tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN July 8, 2016 3:00pm-5:01pm EDT
fairly and honestly admit that they have not even after this passage of time been able to identify alternative approaches which would have guaranteed greater success. and this i would suggest is for the very simple reason that the terrorism we faced and did not expect would have been difficult for any circumstances to counter. this is the lesson we learned from other conflict zones especially libya, syria, yemen, but others, also. our planning proceeded on the basis of those risks of which we were warned namely possibility of humanitarian disaster, the use of wmd by saddam, resistance from the regime and challenges of reconstruction. in the event -- al qaeda attacks
on u.n. on reconstruction of the shia population. ied attacks and other acts of terrorism supported by iran, the inquiry does find that there were warnings about fighting and blood letting. i accept that. i would point out that nowhere were these highlighted as main risk and what we faced was not anticipated but all out insurgency. we also now know that the assad regime in syria was sending terrorisms across the border to cause terror. this has major impact. in short, we ended up fighting the same elements we are fighting from the same origins. extremism on one hand and sunni extremism on the other.
the consequence was as we were trying to rehabilitate the country those elements were trying to wreck our efforts by secreta sectarian violence. the inquiry finds there were no papers presented to cabinet. i note that cabinet alone debated iraq 26 times in the run up to conflict. there were 28 meetings of ad hoc meeting however, i accept i could have and should have insisted on the presentation of formal options paper to cabinet. i come to legality. the report does not make a finding on legal judgment for then attorney general. there are very good reasons for not disputing it. the whole negotiating issue made it clear that the u.s. and uk have always refused language that obliged the second resolution. the finding of obligations of iraq and agreement that failure to comply was a material breach
was a reasonable basis for action. the advice of the attorney general was in line with that of other law offices in other nations and distinguished legal experts though i acknowledge and respect that others took a different view. whether politics is hotly contested the law will be also. i understand finds the process to come to legal opinion was far from satisfactory but does not alter legal conclusion. it was after detailed meetings had explaining negotiating history of 1441 that he came to view it is not necessary for second resolution. on the 27th of february and on the 7th of march provided the advice in writing. i accept it would have been better to provide the full written advice. i accept there is a case for providing it to parliament. but none of these matters of
process alter the fact that advice was clear and not challenged by the inquiry. inquiry at one point says there was no indication of why i gauv gave my view to the attorney general that saddam was in breach of 1441. as attorney general has explained, my view is not legally necessary since 1441 determined. he sought my confirmation of what i thought. saddam was accepted by everyone included the inspectors not to be fully complying. the whole basis of my tests was to address failure to comply. indeed, intelligence that is still considered valid shows saddam at the time in breach of u.n. resolutions instructing officials to remove evidence of wmd or programs for development. the issue is rather whether despite the breach he should be given more time. i accept, of course, it is
better politically if the security council makes such determination, but by then given the position in the security council with fundamental disagreement it was clear there would be no agreement irrespective of the circumstances. i come to this important point. is the world safer or less safe as result of removal of saddam in 2003? the report never deals with this issue in specific terms. but again with respect to inquiry this issue has to be debated if we are to reach a conclusion on the wisdom of the judgment i made. i ask that fair minded people at least consider the following. if we had withdrawn the threat of action in 2003 and pulled back our forces, we would have
found it almost impossible to re-assemble those forces in that number. now says today it might be necessary to take military action later. he accepts that. but i can see how we would have reassembled that force. sanctions would have eroded over time, i would suggest. it would have been hard to kept an invasive process of inspection in place. so saddam would have remained. and politically strengthened. plus he would have had the benefit of $100 a barrel oil. this is where the iraq survey group is so important. it indicates that he would have resumed earlier development of nuclear and chemical weapons. if that is conceivable as it surely is, then his removal avoided what would otherwise have been an unacceptable risk
in my judgment. i acknowledge completely and i respect the other point of view. i simply ask that people respect my point of view and the judgment i took on the facts i had at the time. we then come to the state of iraq today. still engaged in conflict, conflict that goes on all over the middle east. those who say but for action in 2003 iraq would be peaceful i ask to consider the following. there is no doubt that policies of the government contributed to conflict. the decisive event of the last five years is the arab spring which began in 2011. regimes across north africa and middle east were toppled and put under sustained attack. in the case of tunisia, libya, yemen regimes fell.
then in early 2011 the revolt of the syrian people against the assad regime began. in syria as with the saddam regime in iraq a small minority ruled the majority on sectarian lines except in this case, the case of syria with sunni in the majority. between 2003 and 2011, by the way, all of those regimes had remained in power. not one of them had changed. so supposing saddam had stayed in power in 2003 i ask this. is it likely that he would have been in power in 2011 when the arab spring began? is it likely that the iraqi people would have joined the arab spring when all countries were part of it and this is the most tyrannical regime of all of them? is it likely that if the iraqi
people had revolted, if there had been an uprising that he would have reacted like assad in syria? surely, it is at least possible that the answer to all of those questions is affirmative. in that case, the nightmare of syria today would also be happening in iraq except with the shi'a sunni balance inverted. consider the consequences of that. even if you disagreed with removing saddam in 2003 we should be thankful we are not dealing with him and his two sons now. saddam was himself deeply sectarian as latest research shows the leadership of the regime was heavily sectarian and deliberately made so. to those who think removing saddam was cause of turmoil in the middle east and there was unbroken line i say the following. after the surge in 2007 al qaeda
was defeated and marginalized. in 2010 iraq was relatively stable. it was in syria after the arab spring when aq became isis. syria the very opposite of the policy of intervention. more people died than the whole of iraq with the worst refugee crisis since world war ii and no agreement as to the future. at least for all challenges in iraq today there is a government actually fighting the terrorism and doing so with western support internationally recognized included by saudi arabia and iraq as a legitimate government and with a prime minister welcoming in the white house. none of this excuss the mistakes we made. none of this excuss the failures for which i repeat i take full responsibility sdp apologize. but it shows that in the uncertain and dangerous world we
live in all decisions are difficult. each has consequences predicted and not predicted. the only thing a decision maker can do is to take those decisions on the basis of hot they believe to be right and that is what i believe i did. the final passage i will draw a few lessons from this conflict and then conclude and take questions for as long as you wish to ask them. so i was the prime minister in the period after 9/11 and through the iraq and afghanistan. since then i have spent the bulk of my time in the middle east and studied origins and character of islamistic extremism. what is clear is that this extremism is a global problem not confined to middle east or pakistan or afghanistan. it is across africa, including
philippines, thailand and bangladesh, central asia. we have terrorist attacks here in europe and the united states. i watch today's decision makers wrestling libya and syria with the same types of dilemma i did. at a later time i will publish more detailed lessons but i will summarize them briefly here. the first is that the danger of revolution regime change is once dictatorship is removed elements of extremism will move into the vacuum to cause chaos and instability. unlike kosovo or germany the challenge becomes not one of reconstruction but security. therefore, if possible, evolution or process of change is better than overthrow of existing order without agreement. that is why when the arab spring
began it would be better to have tried to agree processes of transition so as to control the after math and make change without destroying stability. it would be sensible now as a precaution to invest in nation building in those parts of the world. certain states in africa are clear example. some parts should be devoted to this. second, where we decide today intervene in majority muslim country we need to do so in strong alliance of muslim nations. not because they represent security or humanitarian threat. th the war waged includes different from warfare. we have huge experience of this from around the world. we need to construct the new
doctrines and capabilities which allow us to do so effectively and with the right alliances within the west, within the muslim world and between us. for us in the west the pain of taking casualties in a fight that is often politically controversial in which does not involve defense of our own territory is now so great that we risk a situation where political leaders are reluctant to commit especially ground forces to combat. on the other hand western forces are most experienced and highest level of capability. this needs an act of consideration of whether we require different level of volunteering for these missions otherwise we are fighting without the best available forces to do the work. for the uk we have to have an active debate including with armed forces about our desired levels of participation in such missions. given that we will always be a partner and in the case of usa
junior partner in terms of assets and capacity. we can all agree the u.n. is right body to decide policy including justification for use of force. u.n. is grid locked with russia and usa on different sides of similar issues. how can u.n. be conformed? we should understand the threat we have. and that we need an honest debate about our own values and level of commitment to them. the west is a big decision to take. does it believe it has strategic
decision around these issues and if so what level of commitment is it prepared to make to share the outcome. >> so in conclusion, many will find it impossible to reconcile themselves to the decision to remove saddam or my motives in taking it. this extremism menaces so many nations, those with us in iraq, those with an aggressive foreign policy and those with a specific one, developed and developing nations, north and south, wealthy and poor. this is the skorge of our time, the challenge of our generation that requires us to act bravely even when imperfectly.
