tv Charlie Rose PBS June 25, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PDT
>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, the saga of edward snowden. tonight, joining me john miller, norah o'donnell, philip mudd and spencer ackerman. >> if people are talking more about snowden and less about these disclosures are and what they mean and their implications for public policy, that's a choice they make. i think the focus we've tried to keep is on the story itself and not about these lateral issues. although, admittedly, the sort of -- as my colleague glen greenwald called it global white bronco moment around the world for snowed season captivating on the surface but we've been focusing more on the substance than the theater. >> rose: we conclude with the book and documentary film of the same title "dirty wars." joining me, the journalist jeremy scahill and the film's director richard rowley. >> when it goes wrong and civilians are killed or there are air strikes that happen
based on bad intelligence and you kill a whole village full of people. what's the impact of that. what we heard in different languages and countries have people saying we used to have an admiration for the united states. now we want to join those fighting against the eyes. to us that was a very important story to tell in this country, in the united states. >> rose: the saga of edward snowden and "dirdy wars" when we continue.
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: we continue our coverage of edward snowden and his global pursuit for political asylum. his leaks have revealed the scope of government surveillance by the n.s.a. on friday the u.s. charged him with violating the espionage act. he's also accused of stealing government property and disclosing classified information. edward snowden had been in hong kong since these leaks were made public but he was allowed to leave for moscow on sunday despite american requests for his detention. his current location is assumed to be at the airport in moscow, although no one has seen him so
far. it's reported he attempt to fly to havana on his way to political asylum in ecuador. there are many questions about who he is and what his future is and there's a continuing investigation into the surveillance by the n.s.a. joining me from memphis is philip mudd, the former deputy director of national security at the f.b.i. and the counterterrorist center of the c.i.a. censer ackerman, national security editor for "the guar" newspaper. john miller of cbs news, also in new york, norah o'donnell, the co-host of cbs "this morning." this is a continuing story, the saga of edward snowden. i begin with you, john miller. tell me, where do you think it is at the moment? >> right now the assumption is-- and you know that's dangerous sds that he's in moscow. he arrived from hong kong, that much we pretty well established. he didn't get on the flight that was supposed to take him from there maybe to cuba, nine honduras. so -- >> rose: honduras or ecuador.
>> ecuador, i'm sorry. so the assumption is he's still in moscow and that raises a whole host of questions. >> rose: like? >> like first of all you know the united states has been burning up the wires between washington and moscow saying well, he has a future there, we have a notice out for him, we have a warrant for him, lock him up and send him back and moscow has been saying well, he's in the transit terminal so that's where all the connecting flights meet. you don't go through -- technically you're not on russian soil so we have no jurisdiction to arrest him which would be very interesting if it were the other way around. but in any rate so the question is what's he still doing there? where is he going or, if not, who's he talking to? remember, he's got a guy who's got a bag full, whether it's in a hard drive or computer or in his head of sensitive u.s. secrets who's basically going to two places, one a satellite of china and now moscow which is the two top intelligence priorities in the united states.
>> rose: my imsuppression a spokesman from the russian government have said they have not talked to him. >> and i would expect a spokesman to say that. >> rose: (laughs) yes, okay. you've been there; done that, haven't you? >> little bit. >> rose: philip mudd, tell us what your take is on this at this moment in terms of what the u.s. is doing and what tools do they have in their tool box to get mr. snowden? >> i think there's a couple things they are doing. the first is on the open side going to the russians diplomatically maybe through the f.b.i. saying look, we have extradition treaties, we have someone who's been charged with a crime, give him to us. i think there's going to be something in the background as well and that's looking to see whether this individual is still trying to stay in touch with friends or family, what he's saying about his intent or where he's going next to see if we can stay ahead of him. >> rose: spencer, i know your principal focus has been on the whole n.s.a. and the nature of what followers they have and that kind of thing but tell me what interests you most about this story. >> what's interesting most about
this story is the overwhelming amount of surveillance on americans' phone records and on possibly even the world's internet usage by the n.s.a. occurring entirely in secret and with a much greater depth than has ever been known before. >> rose: but has that story been lost because of the flight of mr. snowden? >> it's an interesting question, charlie. where we choose to devote our focus is a choice on our part. if people are talking more about snowden and less about what these disclosures actually or what they mean and their implications for public policy that's a choice that they make. i think the focus that we've tried to keep is on the story itself and not about these lateral issues. although, admittedly, the sort of -- as my colleague glen greenwald called it the global white bronco moment around the world for snowden is captivating on the surface. but we've been focusing a lot more than of the substance than the theater. >> rose: let's move back to
that. >> the cat-and-mouse or the global white truck search is fascinating. but it's hard to keep focus on just the issues of n.s.a. surveillance when you now have edward snowed on who has now brought in the involvement of not only the russian government but the chinese government. and now you have the administration, you know, at midnight last night a spokesperson for the national security council, the white house, putting out a statement urging the russians to turn him over. this dominated the white house briefing today. you have to secretary of state john kerry saying there will be consequences for russia and china. at the white house today the president's spokesperson saying this will unquestionably have a negative impact on relations between the u.s. and china. so this is now -- this has now become quite a big deal. you know, i think david sanger of the "new york times" on our show in the morning said, look, you'd hope that someone like edward snowden wouldn't obscure larger relations on economic and other issues between countries but the white house has made it an issue. >> rose: when someone is screaming as loud as the u.s.
