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60 Words

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(Original artwork & Radiolab logo by Lucy Engelman)

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."

In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the past 12 years. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.

Produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe. 

This episode is included in the Radiolab #smartbinge podcast playlist at


John Bellinger, Ronald V. Dellums, Gregory Johnsen, Senator Tim Kaine, Daniel Klaidman, Harold Koh, Barbara Lee and Benjamin Wittes

Produced by:

Matthew Kielty and Kelsey Padgett

Comments [162]

Angus Long from Australia

Does Congress really have to go to church? That's awful.

Oct. 29 2017 05:11 PM
Chuck from Ohio

Sorry, 9/11/01 was an inside job. Bush was in on it. The State of Israel and many others also. The Laws of Physics did not change on Sept 11th and go back to normal Sept 12th. The official story is not possible.

Nov. 02 2016 04:54 PM

Kudos on confronting this evil unlimited result of 9-11, rather than some smarmy heart-tugging ode to somebody. This ain't science though, but law and privacy, maybe should be on MORE PERFECT. That music when Barbara Lee was announcing her vote, sounded LIKE the creepy music from PARALLAX VIEW, the ultimate conspiracy movie. Those sneaky weasels- "and associated forces".. so they just rewrote the AUMF.

Terrible day- I had so much rage for all the officials for not stopping this- Bush had 5 warnings about OBL determined to attack America with commercial aviation. CIA people were going to quit cause they were sure they would be blamed (wait till Iraq's "failure of intelligence"). ATCs must have known the second 2 planes turned due South that we were under attack. Atta was so anti-American, flight instructors almost notified FBI (but $ too good), MN FBI weren't allowed to look at Moussaui's lappy, where whole plan was detailed. Tom Clancy predicted it all in 1994 DEBT OF HONOR, OBL may have read it (jpg of pages + photos on link).
I was supposed to fly over Manhattan on 9-11 5:30pm, did on 9-15-11, could see the smoking ruins from just past New Haven; believe I ran into 2 hijackers in Ft Lauderdale library April 2001, had a conviction we were about to be attacked, so much had written about it 2 months before (was terrified by a nuke), and talked on phone with a friend Sept 4 in Greenwich Village, "What do you think it's going to be- NYC or Washington?" Knew we would wildly overreact and crush the Bill of Rights. And I'd been a travel agent, putting people on planes, so felt like my country, my honor, my business, my freedom was all attacked. Turned on TV just as 2nd tower collapsed- thought I'd seen 30,000 people perish. In early Dec, finally got onto Ground Zero, very very hard, even for journos (one cop would let me in + others throw me out)- huge windswept area where vacuum had sucked away humanity; finally snuck into skybridge from abandoned hotel to nowhere looking down on 8 story rubble pit with horrified fascination for an hour- they were still pulling bodies out.

Horrible- 500-800 people didn't have to die- there was a way down from the 1st tower on one stairway, but some harpy woman had screeched that it was all fire, all blocked, and turned the stream of escapees back. (see 102 MINUTES book) Retard NYFD set up command center in base of Tower, didn't talk on walkie talkie system cause thought it didn't work, sent fireman up 80 floors with 80 lb load (so they collapsed on 20th Fl and all died), weren't even aware Tower 2 had collapsed!!!

Sep. 12 2016 09:49 PM

Your program was so insightful and it lead me to more questions. First though, I need you to understand that I have cried all weekend regarding 9/11, an enormous tragedy for all Americans. we lost nearly 3000 innocents in 9/11, may I respectfully ask how many innocents were lost in Iraq due to American forces prior to 9/11? I ask this with no disrespect, only to look at resolutions.

Sep. 11 2016 11:06 PM
Shalimar from Government Camp, Oregon

Good People ~
FABULOUS story. Words matter.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So much for "my voice counts" = voting.
I'm spreading the news far and wide, for what's it's worth.
Keep up the great work!

Sep. 11 2016 07:10 PM
Melissa Kelly from Orcutt, CA

the most cogent illuminating example of how our gov't works; mind blowing; thank you.

Sep. 11 2016 07:02 PM
Bob Hennelly from Morris County

Been along time since I have seen you guys at Radio Lab but I just had to write a thank you for "60 Words." I heard the re-broadcast today and it is even more potent now, than when you first aired it. My post in Salon today notes that since 9-11, the civilian body count is only exponentially higher and the list of countries engulfed in the further notice war much longer.

Thanks for your courage,
Bob Hennelly

Sep. 11 2016 03:12 PM

barbara lee -- profile in courage.

Sep. 11 2016 12:36 PM
Peter Ross from San Jose

Of course you couldn't post the 60 words up front and center so we could dispense with a lot of blather and just read it by ourselves.

Sep. 11 2016 12:26 AM

This is the most disturbing show I have listened to on NPR ... ever. I am left with the feeling that, regarding war, critical decisions take place in shadowy rooms by unelected people. I'm not sure if the picture drawn of perpetual war is a result of our continuing deteriorating democracy, or if perpetual war is simply the outcome of the rise of fanatical terrorism. Either way, it is a heartbreakingly dismal picture.

Sep. 10 2016 03:14 PM
Nicole d'Entremont from Maine

Words lead to deeds. In this case, ambiguous words interpreted by lawyers(add another layer of ambiguity) have led us into the quagmire of endless war. I'm thankful for the courage of Barbara Lee, Congresswoman from California. We need more independent and thoughtful governance in our country--people who buck the tide and don't pass the buck. This radio lab sequence should be required listening in classrooms across the USA.

Sep. 10 2016 02:15 PM
Kim from California

Add to the many issues that this sentence is causing, the fact that lawers are also using these acts to unjustly toll the statute of limitations for Soldiers (yes, including those wrapped up in the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program-GRAP as well). In essence, if you are a current U.S. military member, you have no statute of limitations protecting you right now.
Check out the below link for more information.

If you would like more on the GRAP scandal and how it is a perpetual CID investigation ruining the lives of hundreds of Soldiers nationwide and titling them in two criminal databases based on speculation contact me.

Sep. 07 2016 06:29 PM
Amir Mahdi Amani from Iran

Hi, it was really good. How can I find the transcript if this or others files?

Jul. 04 2016 04:09 PM
Bright Garlick from Central Victoria, Australia

Brilliant show guys ! Thanks.

I heard similar things from an insider in 1994 and at the time I thought "you've got to be kidding" but over time I've seen how these legal documents have become the foundation for extreme horrors with no real accountability. The same thing conceals the entire fielde of ET related covert projects. This secrecy and uncontrolled abuse of power fits well intio what Glen Greenwald has identified as the modern Panopticon. And rest assured, all of these targets and all of these documents and events are all orchestrated by those further up the food chain. The war machine creates war because it creates employment and profit and because choreographed geopolitics create power.

There is an Architecture of power, whose lower arms are embedded in the very fabric of modern society and the war machine is just one entity.

Keep up the great work. Your show is fantastic !

Best wishes to teh entire team,


Jun. 13 2016 08:50 PM

Terrifying that that one sentence has been effecting policy for so long.
Barbara is impressive, anyone who stands for what they believe in the face of adversity is someone special.

Mar. 10 2016 10:49 AM
Jordan from Utah

I'm not sure how unbiased this episode was, but I still took it all at face value. 9/11 and following wars have never made more sense to me.

Dec. 02 2015 04:18 PM
Exum Bauer 1965 from TX

Correction: War *of* Terror

Apr. 25 2015 10:23 PM
Elie S. Totsky from Oviedo, FL

It is crazy how one sentence that is composed of 60 words can establish the foreign policy of a nation for now over a decade. The actual length of this one sentence strikes your attention, but the actual meaning of the words of this sentence is one that will have it's power endure through times of confusion.