at some point we will reach for and achieve the unified comprehensive foreign and defense policy that can defeat it. iraq will be a chapter in the struggle and an important one. but it wasn't the first and it won't be the last. i want to thank sir john and team for the report and time and care taken. i want this day to pay tribute to sir gilbert. we can't make decisions with benefit of hind sight. we should learn from our experience and from the mistakes that were made. i hope future leaders can learn from those that i made so determination in confronting terrorism and violence is not less but our ability to do so effectively is much greater. the decisions i made i have carried with me for 30 years and will do so for the rest of my days. it will not bow a day of my life where i do not relive and
rethink what happened. even sometimes ask me why i spend so much time in the middle east today. this is why. this is why i work on middle east peace and how to confront young people growing up with hatred in their hearts for those who look, think or believe differently from them. it's my belief that if we learn the right lessons today, if we do, the next generation will see the dawn of lasting peace in the place where all this began and where it must finally end which is the middle east. thank you. questions. >> two quick questions. you have said in the past you would do it again. would you still stand by that inand secondly, would you reply
now to the cameras to the families of the soldiers who died who said the question they would like to ask you is look me in the eye and tell me you did not mislead the nation. >> i can look not just at families but the nation in the eye and say i did not mislead this country. i made the decision in good faith on the information i had at the time. and i believe that it is better that we took that decision. i acknowledge all the problems that came with that decision. i acknowledge the mistakes and accept responsibility for them. what i cannot do and will not do is say i believe we took the wrong decision. i believe i made the right decision and that the world is better and safer as a result of it. many people can disagree.
as this report makes clear, and it does, when you go through, there were no lies, no deceit, there was a decision. and it was a controversial decision, a decision to remove saddam and a decision to be with america. many people would disagree with both of those decisions. sir john came close to it this morning. that's fine, but if you are going to do that you have to say what the consequences of opposite decision would have been. the point about being prime minister is you sit in the seat and take the decision and your obligation to the country is to take it as you believe it to be. all of this stuff about lies and deceit is all a way of getting us to obscure what is the essence of the question. at that time in march 2003 was that the right decision? and now as we look back on it 13 years later, would it have been
better if we had taken the opposite decision and what would have been the consequences of that opposite decision? if you can't answer that question, then you are a commentator and not a decision maker. i had to take the decision. sometimes people talk about this and talk about me in this regard as if i don't care about the loss of life or the grief and suffering of the families, not just families of our armed forces but the families of all of those who died in iraq. are more people going to suffer? are more people going to die if we leave this brutal dictator in place who already killed so many people. that is the decision, i'm afraid. you said you wrote to george bush in july 2002, nine months before the war. i am with you whatever.
now, that does sound, and it was read by the americans like a blank check for war. did you do enough? >> as correspondents they didn't read it that way because in july 20 2i the whole thing i was -- the whole purpose of my intervention was to get him to go down the u.n. route. so after july 2002 comes november's u.n. resolution. had saddam complied with the resolution that would have been the end of the matter. he didn't. but it was absolutely clear even the words that continue after that statement in the memorandum, i think there was a but. i explain the difficulties and why this isn't like kosovo and afghanistan. and the whole purpose of what i
was doing was making it clear i was going to be with the americans in dealing with this. that was absolutely clear. i said this in the inquiry. so if we don't go down the u.n. route i'm not in position to support this. you said you have to make on the 18th of march, 2003. you took that decision, the consequences were if you had pulled back the americans would have gone through anyway. our military contribution was irreleva irrelevant. when you face a choice between your frustrations with pursuing diplomacy and pulling the trigger that you had already
loaded because you couldn't keep the troops there was to plunge us this country for 14, 15 years of this agony. you could have said no i'm going to continue with the u.n. and saddam would have been gone anyway. >> this is a really important point that needs to be dealt with. so first of all, our forces did play an important part in removing saddam. we were absolutely central. so what you are saying is that we should have pulled back at that point. we should have let the u.s. do it. i don't know whether you think we should have been in the aftermath or after the aftermath. that would have been a huge decision for this country to take. at that point, we were the u.s.'s strongest ally. i had actually gone and sought the commitment from our armed forces that they wanted to be part of this, that we should be part of it and then right at the last minute we were going to pull out and let the other
countries go forward. diplomacy had been exhausted, actually, in this sense. there was by then an empass in the u.n. >> we can't continue -- >> you didn't have to take a decision. that is why i say, the problem with this debate on iraq is once you clear out of the way the allegations of deceit and so on -- i hope people do read this report because it makes it clear the allegations can't be sustained. i agree with you, you have to go back in my shoes as decision maker and say at that moment are we going to pull out, leave the u.s. to do it hoping that they do it presumably. >> you said they were going to do it anyway. >> they would have done it. we are saying we think it is the right thing to do but we are not going to be part of it. one other question, a fundamental one that you raise which is the rejection, as you
said, of the fact that the invasion was in no way not responsible with the terrorism that gripped iraq and the region. as you know very well, al qaeda seeks what it calls ungoverned spaces to spread hatred and violence. the way the aftermath was unplanned for or adequately planned for ungoverned space was created in iraq. the military was disbanded. the intelligence services, all was evisc rated within months. into that void came al qaeda. what is happening in syria today being led by the very men who were in the american camps. to say that what is happening in syria today has no links with iraq is disingenuous. >> i'm not saying it has no links. let's be clear about this. you are completely right between
particularly when the civil war began in 2004 to 2006. i agree al qaeda used that removal of saddam in order to move in and create tension. then came the surge. and the surge largely succeeded. what shifted after 2010. remember iraq had an election in 2010. they elected their leading party in that election was one that was essentially secular. after that time, what changed dramatically was syria. you are right. there are people from iraq who then went into syria, but it was in the chaos of syria, the same point, in the chaos of syria where isis came into being. they headquartered themselves and then went back over the border into iraq. now, my point because you know we have had a debate about syria these last years. my point is i agree when you
leave that space ungovernable that is where terrorism breeds. but nonintervention could lead to those spaces being created. partial intervention can lead to those spaces being created. the one thing i are to say about this report, i say this with respect, but difference between people writing a report and taking decisions. nowhere in the report do they say what they believe would have happened if we had taken the decision they implied. nowhere did it say that. if people are going to say the decision was wrong, they have to at least consider the points that i am making that saddam might have gone back and reconstituted his program as iraq survey group finds and we might have had the same situation in iraq as we have in syria. let us be clear, in syria more than double people that died in iraq died in syria. worst refugee crisis since world war ii. that is where we didn't intervene and remove the
dictator. you have a fundamental disagreement with chilcot. chilcot says you went to war when there was no imminent threat from saddam. he does say the legal process for authorizing the war was unsatisfactory and no proper planning and planning for aftermath and there are troops who were inadequately resourced and put at undue risk. now, you have said two things today. on one hand you have created the impression that you are apologizing, but you also say that you stand by your decision to go to war. so what i'm unclear about and i suspect people watching this are unclear about. what are you apologizing for today? >> for the mistakes. >> what mistakes do you acknowledge? >> mistakes on planning and
process i absolutely acknowledge. i accept responsibility and i'm not passing responsibility off to someone else. i accept full responsibility for those mistakes. but it is not inconsistent with that to still say that i believe we took the right decision. and the difficulty with the report like this is those two things get mixed up together. by the way, in the first part of this military campaign, at one point i think again in the statement sir john says we didn't achieve our objectives. the first part of this campaign was a brilliant military success and british troops deserve enormous credit for that. the question is would we be in a better place today if we had taken the opposite decision? i would take the same decision, in the same place with the same information i would take the same decision. all i'm saying today because
intelligence turned out to be wrong, planning wasn't done properly i accept responsibility pr them. but i think people want me to go one step further and this is my problem. it's a very fundamental problem and i know it causes difficulty even with people who might support me. they say we want you to apologize for the decision. i can't do that. i can't honestly tell you and i'm in the middle east two, three times a month. i tell you the roots of this terrorism go so much deeper than what happened in iraq. we got caught up in the problem in iraq. if we are not prepared to take these types of decisions and engage it we will make the world less safe which is why i believe in 2013 i think it was when parliament had to take decision on syria we made a fundamental mistake. i supported the prime minister at the time. he accepts how these things are difficult. we are not going to be in better
position. >> shying away. [ inaudible ]. >> well, is it or is it because we now know how difficult the interventions are? the worry that i have from all of this is that the lessons we learned are lessons essentially of political safety and not political strategy that ultimately these decisions are difficult. i mean, i don't regret taking the decision, but there is no doubt about how difficult it has been, how controversial it has been, how much it is overshadowed. i have no significance in this at all. it obviously overshadows. of course, this is really difficult. if we had intervened in syria it would be difficult, by the way. in my view it would have been better if we had taken the action rather than not.