government is, it suggests that they think he could do a lot of damage. it's not just a question of being embarrassed. >> well, there's a couple of things. one, there's no total assurance of what all he still has that he hasn't disclosed, a. and then beyond whatever he's downloaded or taken he's worked inside the central intelligence agency. he's worked inside the n.s.a. there are things in his head beyond what he has on paper or digital media that would be of value to adversaries and he's been in -- he's been in, at least geographically-- the pocket of two of our biggest intelligence adversaries since he went to do this. >> rose: since he went to hong kong. >> right. >> rose: phil >> i think we're talking about the trees, not forest. the issue isn't even what n.s.a. is doing. the issue is we're in the 21st century and we're leaving massive digital footprints on yahoo!, facebook. we seem to think that's acceptable in the public sphere. when it goes the government we
don't have a cultural understanding of what data the government should have. and the debate should not be about snowden. he'll be forgotten in five years. the debate is what is personal privacy in a digital world? >> rose: do you have an answer to that? >> i think answer is twofold: fergs we have to talk about what should the government collect. what should they keep in a massive data pool? second-- and the more significant question-- is when can they dip in that pool to look? that's really the important question. how can you analyze all this data they've acquired. >> rose: the president seems to want that debate and other people talk about wanting to have that debate but the focus is and the curiosity is right now on snowden and what he has told the russians and the chinese and what happened to him and why, as norah suggested, the united states is so intent and is so vociferous in terms of their efforts both vocally and otherwise to get him back. >> well, i think we've
transitioned from talking about a whistle-blower about someone who leaks to potentially-- and i know word is important-- talking about a traitor. you're going to places that could be characterized as the 21st century soviet block, china russia, cuba, ecuador. all places that have a great deal of antipathy towards the united states. why did a person who wanted to spark a debate in the united states choose this constellation of countries to visit? that to me is an interesting question. >> i think using the word "traitor" is an incredibly loaded term given we're already outpacing the facts as we know them. we don't know that he talked to any intelligence agency. on monday, t garden hosted a live q&a with snowden and i asked him that question directly "have you had any encounters with any foreign intelligence assets? do you intend to do anything with the information you have in terms of letting foreign intelligence agencies see it?" and he said "no." we can question whether that's a sincere statement, but i think we shouldn't outpace the facts about -- >> time out, time out.
>> and assume that he's been talking -- >> we're not outpacing the facts. we also know that publicly he's already told the chinese what we do against them. to me this is not exposing for american debate what n.s.a. does against american citizens. it gives an adversary an advantage. that to me is potentially traitorous. >> there's also a suggestion today that in an interview that edward snowden did with one of the chinese papers that he specifically joined booz allen so that he could get this job at the n.s.a. to gain the access to this material which goes to his motivation. so clearly he has some interest in what was going on and then he joined and it was only at booz allen for three months in order to do this. whether that's true or not, why he's suggesting that he did that suggests that he had mowive to expose these early on. not just as a whistle-blower once you're involved in the n.s.a. you see what they're doing and saying "hey, this is wrong, this is unconstitutional, i need to take the appropriate channels and let people know about that. " his interviews suggest he had some prior motivation.
>> rose: if he wanted to do what he has said he did and for the purposes he said he did, why didn't he then disobey the law and give himself over to authorities and say "i'll pay the price for what i did because i believe the disclosure of what i did is in the public interest"? >> well, i can't get into snowden's head. i would suggest that perhaps it's quite a momentous thing to consign yourself to a lifetime of imprisonment and who knows what's going to happen. and he has said that the treatment of prior whistle-blowers-- wlfs whether it was thomas drake at the n.s.a. who basically had his livelihood ruined, the c.i.a. operative who discussed waterboarding publicly who's now in jail and on and on down the line, that the obama administration's record of aggressively pursuing whistle-blowers, leakers, whatever you want to call them, gave him a great deal of pause in this matter. >> rose: philip, -- go ahead. >> just to be clear, john cure i don't thinkky didn't attempt to
whistle blow, he violated a federal statute and the judge sent them to jail. >> i'm not litigating each case here. i'm just pointing out what he said. >> well, let's be clear to the audience. whistle blowing is a process you undertake that has a formal process and pro pseudoyour that john kiriakou didn't follow. let me make a point about this bag of trick this is guy still has and getting back to john's point about narcissism. if you're pursuing this realizing that perhaps-- something that didn't happen-- he had this little bag that he didn't reveal what the united states is doing against his own citizens, you magt say he's got his information on the street, he'll stay quiet and we'll pursue him. what he's done instead is to say "every time i want airtime i'm going to roll something else out." and i'm afraid when the air sometime starts to die he's going to put another bag of tricks out and say "here's a new secret i want to reveal." >> rose: what do you think he knows, snil >> how we collect this information, what we're doing against not just places like
pakistan or china but what we're doing against countries around the world. more how we deal with this information than what we're vacuuming up. >> if you think one of the core examples here in one of his newspaper interviews he said, you know, here was the russian had a state who was here for the summit and we realized that there had been a change in the way that they covertly communicated so we were able to detect that change and adjust to it, we got a new collection platform. that goes a little bit beyond someone who's saying "i'm trying to warn americans that their privacy might be in danger." and that's kind of how i'm framing the -- what is this guy? say he's about -- what is he really about? because he makes it confusing. >> i would also point out that he has also said in the past that he's also been concerned about american covert actions against countries that the united states is not formally at war what w. so i say that to throw that out in the mix. >> rose: spencer, the question
has been raised often since this thing broke, hero or traitor. obviously you've said he's not a traitor, i think. is he a hero in your sgluplt. >> in my judgment i don't believe in heroes. i don't believe in that in the real world we actually do encounter heroes. we encounter people with a variety of different motivations. >> i would just say it is not surprising or new that we spy on foreign governments and that foreign governments spy on us. that's just part of the game and quite frankly, it's who does it better. >> rose: and he acknowledged that in the interview i did with it last summer. >> that's long been acknowledged. so edward snowden, who are his friends? who are his friends in china? who are his friends, if any, in russia? i ask that question because the question began where is he in china? he left the hotel in hong kong. we learned from the attorney, mr. ho, who has been representing edward snowden that he was taken to a safe house of someone who is friendly to him. who is that person?