Apr. 06 2015 09:47 PM
Anna J. Silverstein

It's interesting how much of an impact such a relatively simple sentence. This impacted American foreign policy for years.

Mar. 23 2015 05:25 PM
Mia Belanger from Oviedo, FL

I find it wrong that the government made such a hasty desicion after 9/11. I can understand why they did, they were emotional and confused as to how in 24 hours the U.S.A. could face a horrible terrorist attack. How could one of the greatest countries in the world face an event like this. I think at the time Congress thought they were doing the right thing. A decade later we see that they made desicions too quickly. The 60 word statement to declare war on associated parties meant the U.S. could attack anyone they found guilty of 9/11.

Jan. 19 2015 03:16 PM
Archimbold S. Hannibal

The actual sentence is very powerful in many ways. The sheer quantity of the sentence, 60 words in a single grammatical group, carries a weight on its own. The meaning of those words has come to dictate U.S. foreign policy for over a decade. They gave the President power, power to choose who to attack, how to attack, where to attack, etc. The legitimacy of these words giving that power has come to be debated, but the power exists nonetheless.

Jan. 12 2015 08:59 PM
Greg from United States

60 words... 60 years....

Nov. 04 2014 05:36 PM
Jane J. Asimov

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons. This single sentence, a mere 60 words is the basis for many innocent people being held with out any rights, drones murdering innocent people with no input from U.S citizens and the "war" in Iraq as well as other controversial topics. After listening to the podcast my main though is how can a paper written by a lawyer the day before 9/11 have so much power. This topic has been extremely debated in my Ap U.S. Government class but I was completely on aware what little words and detail were written yet give so much power to the president. I think this document should be deemed unconstitutional because when there are not checks and balances on important political and war decisions detrimental mistakes are made.

Oct. 27 2014 11:14 PM
Alice H. Nash

I really appreciated this post. I have gained a lot of respect for Barbara Lee. It is so important to stand up for what you know is right and that's exactly what she did. It is easy when you are hurt and upset and angry to jump in and fight but you cannot make the right decision in that state of mind, even if you are the President of the United States. I hope that people who hear about this woman will think about what she did and how she made her decision without her emotions and we will make decisions that way from now on. It is terrifying to think about how a couple words can make such a difference in the name of the law.

Oct. 26 2014 05:18 PM
Ayn K. Melville from Florida

President Bush did a great job handling the situation after the 9/11 attacks. His first thought was to keep this country united and make sure the people saw he was going to do everything is his power to punish those who attacked our country. The heart of the AUMF is too general! Action needed to be taken but this new law gave the president too much power. In situations like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it's hard not to want to make those who hurt you suffer. Your emotions are running rampant and making logical decisions is nearly impossible. The war on terror has become another form of terrorism. Democracy is great, and it's great that the US is trying to spread it. But at what point are the measures being taken to institute democracy too much? Our military marches into these countries intending to crush those who stand against the US. Innocents are slaughtered, children become orphans, towns are destroyed, these people are scarred forever because one document wasn't specific enough in the limits that should be placed on how to handle terrorism.

Oct. 20 2014 10:57 PM

The USA was correct for the actions that it took, only problem it did not go far enough. Should have gone into every country and wiped out every terrorist and every one that they suspected of engaging in terrorism now we would not ISIS creating chaos in the Middle East.

Oct. 04 2014 11:39 AM
Steve from Ether

getting warmer radiolab, now back up a step to focus on how the towers fell, especially building 7, at free fall speed?!?

Aug. 20 2014 09:41 PM
SuckahPunch from Los Angeles

I don't appreciate that you guys say "we all authorized these actions". "Nobody saw this coming… except one."
These statements completely disregard the millions of Americans, like me, who not only saw this coming, but marched in the streets by the hundreds of thousands. We marched for peace, we marched against war, we marched because the President should not have a "blank check" for war, we marched because there was absolutely no legitimate reason to attack Iraq.
Let's keep it straight guys.

Aug. 20 2014 08:15 PM
Tony from CA

Great job! How refreshing for Radiolab to run away from the inane human interest stories endemic in current reporting and to discard highlights of simplistic emotions on the sleeves in order to take us on a journey that reveals the legal complexities that govern our society. Unfortunately, some have used these complexities as subterfuge to propel us into directions uncharacteristic of the American way.

Our laws can only match the excellence of our lawmakers. So, I laud Barbara Lee for standing proudly alone and showing everyone how to be a lawmaker and how to act courageously to realize the meaning of principles.

Semantics matters. But so does moral and political principles.

Aug. 20 2014 05:04 PM
Sean from Baltimore MD

Great journalism, very well-told through the perfect medium (radio.) I was in the car a lot last weekend and think I listened to it three times. One question: I thought the breadth of the targeted entities was exceptionally well-explored. But when I listened to the piece, the words that seemed to create perhaps the most infinite open-endedness was "to prevent any future attacks of international terrorism." That seems like a lot of pre-emptive latitude, allowing almost anything with the justification of, "well, they were going to..." And I was waiting for one of the incredibly qualified sources you landed to discuss that phrase more fully. Again, incredible story incredibly well-told.

Aug. 20 2014 02:23 PM
Kathy from Georgia

This was a great story. I listened to this last night on the way home from work, at first just with great interest in the story and gratitude for Barbara Lee for up for her beliefs under such pressure; then with mounting horror and revulsion at what those who are supposed to be "in charge" have allowed this country to become.
It is hard to imagine how anyone of any political persuasion would think that this is the right way to manage our military or protect our security.

Aug. 18 2014 08:55 AM

Listened to this last night. Great journalism, thanks radiolab.

Aug. 17 2014 11:33 PM
Marie Reed from Maryland

Thank you for this fascinating program. Terrible to realize that the hated (by me) Gulf of Tonkin Resolution lives on in a new form.

Aug. 17 2014 07:08 PM
John Boyer from Annandale

I've been a big fan of Radio Lab for years, but after hearing your outstanding 60 Words segment I have to let you know how much I appreciate the work you do. I am emailing my friends they must listen to and share with others your compelling program on this vital subject. Kudos to the team who produced this.

John Boyer
Annandale, VA

Aug. 17 2014 06:40 PM
JayTee3 from NJ

Fascinating program!

The reason that these "wars" feel like we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole is that we are!

If we regard them as the act of organized international CRIMINALs, rather than warriors, it becomes much easier to understand. The world has an International Criminal Court to try these people. And although Bill Clinton signed the US up for participation in the ICC system, President Bush "unsigned" us in early 2001, mistakenly thinking that it eroded our "sovereignty". It is time for us to reverse that error, and send the Guantanamo prisoners to the Hague, and let them take care of it from there.

Aug. 17 2014 02:08 PM

After hearing the isnt war....suppression of terrorism is a way of life.

Aug. 17 2014 12:28 PM
Techman from Houston TX

Your productions have wonderful content. Your production techniques are innovative and in some regards are experimental. Cutting out "dead air" to the degree that you do, though, makes listening almost aggravatingly exasperating. The space between words on the printed page and the milliseconds between spoken words are both vital, but for different reasons. In speech, it allows time for the listener to absorb and to engage in deeper consideration of the content.

I have noted that animated movies, for instance, which have longer shots (scene periods) between cuts, are invariably more successful. The TV show with the ultra-short cut difficulty, which comes to mind, is "The Crazy Ones." This is a show that has many fine attributes but requires a "full panic" on the part of the audience, to engage with. It is a shame because this flaw was never recognized. Now I heard today that it was cancelled several months back. I have been a fan of Robin Williams for decades but I could not take the stress of the exhausting pace of that production.

