tv [untitled] December 21, 2013 9:30pm-10:01pm EST
hello and welcome to worlds apart ordering and major overhaul of intelligence operations once every ten years is seemingly becoming a new american tradition last decade was brought about by nine eleven this time around by public opera or over the expanse of anastase surveillance but are these reforms really after whipping as they're presented in the media well to discuss that i'm now joined by michael allen who worked on national security policy for both the bush and obama administrations mr allen thank you very much for being on the show if your book blinking red you describe what you called the most momentous overhaul of america's national security infrastructure since the second world war spurred by nine eleven and the iraqi misadventure but i wonder if that sweeping reform really brought a new substantial change because previously the intelligence community was criticized for inadequate communication among various agencies and as the boston
bombing revealed that communication was still inadequate the cia used to be in believed it still has the dominant role within the intelligence community so what has really changed as a result of that major overhaul that you describe in your book i think you're on to something and that's one of the central questions in my book blinking red which is all the institutional reforms and new intelligence agencies that we set up after september eleventh and after the intelligence failure in iraq whether they have done a good job as we say here in the united states connecting the dots trying to collect information and connect it to each other if they have some sort of effect that might give us a warning of a terrorist attack like in boston or any islamic extremists that might be coming after the united states or our allies well one thing that has definitely changed.
is the massive infusion of money since two thousand and one the united states has spent i think over a five hundred billion dollars on intelligence during that period and american officials have long claimed that you know the main outcome of that exorbitant spending was the lack of any. additional catastrophic terrorist attack but of course many other countries achieve the same result for much much less i wonder if these. you know all that spending has really led to any increase in efficiency of operations or rather what they've had possibly an opposite effect because we all know that when money is not an issue efficiency is usually not the first concern well i would disagree with you i don't think it's exorbitant spending at all when you look at what happened in the united states on september eleventh to have two of our biggest buildings in new york knocked down the pentagon attacked and another plane that was heading for washington d.c. that was very appropriate spending and i think we've seen the results of it you
mentioned other countries other countries are not the target that the united states is for islamic extremists and so i think the united states citizens have gotten what they've paid for when they because we've been able to for you all and prevent numerous attacks on the continental united states and in europe with some of our allies because we're spending so much more money on intelligence and because we're able to have a more capable intelligence service going after threats to our country well you just mentioned nine eleven and that was of course twelve years ago but if we consider the. funding that the cia has requested of the intelligence community or rather has requested for the fiscal year of two thousand and thirteen it is still pretty high for fifty two billion dollars and it is expected to stay at that level at. least until two thousand and seventeen and just to our viewers to make it clear
it is pretty much the same or similar to what the united states was standing on there and intelligence at the high all of the cold war and. i'm sure you know that this and saw that and standing on the part of the soviet union was one of the main reasons for its own collapse these very huge spending disproportionate spending on both military and intelligence i wonder why aren't the intelligence agencies being asked to cut the fat at the time when everybody else is subjected to susteren symmachus we have cut intelligence spending as the united states has adjusted to the fiscal realities that we have in the united states but i think it's been money very well spent i don't think it's been exorbitant whatsoever we are a big country like russia where we have
a global intelligence service because we have interests all over the world we have more threats you know i think it's interesting it might be interesting for your viewers you know the way the united states sees intelligence is different than when we saw it in the cold war while the soviet union and the united states were sort of pitted against each other in a sense it was an easier intelligence mission because russia is a very large of the soviet union was a very large nation state with embassies and armaments and the rest whereas today's threats are stateless international terrorists they are political writers of weapons of mass destruction so the intelligence job is a little bit harder here today in the post cold war era than arguably it might have been in the cold war absolutely mr allen this is a good point but you just mentioned russia and russia is also a target for international terrorism so is france. so is germany but all those
countries combined don't spend as much on intelligence gathering intelligence spending as the united states alone well i don't know exactly how much russia spins on their intelligence it's based on history i imagine it's very very high russia is of course got an aggressive intelligence service that operates all over the globe the way we define intelligence here in the united states is not just the activities of the central intelligence agency it's also the support we give to our soldiers who are were engaged in iraq and also engaged in afghanistan they need what we call signals intelligence they need photography that helps them win a particular battle and so we define intelligence rather broadly in four of the challenges that the united states has we think it's been an appropriate level of spending although it has contract it a little bit in recent years now you mentioned earlier that you believe that the