what are their motivations? there are fascinating details about mr. snowden's last meal in china. about how his meeting with attorneys how he asked everybody's phone to put it inside the refrigerator. but i think we have to ask questions about who are his friends? who was he coming in contact with and what access do they have? the "new york times" suggested today that it is believed that the chinese took some -- his four laptops and some of his thumb drives and went through them. >> rose: and downloaded all of them. >> downloaded. now, as john has suggested maybe he encrypted stuff. but you have to imagine wherever he is other people have access to him. the idea that edward snowden now is sitting in this transit zone all by himself in a room by himself safe and not in contact with anybody is absurd. he is in contact with someone. who is he in contact with? there are no safe rooms where you can avoid people, especially local officials. there are russian officials who have access to him. >> rose: we do know he's in contact with wikileaks and julian assange and people like that because it was said -- i think julian assange said one of his colleagues was traveling
with him. >> has been traveling with him and facilitating and wikileaks has offered support. there would be the direct kind of contact that he would know about, certainly be mildly curious has he met with anybody or been debriefed by any foreign government. but let's assume that hasn't happened at all. there are other kinds of contacts where people can get into things, i don't care if your phone is in a refrigerator, other things that can be done that would be great vulnerabilities. >> rose: is it over for the united states or do they have something they can do or say that will change this game as it looks like it's been played out? >> i would say not much. look, you've got to assume that everything's he's got is compromised, that every piece of technology he's got is compromised. that technology has as much information as what's in his brain so you can't go here and say maybe they've talked to him or maybe they didn't. the damage assessment has got to look at this and say what's the massive universe of stuff he's got because i don't care whether he's talked to them or not, they stole it.
>> rose: go ahead, spencer. >> i would trust phil's assessment on that about what the u.s. would be assuming on this front. to bring it sort of back to the broader n.s.a. story, there's a very interesting data security question that's kind of gone untouched here which is that the n.s.a. has been building up massive, massive databases on americans' phone records and on potentially global internet communications. they're just absolutely massive. just huge terra flops worth of data. and the question that i think still has gone unaddressed here is that if snowden can smuggle out information about some of the scope of that, why should we believe that the n.s.a. can keep that data on americans secured at all? >> rose: isn't that the question that general alexander addressed over the weekend that they now have to have new rules for this kind of stuff, the to two-man rule they're callingtor two-person rule, right? >> it seems kind of amazing that the n.s.a. didn't already have procedures in place give than
they knew they were harvesting this tremendously sensitive and mo potentially lucrative data. >> rose: do you have an explanation for that? >> well, i think first of all on the phone data and spencer may argue with this. to me that was a story that ran in "u.s.a. today" on the front page on a weekday in 2006 and i went up and it went down and there was a great gnashing of teeth and at the end of it everybody said "okay, we're fine with it." and life went on. that was the first big headline. the more intriguing piece is kind of the caching of all of this internet traffic and the ability to look at photo streams and chats and facebook pages and to go backwards through it. phil has already framed this is a -- now that it's out there this is a question for the american people about what's your comfort level. because we hear two questions in this season. one, why weren't they up on those two russian guys in boston? how come they didn't stop that bombing? shouldn't they be listening to everybody? while both of them qualified under the rules as we have it
today as u.s. persons and, two, why are they listening to everybody? so you can't have it both ways and i don't think anybody wants it both ways. what they want is this uncomfortable middle ground that is laden with rules and guidelines. >> rose: which is a balance. >> which is a balance. but as spencer points out, if you collect that stuff, how do you put the fences around it? where are those guidelines and isn't it now time, as phil has framed, for that discussion to come along? because maybe it's not okay. or maybe it is okay. probably time to have that talk. >> and not just what the government is collecting on individuals but what businesses are collecting on individuals. >> okay, but here's the difference -- >> no, but -- >> when the business is collected nobody, nobody has ever read the fine print that you say "i understand the terms of agreement." so that's why the discussion -- it's incumbent upon the government to kind of have this debate now that this -- now that the horse is out of the barn.