this is where i understand all the criticisms that the report makes of the process, but i do think and i tried to do this -- too long to go into these things, but there are real lessons of political strategy and military strategy. i don't see where these are in this report. i don't see where it tells you what is the right capability to date to try to defeat the terrorism? what sort of alliances should britain be constructing? how does britain be sure it leverages power to defeat terrorism? given that the countries are countries of every description cl aggressive or benign, north or south, pro iraq, antiiraq. what does this report tell us what we should do as decision makers. it's clear you stand by your decision. you have finally today apologized to the families who lost loved ones in the conflict.
this report is a devastating catalog of failures of your government and paints a very clear picture of the prime minister who was determined to act with the united states almost come what may. do you understand the sentiments of some families who believe you should have said sorry a long time ago but you should face some kind of punishment? >> completely incorrect. i have always apologized for mistakes in planning and in the intelligence even though i'm not actually responsible for the intelligence. but you see, i can't -- it's true, i took the decision after 9/11 we should be america's closest ally. you can disagree with that. i personally think when you are fighting this terrorism in the world today it would be better if britain today had a really strong tight relationship with
the united states. i personally think when our parliament decided not to back president obama in syria we dealt a blow to that. i'm sorry that i do. none of that diminishes the pain of those families or my sorrow for them and sorrow for what they have gone through in their suffering. >> [ inaudible ]. >> with great disrespect think -- they called upon us as uk to back them at that point. >> what do you say to people who called for consequences? >> that is up for them to call for what they want. what i have tried to do today is explain why i acted as i did. in the end, what more can i do than say this is why i took the decision i did. if you disagree with me, fine. please stop saying i was lying
or i had some sort of dishonest motive. i have the motives i explained. and the reason i can't depart from the decision is i look at what is happening in the world today and i'm afraid do not believe that we are safer today than we were back then. >> i just want to pick up on two things you haven't mentioned. the report says basically you undermined the security council before the war and at the end of the war the war basically ended in humiliation for british forces. do you understand those are damming statements and have done lasting damage to britain's reputation. on the point of the memo of the 28th of july when you wrote that you would be with president bush whatever, whatever what? whatever the intelligence? whatever the evidence? whatever the u.n. said? what? >> i was going to be with america dealing with this, whatever the political
difficulties, whatever problems there were going to be, i was going to put us along side america in dealing with this. it would have to be done right which is why the whole point of the 28th of july interaction was to persuade americans, there were members opposed to doing this through the u.n. inquiry does say this. i persuaded president bush to go down the u.n. route. that was the vital think we were doing. i don't believe british troops were humiliated. i think british troops fought with -- >> that word is directly used. >> i profoundly disagree that british troops did anything but magnificent job. >> making a deal with people who were firing with them. >> again, i think that was done in 2008. in any event those decisions are
difficult. most of the attacks actually in the south were attacks on british troops why it was different from what was happened in baghdad. i just want to place on record when i was prime minister all i can say is i found our armed forces absolutely magnificent every time they had to do something they did it and in a brilliant way. i won't accept any criticism of them. on the u.n. security council we face the same problem today. i might say in parenthesis, the u.n. security council you can see in syria how dead locked it has been. i don't notice president putin seeking u.n. security council authority for things he has done. when it is dead locked you can't say you are undermining its
authority when we have gone back to the u.n. to get a resolution that gave one last chance to comply. the americans wanted to do this military action much earlier. the reason it was delayed was because we went through this u.n. process. so i understand of course we would be better politically to have done it with the u.n. resolution. by then you had a blockage. you had stalemate. you talked entirely so far about the decisions before the war, almost nothing about decisions in the aftermath and during occupation period. commanders on the ground urged you to reconsider strategy. you told george bush that we are not geared up for this. it was quite clear something was going badly wrong on the ground. why did you not change that strategy? pull the troops out or surge and
reinforce. why did you allow them to continue which led to so many deaths? >> i don't believe that at all. if you had withdrawn troops that would have been very difficult. there was no need to surge british troops at that point. we didn't adjust the strategy enormously. we are in correspondence with the americans. i was saying after my visit in may or june in 2003 in iraq we had to shift strategy. we put a lot more emphasis on building iraqi security capability and made sure that the electoral process was put in place so they can have an election as soon as possible. remember iraq was a country that was governed by 20% governing the other 80%. that is why it was never sustainable and why at the arab spring when it happened saddam would have been subject to the
same revolt going on elsewhere. it is not correct that we didn't shift strategy thmpt inquiry itself says that they can't actually identify any other strategies that would have worked. and the reason for that is simple. you get to a certain point with these terrorist groups where it is not the planning but the fighting. that fighting had to be done and was done by our troops with enormous courage and the americans. there were 14 nations in this coalition. so chilcot said you were warned that military action would increase and were warned it might lead iraq's weapons falling into hands of terrorists. knowing that you would be thinking you are making the situation worse.
>> the warning they were giving was important that the chilcot inquiry makes reference to this was a warning that because everyone thought that he did have stockpiles that they could fall into the wrong hands. that can't be a reason for not removing him from power. as for the threat to the uk, i accept if the uk stands up in this fight against extremism and terrorism world wide, if our forces are engaged in this, these people will try to attack us. they are attacking the french because of what they have done in libya and mali. beyond doubt they will do that. my point is they were trying to attack us anyway. they have attacked the countries pro-iraq and countries with nothing to do with iraq. my point is i understand if you stand up and take this action these terrorists will try to target you, but they will target you anyway. that can't be a reason for not
taking them on and fighting them. given that chilcot explained no imminent threat from saddam under process how was it that the troops were so poorly equipped? how was it that for the aftermath they didn't have the correct equipment and not enough ied resistant vehicles in place? do you accept far too stretched trying to fight in iraq and afghanistan? >> i don't accept the latter point. when we made the additional commitment to afghanistan i was clear. i said we must not do this unless we can do both missions. and i think you will find that the report also says there was no occasion where we were asked for more money, more equipment or more equipment where we said no. and both myself and gordon brown
made it absolutely clear that whatever was requested should be given. now, i do have to say i think we were absolutely prepared for the campaign to remove saddam because it was brilliantly successful. one objective we succeeded and one we did not. the one in which we succeeded was to remove saddam and remove him as a threat. the other was to make iraq free and secure. they got elections, got elected government. they are fighting terrorism today, that is true. particularly in that immediate aftermath of reimoving saddam w did not provide security we promised. families saying they are prepared to take legal action against you personally do you think they are justified in doing that? >> i stand by the decision i
took and i have explained all of that today. i understand their grief and their anger and their concern. but i need people also to try to put themselves back in my shoes at that time taking that decision and understand why i took the decision, why i think it is right and why i will never accept that those troops who got injured or gave their lives did so in vein. i believe they ended up fighting after we got rid of saddam they were fighting exactly the forces of extremism we see in the world today. that's why even as i sympathize profoundly with the sorrow, i cannot accept the implicit nature of the criticism which is that they died in vein. i do not believe that they did so. you know, in the first six
months of this year this is a battle going on day in and day out. our troops were involved in that battle. i will never accept that in fighting it they fought for a cause that was worthless or in vein. i'm still not clear on what mistakes you think you made. perhaps you can name two specific things that you wake up in the middle of the night thinking i shouldn't have done that, not just general mistakes made. >> one thing that the report actually doesn't do that i reproach myself for is that i think when you look at what we found, i think now if i was
planning such a campaign i would look far more carefully at the possibility of the link of external people linking up with internal elements of insurgency or insurrection. there were scattered warnings not about iran or syria, by the way, but that is the fundamental thing that almost made iraq ungovernable until the surge. the fundamental thing that went wrong so complicated. it is external elements in iran linking up with shi'a extremism from outside iraq, sunni extremism linking up with al qaeda. as we now know syria sending thousands of people to join insurgency across the border into iraq. that is something i think about the whole time. and one thing that you learn and you learn exactly the same from syria or libya is when the
external elements join up that you get a problem that can be almost ungovernable. one reason why it's so important actually to learn the lessons, for example, military strategy is how do you deal with that. unfortunately, the report doesn't deal with that. >> chairman said you misled him pointing to the section of the report that says he prosecuted cases with insurgency, a call for you to face prosecution. how do you feel about [ inaudible ]. >> the important thing about decision like this you take it. there was no misleading in parliament. the report accepts explicitly that i acted both in good faith and that i genuinely believed
the intelligence i was given. i brought with me in case i can simply show it to you afterwards rather than reading it all out. if you go back to joint intelligence committee documents sent to me in march and september, i say to any fair minded person don't read the reports. see what was sent to me and tell me you wouldn't believe there was not merely a problem with intent but an actual developed program. can you be more specific about the areas you are apologizing for? which things happened that you are now sorry for? >> i think to the point that i was just making earlier, although it is not something the
inquiry centers on, it is the analysis of the pre-conflict of the possibility of external elements linking up with internal elements. there are internal elements. there are things i've accepted within my statement i think in let suspect it would have been better to have more papers presented at certain points. i think for sure, now you would approach the situation differently in how you interacted with the united states and i accept that as well. i think there are various process points, for example, disclosing the attorney general's advice to canada would have been simpler and better than that. i don't think it would have altared the nature of the decision but i do share responsibility. i think each point of this, once you've done that, you come back to the decision. yeah.