americans got what they paid for in terms of their increased security but if we look on the foreign policy if. the u.s. intelligence has totally a job the ball on multiple issues for example they were wrong on the arab spring they totally miscalculated syria they allowed the disaster in bin gaza to take place there is a major instability looming in africa on the domestic front again multiple warnings on the boston marathon bombing run missed and. you know all that domestic spying revealed by edward snowden only added. an insult to injury so it seems that the least a failure is is so long that claiming that it was a success is a bit premature don't you think so no i don't think so look there have been active terrorist plots in pakistan and yemen and somalia that have come after or intended to. come after the continental united states it is true that our intelligence
agencies in this holds for russian intelligence agencies and agencies around the world are not always perfect sometimes they miss a warning sometimes they miss collecting the information that might have foretold of a particular plot but generally i think the intelligence community has improved its game since september eleventh and we're always looking for ways to get better some of the things that you mentioned in the litany of alleged failures it hasn't always been the case that the intelligence community didn't know what was going on for example we were able to establish in the congress that the central intelligence agency did provide warnings about the deteriorating security situation in benghazi while mr allen as a former war correspondent i can tell you that i could have predicted that the security situation in benghazi was deteriorating free of charge i mean the cia or
other intelligence agencies didn't have to spend fifty billion dollars a year to predict something like that there were signs of that all over you know present all over the ground but. i want to switch gears a little bit one surprising conclusion that follows from snowden's revelations is the dominant position still occupied by the cia and in the years following nine eleven the agency took a lot of beating for what happened and many acts prince backdown predicted that its power its pristine beach may decline as a result of being blamed or being made a scapegoat for those failures but now it seems that the agency is is more powerful than the average both in terms of the funding that it receives and in terms of the . you know the scope of its operations does it mean that the the overhaul that you describe in your book and it up strengthening rather the. wakening the cia no i
think that's a fair point look we were asked and the country was put in an awkward situation after nine eleven where we were going to have to be more aggressive against some of the threats against the united states and the central intelligence agency stepped up and did the job and we as i recognize in my book blinking red the cia does a lot of things in the national security interest at the behest of the president after nine eleven the president president bush and even president obama have naturally called upon the central intelligence agency to help keep the country safe to help keep our allies safe you know what we actually share information on occasion with our russian counterparts because we feel like that we have a common interest in promoting. or at least fighting against international terrorism i think the boston marathon bombing is a prime example of how. problematic that call peroration could be because numerous
. tips that the russian intelligence provided to the cia were missed but if we look at some of the operations that the cia has been in charge of over the recent decades the their scope is very very wide i mean it's running secret prisons it's a controversial interrogation program deployment of drones a huge expansion of its content terrorism activities and there is a just the things that we know about and many experts have suggested that over this last decade that you describe in your book the cia has essentially turned into these huge paramilitary force that is still operating under the cover of a spy agency so in other words it has ever increasing authority an ever increasing funds without having to be transparent as some of the other institutions of the american government have to be for example that. partment of the defense would you
agree with that no no no i wouldn't agree with that at all look the central intelligence agency is overseen very closely by the us congress our congress unlike parliaments around the world have complete insights into what the central intelligence agency is doing that's unique in the united states we have a level of transparency that exceeds anyone in the world and so we have a very careful system constructed here of checks and balances and yet mr allen despite that extensive congressional oversight here alluded to it's not a secret that the cia is often referred to as the president agency and many american presidents in the past have used covered operations as this sort of gray middle ground tactic between diplomacy on one hand and military operations on the other hand given how substantially the scope of the cia operations has widened in these past decades do you think that the tools available to barack obama compared
to his predecessors have expanded as well well no i think it's not just to president obama look i worked for president bush for eight years president bush asked more of the central intelligence agency we're after direct threats to the united states we're primarily concerned with a variety of countries in the middle east and islamic terrorists who would do harm to the united states in different regions and countries around the world so the funding the authority has been geared towards these new threats that have popped up since the end of the cold war and that's mostly terrorism well i think mr allen the cia's probably keeping close tabs on all the possible threats but we now have to take a very short break when we come back the extent of domestic and i say spying revealed by edward snowden upset many remaining calls for yet another reform of intelligence operations is a change likely. these time around that's coming up in
of a little bit of a little. welcome back to worlds apart from riyadh discussing the reform of us intelligence operations with white house security veteran michael allen and mr allen a couple of months ago president barack obama appointed a committee to look into the and i say controversial surveillance tactics revealed by edward snowden and. the task force is supposed to come up with its own set up for accommodations for what may be another swiftboating overhaul of u.s.