it's probably a good time to have that conversation. >> what i was going to suggest was that this is on to, some ways, a generational shift. whereas people of a certain age used to have home phones, then had cell phones. now off younger generation that tweets, instagrams, facebooks, everything. including leaves their location on instagram, twitter, everywhere. so the giving up of that information in many ways is already part of a generational shift. so much of a younger generation is already putting out so much information about themselves freely. >> rose: everybody under the age of 40 is living out loud 24/7. but if there was a check box next to the ones without reading that said "would it be okay if the government saved this stuff and looked at it when they wanted to?" i don't think a lot of people would check the other box. >> i agree. i agree. >> i think there's another issue afoot which is expanding american expectations for
security. >> rose: 100%. >> when you sit at this table as john and i did 7:15 in the morning at the f.b.i. and a file comes across the table that says "john miller is a terrorist." my first question is not just who john miller is it's what's the web of conspiracy around him? that's phone, e-mail, stain gram travel. if i have to sit there in five years and say "i can't dip into a pool of data that goes back a year or two or however long we hold stuff to build that conspiracy, we here in a world of trouble." i'm not sure where this debate will go but it has to include the expansion and public expectation about how we provide security in this country. >> rose: so you are say that if, in fact, there's evidence to believe that john miller has intent to harm the national security of the united states and you know that he has called people in the united states-- assuming he lives somewhere else-- you want the law to allow you to do what? >> to dip into a pool of data that goes back years that includes financial, e-mail, phone, travel, everything that you do in daily life that helps
me understand who you are without putting men on the street or women on the street to surveil you. >> if it's american you have to and if it's a foreign citizen and a foreign country you don't to get a warrant. but those are the rules now. >> exactly. >> but what phil is really saying -- phil's headline here is we live in a post-9/11 world where we've sunk $82 trillion zillion dollars and that's come with an expectation of 100% success that will there will never be another terrorist attack on the u.s. soil and if there is it must be somebody's fault other than the terrorists and when you operate with that set of expectations-- not the israeli expectations of the mid-1990s that everybody every two weeks somebody will blow up a bus and there won't be a big commission to investigation why. but if you live in that level of expectation then there's going to be that kind of collection laid within all kinds of rules
albeit, but that kind of collection otherwise you're not going to stop the number of attacks that have been stopped since 9/11 which is, you know, hovering below the hundreds but -- >> rose: and there's a parallel activity of hacking. go ahead, spencer. >> perhaps it's also pertinent to talk about the rules here. one of the things that's become disclosed by general alexander and others is that in order to access the database the n.s.a. keeps of americans' phone records they do not need a fisa court order ahead of time. they need specify to a supervisor they have what's called reasonablear tick labl suspicion that someone in the database up to no good. and part of the question that some members of congress now have is perhaps there should be a higher standard if the n.s.a. is really seeking to keep all of this information for five years, as they've said. that perhaps there ought to be greater levels of outside judicial review of individual suspicion and so forth. >> rose: what is it that we will look back a week from now and say "man, i thought he was going
this way but he went that way"? >> i think everything is interesting. i think who edward snowden has come in contact with in china and russia. his motivations, what he had on these laptops, how he secured that information. but i do think there is a good debate and an interesting one about what our government is doing. i've always been fascinated. i don't think many people know in the intelligence committee who has the largest budget. it's the n.s.a.. that's something philip and john know and i know from being in washington but i remember when i first learned that when i was 25 years old and i said "what is the ensay in" you grow up thinking it's the c.i.a. >> rose: it's the national student association. >> (laughs) but what the entire n.s.a. is spending all this money on and the computer systems that they have developed to ensnare not only intelligence but then to process that i think is fascinating. >> rose: what do you most want to know? go ahead. >> i actually am still curious about snowden. i i think thoreau said -- >> rose: i am, too.
>> i don't care about this guy, another 20-year-old who thinks he's better than anybody in the world. but thoreau said patriotism is the last bastion of scoundrels meaning whether you're talking about -- well, you name your figure, you wrap yourselves in the flag to -- i was doing this for my country. but as phil pointed out, he's kind of gone off the rails here so i'm actually very curious given my comparisons' opinions and amateur psychology. who is he really and what's he really like? the argument that we're all fascinated with -- >> rose: and the idea of intent from the beginning. did he work for booz allen because he wanted to have access so he could do something with it? >> it's another one i don't believe him on. i think he's rewriting the script as he goes trying to create this persona. that's what i'm curious about. the argument we should be focused on-- which is about privacy and standards-- seems to have blown by and what we're not seeing is-- except for a couple people-- a congress that seems very upset about it. they were briefed and so we're
not seeing in the polling numbers that people are wrapped around the axel so i don't think if that discussion -- i don't know if that will happen right now. >> rose: what do you most want to know? what are you curious about at this moment? >> i want to know how long the n.s.a. believes it has to surveil millions of americans in order to keep the country safe. we are entering a phase where you can see them arguing that as the threat from al qaeda recedes they have to keep this apparatus of surveillance going indefinitely in order to make sure that there isn't any backsliding on national security. and you wonder at what point the administration, the n.s.a., the intelligence committees, congress more broadly will say actually these were emergency powers, they were passed after 9/11 and the emergency is over. that debate has still yet to occur. >> spencer makes a great point and that is that as al qaeda has been decimated and they cut the head off the snake as john brennan has described it, the head of the c.i.a., and most of the threats now are from
self-radicalized individuals like we saw in boston who are u.s. citizens. so what does that mean about using that intelligence if most of -- if many of the new terrorists are homegrown terrorists and u.s. citizens? >> what it means is that if the emergency is over, try and tell that to the legless woman whose picture we know so well from the boston marathon. tell they are emergency is over when "inspire" magazine is being followed by thousands of people around the world, many of whom are trying to act on that. >> it's taken another turn, exactly. >> rose: phil, last word. >> this debate is not about terrorism, it's about cartels, human traffickers, sex trafficers. w sh"ver happens in the 21st century, that group of people is going to touch america and leave a digital trail. what do we want to the do about it? >> rose: last word, thank you, phil, thank you, spencer, thank you, john, thank you, norah. back in a moment. stay with us.