>> can i just ask you, you've expressed sorrow for what happened in the most emotional statement i've heard you make on iraq. but you say on fundamentals you stand by your decision. can you see why that explains how people don't trust you and why there's this rupture between the political elite and voters that we have a teary tony blair saying i feel your pain but fundamentally, i did nothing wrong? and you say we need to understand how the kak lus of risk changed after 9/11. you were told then and we know now there was no link between sadam and al qaeda but there were links between al qaeda and some of the gulf arab states who you maintained strong diplomatic relationship with and upon whom you've built your career since then? >> that's not the way i --
secondly, there is actually no -- think about this nor a moment. there is no inconsistency in expressing my sorrow for those that have lost their lives. my regret and my aimaly for the mistakes but still saying i believe the decision was right. there is no inconsistency in that. up understand why that makes people -- some people at least, angry with me because they want me to say what i can't in all frankness say, which is i think we should have taken a different decision, we shouldn't have been with the u.s. or we shouldn't have removed sadam, because i don't think that. i think in the end, i'm sorry if people find that difficult to reconci reconcile. i spend so much of my time thinking about this issue.
i spend so much of my life analyzing it. i would be making a concession i didn't believe if i said to you i think if we'd left him there that it would be better. when you look at this report, and this is -- the problem with a report like this, for example, they say that the iraq survey group findings are significant and they endorse them. that's got to make a difference to your analysis of this situation. if that report is right, sanctions would have gone. we wouldn't have removed him and he would have been back to doing what he was doing. surely, i'm entitled to say if you tell me the decision's wrong you've got to tell me how that report's wrong and if it's not wrong so how does it figure in to your decision? i've said that before.
but the link between al qaeda and sadam, the argument that there was a link, that was never my opinion. i think it is still one of the biggest risks we face which is if you allow the proliferation of chemical or biological weapons or its -- remember, i was taking this decision not 18 months after 9/11 when we'd seen the mass cause illustrates and when we realize these people could and would kill more people. >> rob hurton in bloomberg. can i pick up something you said just then. that you would handle the relationship with america differently? i think a lot of things people have felt is they looked at your incredibly close relationship
with george w. bush and frankly a lot of people looked at him and said this is not a man we trust to make she's types of decisions and he seems incredibly gung ho and there's tony blair going off with him and that seems to be in many ways to be borne out in the report today that you didn't have the influence that you thought that you were having. what would you do differently? and just are you still in contact with george w. bush? do you still speak? >> i'm in contact with all the former presidents i worked with. but where i was talking about the relationship with the u.s., i mean very specifically on the planning for the aftermath. and i think in let suspect that we relied, i relied too much on the assurances we were given and there were problems within that system. those problems have been well
documented and well analyzed. i just don't agree with people about the relationship with the u.s. when i was prime minister and we had that very close relationship -- and i had it with president clinton and then with president bush. it was important. if i hadn't had that closeness of relationship, i don't know if we'd have been able to do kosovo that way. that really depended to a large degree with my relationship with president clinton. with president bush we made a huge difference. no great secret the vice president and many parts of the administration did not want to do that. president bush, i think, in part of my prompting was the first american president to commit to a palestinian state, was the first to agree to publish the roadmap, despite the strong opposition of the then-israeli
government. in 2005, the g 8, we got commitments on the environment is and climate change. one of the things i believe about this country is that in today's world, it's got to exert maximum influence and power through its relationships and i always said you can go back and you can read it. you've got america on one side, europe on the other. you keep both relations strong. in doing that, you'll have a much better ability to influence the world in the way that you fwhant the interest of your people and the national interest. that's when -- as i say, a majority of european nations were with us in that coalition, by the way. wasn't just japan and australia and others. the majority of europe came with us. so this relationship with america -- did they say in their
report, by the way, i completely disagree with this. they say france and germany have a strong relationship despite their disagreement at the time. subsequent leaders had to work hard to create the relationship with america today. and i do believe that with this fight against terrorism we're better to be strongly alongside the u.s. i think it's necessary for our own security. other people can take a different view. >> do you think in retrospect you were too trusting of the internal services and the information they provided to you and do you think it was a dereliction to not imposts that information more closely? one of the findings of the report is he said that the way the case for war was presented was a damaging legacy which undermined trust in government. do you think there are consequences from that that
we've seen more recently? >> well, look, first ol all, when the allegations first surfaced that we had falsified or improperly interfered with the intelligence, you might remember, i agreed to hold the hutton inquiry. i was putting the government and myself in a position no government or prime minister ever put themselves in before in terms of going, giving evidence, being cross examined. there have been five separate reports. the butler inquiry, foreign affairs and there's other reports. we did not improperly influence that. >>. [ inaudible question ] >> yes, but that was part of your question. it goes to the intention that you lied about the evidence. this is what people say all the time. if people are being fair and
read the report, that allegation should be put to rest, because it's not trueaged it never was true and it was inquired into again and again and again. of course the people think the prime minister lying is going to damage trust but i didn't. on the intelligence itself, look, one of the areas of the report i do agree with are tall recommendations around sbejsz. there are people better qualified than me to explain why it's sensible. that is absolutely right and we can learn lessons from that. i relied on the information i was given and i will never criticize our intelligence people because they do a fantastic job for this country. [ inaudible question ] >> you were erged to remove the phrase i will be with you
forever. given that you had been warned that that pledge went too far wouldn't it be disingenuous to believe that it was a blank check to the u.s.? >> well, it's not. it wasn't a blank check. the americans were absolutely clear what we were seaing. if you read the whole of the memo, it makes it absolutely clear that we were saying we have to go down the u.n. route. i couldn't be sure of the support of the parliament or the kaech, even. they were more concerned about -- i think there were earlier words that were used that were taken out. the fact is, yes, of course, everyone was concerned but i was also concerned to make sure that that at that crucial moment in time, when i was right on the cusp of this argument in the center of the american administration, do you take the u.n. route or not. i needed to make sure they took
the u.n. route and they did. by the way, the inquiry does note this. it was a conversation after that november resolution when it was made absolutely career by myself to president bush. when people say there were the commitment was unqualified, it was absolutely qualified because we went to the u.n. and if sadam had collide, we wouldn't have been in conflict. one of the things i ask people to go back and look at, was it absolutely clear, he never had any intention to comply. he would have been back to his old trips had he survived. >> who's back there? yeah. [ inaudible ] >> you say this will forever stand with how people view you? do you believe it should be policy given shadow of iraq? >> people will listen or not listen. it's up to them.