intelligence operations given your experience do you think there is enough momentum for yet another transformation or is it all just political talk no i think that there are a lot of members of congress and a lot of people in washington who want to study more closely what the national security agency is doing and whether u.s. privacy and civil liberties have been infringed upon since nine eleven on many of the activities that we discussed so the president's review group is apparently going to release its report today and congress which who has already been considering legislation all year i think will take a close look at the report and then we'll propose legislation next year now just to let our viewers know we are recording this show on wednesday and the release of that report is indeed expected in a few hours time but some chunks of it have already been released to the media but
the question is of course not only of whether those the recombination will be acted upon but in what way they will be implemented because one message i took from your book is that the power of bureaucrats. forces within the intelligence community is so strong that it can override pretty much any political or public pressure so i guess what it shows is that sometimes intelligence reforms produce quite the opposite result from from the one intended well i think that's a fair point when you have a bureaucratic struggle it is true is in every country that for example here the defense department doesn't want to lose out to the cia but i don't agree with what you said at first which is that the cia can pretty much do whatever it wants wants it cannot so if the u.s. congress passes a new law that seeks to cut back upon some of the things the national security
agency is doing the n.s.a. is going to a bay the wall and do as the congress and the president direct and they're not going to be able to do what they want to do but on their own accord a bit but mr allen if the oversight is indeed so strict and so strong why do you think there is such an uproar. with regards to all these revelations not only among the general public but also among the members of congress and the white house itself president obama for one sad that he had no idea that german chancellor's phone was tapped so i think that shows that the control may not be as as strong as you are suggesting no we'll look we've got to do and we're always striving to have better oversight in the united states to have better control of what we're doing but i think the people in the white house knew exactly what the national security
agency was doing the reason there has been some public anger about what the n.s.a. was doing is because it's been distorted in many cases by responsible media organizations and others seeking. to exploit. a situation here in the united states where they may be able to make pole little advances but i mean i would be careful about overstating what u.s. public opinion is because i think generally u.s. public opinion is supportive of what the intelligence agencies have been doing because they see a direct relationship between intelligence and national security while just a couple of days ago a year's federal judge ruled that this program the program of collecting phone metadata was unconstitutional and you don't want me to overstate the use public opinion but the judge actually cited a couple of public opinion polls and one of them suggest that fifty seven percent
of americans strongly disapproved of that phone records being collected for that purpose. how valuable do you think that program of collecting phone records reach is also included as one of the scrapping of breaches one of their recommendations by these presidential task force how valuable do you think that program was for the u.s. intelligence is it seen as important yes i think it is seen as important you've seen congressional testimony all summer where the head of the national security agency and our director of national intelligence have testified before the congress that it has been a valuable tool in helping link international terrorists to those who may be in the united states and the subject of what's in the review group report which is what we call the national security agency's eavesdropping program and its phone records program was one of those tools that i think helped us in at least to
several occasions for war a terrorist attack on new on the new york city subway system to name just one i think well it's interesting that you say bad. because the judge who ruled that particular program was unconstitutional sat in his legal opinion that he hasn't been presented with a single example of the full metal program revealing something valuable for preventing a terrorist attack and i wonder if this resistance to. scrapping these phone program reflects the intelligence community effort to defend what it sees as not perhaps pretty but necessary methods of operation or rather just a show of institutional resentment at their wings being clipped no i think look look let's address the court decision that's one u.s. district court judge who issued that opinion this week it is going to be appealed
there are going to be other judges that look at it in many scholars are looking at this to opinion today and saying that the judge misapplied what the supreme court has already held with regard to the law governing this program so let's put that aside and wait for the courts to sort through it i don't think the national security agency feels like that the court has clipped its wings in that it's trying to fight back in some way so the n.s.a. has been doing what the country asked and i think that's what they're going to continue to try and do and make their case to american congressman and into the president now according to polls americans usually don't really care about what their intelligence services are doing abroad they are primarily concerned with what is happening within their own borders and to those of us in other countries that's already a bit hypocritical but i think the committee's recommendations take it even