>> rose: jeremy scahill is the producer and writer of the newly released documentary "dirty wars." he's followed by director richard rowley as he travels to the regions most affected by the war on terror. his investigations raise questions about the perpetuity of war and its legality. the "washington post" says the film's facts seem to fly in the face of who and how we as a nation believe ourselves to be. here is the trailer for "dirty wars." >> i got a strange phone call. someone from the inside is reaching out to me. someone close to the heart of the president's elite force. >> there are hundreds of secret operations, multiple contacts. >> it's hard to say when the story began. >> greetings from kabul, afghanistan. >> this is supposed to be the front line in the war on terror but i knew i was missing the story. there was another war hidden in the shadows.
a night raid. >> so the two men in the guest house were the first people killed? you saw the u.s. forces take the bullets out of the bodies? who were these men that stormed into daoud's home and why would they go to such horrifying lengths to cover up their actions? >> target, kill. >> how would a covert unit take over the largest war on the planet. >> jeremy scahill. >> you're dismissing what you've done. >> why are you still alive? are you paranoid? >> he's dead, what happened? he had an accident. >> the list of raids ran like the map of a hidden war. algeria, indonesia, thailand, jordan. >> what we have essentially done created one hell of an enemy.
and for the rest of our generation this force will be continually searching far target. >> fight whatever conspiratorial theories, there's nothing to it. >> if they are dangerous, if they are too strong it will happen this way in the future. >> it's important to know when the president can kill an american citizen and when they can't! >> rose: joining me is director richard rowley. i'm pleased to have jeremy scahill and richard rowley at this table for the first time. first, the technique we just saw it's very effective, it's like
you telling the story. >> originally when rick and i had both been working together for more than a decade in various war zones and conflict zones and we knew we wanted to do a project together and when obama was elected president people had this perception that he was going to radically change the way the u.s. viewed its national security policy. that he was going to roll back the bush/cheney apparatus of torture and black sites and guantanamo and everything. what we saw early on is he was pretty much intensifying the most sensitive aspects of the u.s. counterterrorism campaign. increasing the drone strikes, ratcheting up the night raids in afghanistan. we decided to take an initial trip to afghanistan to see what would happen and we started investigating a series of night raids that had gone terribly wrong, some of which ended up killing pregnant women, afghan police commanders. and when we learned that this very sensitive covert unit, the joint special operations command-- was at the tip of the spear, these operations, we knew we had a global story. how do you set up to tell a story like that? well, at first rick wanted me -- the story to be me doing this
investigation and i fiercely resisted it and i said -- as a journalist you don't want to be the story but in the process of traveling around the world we realized that if we don't figure out a way to tell the story that's accessible to people-- including people not obsessed with these people like journalists or whatever-- we're not doing our job as effective storytellers because that's what journalism is. you're tell people a story that helps them to understand something about their world that they may not have understand prior to that. >> rose: this shows you an understanding of america and the way it fights wars, you say. what do you mean? >> i think we've had a hollywoodization of military figures and the special ops world and the c.i.a. that really i think is counterproductive to understand the nature of warfare and how it relates to a democratic society. and so for instance in if middle of filming osama bin laden is killed and he's killed by the same unit we had been following in the same rear of botched
night raids and air strikes and targeting of american citizens. seal team 6 which is known as the naval special warfare development group. remember, disney trade to trademark seal team 6 after the bin laden raid. so for us -- >> rose: make a television sere please? >> or faction figures, who knows? to capitalize on the fame there. what we realized we had then is a story about everything that we're not told about this unit. when it goes wrong and civilians are killed or there is -- there are air strikes that happen based on bad intelligence and you kill a whole village full of people, what's the impact of that? but what we heard in different languages and different countries is people saying we used to have an admiration for the united states. now we want to join those fight against the united states and for us that was a very important story to tell. >> rose: do we call that "chrab ral damage"? >> i hate that term. >> rose: i know, but is that what people call it? >> as you know in our film we show the cases of a lot of children who are impacted, their parents were killed or they witnessed horrifying incidents.
