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tv   After Words with Seymour Hersh  CSPAN  August 21, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm EDT

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obama sits down in this cluttered desk with the microphones and they have this hour-long conversation. ..
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>> but the correspondence has to make their reputation the way they open the airport to but if you just figure out a way to give people the time and the latitude to say their peace and pledged in their years about the destruction the individual creates we would be better off. that is what that episode has a better appreciation of is in the oval office before that six years but i did not understand him quite as well unless it was and then interrupted hour.
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>> it is worth remembering that image making a as my colleague used to read my desk that part of washington's success was to be first in the room. i close by a circling back to how we began what is the curtain on state secrets? you remember dustin hoffman plays day movie producer by creating a phony war he doesn't care about the many he has all the money that he once but he cannot get the credit and his handlers cannot control him they have to take care now. path. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] >> a funny thing happened on my way because brian asked me to co-chair the committee of the rnc so i had planned to spend reading will not be consumed by reading the republican platform. but for fun, i will go back to finish a book by started call seven miracles that saved america.
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it is from a fellow member hear it utah. that has been on my shelf along time how how the west one. i'm hoping to get through those two books this summer and maybe some books about my district like the history of my county >> most of the occupants of the white house historically who spend their whole lives find themselves find themselves unsatisfied and often leave the white house disappointed disillusioned
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or broken historically wishing for more. that tells you something about human ambition stick
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class start by talking about and though some of the allotted two plays the title role in your book of. huge challenge virtually every detail of the story with the official narrative than the media reports can you start by summarizing briefly what you found? >> basically the one reality the president did authorize the execution of the osama bin lot and and the navy seals did carry that out and that is correct and it was done in the resort town about 5060 miles from the capital of islamabad if you have been there in summer it can get as high as 120 degrees it is where the
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bureaucrats and the generals go is the upscale area after that the white house said that he had gone there the last time we heard about him we were looking in the area of bora bora between pakistan and afghanistan in the no-man's land we could not find him we went on to bonn and attack iraq and moved away now 15 years later that is another question still negev it another 15 years. >> guest: oh my god. yes. it seems no end because it is the same policy basically the argument is there not that well-known here but
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that the president of the united states brought obama or the cheney bush policy much more than we really want to go but in the way the story is that from the white house that oh my god we had wonderful careers of the caa that were tracking and once he left bora bora he was the energetic grander sending traffic and messages for al qaeda but that is the implication but they never said that then the couriers with the use of torture if anybody has seen the movie that was generated.
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then we went in by ourselves to invade the radar of pakistan and killed him in the initial story he had the ak-47 when they confronted him and in order to protect themselves they had to shoot him in a room on a compound we had a chopper that's crash landed in is that the blackhawks for the squads even though they had not been on water over years there were moving groups of six that was a nice touch but they're not going into the water anymore because that is not what they are
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trained to do. so anyway this seals went in and had to kill them. that a rescue chopper came if it carries 55 passengers traveling maybe 130 miles an hour at most. they took that out along with the black hawk because they didn't have enough room in that is the story the american press went with it it was a great night with the president announced we have got him. basically he was killed in the war and terror is over and i celebrated. is very happy to see him dead although i knew he was out of business 10 years would not end the war but within the next week the american press, this is what
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happens the white house controls the narrative everybody once the exclusive and they are dealing halifax after a while they had to recant he did not have the ak-47 and then when they were protecting him than they had to back off that there was a firefight a lot of people were shot and killed as they did not back off of that but if you remember his wives and children were taken away and leave military great -- interrogates them that never happened they were taken back to saudi arabia. as it disintegrated over the next couple of weeks. the press said tell us more in my favorite story is one of the seals you brought a dahlia they described how the president that the dog and one of the stories was when the chopper crashed they had a blowout in the
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big explosion neighbors came in this elegant area they came to wonder what was going on and i remember thinking there was said dog that barks in the local language. [laughter] there is no story they would not go the fire department it did not show up at all the time of the mission was 40 minutes instead of 20 because they had to fly a moresque you chopper that was also part without the pakistan the knowledge. >> it is such a bad story. one of my complaints chronically with investigative journalism with those investigative
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reporting group, the first thing that i say you have to read before you write to. one of the things you need to do is look at what pakistan had. we know that bin laden worked for us in the early '80s with the jimmy carter decided we would drive the russians out of afghanistan. in the heather fundamentalist to fight the war and win the war we also began to pay a lot of money to the pakistan neece service now it is one of the great to have great
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investment to have property it'll still a with islamabad. it is big and tough we know that. to help fight the taliban. and pakistan very wisely there is of long and busy between pakistan and india. when the eye as i began to fight on all our side one of the things that they did as the council and its head that type of entity exist.
