMIDT: Well, it's part of a larger system that the FBI is going through that is sort of started that. It's what they call a six-part system. You know, before this, there was the palms and latents where they now are looking at palm prints because they believe that palm prints are just another way of tracking whether someone was in a place. After the facial recognition will be an iris scan, and this is just part of a, you know, a larger technology push that the FBI believes it needs to do as technology has evolved but also to serve, you know, local law enforcement across the country which is - wants to use this stuff. And the FBI believes they can sort of serve as a main hub for that. So that's what that process looks like, and that will probably go beyond 2014 and, you know, probably into 2015.

CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Alex(ph). Alex is on the line with us from Tulsa.

ALEX: Hi. I was in the database marketing business in the '80s and '90s, and what I think is interesting is that we ran through the same type of issue back then about privacy and where to draw the line. We had a bunch of information that we had access to for marketing purposes. And on the upside, it was great. We could deliver very targeted marketing messages to people with specific interests and use that information to take the clutter out of their lives and just deliver messages to them are of interest to them.

But when we found out that we were gathering this information sort of behind their back and without them knowing it we got a big backlash. And I think it's interesting that that we haven't developed any kind of laws or any mechanisms to deal with that dynamic. And now here we are faced with the same problem again.

CONAN: It's interesting, Ozzie Nelson, particularly facial recognition seems to have a little bit of a creep factor for most people.

NELSON: Well, it is. I mean - and there's no doubt that this has a big brother aspect to it, you know? But again, the idea that, you know, in 2014 that the FBI is going to flip a switch on and, you know, 40 million cameras are going to start watching people for dropping gum on the sidewalk is a little Orwellian, and I don't think the intent of the program. Again, this is an outgrowth from the (unintelligible) program, which is based on the fingerprint, it's determined - it's meant to find criminals and to bring those people to justice.

And I think we have to stay grounded in this conversation. Again, it's so important that we don't run to our respective corners and then try to have the conversation from there. We have to have the conversation in the middle because we have to solve this. You know, we saw with Congress with the rhetoric floating around there, we can't get the solution. Every day that we don't put policies in place or laws in place to guide how we want to do this, whether it's in the private sector or the public sector, we're putting the nation at risk, not only from a security perspective but also from an economic perspective.

CONAN: And we'll end with this email from John(ph) in Milwaukee: I was stopped for going over the speed limit but I was not issued a speeding ticket. Just before the Milwaukee police officer returned to her car, she asked if I minded if she fingerprinted me. I'm 57 with no record and only one speeding ticket my life. I told her I was fine with it. She went back to the squad car, got the equipment and obtained my thumb print. Could you ask your guests is this a standard procedure now? Mike German?

GERMAN: This is something we're hearing about more and more often, which is very concerning that people, you know, are pulled over for some minor traffic offense are being asked to submit their fingerprints. And, you know, people tending to want to be cooperative with law enforcement don't think about the implications of that. It's a little bit unclear how that information is being used, but the fact that information is collected and so easily stored in its electronic format obviously where the government doesn't suspect wrongdoing they shouldn't be collecting that type of information.

CONAN: Michael German of the ACLU, thank you very much for your time today. Our thanks as well to Ozzie - Rick "Ozzie" Nelson, inevitably Ozzie, who's a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. They were here with us from 3A. Michael Schmidt of The New York Times joined us by smartphone. We give thanks to him too. Coming up next, Farhad Manjoo on the colossus of Cupertino. Can anybody compete with Apple? Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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