how can you call them collateral damage? it's like calling the victims of the boston marathon bombing collateral damage. >> rose: it's dehumanizing humanity. >> that's an essential part of war. you have to dehumanize. i believe if most americans knew the stories of these people killed, i'm not saying they would oppose the policy, i'm saying they would think differently. i just talked to a drone operator who has spent years working afghanistan and he told me numerous stories about how they were tracking one guy and he was an i.e.d. facilitator helping to make dice deeses -- improvised explosive devices. and he would liaise when they're trying to get permission to take them out with a drone strike, he liaises with four other people. they don't know identity of those four people and they presume they're terrorists. so they blow them up. who are those people that you killed? maybe they are terrorists, maybe they are i.e.d. facilitators. or maybe it was a was on who just met him on his way to doing what he was doing now we've created a ricochet effect that can build more new enemies. >> what's the mission from your own work.
one >> one on the level of an aesthetic we -- when we see this war at all on television we see it too often filmd from the noses of bombs or from drone or helicopter footage. we see human beings on the other side of this war as smudges of gray on some tracking footage. the cameras very seldom are on the ground and show those people as human beings on the whole other side of this media military apparatus. so a starting point for us in our work is to try to make the people who live this war on the ground, who live under the sound of the drones everyday in yemen and pakistan, who live through night raids in afghanistan to make them into human beings people can relate to. >> rose: in terms of trying to understand, the point is that war is this awful thing in which innocents get killed-- which is not knew, has been. is thering in smu that you want to say about america and america's wars that's different from history, different from our
earlier times? different from world war ii? >> there's very little new in war except technology. we aren't trying to be masters of the obvious by calling it dirty wars. that was pushback on this idea -- the president and his advisors -- >> rose: just that wars can be. >> right. the president and his advisors have done an effective job of convincing that this is a cleaner way of waging war. >> rose: or more effective. >> both. that we're taking down these terror networks. >> rose: and we can be more precise, they argue. >> exactly. and the blast radius of a missile fired from a drone is much smaller than a tomahawk cruise missile and they'll argue on that technical level. but for me we have a national security policy. i've come to the conclusion that our national security policy is degrading our national security. that's a shocking thing to recognize as an american. >> rose: meaning because our national security policy we're not as secure as a nation as we would be otherwise? >> i think that we are operating on a fear in our society and have been doing that since 9/11 on a domestic wlefl things like the patriot rat act and the
acceptance of this hypersecurity over our civil liberties. we've gone way overboard. terrorism is certainly a threat. there are people that want to blow up the american airlines. i'm not naive to that threat. >> rose: and they say yes, other people will be killed but it's more important goal that we have? >> but my belief is in pursuit of a relatively minor threat compared to the other threats facing our society we have gone way overboard and i think we've hit a point where we're actually creating more new enemies than we are killing terrorists and giving people an incentive to want to kill us that does not rely on some crazy ideology but actual grudges. >> rose: all these decisions are being made in secret without discussion and oversight. >> more than a decade -- >> rose: can you discuss that in n public? >> what i mean is in dozens of countries around the world wars are being fought in our name but without our knowledge. decisions are made about, you know, giving the president authority to execute american citizens without trial or formal
criminal charges. those kinds of decisions are made -- you know, there should be a national discussion about how we're going to respond. >> rose: here's what's interesting because obviously mcchrystal was a general in iraq and was head of that operation yet i've heard him talk about afghanistan before he was fired and about how he thinks, almost like you think, that the damage that you get from some of these things is so counterproductive that he questions whether you should not subscribe -- circumscribe it, shouldn't reduce it is. that surprising? are you aware of that? >> stanley mcchrystal for the eight years of the bush era was running jsac in iraq and was directing what was a murder, inc. operation in iraq so that's why it's incredible. when stanley mcchrystal took that position i think he was being very thoughtful. i think he was looking back and saying --
>> rose: well, he took this position in afghanistan when he became in charge of forces in afghanistan. >> later he said "i think our drone strike operating at cross purposes to the mission." >> rose: exactly. when he had command and saw some of the points you are raising having to do with it can be counterproductive he began to speak out on that issue. >> who's paying the price for missions gone wrong? for civilians being killed? in the case of afghanistan it's largely the conventional u.s. military. they're the ones that will get attacked in response to a special ops night raid. the people killed in a night raid, their loved ones won't say "let's find seal team 6." they'll find whatever soldiers they can. and who are they? largely conventional army guys, maybe marines or they'll blow up something outside the u.s. base and kill afghan guards and i think those in the military realize that's who's paying the price. but we as americans pay the price. it send a message to the world that it doesn't matter if there's a democrat or republican in the white house that the u.s. will insist american lives are worth more than non-american
lives. >> rose: how do you two work togethering? (laughter) >> i've known jeremy for over a decade and we became close when we were covering the iraq war. there was a group of people unembedded trying to cover the war and it was incredibly traumatic experience for all of us. >> rose: traumatic in what you saw. >> and the whiplash you feel every time you come home. i remember every trip back from baghdad thinking i'll arrive in the states and this is the only thing we'll talk about on the news 24/7 about this war, this most important story that's happening in our country right now. and you come back and there would be no discussion of it. 200,000 troops there, hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties yet total silence and the anger and feeling of hopelessness. i mean, a lot of the journalists who covered it have -- i mean, i can't imagine what soldiers feel coming back, the kind of p.t.s.d. they go through because those kinds of traumas are experienced by the journalists who covered it, too. so we became close covering the war together over that period