It takes a little peace to consider worthwhile matters. It is wise to use fewer words and present them each as the jewels they actually are.

Aug. 16 2014 09:51 PM

RadioLab - enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. To the people who ask: Where was the "science" or "technology" in this broadcast?, I say, that is the question we will all be asking when "war" and "peace" are no longer distinguishable and all funding for the National Science Foundation and NPR (and RadioLab) vanish.

A much appreciated broadcast, in RadioLab style found no where else on the airwaves, to get people thinking about science and technology in this modern world.

Aug. 16 2014 09:12 PM
Sheridan Peil from Phoenix

I parked the car and listened to the entire session. It brought tears to my eyes and I felt a old wound open up in me. Congresswoman Barbra Lee's segment especially was moving and immediately reminded me that sometimes in truth you stand alone and often the popular view is the wrong view.
"Men,it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one."
- Charles Mackey
Keep it up RadioLab!

Aug. 16 2014 08:10 PM
Randy from NY

This is a very important and informative piece of excellent journalism. Thank you, RadioLab, for your good work!

Aug. 16 2014 06:49 PM

Just heard piece about 60 words and the statement by Barbara Lee in Congress.
Thank you so much for this piece. It means so much to me. Her words, her stance, are examples of the very best of our law-making and governing system. I can't get through to her because her website allows communication only with her constituents ... so pass along, for me, these words from me: Thank you, thank you, thank you for acting in the best interest of not just the US, not just the free world, but the best interest of humanity around the world.

Aug. 16 2014 06:47 PM
Ruth Smith from Denver

Do you suppose ISIS has an official declaration of war agaisnt all non-Muslims or do they just rely on the internal authorization for war and genocide found in the Koran?

Aug. 16 2014 05:01 PM
Charles Riley from San Diego

Very interesting line of reasoning. Perhaps someday folks like this and others will be equally concerned about all of the unelected bureaucrats and regulators who are making decisions and implementing policy in the economic and regulatory realms based on well intentioned legislation but with stunning overreach.

Aug. 16 2014 03:59 PM
good citizen from USA

More news in an hour than I've heard in more than a year. Stay on the case.

Aug. 16 2014 03:19 PM

Barbara Lee voted like a coward she voted against war in Afghanistan not Iraq immediately this was no principled
but correct vote. Obama scuttled everything Bush had acomplished

Aug. 16 2014 02:34 PM
Dana S. Leslie from Providence, RI.

Jeb Markand

is absolutely correct. "He determines" are the two most important words in the whole sentence, and you gave them no attention at all. If I had been in Congress at the time, I would have insisted that "determines" be replaced with "and Congress determine;" but, of course, Congress would never have had the courage to make that substitution.

Aug. 16 2014 02:09 PM

Re: the comment I left bellow...I thanked Radio Lab and Slate, allow me to correct myself...I should have said BuzzFeed.

Aug. 16 2014 01:27 PM
Michael Epinger from New Jersey

This is by far the most extraordinary Radio Lab I have ever heard. People often use...perhaps over use the term : " jaw dropped". Jad...when you said, at the end of this report..."what is the difference between war and peace", my jaw really did drop and I sat, seemingly paralyzed as I tried (and am still trying to)absorb and grasp the reality of that statement and all of its implications. Amazing and stunning reporting to both of you and Slate.

Aug. 16 2014 01:19 PM

Oh, my! This is one of the greatest Radio Labs yet! Of course I love your shows on science, but you nailed this one! More, please!!!

Aug. 16 2014 01:03 PM
NRroad from New York

Those who believe this war has lasted too long, and has been or should be ended by President Obama seem unwilling to recognize the perspectives of groups like al Qaeda and ISIS or be unwilling to take them at their word. Islamic states and movements have fought struggles lasting centuries, both internal and external. These groups, so long as they can successfully recruit, are perfectly willing to pursue their aims on similar time lines. It is naive and fatuous to think that the U.S. can decide when these wars are over.

Aug. 16 2014 12:58 PM
Bruce from Rational Thought, CA

If a tree falls in a forest (or in the United States of America) and only one person hears, it does it make a noise?

Please listen to this profound Radiolab story, and listen carefully for the sound that I hear. The sound that I hear I call "rational thought".

If you hear rational thoughts expressed in this Radiolab report, please let me know, since I often wonder how far sound can travel in the US now that we live in the "information age".

Aug. 16 2014 01:49 AM
Charles Zerner from New York

This was a brilliant, disturbing broadcast. Please resist the calls to narrow your focus. Your show is simultaneously about the techniques of legal interpretation, and about translation of facts, that is words, sentences, phrases, into the last fourteen years of everywhere war on whoever. Think of this program as a contribution to the work of Tom Paine and Edward R. Murrow. At the same time, its about the ways in which language is used, converted, translated and corrupted to justify a war without end: in the company of Stanley Fish. Ought to be played in elementary school and circulated widely in the internet/public square. Good work!

Aug. 15 2014 03:49 PM
Charles Cohen from Witness to 9/11

How can we codify judgment?

Aug. 14 2014 09:01 PM
Lee from South Florida

Looking forward to hearing this episode. I'm intrigued and sure it is informative and well done.

However, please retain a focus on apolitical issues of science and curiosity, please! This is a deeper issue than simply one story, regardless of how interesting and informative it may be. Don't squander the well established defacto identity of the show, so sucessfully built upon a refreshing and unique take on issues of apolitical scientific inqury and curiosity. That identity and programing is both far too valuable and unique in a sea of cultural and political media. Please! Please! Please!

Aug. 14 2014 01:10 PM
Phil from Oakland, CA

Thanks for the great story! And here's to Barbara Lee, a true American hero and leader. There is a reason she continues to be re-elected term after term. She represents the perspective of her constituents, voters who believe in a need for worldwide understanding, fairness, and justice, but most of all compassion. We were 100% behind her bravery in 2001 and proud to have elected her.

Aug. 13 2014 11:30 PM
Jed Simpson from New York, NY

You guys just can't stay away from the ideology.

Let's see you knock Obama. Oh wait, you guys love him. I'd like to see the science behind the absolute worship of Obama by 40% of the nation. Now that would be science.

Aug. 13 2014 03:42 PM
Nikolaus Schlaich from Germany

Wow! incredible story telling to a fascinating topic that plagues us all since years. Thanks a lot for this episode - to me certainly one of your best ever!

Aug. 09 2014 03:17 AM
Ann Buttrick from Toronto Canada

So many thanks for this. Barbara Lee is a magnificent American with great perception, intelligence, wisdom and courage. I hope there are more thinking legislators with foresight coming along like her.

Aug. 07 2014 12:25 AM
Rain from Minneapolis

Shocking how Representative Lee received such overwhelming vitriol in response, and how the "US vs. Them" rhetoric saturated our national conversations. Even more shocking now, more than a decade later, that this same rhetoric has been adopted by China and North Korea to describe dissidents - or recent NSA leaks defining TOR and TAILS users as "Domestic Extremists". Where does all of this end?

Aug. 05 2014 04:50 PM

Just now getting caught up on my Radio Lab! Thank you for sharing this. As a writer and communicator, the interpretation of words and sentences has and forever will shape our intertwined stories as individuals and a population.

Aug. 03 2014 06:34 PM
Chris Budesa from West Orange, NJ

One of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed by the US Congress and signed into law by the President of the USA. It should be repealed, if not our country will be at war forever. History is going to be judging our country harshly.