i think there's more understanding in the country than you sometimes think that people know when you're prime minister you have to take decisions. i think it's important that people understand i took it in good faith. that is really critical, and i think to be fair about it, this report makes -- this report at no point says i was taking it for reasons other than the reasons i gave or that i took it in bad faith. that's the thing that damages me or any other political leader. one of the things i sometimes say to people as well, is that the time you should trust a politician most is when they're doing what's hardest. when you're doing what's easy, most politicians can do that. but i had to take a decision that was really hard. despite what people may think i thought about that decision really, really deeply then. and i go back over it all the
time, all the time. i relive it every single day. i always come back to the nature of it. there's no way -- there's no third way in that. i'm afraid you're either there or you're not and that's what i had to decide. so if people don't want to listen to anything else i say, then that's -- i can't help that, i'm afraid. that's their decision. yeah. >> blare, jim from boston news. you said that history would be the judge of your decisions. 13 years on, this is history's first judgment. why is it that you seem to be rejecting some of the key findings and how do you think history will treat this decision? >> well, history's going to judge moving iraq in 2003. it cut with the grain of what's
happening all over the middle east. this is why i think when people -- you know, i hope in the end, and i believe, by the way, that iraq will stabilize and the mideast will stabilize. this is one big struggling. to get rid of sectarian religious politics and replace it with pluralistic, tolerant, religiously tolerant politics and it's about the desire for truth based economies and not corrupt economies. i think that's what people are struggling for in the middle east. iraqaged sadam had no chance. iraq today has a chance. so what history ends up deciding about iraq is going to depend a lot on what happens in the future, but i just ask people to think about this for a moment all over the middle east these regimes are gone. what you sometimes find in the west and the debate -- and again
the report doesn't really deal with these things -- people say it would be better if you kept the dictators in hour because then the situation would be stable. there was no stability in iraq if you were shiia. and secondly, that's not going to hold. that's what the arab spring teaches you. we moved ahead of that. that's not the reason we did it, but that's why when history looks back on this, yes, you can go toward the mistakes in fore sight and planning and process and all the rest, but when you come back to the basic decision, i believe that history will take a different view. >> tom pec from the under penalty. today you stand by the decision to invade and you say that it was right to maintain the relationship with the u.s. had you been dealing with the white house that was not
committed to an invasion, would you have sought to per situate them that invasion was the correct thing to do? >> well, that's a very good question, actually. i mean, i think after 9/11 i was definitely in favor of dealing with the potential for chemical, biological instruments falling in terrorist hands. i think any american president would have been in favor of doing that. i can't say how the path of the negotiation would have been dwirchlt. i still think, remember the first military action i ever took was with president clinton in iraq. it was after that action that it became the official policy of the american government to change the regime in iraq. that's one of the tensions in policy making between ourselves and americans all the way through, their policy was regime change. it wasn't our-mile. our policy was the security
aspect. i don't -- i can't be sure but the one thing i know, there are a loft criticisms of. bush, obviously, but you know, the world is subject to this terrorism and violence which is essentially what happened to us in iraq. it happened to us in afghanistan. it's happening the world over, and i don't think we've got the right strategy yet to deal with it. i think what's important is that we learn the lessons both of the bish period of policy making but also the last eight years as well, and the consequences of the arab spring in libya and syria. so i don't know how it would have turned out had we had a different american president. but i was facing the situation i was. >> william james from routers.
you asked yourself today, so you ask people today to put themselves in your shoes as prime minister. if i could just turn that on its head and ask you to put yourself in the shoes of an iraqi citizens who has seen swaths of the country taken over, deaths, regular bombs like the one that killed 250 people this week, would you still be able to say they're better off? >> you should let the iraqis speak for themselves in this. i think you'll find that some people will say no. but if you're a kurd down in the south, i think you'll find a different perspective. i think, you know, one of the things that is strange about this situation is that it was a very stock statement put out by the aide to the president of iraq today saying why he thought iraq was better off as a result of this. i just make the point that look at syria and look at iraq. in iraq you've got a government that's fighting terrorism and
they're doing so with whatever difficulty they are. one of the reasons for these terrible attacks like the one earlier in the week is precisely because the iraq government is squeezing them back. they've lost something like 50% of their territory in iraq. so that is again something that will develop over the time but it's important that if people say what iraq is like, they put both sides of the situation today. i know from the many messages i receive from iraq -- and i keep in touch with people there -- yes there will be some people who will strongly disagree with what we've done but there will be other people who say despite all the difficulties, it was the right thing to do. we've got three more to come. i'll come back, nick, in one second. >> thank you. nick robinson from cnn and thank you for taking all these questions. the inquiry said you overestimated your ability to
influence american decision making. yes, you were able to get them to move towards u.n. security council in the first case, but when push came to shove in the second security council resolution loomed large, were you really able to there to use your influence? do you recognize what the inquiry says, that you did overestimate your ability to influence? and i just want to add a second question, if i may. we've heard you talk a lot about how you had to make the decision i had to make the decision, i had to do this. the inquiry is implicit that you could have, should have shared more information with your colleagues, broadened your decision making. do you recognize that about yourself? >> on the second point, i mean, yes, i think there are times when that would have been
sensible, although -- and this was the continual discussion request hall my colleagues, but i agree if we had had a measure of formality in some of the papers presented. i accept that, but i it was impossible to be in the cabinet at the time. we were discussing this literally, 26 times we discussed it in the cabinet. these were detailed discussions. i didn't overestimate my influence over the u.s. 95% of the assets in the iraqi mission were american. but i thought it was important that, remember -- i geepg back to the time -- going back to the time. my worry after 9/11 was that america decided it was going to go on its own without a coalition and go afternoon the people that had caused this destruction in their country.
you've really got to go back to that time and feel that atmospher atmosphere. one of the reasons i wanted america to recognize us as a strong reliable ally, that's why i used words i'm going to be with you come what may, but i wanted them to know you've got somebody alongside you here precisely because i wanted them to build a coalition. that coalition actually held together well in afghanistan. when it came to iraq, i pulled them into the u.n. process precisely to build the coalition. we could have built it then. when we came to the second resolution, i again persuaded the -- president bush didn't want to give anymore time at that point. i fully constructed with the inspectors six test that is he had to comply with.
and the americans didn't want that. if he doesn't comply we can't keep our troops down that and let him carry on giving a little bit of compliance when he felt the threat was there and withdrawing when he didn't. in the end we couldn't get agreement to that. it's not,000 i didn't try. i had real influence, but of course there's always going to be the senior partner. one of the difficult questions with britain now is that given that you're going to be in these types of missions, what is the likelihood of british military participates in the world today, it's almost certainly -- you know, the faulklands is an exceptional set of issues. you're going to be working coalition with others, probably under the leadership of the united states in these countries where this islamist terrorism exists. we've got to decide as a country how we -- that means you're part of a coalition and you're junior
partner in that coalition. that is inevitable. >>. [ inaudible ] you didn't try but that you overestimated yurl ability? >> well, i had a very clear estimation of my influence and i used it insofar as i could. you have to understand the american innings were absolutely clear what they wanted. so in the end, the decision, were you with them or not? and i don't -- i find it difficult to follow particularly what sir john chillcott said this morning where i thought he struck a somewhat different tone than part of the report. i found it difficult whether he was saying you shouldn't have gone with america or whether he was saying you shouldn't have gone then. but i didn't have the ability to delay at that point. i had to decide. i mean, i understand whats he's saying but -- and i thought about that at the time, too. but in the end, if someone's
going to take -- i do really feel this. i think i've got the right to say this at least. that if someone's going to say the decision is wrong, they've got to spell out what they say would have happened if i had taken the opposite decision. what isn't there is i don't think you shoof done that but i don't take a view of what you should have done. that's not decision making. >> mr. blair, do you feel h more anguish or relieved or possibly -- about the report? >> people ask me that all the time. i don't suppose this report will bring this issue to an end but it should put to rest some of the allegations. the allegations around good faith. i think this is important. you know, i people can criticize
me for the planning and they can criticize the decision. but if people are being fair and they read this report, they should not from now on criticize good faith, but, you know, we live in a political world. ok, nick. you get the last question here. >> thank you, thank you for being generous with your time. can i ask you on the question of trust. one of your things today is britain needs to stand in the world of multi-un lateral. surely that's crumbling. is there not a part of you that thinks that the reason for this is the disconnect with between the political elite and voters? do you not think that we can trace that back to the 18th of march with 2003 when a british prime minister took this country to war on a prospectus which diplomatically speaking turned out to have question marks on
it. you may have acted in good faith. you may not have lied. nevertheless people saw the prime minister take them to war on a prospectus that has question marks on it and they don't trust you and they don't trust your successor. >> i think it's a bit of a stretch to go the european referendum back to this. the question of trust in politics is a whole other issue. i think you're entitled to two things as a member of the public with your political leaders. i think you're entitled to them taking the decisions in good faith. but i also think you're entitled to have them take the decisions. and i said to you earlier, i think the time you should trust a politician the most is when they're doing what's least popular. unless they're a fool, they're
doing it because they believe in it. i think the disconnect between politicians and the public has got a lot of different aspects and dimensions to it. it's a topic for another day, but, you know, if you were concerned that your prime minister took this decision on the basis that they knew it was false or they took this decision for reasons that had nothing to do with the reasons they gave, then you would be entitled to mistrust them deeply. but this report makes it clear whatever criticisms you make or whether you agree or disagree with the decision, i did it for the reasons i said i did it, and i stand by it today for those reasons again today. and i understand why sir john or his colleagues may take a different point of view. but i was the electricitied
prime minister at the time -- elected prime minister at the time and i believe it's better to have your prime ministers in the position where they take the decision rather than dodge them. ok. i think i'm -- that's enough. thank you. >> on american history tv on c-span 3, sunlds afternoon at 1: # 50 p.m. eastern. >> not only are memoirs just by their jogenre. these people did not want to disclose too much and assemble and try to mislead people. >> historians talk about the techniques used by the cia and
russian foreign intelligence service dating back to the cold war and how that has changed since the 9/11 attacks. at 6:00, post civil war memphis. >> many thoughts it's finally happening, its really is happening, a full-scale black uprising, and they panicked. mobs of white men armed with pistols and clubs formed spontaneously downtown, marched to the scene of the shoot out and began shooting, beating every black person they could find. >> the 1866 riot that resulted in the massacre of dozens of african-americans and the assault on freed women. also the role of u.s. federal colored troops stationed near the city. just before 9:00, walter isaacson offers an argument on benjamin franklin. >> his view was that small
businesses and startup would be the backbone of a new economy, and indeed one of the things that his group did is they made a set of rules and max ims for how to be a good startup entrepreneur and innovator. >> and sunday morning at 10:00, a road to the white house remind. >> and in the music of our children, we are told to everything there is a season and time to every purpose under p heaven, and for america, the time has come at last. >> you know that ever politicians promise has a price. the taxpayer pays the bill. the american people are not going to be taken in by any scheme where government gives money with one hand and then takes it away with the other. >> the 1972 republican and democratic national conventions
with richard nixon accepting the gop nomination for a second term and south dakota senator george mcgovern accepting the democratic nomination. go to span.org for the full schedule. >> the hard-fought 2016 primary is over. >> colorado. >> florida. >> texas. >> ohio. >> watch c-span. and the first nonpolitician in several decades. watch live on c-span. listen on the c-span radio app or get video on demand at c-span.org. you have a front row seat to every minute of both conventions on c-span. all beginning on monday, july 18.