and i was embedded and unembedded for a long time we began the film thinking that we were making a story just about afghanistan. >> we became like -- it sounds cliche but we did become like brothers in this. when we were scraping together a few thousand dollars to take that trip to afghanistan we had no funders, we had no producers or anything. because of our lack of budget we stayed in the same dingy hotel room and what ended up happening for three years is even if we had extra money to get hotel rooms we would stay together. i spent more time with rick than i have with any human being but you become close because you're putting your life in the hands of your colleague and you're faced with situations where you say my god we know people have been kidnap dodd we take this trip? you have to look each other in the eye and say "are we both on side here? do we both agree? " and you have to trust your local colleagues with your life. a lot of preparation goes into going into a country like somalia, for instance. >> rose: we'll come to somalia
in a moment. did either of you say "no, this is not -- we don't go there." >> yeah. all the time. because of security concerns we were a two-person crew so it was just jeremy and me and a driver going wherever we went and we were constantly calculating the limit of what was safe. we grew beards and dressed in local clothes and drove in a beat-up toyota to go under the radar and there was a circle around kabul or jalalabad or a couple other cities that we could hit that was a place where we thought we could get back because after the sunset the roads in many cases are taken over by the taliban and we got that calculation wrong sometimes >> i may be wrong on this so help me with the facts. jsac's budget have decreased. >> and j stshgsoc was a force that was uniquely positioned to do discrete missions with a small american footprint around the world. on any given day these guys are
positioned in 75 to 100 countries around the world. these american commandos training or embedded with special operations forces. but sometimes they're doing unilateral operations. we almost never hear about their missions. we heard about the osama bin laden raid. >> rose: not only that, they say -- i think they say publicly that on the same night that we were in the mission to go get osama bin laden j sock we had 134 other missions that night. >> rose: one commander almost said that. >> that indicates that president obama wants to get away from large scale military deployments. >> he doesn't want to get bogged down in wars. >> exactly. that's what i mean. so you have to drones, signals intelligence, you use local informants in countries like yemen or pakistan or elsewhere so you're not deploying large numbers of american spies and and when he is the you use small teams of paramilitarys to
conduct these missions and this's largely become the policy. it's one vice president joe biden advocated for from the beginning. he was against troop surge. >> rose: his argument was counterterrorism not counterinsurgency. >> so i think biden has won the day on that larger question as we move toward the end of obama's second term. >> and -- i always assumed biden was primarily arguing there had to be -- not just making a counterinsurgency but counterterrorism, the use of these kinds of weapons. >> rose: these special operations forces are not interested in counterinsurgency. they're -- they're not counterterrorism, they're anti-terrorism. they want to kill them. one special ops colonel told me they don't want to convert the natives, they're here to kill the natives. >> rose: they would argue our mission is to go kill the top ranks of al qaeda. would you quarrel with that? as long as no one's family was killed and no innocents were killed if that's possible. >> rose: here's what the standards should be. is the threat imminent.
san francisco capture impossible? i think most americans overwhelmingly would say yes. i don't believe the administration is the case that the threats are imminent in these cases and this to me is where the danger is. we are allowing secret processes tuesday meetings about who lives and dies around the world, it's not even being briefed to the members of the intelligence committee in an effective way. that's against the law. >> rose: what's the threat of al qaeda as you see it? >> i think now what's happened is that al qaeda central, you know, the osama bin laden, ayman al-zawahiri has been radically changed by the u.s. campaign against it. but what is happening now is that you have these other dispirit groups popping up in somalia, yemen, pakistan and their primary a.m.a. not be to attack the united states. it might into internally focused on the regime in those countries and if the u.s. gets bogged down in fighting them and their affiliate forces then we're involve with civil wars in other countries. to me we're at a moment where an extraordinary mess could come as a result of what's happened over
the last 12 years. >> rose: this became very personal when you talk about walk walk walk, right? >> yes. -- anwar al-awlaki, right? >> yes. >> rose: tell us why it became personal. >> i don't know exactly. to remind people, al-awlakiing with was this -- he was born in american in las cruces, new mexico. he was a very popular prewhich you are after 9/11 in false church, virginia. condemned the 9/11 attacked and was a media figure. he had been on pbs and npr and he was a guy who i think was radicalized by american foreign policy and ended up basically declaring himself in a jihad against the united states and we remember seeing him on the youtube videos. for me i'm willing to concede for the ache of argument that everything president obama and his advisors have leaked about him or now there's been some public acknowledgment is true that he directed the underwear bomb plot on christmas day. for me the question becomes how do we become as a society respond to the most reprehensible of our citizens? in the case of anwar al-awlaki, they were tracking him for two
years. his extradition was never demanded because how do you surrender when you haven't been charged to the crime and they basically fast forwarded to the death penalty phase and said this is a man who needs to die. the president compared to al-awlaki as a tape? er pointing a rifle at a crowd of civilian bus has offered no proof that al-awlaki was fully operational. just declarations from the white house. when anwar al-awlaki's fairly was killed tried to sue the white house just to present everyday that their son was, in fact, a terrorist, the ocean invoked the state secrets privilege and attempted to have the lawsuit quash. so we have a popular democratic president who is a constitutional lawyer by trade that is asserting that he through a secret process has the right to sentence an american citizen to death without charging them with a crime. so the issue suspect who anwar al-awlaki was but who are we as a society. the way it became personal for me is that rick and i got to know that family very well. not a single other member of the family is anwar al-awlaki. they arepstanding citizens.