Jul. 17 2014 07:22 AM
MANUEL HERRERA from Tampa , Florida


Jun. 19 2014 05:58 AM
jimmy from London

Anyone know the music at 28:35 for about 15 seconds? I've heard it before, possibly through radiolab, but for the life of me, can't remember where it's from.

Jun. 16 2014 05:32 PM

To those that decry this episode for being lacking in scientific content, I urge you to consider the scientific merits of the fields of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and the use of examining data (e.g. through a review of history). This was an highly informative and incredibly thought-provoking episode; I'll be recommending it to others. Well-done, and thanks!

Jun. 01 2014 05:16 PM
Tom Lenhard

apaches- violance is always wrong- buddha-jesus - turn the other cheek

May. 31 2014 10:00 PM
M Gear

Excellent story. Now, having said that, I know it's rude to shout, but WHERE WAS THE SCIENCE?!?!? That's two in a row with no science content at all, plus a few other recent episodes with little content dealing with science. No offense, but I would start a new show and give it a new name if you want to go in an entirely different direction.

May. 30 2014 08:28 PM
Diane A from Toronto Canada

Hey guys, I just binge-listened to every season of this show over the last few weeks! Just want to say I love hearing all these interesting stories and perspectives, thanks for putting them together <3

May. 30 2014 10:05 AM
SuckahPunch from Los Angeles, CA

She was not the only one who knew.
Don't be dense, Radiolab.

There were millions of us marching on the streets, writing our congressmen, protesting the mad rush to war.
Barbara Lee is courageous. But don't misrepresent the story.
There were millions of us who saw the atrocities coming and tried to stop them.
Unfortunately, America did not listen to us.

Now we are all paying the price.

May. 27 2014 01:12 PM
Darlyne from Kampala, Uganda

As always, an interesting and informative episode. I was excited to hear you mention my home country although I do have to clarify that Uganda is in East Africa and not Central Africa as was mentioned in the show.

May. 22 2014 02:43 AM
T. Forster from Guilford, Ct.

I love Radiolab, which is why I support this show, I am always left thinking.
This particular show hit home. I was disturbed by the "you're either with us or get out of the country" mentality following the attacks. The flying of flags to show patriotism, (flags made overseas), and everybody selling cheap "collectibles" to support the cause. I say "Bravo" to Congresswoman Lee. When we were children, my father instilled in us the idea that you are only as good as your word, and to be true to your heart. Following the crowd is not a virtue, if you don't believe in the cause.
I only wish others had been as thoughtful.

May. 17 2014 07:21 AM

Terrorist organizations have declared war against the United States. We will be at war whether AUMF is ended or not. The debate is how to ethically act in this asymmetric war. When do we use drone strikes? Who do we target? When do we detainee prisoners? This story did an excellent job of tracking down that these decisions are being made by a lawyer's interpretation of AUMF, which is incredibly disturbing. We are in a new kind of war that needs more definition by elected representatives. AUMF should be superseded by a set of guidelines that more thoroughly defines the United States use of force against terrorism. If AUMF is ended without any further guidance the only authority will come from the President's power to act against an "imminent threat." Having lawyers define our policy on terrorism in two words is much scarier than defining it on 60. We like news that the war is ending. We will vote for politicians who say they will end the war. The problem is they don't have the power to end the war, the terrorists will continue to fight. Congress needs to define exactly what powers the United States can use in countering terrorism.

May. 16 2014 04:48 PM
dafree whitewolfe

Wow! As a citizen of the global village - an undutchably unamerican expat who considers this planet our home - you have articulated my distress as a conscientious citizen! this show should be mandatory listening for Jon Stewart & Steven Colbert! Dank uw wel! Merci beaucoup!

May. 15 2014 01:57 PM
John Bendel from Island Heights NJ

Extraordinary piece of broadcast journalism -- or any kind of journalism. Where to I press a "like," or better yet, "highly commend" this piece?

May. 10 2014 08:48 PM
Rusty Bryant from Ocala, Florida

Love Radiolab, Love their topics.

This one legitimately made me sick to my stomach.

Not because of the production quality or the topic, but the fact that we live in a country that allows this oversight to go uncorrected for years and years and years, costing us trillions of dollars and thousands of our own lives, not to touch on the millions of other people worldwide who've been permanantly scarred by these 60 (*62?) words.

May. 06 2014 04:47 PM

We need more people like Barbara Lee. I was really upset by all the flag waving after 9/11, and I was accused of being 'unpatriotic.' Apparently, to be a true patriot in the USA, you have to agree with the ignorant masses- congresspeople included.

May. 05 2014 04:12 PM
Philadelphia_1776 from Morrisville pa

This was such a brave peace of reporting. Also can you do a full hour on astrology? Maybe do a history on it from the ancient Hawaiians, Greeks and Persians.

ILRL(I love Radiolab)!


May. 05 2014 10:13 AM

I found this podcast very interesting. The president holds an extremely powerful position in declaring war which was scary at the time after the attack. I did not know that one congresswoman went against the others and voted against declaring war. She talked through the emotional state of the country and knew that you don’t make decisions when you are mourning. I thought the background music helped to convey the overall tone.

May. 04 2014 10:33 PM
Dave from Albany, NY

Not really adding to the conversation, but I think the track Joe from Alabama is looking for is on Adventureland by Glenn Kotche and is called Triple Fantasy.

May. 04 2014 09:53 PM
RyanN from Florida

The amount of power the president gains in terms of declaring war is frightening after an attack on our home land. It is very interesting that a lot of americans don't fully understand this war on terror and how it developed. I didn't have a very good grasp on what had happened because I was so young when the twin towers fell. I do remember that day though as stated in the beginning of the podcast, I was playing with toy cars with a childhood friend when my mom came into my room bawling her eyes out. Its crazy to think how much the war on terror has effected us since that day and now 13 years later it continues to effect us.

May. 04 2014 08:25 PM

This video was very interesting. It focused on how we define disease and how it affects our society. The music they used keep with the overall tone of the segment.

May. 04 2014 10:37 AM

This podcast was very interesting. It focused on how we define disease and how it affects our society today. The music they used keep with the overall tone of the segment.

May. 04 2014 10:34 AM

an unjust war vs unjust peace. this is a question that over laps the question how do you define disease? is the cure of an disease, a disease itself? when i ask my aunt this question she says it depends on who is making the money. commerce is a living thing. it, itself an living institute that is share in all who wants it. it promise power, pride, influence, leverage and security, war is a business. its global. and it has a history to those who keep its promise.

May. 02 2014 11:07 AM

Add me to the list of those who think the background music (from around 55:50) that ends this show is incredible. I suspect this is just a Dylan Keefe piece written specifically for this broadcast, but I would dearly love to own this if it is a commercial work. If it isn't make it one, please!

May. 02 2014 09:55 AM

Well done, Radiolab. This episode is extraordinary. Thank you for doing it.

Any way you guys could spin off a show that does this kind of investigation into issues like this, a la the way Planet Money spun off from This American Life?

This is truly powerful journalism, in my opinion. It looks at big questions and information gaps in a way few, if any, are doing out there. So much more thoughtful and engaging than so much out there. You manage to raise the bar of the debate, when so many others lower it.

I hope you win an award for this. Well deserved.

May. 02 2014 09:24 AM
Why Peace

Very good, discussion. Still my favorite podcast. Thanks again.
Marc Guttman, editor, Why Peace (

May. 01 2014 11:05 PM
Jamie Bronstein from Las Cruces, NM

I wish that Barbara Lee took email from non-constituents. Unlike many who commented on this program, I was an adult when 9/11 happened, but was completely unaware until I heard this podcast that any member of the legislature had been brave enough to resist the emotional groupthink of the days after 9/11 to really think about what we were doing in response. Kudos to you, Congresswoman.

