SEAL Trial Delayed, Feds OK Nuclear Fuel Transfer, Regulating Marijuana Ads
KPBS Midday Edition / May 23, 2019
The trial for a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes has been delayed as the defense seeks information about email snooping. Also, the federal government says the transfer of nuclear waste at San Onofre can continue and a UC San Diego scientist is pushing for regulations on marijuana advertising.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The war crimes trial of Navy Seal Edward Gallagher has been delayed. The trial was set to begin Tuesday at Naval Base San Diego Lawyers for Gallagher say prosecutors may have broken the law in their investigation into leaks to the press defense. Attorneys want the judge in some of the military prosecutors removed from the case. It's the latest twist in the politically charged prosecution of a navy seal chief accused of murdering and Islamic state prisoner and shooting two civilians in Iraq. Joining me is KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Welcome. Now, Steve, what happened in court yesterday? So yesterday, the defense was basically laying the groundwork to build the case for either dismissing the charges or having the judge or the prosecutor recused themselves. It's all based on this electronic tracking bug that prosecutors had placed in a software that was sent to the defense into reporters including call [inaudible] navy times, who's a former ut reporter who has received hundreds of pages according to his reporting from this case.
Speaker 1: 01:03 And the prosecutors say they did this because they wanted to track the Ip addresses of who was receiving leaked material. Is that right? Well, that's the, that is the detailed answer there. They were trying to track down these leaks again, the navy times, I believe the ut has received some as well as the New York Times and they've talked about how they've received hundreds of pages of documents. The thing about the way the military court works is a, none of this is really public. And now if this were in federal court, we could go look at the electronic docket and we could look at the motion. Some of these things would be sealed, but those would be very specific things. In the case of military court, I've seen the charging documents. Those have been made public, but that's about it. So it's very hard for the average person even track this case.
Speaker 1: 01:50 What details did Gallagher's attorney provide in his argument that the judge and military prosecutors should be removed from the case? Well, we have yet to see a, an expert witness to describe exactly what this electronic software does. The defense is saying that it allows you not to only track where this, uh, these documents may have been sent, but actually read the contents of let's say a defense attorney's emails. But what they really ended up doing is setting the stage for a hearing coming up on Wednesday where they're supposed to produce these expert witnesses and go through this and, and really drill down into whether or not these charges might be dismissed or the judge or the prosecutors might be tossed out. What was the judge's response to this accusation? Well, the judge is clearly taking this seriously. He, uh, was saying that he did not really see an instance where he would have to recuse himself, but he was open to the argument. Initially, Eddie Gallagher, his attorney to impella. Tori was targeting the judge saying that he knew about this after the hearing. We talked to them a little bit and he kind of backed away from that and say that maybe the judge didn't know about this and this was the prosecutors.
Speaker 2: 03:00 So earlier this week we heard that president Trump is considering pardoning chief Gallagher. Here's what Gallagher his lawyers said about that.
Speaker 3: 03:08 Ultimately, my goal, my primary duty is to get my client home to his family and to have him, you know, not be facing jail time. Uh, so if offered a pardon, would he accept? I'm, I bet he would.
Speaker 2: 03:22 So that's in the mix as well. And the momentum for issuing a pardon is reportedly coming from Congressman Duncan, hunter, other Republican lawmakers, Fox News correspondents, how our military officials, Steve Reacting to the possibility of a pardon?
Speaker 1: 03:37 Well, it's, you know, people are falling on both sides of this. Some of them, um, are supportive of this whole notion. But then you have others who say that, you know, including some of the congressmen, the Republican Congressmen who have intervened earlier in this case has said that this sets a bad precedent, that this needs to go to trial in, in the military. Justice system has to work its way through that. Ultimately, this goes to America's reputation in the world,
Speaker 2: 04:03 but there's another way besides a part and the president could possibly intervene in this case for, is that right?