>> rose: you mean the family there or his own personal family there. >> i'm talking about his father who was the leader of that family, a rhodes scholar in the united states, very close friends with people from u.s.a.i.d. helping to confront the water crisis in yemen. admired the united states and still does despite the fact that his son was killed in this manner. the united states what's the responsibility of the united states? >> what does that mean? he's on youtube making these claims and saying "i call on youth in the west to rise up and join us on the fronts of jihad around the world." is that a death penalty case right there? and i'm willing -- if the president comes out-- and i think dhoshd this-- comes out and says here's the evidence that our own citizen was engaged in these plots and i want the american people to know this was a difficult decision for me to make but this is why i made it. we haven't had that. what we've had is "trust me, this was a bad guy who needed to die on this day." the publicly available information does not back up --
>> rose: what is the evidence that this was a bad guy? >> i think he could have been charged with treason and i think united states could have sought to bring him to justice. i talked with the tribal leaders from the area where al-awlaki had been hiding. they say no one from the united states ever asked them to turn him over. if that's true why did president obama say i would have preferred to prosecute him but we couldn't capture him. if he wanted to prosecute him as the president said publicly, why was he never indicted? >> rose: my impression was, reading about it that he was very elusive and they would have liked to have captured him but were not that good because of where he was. >> he was in a village that had ten houses in it and they had him under surveillance for a month. so, you know, it wasn't impossible to capture him? >> rose: i don't know. i'm asking you. >> i don't know, too. which is why -- this is a question i would love a journalist to ask president obama is how did you determine the that capture was not feasible and why didn't you
charge him with a crime? i found al-awlaki to be reprehensible in the things he said and i'm willing to concede maybe those things are true. for me the issue is how do we deal with the most complicated among our citizens? that says who we are as a society. >> rose: this is from "dirty wars," a clip from the film having to do with anwar al-awlaki's father-- father-- speaking about the death of his grandson in yemen. here it is. >> he said that he's going too look for his father. he left from the kitchen window and he took a bus. then when his father was killed his grandmother told him there is no use for you to stay anymore and he said, yes, i will come back in two days. from the morning of october 15
we got a telephone call and they told us he was blown up to pieces by the drone and they saw only the back of his hair. his relatives, his cousin, he knew his hair from the back and he recognized it and he knew that he was really dead. but they could not recognize his face or anything else. >> rose: here's what the president of the united states said. "when a u.s. citizen goes abroad to wage war against america and is actively plotting to kill u.s. citizens and when the united states nor our partners are able to capture him his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on a an innocent crowd should be prevented from a swat team. >> and that's referring to anwar al-awlaki and -- >> rose: that's who he's talking about. >> the clip you played refers to an incident two weeks after anwar al-awlaki was killed. his 16-year-old son, abdel-rahman who was born in
1995 in denver, colorado, was sitting at an outdoor restaurant with his 17-year-old cousin and other young people from their tribe and a drone appeared above them and blew them up and the white house has never provided publicly -- >> rose: the drone was intended for -- >> we don't know. we -- all we know what s what anonymous officials have said. they tried to say the kid was 21 then the family produced a birth certificate showing he was 15. then they said they were trying to kill someone named ibrahim albana then it turns out he's still alive. to me this should be a question the president should answer directly. who was the target in this operation that kill the 16-year-old american citizen because they haven't produced a name of who they were trying to hit and if he was, in fact, what they call collateral damage or not specifically targeted as the attorney general's letter said on this case then who was the actual target? and for me the answer to that question, why this kid was killed will say a lot about the
extent of how out of control our counterterrorism policy would come. >> this book is dedicated for journalists, those in prison for doing their jobs and those who have died in pursuit of the truth. following that is a quote from voltaire. "it is forbidden to kill therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." >> yeah, i thought long and hard about how i wanted to start this book and nibble defending journalists where they're conservative or liberal when whether they're under attack from forces of our government or governments around the world. and the voluntary quote, you know, i realroem with jingoism and i think sometimes, particularly post 9/11 in our society we treat what are perceived to be victories in the war as sporting events and i think it frays away at the moral fabric of our society when we allow ourselves to get into that mode. i didn't like the spiking of the football by people after the killing of osama bin laden more
than 3,000 of our own people were killed on 9/11. we've had over 5,000 u.s. troops that have been killed. untold numbers of civilians. the idea that we turn this this into something that resembles a sporting event, even when osama bin laden was killed, i find it offensive. it damages us internally as a society. i think it makes it feel like it's a game and it's not. real lives are at play here and we should take it very seriously. >> rose: the book is called "dirty wars." pleasure to have you here. take a look at the documentary, too. it's an extraordinary effort to define some of tissues that we have been talking about here. jeremy scahill, thank you. >> rose: thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org