May. 01 2014 10:07 AM
Jeb Markand

You skipped the two most important words in the sentence: "he determines." Those two words mean that the President alone determines who the US is at war with, and he can't be challenged. That means the government can kill whoever it wants, as long as the President claims he "determined" that they "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

May. 01 2014 02:22 AM
Jon from Alabama

Please, please, please tell us what song was used throughout the show. I heard variations of it at 23:0 and 38:00. I couldn't figure out if it's from Adventureland and couldn't find anything from Dylan Keith online.

May. 01 2014 12:03 AM
Alex C. from Washington DC

I really wish you guys would make your material accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing. Over the years I've heard so many good reviews and references to Radiolab, and I've never been able to enjoy it because it's inaccessible to me. At the least, you could post transcripts--that would also be beneficial for people who want to quote the show or reference it.

Apr. 30 2014 03:44 PM
John Mahony from indiana

fantastic show. I'm a science geek but you guys are great storytellers so I don't mind a deviation for a subject as important as this.

Apr. 29 2014 10:26 PM
Alejandro Carrillo from México

Hi, guys!

I liked the first story a lot! Really impressive... but the others segments are not really story driven, they are just información. Just compare those with the first one.... the first one is universal, and it'll be great right now and in a 1000 years... this is the kind of story radiolab does, that's why is so good, it doesn't matter the topic, politics or science, the pieces are timeless, but the other stuff could have been done by whoever, is too local and too time fixed and not universal at all!

Apr. 29 2014 10:52 AM
Pat Jones from Mendocino

Who did the last bit of music on this show? Dylan Keith? Very haunting stuff that perfectly suited the emotional impact of the story.

Apr. 28 2014 08:14 PM
J from Colorado

This was an interesting and well edited show with an important message, but I miss the science component that makes Radiolab so special. There are other good political journalism podcasts out there, but few podcasts that delve into science for the general public like you do. There are so many scientific topics to be explored that I feel Radiolab can continue to grow and push boundaries while still addressing scientific ideas and themes. Thanks for the good show (and all of the amazing work that goes in to this podcast!), but I hope that science will come back as Radiolab's focus in the future!

I wonder if Radiolab shouldn't split off in to two shows - one that's a This American Life-style political and human interest podcast, with stories like this and the amazing Hip Hop short from a few weeks ago, and another that focuses on science?

Apr. 28 2014 03:07 PM

What is the background song about 38:00 minutes in?

I heard the Zoe Keating!

Apr. 28 2014 01:47 PM
Chris from NY

@Michelle Slater, you might be thinking of "Placebo," which you can find here:

Apr. 28 2014 09:08 AM
Joy from Hong Kong

"...then what's the difference between war and peace?"
Reminds me of something said a few years back, slightly differently but with the same meaning:
"'War is peace.'

He goes on to add a bit more, perhaps unnecessarily, as one might claim these are already included in the above three words, even if not actually stated:
"'Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.'"
- byGeorge Orwell in the once categorized-as-fiction/fantasy story "1984"

Apr. 28 2014 12:56 AM

This was a great episode that could easily have been something pedantic and boring (Which can be said of a lot of pieces of this nature). However it wasn't. The first story was excellent and morally engaging and I liked the un-Captain America like manner in which the information was presented which to be honest is a good thing (Its easier on the ears of foreigners like me). Overall.. Good Job..
While I do miss the pieces that are typically more RadioLabby.. I simply can't fault them for wanting to expand their horizons and introduce variety.
In any case, the "Lab" in this radio station's namesake can also refer to simply an examination of a topic of interest, including but not necessarily encapsulated by science anyway.. So relax with the change resistance a bit people and work on your neuroplasticity.. (At

Sorry about you guys loosing Pat Walters. He was good..

Apr. 27 2014 05:30 PM

So pleased that Radiolab can take on a topic such as this that is so prickly to handle with a predominantly US audience. I would like to see the same courage taken on to address global warming (the elephant in the lab), which is not just sorely needed for the show's credibility but also should keep the science purists happy for a while.

Apr. 27 2014 09:00 AM
Ekim from Los Angeles

For those decrying the politics of this episode one thing should be understood; linguistics is a science. While the nature of the subject involves politics and thereby politicians, the core of the broadcast takes on the birth, evolution, and power of those 60 words. This is not their first and I hope not the last venture into the science of linguistics. I would have no idea what a Glomar Response was if it was not for RadioLab. Keep up the good work.

Apr. 27 2014 08:42 AM
Michelle Slater from New York City, USA

I am ALWAYS fascinated by this show, although I'm not here today (4/26/14) to comment on this specific one...but on the episode I just caught at NPR NYC about the 'healing' powers of SOME doctors and healers...It is one I hope will appear here soon and allow me to share it with friends. This episode is the last one I've received on my blogs dashboard. Please publish soon again.

Apr. 26 2014 07:35 PM
Marjorie from St.Paul, MN

The question brought up at the end of this episode gave me chills. "What is the difference between war and peace?" That is an excellent question to ask. It seems that the line is very blurred today. Thank you for the thought-provoking show this week. It gave me chills.

Apr. 26 2014 04:39 PM

Great job in covering a new, even more meaningful topic. More please.

Apr. 26 2014 04:31 PM

I agree that evolving Radiolab will take into account that interjections from Krul+Jad in politically charged stories come across as a little too flip-glib.

Still crucial. Cue applause.

Apr. 26 2014 01:28 PM
Harmon Gale from AZ

Have any of who are insisting that "60 Words" sounds more like a This American Life episode actually listened to what This American Life sounded like in the late '90s? TAL doesn't sound like TAL anymore!

"Ugh, this isn't a quirky slice-of-life audio collage! Leave the hard journalism to All Things Considered."


Apr. 26 2014 03:49 AM

A "war on terror". I agree with a lot of the other comments, that statement is very vague. A "war on terror". How do we even define terror and terrorism? How do we choose who to murder and accuse of terrorism? I agree that we need to do something to keep our country safe but, I believe it should be more specific. Those 60 words gave the president the power to define "terrorism" and the perpetrators of terrorism. Its ridiculous that those 60 words give our president that power and those who signed off on it had no idea what the unforeseen consequences of the law.

Apr. 25 2014 09:19 PM
Greg from Wisconsin

Hey guys, I listened to this podcast on Monday and now on Friday, 4 days later, I still find myself playing it back in my mind and pondering over it; great work overall.

Currently I am a 25-year-old Lieutenant with almost 8 years of service in the Army, and Commander of over 70 Soldiers.

At the naïve age of 13, sitting in a Wisconsin junior high classroom as the events of 9/11 unfolded on the TV at the front of the room, I was admittedly incapable of wrapping my head around the magnitude and long-lasting effects of that day. But I do remember finding myself getting caught up in the spirit of the nation during those times; if you could have summed up the group-think of the populous in one word it would have been revenge, somebody had to pay.

I have to give Congresswoman Barbara Lee the upmost respect for facing adversity, fighting back against a wave of emotions that was sweeping the country, and making the hard decision that was right for her. Even though ultimately her vote didn't change the outcome, it is good to know that there are still politicians out there who are willing to stand up for what is morally right instead of what is popular. And I believe that even Barbara Lee also wanted some form of revenge, but only if it were on terms that she could agree upon.