Speaker 1: 04:08 Again, military justice works a little bit differently than a normal court. You have what's called a convening authority. You say a commanding offers. That's the person who decides who goes to court marshal and a few other things. If president Trump wanted to, as the commander in chief, he could become the convening authority in this case and then he could dismiss the charges, which is actually one of the things I'm Palatar he mentioned in the hearing that he could do.
Speaker 2: 04:33 Steve, you've covered a lot of trials as a journalist, but you say this one is particularly unusual. Can you tell us
Speaker 1: 04:39 why? Well, you know, it is unusual to have a seal on trial for war crimes to begin with. These are the most highly trained special operators in, you know, in the military. They're not usually caught up in these kinds of cases to begin with, so that would make it high profile in and of itself. But you've seen the family getting out there very early on after he was taken into custody September 11 and as many as 20 different Republican congressmen have interviewed, the president has intervene earlier. In this case. Having moved from the brig to the Naval Hospital in San Diego, you don't normally see this kind of attention for one court martial and the amount of publicity and the whole notion of whether or not the prosecutors were spying on the defense. It's a bit of a circus. It's kind of hard to see how all of this is going to play out. And uh, you could hear the frustration in the judge's voice during that hearing yesterday,
Speaker 2: 05:33 and this is all supposed to resume in one form or another next Wednesday.
Speaker 1: 05:37 There'll be hearing next Wednesday that will decide some of these key issues, like whether or not the prosecutors a will be accused. It's still set to go on Friday. That's what the judge says. The judge would like to have this whole thing done by July. So even if there's a delay, I don't expect it to be a very long one though in the middle of this, president Trump has said, or he hasn't said, but we've heard reporting that he may pardon him on Memorial Day. So we don't know how this is all gonna turn out. I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve, thank you. Thanks, Maureen.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Federal regulators have given the green light for the transfer of nuclear waste at San Onofre to continue. The decision comes after the transfer stopped back in August of last year when a 50 ton canister was left suspended for 45 minutes. Many people are concerned about safety. Rob Nikolsky has been covering this. He is an energy reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune and joins us with more. Rob, welcome.
Speaker 2: 00:25 Hi Jade. Could talk to you again.
Speaker 1: 00:27 What can you tell us about why the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is allowing Edison to resume the transfer of spent nuclear waste San Onofre?
Speaker 2: 00:35 Well, that's a good question. The NRC said they made the decision quote, following extensive review of technical data, uh, regarding some scratches on the canisters that Edison as huge thing and the, the uh, uh, contractor at the side Holtec has designed. Um, so that's really the extent of what the NRC is said. That why they've decided to go ahead and give them the, uh, the okay for this. Now there'll be a webinar in which the public Luke can take part on June 3rd in which I'm sure the NRC will go into more specifics, but for now they haven't really gone as a whole lot of specifics as to why.
Speaker 1: 01:14 Now let me ask you this. You know, representative Mike Levin has been critical of the NRCS decision to move forward saying they use data provided by Edison as you mentioned. Is that problematic?
Speaker 2: 01:24 I think it might be, I mean certainly raises an issue because uh, southern California Edison, according to representative 11 has a lot of incentive to try to get this resumption back on track as soon as possible. But the NRC comes back and says that they have given oversight to this and that's their job. And as far as their concern, Edison has been able to satisfy the NRCS concern. Also, as you mentioned at the top of the storage, this whole thing started back in August when there was a canister fill, once spent nuclear fuel or nuclear waste out, left suspended on a metal flange and one of these downloading operations for 45 minutes for about 18 feet now that went into the NRC findings, southern California Edison, $116,000 Edison and its contractor Holtec says that they are the improved safety standards and that, um, they're, they've done everything in their power to make sure that that doesn't happen again. But there have been some concerns from people saying that Edison, and perhaps Holtec should do a better job about transferring these spent nuclear fuel canisters from what's called wet storage to the brand new drives towards facility that was built a little bit more than a year ago.