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so all the anti-indian in to drive them out at that point it had a reactor going but they could not what denies. so what do they do? and what do we do? we put up money over eight or 10 years very sophisticated signal that cannot be erased it is the main contractor. we built the great to radar system for them so there is water to flights about 350 miles. all you had to do is look at that radar system.
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if they could evade radar it was ludicrous. >> so what you said did your article that it was in the intelligence but a tip from the pakistan any officer that they took that back to the pakistan needs to say now we know where he is a you cooperate or else so they would clear the deck of the u.s. operation. in the with pakistan. s shot once or twice but obliterated by the fire.
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even to set up a command center to guide though whole operation. this is a complete myth created by the administration in order to protect pakistan of the consequences. is that about right to? >> i can be less collate now because the pact is danny's know who he is coming he was a colonel not just with the army intelligence and there's $25 million of the table we offer that much money and to show you how i even ibm, i made a point that he went directly to the station chief and i wrote
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that date was there because he was there earlier with the cia and had to move them out of the country. they tried to push that but it is a lot. and for the simple reason it is 10,000 words that was checked very carefully but it takes money to do a write i knew that they would jeopardize it butted in the
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case if i knew that he had a reputation to be honest to read three days after restore a gathering attention to say atonalities talking about. that the rest would appreciate it is important. to talk about who was not talking about it. >> the other point is of course, the underlying point is what all this is planned that we were enraged and the whole point is we book the other way and take the body
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out and not talk about a. and we all agreed that the president has a drug raid into the hindu kush mountains on the afghan side and with the hellfire missiles we got dna and we got him. and i remember this vividly. by 730 or eight there are reports all over the media. but he did go public. so there was political pressure not to wait to the seven or 10 days and they're
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very angry and robert gates that had been reappointed and replaced rumsfeld by george bush and when obama became two 1/2 years later there was tension of republicans doing things and gates was against what was happening in the operation. but it's something had gone wrong then they had no protection. he was a prisoner of war and executed and wit into a country without any notice of authorities. so to hear is the issue of columbia said journalist. why we have spent this alleged time is because when
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we wrote about it in the yorker we worry about the weapons there is a huge fundamentalist population and the reason that they never said anything publicly that i as i found him which now may not be corrected could be earlier.
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and what we did for them. you won an armored car? helicopter? gulf? to play with jack nicklaus? we will fix that up because we wanted them to know where the bombs are of course,
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they didn't tell us everything that some of the bombs they were telling us about they always kept a few. so that night to violate the agreement is jeopardized in those relationships that there is bitterness is that pakistan leadership. >> if they were holding captive public enemy number one and protecting him using him to their advantage your story in the book was disparaged but there is also
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people that confirmed details. are you surprised that there is so little follow-up since the first piece came out that they tried to confirm or disprove? are you surprised? >> working at "the new york times" there was a hot shot lead investigative reporter writing about watergate and vietnam's and kissinger that led to those stories is somebody said there is a great story published i would say at all follow other people's stories i do
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my own. so those good investigative reporters they don't want to follow somebody else's story . that is the reality but within a week there was a an interview show not to end -- and there is anybody one of those a delight to follow other stories in the reporter said actually we knew right away is this five or six days of publication. that part of the story does not work. so essentially they said that we have that. that is how you get rid of
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the story with on-the-job training and as a reporter for the ap and they would wait me at that 1130 with the overseas basket of the first thing i would do is call the press secretary for robert mcnamara at, i didn't even know how much she was lying. and there was so wonderful movie but anyway i would say can i have your denial? i am telling you it was that petty. it is funny because you cross the water i went for a few dates is london with the
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senior editor of the major newspaper and there is a lot of people they're talking about the bin laden story i turn the tables and said you are closer you go to indiana and pakistan we have all the water between us and said what do you think? he said we concluded right away that he was there that is, bob is literally the center to work with that pakistan needs service and also where they train the guards for the nuclear arsenal now to have
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the plutonium reactor of a major air base. he was not there by accident and also they made that clear in the early reporting , he had no internet to or electronic communication. he was completely isolated in fact, we were walked into the prison by the i s i official. and we had to blow to steel doors. he was a prisoner. not of love. . .