Now, 12 years later, I have 18-year-old kids joining my unit that can hardly recall that infamous day. To a majority of the Soldiers that emotion of revenge is a distant memory. In a few more years, 9/11 will be nothing more than a story in the history books for these kids entering military service. As a military we continue to fight, and yet I would be willing to bet most teenagers don't even know why.

Thanks again for the thought-provoking podcast; great work, keep it up.

Apr. 25 2014 08:10 PM
Alex from edinburgh

I agree with the comments about the recent shows. It's a shame that radiolab is getting closer and closer toward social/political podcast, rather then the good old science show. I mean - it's your decision. Of course if you don't feel like covering these subjects anymore, then probably it's better that you are not producing them anymore. Still, now I do not even look for that much for another episode of Radiolab, which in the past was my totally favourite podcast.
Nevertheless, good job guys!

Apr. 25 2014 02:51 PM

The problem isn't that you're doing non-science shows, it's that Radiolab isn't very GOOD at political topics. The editing, which works so well for other topics, comes across as glib. Robert always says something ridiculous. There's often, as in this episode, a feeling that the whole thing lacks focus. These episodes are far outside your wheelhouse, and they've always been a littl disappointing.
There are plenty of shows already handling these topics, and doing so very well. Please consider staying with what YOU do best.

Apr. 25 2014 02:44 PM
Peter from Upstate

I am a science geek. Its OK to sprinkle in a little variety, interesting comes in many flavors. This show was well done and entertaining, well done Radiolab!

Apr. 25 2014 01:04 PM
Sara G from San Francisco, CA

Hindsight is 20/20. When the towers came down, I was 21 years old. I admit to have been swept up in the hysteria. Now in my mid-30's, I'd like to think I've evolved as a person. Despite the fact that I know I have almost entire lifetime to continue to evolve, I now believe that war was a mistake and that no war is justified.

Also of note, I am from Northern California and know of Barbara Lee. I didn't realize that this standoff was going on. Hats off to anyone for being the lone holdout and standing up from what they believe, even when it isn't popular.

Apr. 25 2014 12:26 PM
Nathan from Pittsburgh

Can we please have our show about Science back?

I'm mean, really?,... a vague law is passed and then it gets used to start military actions we didn't foresee. It sounds like a 1 minute report to me. What's the mystery? You put spooky music in the background, but I'm not fooled.

Perhaps the one semi-scientific note is that politicians and most people do not think about history, and tend to act out of fear. Come on RadioLab! You can do so much better than this. All I hear is a lot of talk about prayer and politics. Bring back the Science baby!!!

Apr. 25 2014 08:55 AM
CRobey from Florida

I've always thought the term "war on terror" was kind of vague. It was interesting to hear exactly how much power that statement gave to a single human, namely the president. It is kind of scary. I don't disagree with the fact that terrorism should be combated, but it should be done far more carefully.

Apr. 25 2014 12:29 AM
wander from Colorado

Thank You Radiolab, Thank you Buzzfeed, Thank you Barbara Lee, and Thank you Glenn Kotchke for this amazing and thought provoking piece.

Apr. 24 2014 10:00 PM
Nara from Denver

Thank you for this episode, it explains a lot of what is going. I had not heard about Barbara Lee and I am so happy you share that information. The episode is at the same time comforting and re-establish faith in democracy because one woman understood the danger in it all and can serve as an inspiration to others, and disturbing, because 13 years later still people don´t understand it: "Let us pray for divine wisdom that as we act we do not become the evil we deplore." And let us pray that the US stops fighting, because "If we are going to be fighting them, even when we are not technically at war with them, then what is the difference between war and peace?", great sentence.

Apr. 24 2014 04:59 PM
Danielle from Rochester, NY

Absolutely, one of the best radiolab pieces I've ever heard.

Interestingly, in it's About section, I found this: Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

How is this off topic?

Apr. 24 2014 03:31 PM

Thank you for this episode. The events of 911 have always been so painfully hard for me. That amount of fear and hate that would motivate this attack is unfathomable. Yet I made myself listen to this episode and fought back tears but I loved it. Thank you for introducing me to such a brave, intelligent women. I had not heard of Barbara Lee before because I have been so discouraged by our politicians I stopped listening. Knowing someone as thoughtful and courageous as Barbara has a voice in our countries' political process is comforting and inspiring.

Apr. 24 2014 02:18 PM
southwest dude from nm

Political science is not science any more than creation science is science.

There are venues for stories like this one. As another commenter suggested, This American Life (which I also listen to). I listened to this, and kept waiting for the other shoe to drop… where was the science connection. Alas, there was none.

Apr. 24 2014 12:35 PM
Sarah James from seattle wa

I disagree that this was an off topic episode, radiolab is more than a natural science show, I would consider this and episode about political science. Understanding how wording on a document changes the course of American history is important information.

Apr. 24 2014 11:06 AM
John from South Australia from Australia

Powerful episode. I disagree completely with those criticising this episode. It was a thought provoking and informative. It is critical to be prepared to move outside of the bubble that we exist in and to challenge the premises on ways that we see things.
The courage of Barbara Lee was outstanding.

Apr. 24 2014 02:46 AM
Alexa from Los Angeles, CA

So bummed to hear yet another luke warm This American Life instead of a science-based episode. And even worse is that it advances a political agenda -- about as far from the spirit of science as can be.

Apr. 24 2014 02:16 AM
larry from freeport ny

So what words would Barbara or radio lab have preferred to use. What is to be said to let those enemies of the US "The evil we deplore" to not get away with their crimes ? She did not see the future.

Apr. 24 2014 01:42 AM

This episode is the perfect example of why Radiolab is my favorite podcast/radioshow. It is thought provoking, interesting, and awesome! I love that you guys tackle hard issues that have no correct answer. I will be thinking about and talking with friends about this topic for weeks. Thanks for entertaining me, inspiring me, and giving me topics for conversation!

Apr. 23 2014 11:31 PM
southwest dude from NM

While somewhat interesting, this is the worst radio lab I have heard. Why? Where is the science? It's entirely off topic---where is the science.

"Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience."

Sometimes only 2 of the three boxes might be checked, but SCIENCE had always been one of them until now.

Apr. 23 2014 07:14 PM

The discussion about whether the US government has a legal fig leaf is beside the point. The president or Congress or Supreme Court can say it's legal. So what. Is it moral? Is it right? Further, there is nothing in the 60 words that compels the president to do anything. He has permission from another branch of government that's all. Obama's decision and Bush's before him, to kill people, torture people, and detain people indefinitely shows their lack of morality even if they are not technically US scofflaws. Speaking of legal, based on the international treaty against torture that the Senate ratified, the US government is supposed to be prosecuting US citizens who practiced torture. They are *legally* bound to do that, but you don't notice Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfawitz, Rove, etc, etc getting hauled up before the Hague. Why don't you do a show about that?

Apr. 23 2014 07:07 PM
T0dd from NYC

Ok.. I have conflicting feelings about this show.

First, I liked it, though my feelings about everything after 9/11 are 'complicated', I think it brings up important points. But I think you miss a very important point--which is, has the West or the US won the war on terror? I think in some ways the answer is a spectacular 'yes' and in other ways a dramatic 'no', but...

Second, Radiolab is a show about science. There are about 30 or so political/news podcasts for every science podcast. We need more science podcasts... they will help us have less war. I'm serious. As far as news/politics? Not so much.

Each time Radiolab drifts from its basic premise, I have a small emotional reaction of sadness and mourning. Science is your "first, best" calling. The other stuff... sigh, it's fine, but...

Apr. 23 2014 04:51 PM
Jim Hill

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and am trying to find out when "60 Words" will air on KQED-FM...or if it already has aired. Just talked to station and they are not sure. Can you help?