Speaker 1: 02:42 And you know, the incident when it initially happened was, was never even reported by Edison. It was actually disclosed by a worker involved in the transfer, correct?
Speaker 2: 02:51 That's correct. And that's one of the things that Edison has been tripped up on is that the representative for southern California Edison was a community engagement panel meeting and it was very cool man. He just said that the, there was a pause in the transfers. It wasn't until later in that same meeting where a worker who was there at the time when they have this, uh, canister that was suspended, stood up and said, I wasn't gonna say anything. But since the representative from Edison didn't go into specifics, here are the specifics and it should be pointed out that everything that that worker said turned out to be proven correct. That uh, there was a cancer that was suspended. The worker said that there wasn't enough training that was involved, that some of the people who were taking part in the downloading were not properly trained and all that has come to pass something that the NRC itself was able as in an investigation to confirm.
Speaker 1: 03:46 And Andre are also concerned about the canisters getting scratched as they're lowered into storage.
Speaker 2: 03:51 Yeah. And that's the, that's another question too. [inaudible] southern California Edison, they dismissed that and said that the canisters are incidental, but they're not a big deal that you don't pose a problem for safety. But critics of Edison and also uphold whole tech have said that, well if the actual compliance form that whole tech failed out of there won't be any scratches. And then proving that there had been some scratches that raises questions in their minds.
Speaker 1: 04:18 And how has that Edison address this whole issue of scratches and being concerned about that?
Speaker 2: 04:24 Well, they said that the fabrication, that that was done by Holtec, that those scratches were incidental and they don't pose a problem for safety and that's the canisters themselves that are about three eighths of an inch thick, that they were sufficient and they're safe and they don't pose any kind of problems for the greater public.
Speaker 1: 04:43 Do you know how much waste has already been transferred to the new storage containers and how much more is still left?
Speaker 2: 04:49 29 canisters have been moved to the brand news waste storage facility. 44 more still need to be moved before they're completely done from transferring from what storage to dry storage. And a big question that all of us have is, well, if he had, if the NRC has now approved the resumption of transfers, one of those transfers going to resume. I asked the Edison that they said they haven't made up their mind yet there, but go through discussions with Holtec and um, they said that they'll make that decision after they've gone through consultation with Holtec and then PR then resume the transfers
Speaker 1: 05:27 and you know, given that the NRC is relying on data from Edison and the criticism that's come on the heels of that, do you think that the NRC is independent enough to make these decisions?
Speaker 2: 05:39 I don't know if I'm in a position to make a decision on that, uh, or to make a call on that. But I do know that the NRC has been criticized in the past for being beholden to the nuclear industry itself. But, uh, the NRC does have a track record of, of, of, of safety in their defense.
Speaker 1: 06:00 I've been speaking with Rob Lasky, the energy reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Rob, thank you so much.
Speaker 2: 06:07 Thank you.
Speaker 3: 06:09 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 You may see the signs or hear the commercials, they talk about cannabis and all of the health benefits, but are those claims true? While professor John Ayers, a Uc San Diego scientist who wrote a recent column in the Journal of the American Medical Association says not all of them are. His recent column makes the case for regulation in marijuana marketing and he joins us via Skype. Professor Ayers, welcome. Thank you for having me. Now in your column you highlight a brand called med men. Talk to me about that brand and the way they are reaching large audiences to market marijuana. Okay.
Speaker 2: 00:35 Mid, mid is one of the first national marijuana and brands, meaning they have to have retail locations in multiple states and they're actually buying advertising that target all 50 states regardless of whether you can purchase recreational marijuana or not.
Speaker 1: 00:49 And you say this company and many others like it make health claims, but no health warnings about marijuana. What are some of the health claims being made?