>> the senate governmental affairs subcommittee on investigations heard recently from cable and satellite television executives about their industry's customer service. personal and twenty experience con -- and asked what they were doing to address consumer frustration with service package options, equipment and billing rates. this is just over two hours. >> we're here today to discuss a topic that affects just about every american family. and often frustrates us as
american families and that is cable or satellite tv service. we have a keen interest in making sure cable and satellite companies do the right thing by their subscribers. the subcommittee reviewed literally thousands of documents and interviewed countless witnesses to learn more about the consumer practices of the five largest paid tv providers. this includes comcast, charter, time warner cable, dish network and directv. director -- together the companies serve more than half of all american households and nearly three quarters of those who pay for television programming. today's hearing will focus on the companies' billing and consumer service practices. our report outlines troubling findings about the cable companies that failed to provide refunds to customers who they know they've over charged. including thousands people in my home state of ohio.
i'll talk about those findings in a moment. the second is report issued by senator mccaskill and a number of interest of consumers, how paid tv companies disclose prices sh what the fees are for and how they teach employees to interact with and retain customers. and without objection, these reports will be made part of the record. during the course of the subcommittee's investigation, we discovered something about refunds that frankly i found hard to believe. as anyone with a cable or satellite subscription knows, when your bill arrives every month it has a long list of charges on it. i have a bill in front of me. it is a pretty complicated bill, a base charge for the tv package, maybe $10 for hbo, equipment fees, and surcharges for the set top boxes that you rent. given how many millions of people get television service from these companies, it's inevitable that from time to time a customer will wind up getting charged for something by mistake. that happens. same thing by the way happens in the grocery store checkout line sometimes. it's happened to me. mistakes happen.
we understand that. what matters in life is how you own up to your mistakes and make things right. what we discovered is that some cable and satellite companies are better than that at doing that than others. all of the companies before us have ways of identifying overcharges to customers and preventing them from happening in the first place. but what happens when they find out they've been overcharging someone for equipment that customer doesn't actually have? the first thing they do, of course, is take it off the customer's bill going forward. all the companies before us know how to do that. but not all of them bother to go back and figure out when the overcharge started, calculate how much they owe the consumer and give them a refund. during the time period examined by the subcommittee, time warner cable and charter communications who have just recently merged with each other made no effort to trace equipment overcharges they identified and provide refunds to their customers. instead, the practice has been to just pocket the past overcharges. to understand the scale of this
problem, we asked for specific numbers about overcharges in ohio. here's what we found. during the first five months of 2016 this year, time warner cable overbilled up to 11,000 customers in ohio and those overcharges totaled over $100,000. they estimate that throughout last year alone it overbilled 40,000 ohio customers with overcharges of more than $430,000. and rather than correct the mistake by refunding the overcharges, the company just kept the money. in my view, that's a ripoff of ohio consumers. i'll be asking the company today how they're going to fix it. specifically, when time warner cable discovered the overcharges, it only dealt with the problem prospectively. they took charges off the bills going forward but did not provide any backward looking refunds and didn't provide notice to customers so they could investigate the problem themselves. they just kept the money. based on data provided to the subcommittee, time warner cable
will overbill the customers nationwide an estimated $2 million for equipment charges in 2016 even after discovering the billing errors. they'll fail to do the work required to provide a full refund. we'll talk about that. they have recently been acquired by charter communications so i hope they work to fix the problems. charter has had problems of its own. until august of 2015, last summer, the company didn't run any systematic audits to reconcile the billing records with equipment records. that means over charges occurred. even though it's identified overcharges, removed erroneous charges from future bills, since august, 2015, until today, charter has not provided any refunds or notice of the problem to customers, just like time warner cable.
it doesn't have to be this way. our investigation revealed that comcast, directv and dish had better practices. comcast and directv provide refunds or credits to customer who's have been overcharged by the billing systems and dish's billing system is designed and successful in preventing any of these types of overcharges from occurring in the first place. so fees ability -- feasibility is not a good excuse whether it comes to refunding customers when they've been overcharged. we have good news to report today. as a result of our investigation, charter and time warner cable have taken steps to improve their practices. time warner performs monthly audit to find overcharges. going forward, the company will provide a one month credit to all customers for each piece of overbilled equipment or service and will provide notice to overbook billed customers so they can determine whether to request a credit or refund. that's a good start. but it doesn't make all
customers whole. time warner cable is not yet committed to anything for the 40,000 ohio customers, for instance, who were overcharged last year. and we'll get into that discussion later today. charter has announced they will provide a one year credit to all affected consumers. that, of course, goes further to make customers whole. but it would be better to simply insure that customers receive the full refunds that they're owed. senator mccaskill's report shows that americans are often unhappy with the cable and satellite service, questionable customer service techniques and confusion surrounding billing practices led consumers to feel mistreated. i support a effort to get to bottom of the issues and i feel the best solution to the problem of our poor customer service is more competition. if you don't like your television service provider, you
should be able to choose a different provider to suit your needs and preferences. and senator mccaskill and i are going to look into providing more choices for the consumers. i want to thank the senator for her work on this. she has been a stalwart friends of consumers as i said earlier. she and her staff have worked with us in a professional and productive way to make today possible. with that, i'd like to turn to senator mccaskill for opening statement. >> thank you. i want to thank you, chairman portman, for allow ing me to pursue along with you and your staff this investigation. i think we can feel great about the fact that just this investigation and hearing have caused good things to happen for consumers as it relates to paid tv. as you indicated, we've had a change just from the investigation both charter and time warner agreed to issue credits for thousands of customers who were overbilled and comcast has provided additional guidance to the
retention representative of allowing customers to cancel without an argument. so we can already claim some small victory as a result of these investigations. and this hearing today. and i think this is an important area for us to continue to look at. it is amazing to me when we began asking for input, the volume and passion of input we got from people about how they feel like they are mistreated by their paid tv provider. and this morning for the first time, our nation's largest cable and satellite companies are testifying together before us about their service, customer service and billing practices. they are here because this subcommittee has broad jurisdiction to investigate issues which affect the american people. i tried to have this hearing as the chairman of the consumer protection subcommittee and i got no cooperation from any of these companies in connection with that hearing in the later months of 2015.