Apr. 23 2014 04:15 PM

This is a good and valuable story. I found it interesting and informative. I just wish RadioLab could be kept for science and hours like this you could cross-produce with another show and air on their waves.

It's so rare to find a really good science show, and science is so important; meanwhile nearly every other show on public radio is open to stories about politics. It makes me feel disappointed when I see a new RadioLab in my podcast app, I get all excited, and then it turns out to be RadioLaw instead.

This is not the area where you shine, guys. You do a creditable job, you are capable producers and generally smart humans, but the hours that really sparkle are focused on science, not law or politics.

Apr. 23 2014 03:30 PM
Kathleen from Berrien Springs, Michigan

I listened to the 60 Words episode this morning as I was getting ready for work and found myself getting emotional while listening to Barbara Lee's story. I don't even consider myself an overly emotional person normally - but I have such deep admiration for what she did.

This was a really great episode as a whole. I was 14 when 9/11 took place, and I remember how suddenly the national discourse turned to terrorism. Since then, it seems that everything is terrorism, and every fear is rooted in it; that rhetoric has never gone away. The world absolutely changed that day.

Apr. 23 2014 03:18 PM

Great show!! Thank you for being actual journalists and reporting on this subject to an audience that may not necessarily consider the implications of the story. Your report exposes only the tip of the iceberg that has become our modern security state, but I find it a heartwarming start. Go Radiolab!

Apr. 23 2014 02:07 PM
Ron H. from U.S.

The show isn't about what we call science, but they've done shows on the brain and on emotions. Going to War involves that and more.
I think of a few days after the twin towers disaster and a brief "on the street" comment heard on NPR. An old woman said something like these words, "I went through World War Two, this is nothing." It was shocking to hear then, but gives me pause for thought. Her wisdom would have been better heeded instead of the fear and hatred the attacks brought.
Finally, when all the words are over what we arrive at is having to trust anyone in power to act with prudence and wisdom and do good. This is true with parents, teachers, those who lead in business, government, religion or any civic authority. May we have good judgment in the future.

Apr. 23 2014 10:42 AM

As a Canadian looking through a very diffused lens at the state of things in the States, I found this story unbelievably brilliant. My outlook on political affairs in the USA are almost always bleak (and they certainly aren't improved by the highly entertaining, and I'm sure in some respects, daftly false House of Cards), but this episode shifted the paradigm of thought that I have about the politics away from the squabbling and oneupmanship that the media has manufactured and brought it to a probably more accurate picture of a complex system in which people (who especially when selected correctly, by evidence proven track record and experience) are just trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

The part that I see as being the real tragedy in the States is the last bit of this episode, where they came off slightly condemning Obama for potentially loosening the affect that congress can have in ruling over imminent threats. I understand this language may seem ambiguous and could lead to a bypass of congressional oversight altogether, but if you elect a president to follow in the footsteps of Obama that has equal the amount of guts, an amazing sense of morality and the intellect that he has - your country will be in fine shape.

Please don't forget that Bush was not an intelligent man. He brought the world into unnecessary war, created mass-hysteria and fear and now takes more of an interest in folk art than he does in the Nation's doings - he just didn't care or wasn't smart enough to try to. Obama tried and came closest to creating National healthcare (and his founding footsteps will definitely lead you there), under his guidance, one of the most hateful people in the world was killed (Bin Laden) and he has done his best to correct some seriously complex language in the ever changing landscape of the world, which includes conflict, when conflict is no longer confined to a battleground or by borders.

No one else could have created such an amazingly simple, articulate and inspiring show like this. Hats off Jad and Robert... I'll follow you guys to the end of the Earth.

Apr. 23 2014 12:51 AM

I have to say guys great episode. What I love about it is that this one has left me completely torn on so many levels and I love that it stirred so much inner dialog bravo!

My anger, rage and want for revenge as a native New Yorker during the 9/11 attacks but yet my disillusionment with these wars that have set in my opinion our country down a very bleak path.

The faith that I have in our great country but also the fear that our country's leaders both elected and appointed to abuse the powers entrusted in them.

Now I know people are posting that you are a science show and to stick to that, part of me agrees but I think that as long as the show sparks the neurons of the brain and is able to bridge the gap of social/political commentary, science and thought provocation I say episodes like this are fantastic and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Apr. 22 2014 10:55 PM
Eric Campbell

I used to be excited to see a new Radiolab podcast in my queue but now I don't even get around to listening to them until days after they are released. I feel like the show has veered away from what made it so unique and interesting. Please re-focus on the awe inspiring worlds of nature and science (Krulwich Wonders has been great at this as of late), you guys were amazing dealing with those subjects.

Apr. 22 2014 06:34 PM

I enjoyed this episode. This episode fits in with what I believe to be the agenda of the show. It is amazing how you create an atmosphere of personal thought. This show is the best.

Apr. 22 2014 06:10 PM
Ben from Israel

Excellent episode,it was very interesting

Apr. 22 2014 06:02 PM
Nichole from NYC

I admire Barbara for standing up for what she believed in. I was always taught to be the better in the situation (though in this situation it may be our own that is against us). I still believe so. And as a former soldier that served in war in recent years, I saw how pointless it all really is. There is no simple answer to guide us toward the balance in being the better person (or people) and standing up for ourselves. In any situation. But she truly saw the weight of it. If every last person on this earth thought like her, we would cease to create more problems for ourselves, and focus our energy instead, on solving the ones we all face together. Her story was truly moving.

Apr. 22 2014 03:44 PM
truth hurts

Wish more people took basic physics or engineering courses. Plotting the towers collapse, including wtc 7's proves beyond a doubt 9/11 was a false flag.

It scares most peopto talk about the deep state running things in the u.s. but lets not pussyfoot around the truth.

Apr. 22 2014 09:53 AM
Khauna from Atlanta

Great piece. I would also do immoral things to know the song that closes out this piece. Great sound. Anyone know???

Apr. 22 2014 09:10 AM
Joe C from upstate NY

Great show.

Without going into conspiracies, this is perhaps the closest one can get toward understanding motives and ramifications for stripping the 4th amendment and the rise of the surveillance state.

Apr. 22 2014 05:00 AM
Ysanne from Hawaii

Thank you for this well-done and articulate piece. Really shows the power of language and the potential (and inevitably) of it being manipulated.

Apr. 22 2014 04:39 AM
gruts4t from Japan

I remember being in the UK during the Iran-Contra scandal. On one news program, several British journalists enthusiastically discussed its ins and outs and the consensus was the Reagan was in deep trouble. Then via satellite an American pundit joined the debate. He was grinning from ear to ear with bemusement and said something like "You guys just don't get it. Yes, it was illegal, yes lies were told. But no one wants to get rid of Reagan. They like him" Even intelligent and liberally minded people start acting tribal at moments of high stress. Stepping back from that takes everything we have. The podcast was testimony to our slow and painful efforts to anticipate ethical problems from our emotional responses. Hume was right, the passions govern us, Reason is how we justify those passions

Apr. 22 2014 12:04 AM
Matt from Lakewood, ca

Thanks for coming at the perfect time!
I am teaching the Tonkin Gulf Resolution tomorrow and this serves as a perfect reflection of what consequences can result from ambiguous language. You guys are consistently awesome in your pursuit of answers to important questions, thanks.

Apr. 21 2014 11:01 PM
gruts4t from Japan

I have just listened to your 60 words podcast. It was my first visit to your show and I gather it was somewhat atypical in terms of subject matter. I found it fascinating, and the level of curiosity, intelligence and modesty (the "me-show" element of many podcasts can be extremely tiresome) you displayed has made me very interested in listening to future shows, whatever the topic. Thanks and well done.