Speaker 2: 00:58 Marijuana is being marketed as a cure. All, even though restrictions in California and both nationally put prohibitions on using health claims to market recreational marijuana, that is to say these claims are reckless because there is no substantial evidence showing that marijuana has any therapeutic benefit. For example, the food and Drug Administration who oversees all healthcare delivery in the nation has not approved marijuana for any treatment.
Speaker 1: 01:26 Hmm. And, and give me some examples because I know I've read in some places that marijuana can be used to treat opioid addiction, even a, is that an outrageous claim? And now they're more like it?
Speaker 2: 01:39 Yeah, exactly. That specific claim is actually been proven false on multiple occasions, including in the Journal of American Medical Association. But for example, they'll claim that marijuana can be used to treat anxiety, pain, addiction withdrawals, uh, menstrual problems, autism, you name. It really has been marketed and targeted for all conditions. And why? Because the reality is, is they're selling a recreational drug, therefore their marketplaces, everyone. So how do you get everyone to use it? One way is you can make health claims that target almost every condition. For example, even acne, a condition that disproportionately affects teens. So in that case you can get users starting even earlier.
Speaker 1: 02:23 That leads me into my next question. Uh, how do you feel these, these marketing strategies are targeting youth
Speaker 2: 02:31 strategies used by marijuana today are simply copying that big tobacco pipe book using the greatest hits from the 1950s all the way through the 1980s and that is first by using health clients, doctors endorse and their favorite marijuana brand or favorite marijuana product. And secondly, targeting tanks. Why most people who use marijuana start early. So let's get them addicted to our brand early. Therefore companies like med man or creating and selling products to teens that focus on brand loyalty such as I'm mad man varsity jacket that they brand as their med men. High varsity jacket or sailing gingerbread house kit. So you can have a fun family holiday where you and the kids can make a marijuana laced gingerbread house. We see it over and over again. Just this week one marijuana retailer ever released a how to guide, how to tell your parents you're using weed. It's absurd. If any other maker was doing the same type of reckless marketing, they would be almost immediately put out of business due to regulations and also public pushback. Just imagine substituted the word jewel, electronic cigarettes or Budweiser or Marlboro for marijuana and these advertisements. It simply wouldn't stand and that's why we're calling on the federal government to act because this is a problem that not only California in his address, but I'll states
Speaker 1: 04:00 and getting back to these health claims, would you characterize them as just flat out false advertising,
Speaker 2: 04:06 flat out false advertising? You know, number one, they'll start research, but not all research as equal. And for example, you've seen the marijuana industry actually getting involved in their research Chang. Look at Harvard, Mit. They recently took a $9 million gift from a major backer of a for-profit recreational marijuana retailer. That man, now a million dollar gift is designed to study the health benefits of marijuana. That's outrageous. Imagine if Marlboro was sponsoring research here in San Diego, what the outrage would be, right? It's important that we be aware of that research is in this case, just another way of branding and much of the research they sat is false. The National Academy of Sciences produced the Korean minute report on the medical benefits of marijuana just a year ago reviewing literally tens of thousands of studies and that's the conclusion of that report. Medical marijuana provided no consistent health benefits and they did not endorse the use of marijuana for any medical treatment.
Speaker 1: 05:12 Now what warnings would you like to see a company? These advertisements here,
Speaker 2: 05:16 let's see, as a cessation of the essence warnings that communicate what the real dangers of marijuana are. Because we've been in a vacuum where the federal government has been sidelined and so now for years a burgeoning marijuana industry that's now developed into big marijuana has been propagating science and research and marketing materials to promote their product and that vacuum is, there is no warning. So the food and Drug Administration and other federal actors need to engage in that. Now they developed consistent health warning messages to include on all marijuana products to include an all marijuana advertising that tells the straight truth. I'm not pro or anti marijuana in any sense. I'm pro science and that's why we want a federal agency that's involved in regulatory science to be what lead in this agenda. I've been speaking with Professor John a or as a scientist with UC San Diego. Provisor Ayers, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.