-- 2014, and so i made a determination then that i wasn't going to give up. we were going to stay on us. and i'm grateful for your agreement to allow this investigation to go forward. the five companies here today provide video services to more than half of all american households. they enable more than 71 million subscribers and their families to receive news, entertainment and other programming. and while we may love watching our shows, we don't love our cable and satellite bills. and we hate dealing with the cable and satellite companies. although the companies made gains in the past year, paid tv providers are the most disliked industries in america. this year a survey of consumers found that more than 20% of the people who interacted with tv providers reported having a bad experience during the previous six months.
the highest level of any industry. so how i did begin down this road? well, it was with a personal experience. i called one of my providers and asked questions about my bill. and in the process of that conversation, i learned -- this is over two years ago -- that there was a $10 charge on my bill for a certain service that now was included in the basic package. and i said, well, so i'm paying $10 and i don't have to? and the person on the other end of the line kind of said, yeah. you're paying $10 and you don't have to pay it. i said well were you going to tell me this? and they said, well, no, you have to call in and ask. that's exactly the kind of hide the ball that infuriates people. so if i hadn't called in and asked, that $10 could still be on my bill today. based on the billing practices of the company's represented at this hearing. so we have done a huge investigation and i have
reviewed a lot of material and my staff has and i've consumed a lot of information about this. so i decided two days ago i'd take another spin. now i know a lot. now i know the difference between a customer service representative and a retention specialist. now i know what to say and how to say it. so two days ago i called one of my providers. and i'm -- on my website people can listen to the recording of this conversation. and i am going to, in fairness, because i don't think this is necessarily one company versus another. i am not going to talk about which company it is. and nor will the recording. and i'm not going to read here nor on the recording will i give my personal information i was asked to give when i called. but here's how the conversation went. . the first part of it until they got me to that magic retention specialist. hello and thank you so much for calling. can i have your name, please? my name is claire mccaskill. can you spell that for me,
please. i proceeded to spell it. i proceeded to give the representative my service address. i proceeded to give her the name on the account and say that was my husband's name. and she asked what my relationship was to the account holder. i said it was my husband. and then the woman says, okay. how can i help today? i said i would like to have you remove -- there's a fee on here. i'm not sure how it got on here for a protection plan. i don't recall buying that or being asked about it and i would like to have it removed. now she wants to get my information about my account and my active credit card to make sure i am the person that i say i am so she goes through what credit card i have on file. then she says, all right. so you said you're seeing a charge for a protection plan and you'd like to know what it's for. i said, no, i'd like to take it off. oh, you'd like to take it off? yes. all right. but you are aware that protection plan covers equipment upgrade every two years and if you lose your equipment then we'll replace it for you at no
charge. i said well you are saying that equipment i have in my house now is mine or it is yours? well, it's ours. but if there are any issues say, for example, spills or the cables get cut then we replace it for you. i said well but let's just say if it's your equipment and something goes wrong with it, don't you have to fix it anyway if i get the service i'm paying for? since you own the equipment? well, we -- let's say if the remote fails or stops working, the protection plan on the account will fix that free of cost. i said well what would that cost if the remote quit working? your remote that you own, what would it cost to get fixed if i didn't have the equipment plan. that is done in my equipment department. i'd like to connect through for more information. i said, no. i knew better. no. i don't want to do.
that if you do that, i've got to wait and tell the story all over again. i just want to find out why i can not get you to take off the $7.99 for the protection plan. i'm not saying i'm not able to take it off. i'm just letting you know the benefits you get with the protection plan. i understand. i think i understand. i think, frankly, it's a rip off because you own all the equipment. i think you have to fix the equipment since you own the equipment and if you can't fix the equipment and i couldn't get the service and then i wouldn't pay for the service and i would go to another provider. so what i'm asking is will you just disconnect it. i don't want to pay $7.99. i don't even know how it got on my bill. i think you just started putting it on my bill and i wasn't paying close enough attention. all right. she says. but if i actually have the protection plan taken off, there will be a $10 disconnection fee. it would be a $10 disconnection fee for me to quit paying the $7.99 every month? that's correct. and it's a one time disconnection fee? yes, it's one time.
and what do i pay you for? paying for, she says? yeah, what am i paying for, for you to just quit charging me for the service, i have to pay you $10? well, no, basically -- i think -- and then i say i think what we need to do, i think now it's time for me to switch carriers. if you're going to charge me $10 for charging me something i don't want anymore, i think it's time to switch carriers. all right. well, that's just the policy. so once i take off the $10 -- take off the protection plan charge it will be automatically on your account. okay. so what you're saying is if i want to cancel $7.99 that you've been getting every month for the protection plan you're going do charge me $10 to do. that? you have no choice? you can't waive that? it is policy, that's correct. do you have discretion to give me a one time credit of $10 to do away with that? i'm really sorry. i don't really think you want to lose me as a customer, do you, over $10? well, we do value your business but it's a policy here. once i take it off, there will
be the $10 charge. and there is nothing you can do about that? you do not have the option to waive and she says, no, i do not. so then finally, i said well who -- could waive the $10? she says, well, i would have to give you to the retention specialist. and i'm not really sure how it works in that department. so then she switched me over to the retention specialist. now this is typical. it's typical. and more importantly, when she switched me to the retention specialist, i knew what to say. i knew to quit -- keep threatening i was leaving, keep threatening i was leaving, not give up. keep threatening i was leaving. and by the way, it was a long call. even when we edited to take out the things that are not personal, it was longer than 15 minutes and at the end of the call i managed to get the $7.99 off. i was told by specialist i never
should have been charged the $10 and i got so mad and escalated as it's called in the business that the retention specialist ended up giving me $10 off a month for 12 months. they were looking at at screen that told them all information about me including the fact i'm a pretty good customer. my bill is pretty high. so i say this because i think this is what the industry maybe doesn't completely understand in terms of the anger. we found that customers being charged a host of fees not included in advertising pricing, some of which are for programming that used to be included in a customer's video package. we also found that just as many customers have long believed some of these fees like hd and dvr service fees aren't really a true reflection of the cost of the company of the service but rather are based on the revenue goals of the company. and the price that customer is willing to stomach. in fact, some of the fees are charged to old customers while new customers get the same
services free of charge. existing customers may not be informed of this and when they finally figure it out, they have to call and complain to get it taken off. we found that customers who call for help on their accounts face agents whose job it is not to just solve the customer's problems but in fact to sell them additional services. at one cable company, even when the customer called in to ask about why their bill was going up, the company told them, "the price adjustment brings with it an opportunity to upsell customers and the agents are compensated in part on their ability to sell you more." then if the customer decides they want to cancel the service, they have to jump through more hoops. although all the companies here today allow people to sign up for service, or upgrade their service online, none of them provide customers option to cancel service online without speaking to a company representative. and if they call, they have to speak to sales people like the one i spoke to this week who was trained to prevent the customers
from cancelling and hopefully selling you more product. even when customers don't say -- say they don't want to have this discussion, the agents are expected to ask questions about why the customer is cancelling. customers trying to save money by lowering their level of service are often routed to the same agents which and should be prepared to negotiate aggressively. we found evidence that they train the agents to question customers decision to drop channels and make offers in a top down fashion so the customer must repeatedly push and push and push to get the best deal. finally, we found that two of the companies have failed to provide notice -- provide their customers with notice that they have been overcharged in the past. as the chairman pointed out, thousands of nem our states have been impacted by that. the time from missouri, time
warner overbilled 4,232 customers last year for a total of $44,152. and charter estimates that it annually overcharged approximately 5,897 missouri customers a total of $494,000 each year. i want to acknowledge the cooperation we received from all the companies represented before us today as well as acknowledge the commitments they have made during the process of this investigation to improve customer service. unfortunately, our investigation suggests that there is a long way to go. and as did my conversation with one of my providers just two days ago. i thank the witnesses for their testimony and look forward to the opportunity to ask you questions. >> thank you. we'll go to our panel of witnesses. we appreciate you being with us. we have senior vice president of customer service for comcast he oversees all call center operations and other customer service channels. we have with us john kide.
he is the former ceo of residential services for time warner cable where he was in charge of customer service, service delivery, technical support, marketing and sales. we have kathleen mayo, customer vice president at charter communications which is responsible for charter's customer care organization. we have the senior vice president of product management for at&t entertainment group, he is responsible for product strategy and development for direct tv. and we have kathleen snyder with white house is senior vice president of operations for dish network where she oversees customer service for all dish and sling tv subscribers nationwide and manages dish's call centers and process improvement operations. again, appreciate you all being with us this morning. we look forward to your testimony. it's the custom of the subcommittee to swear in the witnesses so at this time i ask you all to please stand and raise your right hand. do you all swear that testimony you're about to give before the
subcommittee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? thank you. let the record reflect that each witness answered in the affirmative. all of your written statements will be made part of the record in their entirety. i ask you to keep your oral testimony to five minutes today and we would like to hear from you first. >> thank you. chairman, ranking member and members of the subcommittee, i'm the senior vice president at comcast cable. thank you for the opportunity to be here today. i also want to thank your staff for the courtesies extended to us throughout this review. i understand why we are here. comcast and the industry as a whole have not always made customer service the priority it should have been. our ability to address customers' needs in a timely fashion has been an issue. our bill haven't always been simple to read and the range of choices and prices we've offered haven't only provided customers with the options they want.