Apr. 21 2014 09:35 PM

The reason we were attacked on 9/11 has more to do with the betrayal of 241 Marines (I call them all Marines in their honor]and the continuing silence as to what happened on October 23, 1983 [the Lebanon Barracks Bombing]. Iran financed this Second Pearl Harbor and the Response of the United States betrayed these brave Marines. Rather than declaring WAR against Iran the United States declared War against Grenada. Osama Bin Laden stated the Barracks Bombing was their greatest victory because it showed that the United States was a "paper tiger". But that was not the worst betrayal. Later the United States sold weapons to Iran through Israel, and took down Iraq, Iran's greatest enemy. I thought the enemy of my enemy was my friend. Not if oil interests are involved.

Apr. 21 2014 07:51 PM

Thank you Radiolab for this wonderful and informative piece.

Apr. 21 2014 03:47 PM
Nick from USA

For anyone who's complaining about a lack of a focus on science or saying Jad and Robert should stick to science, you should try navigating to the "About" page on the Radiolab site.

"Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience."

Maybe Jad and Robert can do a short for all of you who seem to be confused about the mission of the program in which they breakdown the above statement and illuminate how it doesn't mean this show is strictly about science.

Apr. 21 2014 01:45 PM
Rene from DC

Great show. Interesting.

Question: are we possibly witnessing the evoluation of war -- nation-states like the U.S., Russia, Germany, etc., cannot go to war. Our weapons and ability to kill -- the Second World War, the last global war -- might threaten survival and thus, warfare has shifted to a lower level (less death and destruction) but chronic state?

And, those who disagree with the majority cannot engage in direct warfare. For example, the way that the early Americans took on England. So the only recourse for the powerless is terrorism or guerrilla warfare, or, freedom fighters if you support their goals. The groups that attack using terrorism have a minority position -- and it is position that is, essentially, without power in the modern world.

I am thinking here as well about eco-terrorism, or the use of violence to draw attention to what we, through corporations, are doing to our planet. We don't seem to be able to stop ourselves from polluting, just as we couldn't stop ourselves from enslaving people. It required a war to end slavery. The use of violence to force change is nothing new.

Do we have a transcendatal behavior pattern -- just as individual humans respond in predictable ways -- are we seeing a shift in the way humanity is grappling with dissent, oppression, greed, the desire for power? The United States has so much firepower --it is, while I am not supporting the use of drones as I like Jad, I feel clueless, drones are a much more restrained response than what we did to Afghanastin and Iraq. Thousands and thousands of people died in those countries.

Interesting show, thanks again, and like others, I suppport your interpretation of science. Human behavior is science -- the more we understand our behavior and the more we learn to manage it more wisely, the better for the world. Humans have the ability to regulate emotions and moderate our responses to situations. Collective response, through a participatory democracy, how do we collectively make wise decisions for ourselves?

Apr. 21 2014 08:15 AM
Mark from Russia

Yeah, stick with science. Your bias is boring and unpredictable and teaming up with Buzzfeed, who'd of thought? (Sarcasm). Well, at least now you do seem to be a full fledged NPR drone program. One less podcast to listen to.

Apr. 21 2014 06:37 AM
William from Madison, WI

Amazing work Radiolab team. I personally would like to hear more work from guys in this vein.

Apr. 20 2014 07:03 PM
Aaron Winkler

Top notch work. I would very much like to hear a followup where you tackle the questions on the edge of the issue, as they strike at the heart of a number of topics you've touched on in other episodes as well: why are we continuing to improv this endless stream of violence? Is it really anything new? Havent all governments been part of covert wars since time immemorial? In an age of a burgeoning science of complexity, for how long will the wisdom of lawyers dominate the actions of our government. More importantly, is the law simply a cover for an underlying process of justification-by-any-means to support the arms and use-of-arms industries?
All of which is to say I'd love to hear whatever stones you turn up chasing how much of this goes back to President Eisenhower's forewarn warning against the growth of a 'military-industrial complex'.
Keep chasing whatever inspires you.

Apr. 20 2014 06:50 PM
John Liesveld from Lincoln, NE

This was an excellent, important and well-done story. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the use of various scientific fields of study that were present in the story: the science of language, political science, legal science, military science, historical science, social science, even psychological science, and finally the science of common sense.

Once again Radiolab hits the mark! And I remind all, science is defined as a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.

More importantly, Radiolab is NOT a show a out science, it is much more profound than that: "Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience." - The show's mission statement, so-to-speak, taken right from the shows website. Any fan knows this!!

John Anxiously-awaiting-next-episode. :-)

Apr. 20 2014 03:34 PM
Anton Gurlukovich from United States

Thank you so much for doing this story!

Please don't listen to the commenters that only want science. I love science too, it's one of the reasons I listen to you guys but this is incredibly important to know. Thanks for having the courage to break the mold of what you think you can do to share something so profound and important.

Apr. 20 2014 02:13 PM
matt t from canada

what song comes in at 56:30?

Apr. 20 2014 02:09 PM
Idintify Media from Nashville, TN

To the commenters who only want to hear about science: all the archives are available through the following link.

To Jad and Robert (and everyone who made this story possible): Thank you for all your hard work! This is important stuff.

Apr. 20 2014 11:13 AM

Stick to science, guys.

Apr. 20 2014 10:50 AM

Barbara Lee is my representative, and I've always been proud of her. I was thrilled to hear her on Radiolab.

Apr. 20 2014 05:13 AM

i disagree with the complaints about this episode being less science focused. to me they aren't doing politics. yes the bias is clear. but they are talking about the science of words and how you convince people to believe things. i'm not an american so maybe i'm not as emotionally invested. but if you take what they are doing with their argument, and put different facts in it, like imagine it as fiction, and the events are just imaginary, then you can hear that they are just talking about how strange it is how words can change things so much

Apr. 20 2014 12:04 AM
Diana from San Mateo

If I wanted to listen to This American Life, I would have given my $100 to Ira, not Jad. This isn't science. Please go back to your mission and what you guys have been doing so uniquely well for so long.

Apr. 19 2014 08:29 PM
David Judy from Usa

I agree completely. Barbara Lee is very courageous, apparently. I wish we had more like her.

Great show, Radiolab. Thanks.

Apr. 19 2014 06:39 PM
Elizabeth from USA

Barbara Lee, this woman should be an example to all. Politicians are our moral examples and representatives. For standing up, even when it was against her best interest, for what she believe in she was the epitome of all that we should want in our representative. A true rare breed.

Apr. 19 2014 07:13 AM
Desmond from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Great episode, but continues Radiolab's trend toward a focus on "human interest" stories and away from what made it so original. What ever happened to the scientific themes complimented by immersive, transportive sound editing that facilitated the loss of oneself in discussions of the nature of time, or space, or even the more philosophical topics of with morality, or choice. This is a fine episode, but it pales in comparison to the originality of what Radiolab has historically offered, and is more like something one would expect from This American Life (to trot out a tired, but nonetheless accurate criticism).

Guys, please, do again what you do so well. You were the only one's doing it, and we miss it.

Apr. 19 2014 03:20 AM

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

The mainstream media and most government officials completely avoid these issues, which are arguably some of the most important of our time. This leads to a lack of awareness and stifles the open conversations which the population needs to be having about situations like this. I assume that there will be massive disagreements about the implications of the information contained in this story, but that's the way it should be. We need to be talking about this. Thank you Radiolab for doing your part to open a dialogue and get the ball rolling.

Much respect.


Apr. 19 2014 02:00 AM

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