a step further because one of the proposals that they've put forth is. introducing additional safeguards for the data of european citizens and the only way i can interpret that is essentially dividing the world's. to the first class citizens whose privacy is worthy of special protection and you know the rest of us do you think something like that could be accepted in washington i don't i don't think that's right i will be really surprised if the president's review group comes out and says the europeans to deserve more privacy and civil liberties protections than other foreign countries but i mean you mentioned hypocrisy here let's talk about this a little bit every intelligence service in the world is specially the big giant intelligence services in china and russia and some of those in europe or very very active in trying to collect intelligence in the united states in so when we
hear certain politicians to cry what american intelligence is up to we think they're sort of doing it with a wink and a nod knowing that they do the exact same thing mr allen and that stood with all due respect and neither russia nor china go around the world preaching civil liberties and respect for privacy of privacy and you know all that sort of things i think what is hypocritical here is that i merican preaching one thing and doing something else entirely this is why they hold while this so taken aback by all those revelations by edward snowden but. one of the top concerns of the intelligence community here now is to prevent people like edward snowden with come you know prevent them from doing that ever again releasing sites that will such secretis such sensitive information in the future and this is where i think
the reform has started even before it was publicly discussed or even before it was approved by the white house as far as i understand ever since the we can leaks revelations the intelligence community is now much more serious about security clearance. yes and as far as i understand it has also stepped up. spying on its own person now is it really the case i think that well first of all let me say respond to what you said if if russia isn't worried about privacy and civil liberties and doesn't preach about it in there are around the world i don't think they are too worried then about what the national security agency has been up to so that's point one point two is that it is true that i think a many people in washington who understand that we need to be able to protect certain classes of information for national security purposes or offended that someone took many of our classified documents and went abroad with them and gave
them to people who may not always have the united states' best interests at heart so it is true that one of the things the review group is supposed to be studying and something that american politicians are interested in is creating a system where it's not so easy for someone to download thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of documents and run away with them down the stand your correctly that you don't believe that edward snowden performed a public service maybe in the best interest of the united states but at least in the best interest of humanity and no i don't think edward snowden performed a public service generally countries don't want to turn over their playbook to the other side and that's essentially what's happened here it is true that it is spurred a big debate about the role of our intelligence services in the united states i think that debate was coming anyway after nine eleven but i don't think we've had sort of anything in the interest of humanity served by this episode well i think
many people would disagree with you but very very quickly as some policymakers have a lie can be impact of this no then revelations to the to not a scandal back in the nineteen seventies when the church committee. also disclosed extensive domestic spying it including by the n.s.a. and back down at last to the creation of special congressional committees it also led to the creation of a special secret court to monitor aspira peroration so the overside was always there but apparently it is never enough well no i think in this case the united states congress and the courts knew exactly about the two main programs that were revealed over the summer and i think that's the chief distinction between the episodes you cite in the one nine hundred seventy s. and today which is that i think the review group is likely going to conclude that no u.s. laws were broken but isn't it curious that as you say many experts also predicted
that the review board would say that no laws were broken and yet they're calling for such a sweeping ad reform in the future but mr allen unfortunately we have to leave it here thank you very much for being on the show and to our viewers please join us again same place same time here on a well that part. millions around the globe struggle with hunger the. what if someone offers a lifetime food supply no charge. they can the very strong position against g.m.o. and we think that. the genetically more the free products are free to.
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a no holds barred look at the global financial headlines kaiser reports. the headlines in arts a long awaited reunion mikail meets his family and president putin pardons him on humanitarian grounds. plus the pentagon files to account for an eight point five trillion dollar black hole in its budget is washington seems unable to rein in defense spending. and egypt's president mohamed morsi faces new charges this time a very twenty eleven jailbreak while his supporters of all ages are being thrown behind bars. well you can get more nor of these stories at r.t. dot com but now abby martin looks back on some of twenty thirteen's major news stories including an essay surveillance in the world wide anti fracking protests breaking the set is up.