i'm sorry about that history. at comcast, we committed to customers that we would change it. and we're taking steps to do just that. i want to reaffirm that commitment to you all today and to outline the action that's we're taking. when i started this job, i made it a decision to spend time on the phones and in the stores with the employees and our customers. that is the front line. that is the place where customer views about comcast are shaped. when you contact us to get new service, you want to speak with someone who listens to what you say and who understands all of our product options. you want to know the full price and you have time to change your mind if your order isn't exactly what you need. when you get bills from us, you want them to be easy to read and you don't want to see surprises or changes that you do not understand. when you call with a question or
problem or to tell us we made a mistake, you want a plight response. you want the issue resolved the first time if at all possible. if you move out of our service area or decide to have service other than ours, you want to be able to do so without delays and without hassle. we have listened to what you have said. yesterday i met with some of our front line employees and a local store here in the d.c. area. and i took some calls directly from customers and was heartened by what i experienced. i submitted a longer statement for the record and i won't repeat much of it here. but i do want to tell you a few of the key components of our efforts to improve our customer service and to provide a better customer experience. first, we are investing in additional training and new technology for all of our employees. we are committed to ensuring that when our customers speak to comcast representatives they're speaking to representatives that received comprehensive and consistent training. on the technology side, we laid
-- we've rolled out a new cloud-based platform that gives customer service representatives a better holistic view of the customer's account history so that customers don't need to keep customers don't need to keep repeating the same information when talking to somebody new. second, we are reassessing policies and fees and simplifying our bills to improve the overall customer experience. for example, we have eliminated change of service and other fees. we now allow customers to return equipment free of charge through our partnership with ups. we offer all customers a 30-day money-back guarantee. and in response to the subcommittee's concerns, we reaffirmed in a policy statement sent to all retention specialist that's we expect them to promptly facilitate a disconnect for a customer who is not interested in answering questions. third, we're giving all customers better access to products and services that work best for them. we listened to our customers and are developing new products that better suit their needs.
for example, we recently developed the cutting edge x-1 platform which has completely enhanced and revamped our customers' entertainment experience. we expanded our free on demand programming to offer our customer more choices than ever before. and finally, we are measuring all of our employees on customer satisfaction. our compensation plan for front line employees is now tied directly to the customer experience. in fact, the compensation for all company employees including our company's top executives depends in part on these customer service scores as well. comcast will spend an incremeental. half million dollars alone this year on improving the customer experience. as part of that initiative, we are creating more than 5500 new customer service jobs over the next three years including positions that we've already filled at a new call senter in albuquerque, new mexico, an tucson, arizona. having spent six years in the
army myself, i'm proud of the fact that we're looking to fill many of the positions with our nation's veterans and their families. we believe these and other steps we've taken to improve our customer experience are making a real difference. thank you again for the opportunity to testify and i'm happy to answer any questions that you may have. >> mr. kibe. >> chairman portman, ranking member mccaskill and other members of the subcommittee, good morning. my name is john kibe and i'm here to testify on behalf of legacy time warner cable. thank you for the opportunity to participate in this hearing. as you know, time warner cable merged with charter communications to form a new company. my role at time warner cable ended when the parties completed the transactions. i am no longer employed by time warner cable or charter as such
i'm testifying today as a former time warner cable executive but also as a private citizen. my most recent position at time warner cable was executive vice president and chief operating officer for residential services. in this role, i lived the customer care marketing and sales operations for the company's residential service. to the extent that questions arise related to future of time warner cable and charter, i will defer to the witness kathleen mayo. we serve 15 million customers receiving video, internet or telephone services from maine to hawaii. we employ thousands of customer service representatives who we train first and foremost to serve our customers. let me begin by acknowledging that we're well aware of the issues that we've discussed by the subcommittee today. those of who you live in a time warner cable area have probably seen our most recent ad campaign in which we acknowledge and highlight prior service challenges before explaining the steps we're taking as a company
to address those historical shortcomin shortcomings. that campaign is a culmination of efforts made during my tenure at time warner cable to improve our customer service performance in order to provide the best customer experience possible. beginning in 2013, on an internal strategy we called winning on service, we embarked on an aggressive plan to improve the customer service and took several steps towards that goal. we invested heavily in the network. we made several technology augmentations for broadband and video and initiated an ambitious plan to reshape our customer service performance by investing in our greatest and most important asset, our employees. we sought to make service the differentiator and become the best service provider not just within the telecom space and within any industry. our goal is to keep customers and we accomplished that goal by keeping them happy. to do this we train our customer service representatives to provide excellent care to our customers upon hiring our representatives receive 11 weeks of hands on training as well as
weekly ongoing training and coaching sessions with our supervisors. these coaching sessions allow a representative to learn from the actual calls they handle. our focus on customer service has made a difference as more than four in five customers report they're satisfied with their interaction with time warner cable and they are becoming increasingly satisfied. we made great strides in addressing customer issues more quickly and efficiently. we've done this by improving our level to enhance training and better staffing and improving our product and service performance and introducing call backs which allow customers to call back time warner cable at times that best work for them. as a result of these efforts, our total call volume is down over the past three years the number of calls fielded by our customer service representatives decreased by 12 million which is testament to better and more efficient customer service. one measure of the improved customer service is one touch resolution. the percentage of calls that are managed by a single agent. recent internal report show that we achieve one touch resolution nearly 94% of the calls we
handle. in addition, time warner cable began offering industry one hour service and installed windows and then the first quarter our technicians were on time for the appointments 99% of the time. we reduced a $1.6 million the number of time warner -- the number of times that a time warner cable technician needed to visit a customer's home to handle a repair. are we there yet? no. making such changes at a company our size is no small feat and the desired changes can not all happen at once. still the evidence suggests that our efforts are starting to pay off. in the latest american consumer satisfaction report, time warner cable is the fourth best internet provider that is up from the 13th position two years previously. we do not have enough time to fully execute our plan, i'm proud of the early results and just as i'm most proud of our technicians and customer service agents who are together pursuing a single mission of winning service. i'm confident that charter holds the same core tenants about
prioritizing customer service and will continue to improve the customer service experience. i look forward to answering any questions you have today about time warner cable, and i'd like to thank you for having me here today. >> thank you. ms. mayo? >> thank you, chairman portman, ranking member mccaskill, and members of the subcommittee. i appreciate the opportunity to testify here today. i'm kathleen mayo and charter's executive vice president of customer operations. i'm here to talk about the significant progress we've made improving the customer experience at charter since the company's 2009 bankruptcy and especially since the change of leadership in 2012. as a result of the history, charter's infrastructure was in serious need of capital investment. the company's financial situation meant charter had underinvested in repairs which kept the product from performing reliably and they tried to cut costs by outsourcing thousands of customer service jobs overseas.
since tom rutledge became ceo in 2012 and brought in a new leadership team, we instituted a new playbook for success that included streamlining the video products adding value to the products and delivering the fastest, minimal broadband speeds all at highly competitive prices with the focus on improving customer service. our efforts over the last four years to improve customer service including insourcing customer and service positions creating thousands of americans jobs. we invested significantly in training our employees to be responsive to the needs of the customer. since 2012, we hired over 7,000 employees, a 40% increase and the majority of those roles are customer facing positions, many of which were brought back from overseas. today nearly 90% of our customer calls are handled on shore and inhouse and 95% of our in-home service visits are performed by charter technicians.
we are committed to locating our facilities in the communities we serve most recently opening a $16 million center of operations in missouri. as part of our transaction with time warner cable, charter expects to hire 20,000 american workers, many of whom will fill customer service jobs that are currently outsourced to call centers in other countries. this approach has given us greater quality assurance with our representatives and our actions with customers. our representatives engage in conversations with our customers to understand their unique needs in order to properly assist them. we do not follow canned scripts. to improve the customer experience, we also have taken steps to simplify our bill by eliminating common industry fees and we expanded self-service capabilities. as a result of these steps and the $7 billion we invested in our network, customer service calls declined 25% since 2013 when our customers do need assistance, we've been able to resolve the issue on first call 80% of the time. those high quality customer interactions are growing our customer base. in a very competitive
environment, we added more than 1 million customer relationships since the beginning of 2012. growing our total customer base by 18% despite having no early termination fees to prevent customers from leaving us. our churn is down. our existing customers are staying with us longer and our customers satisfaction is improved by 12%. we're pleased with our accomplishments to date and believe the results are beginning to show, but we also know that there is still much work to do in order to provide our customers with the excellent service that they expect and that they deserve. to eliminate accidental overcharges for video equipment, charter instituted checks and balances that create controls in our order entry systems to ensure we get each order right. our recent audited video equipment and billing was 99.4% accurate. out of 11 million boxes, we found 63,000 boxes, less than 1%, where customers were overbilled.