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this kind of nastiness of accusing you of being a conspiracy mongol. what's that about? >> i've had this most of my career. most of my stories have had an enormous amount of criticism. when i did the albert grape story and a lot of the stories, if if you look at the original story i wrote about the spying
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in the new york times, it was december 1974, my god, the washington post for three months was attacking me saying that wasn't right, there weren't files, the cia wasn't keeping files on americans, et cetera. all of that stuff, you tell me, i don't want to describe what it's about, it's pretty obvious in some cases what it is because i've been doing this a long time in writing stories that often people, they should've been written by others much earlier. part of it is, i like mark, he wrote black hawk down and we were good friends. >> you quote him in your book a couple times. >> i quote him because first you have to know something, in the cia, when you have a walk-in you protect the walk in. here you, in the basement of the intelligence bureau you have a bunch of people working on tracking couriers.
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you want to figure out where the couriers are and if you pay attention, the senate intelligence committee, they published a major report on terror and torture. it was a 6000 page report. only 500 pages were cleared but 500 pages were published in if you read those, as i did there was a section on couriers and it described how the cia was trying to track couriers and got nowhere. they couldn't make any sense of the couriers, the the names that we have so many problems with in e and an a in the name and they're spelled differently in the west, so many of these muslims name and we said it's impossible to track. that's okay, according to the cia, the brief, not so much in the initial statement, even ahead of the cia, he was then.
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[inaudible] john brennan gave briefings on how we tracked couriers and all got into this torture business. they had talked bitterly about it saying don't start lying because the cia is worried about the fact of congressional hearings and there may be legal findings about what we did. cia was killing people in torture. that happened much more than anybody knows. there were a lot of murder going on. more than just murder, they tortured people and they bled to death or whatever. in some cases there were murders and note prosecution. there were a couple cases where nobody got punished for anything. you had that issue, you were trying to justify, using the using the couriers and the problem was that in order for him to be using couriers, you had to contradict the earlier stories about this guy being isolated. at one point they talk about him
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sitting around watching pornography. he could say anything he wanted in the first few days. everything was taken. that element, the couriers and the people doing the courier tracking were told you helped us, you helped us find him. yes it was was your work. why not because you want them to think so because then reporters can talk to them and the people giving them the brief will be convinced that they had. you don't tell them of about a walker. you tell nobody about a walker. not even inside the agency. that's one element. another element was that bowden had written a piece called a tick-tock piece. he saw everybody, the president and all those people and everybody about, what a wonderful wonderful operation. he wrote a piece about the operation. along piece. he included photographs of bin
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laden being buried off to see via carrier. he described it vividly. i knew mark and i liked mark. i didn't want to embarrass him. i went in a week before the piece was published. first of all, i knew a lot. i knew where bin laden was taken to, a forward base and at that time there were no fixed wing airplanes there. they only use choppers. it was 800 miles away in the indian sea. how how do you get him here. that was a problem. secondly i knew, i don't want to talk about it as i don't want to get some navy officers embarrassed but i knew that everything is reported on a navy ship and that night the navy, that aircraft carrier never turned around to recover anyone.
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they never told higher command were picking up a chopper or an airplane. that's very important. they have to do that. there was no such report in the login the logs have since been classified. the third thing is i didn't know there were. [inaudible] i knew that it was impossible that that happened. i called mark and he's teaching at the university of delaware and i said to mark, mark i'm going to ask you a question to which i think the answer before i ask you is no and here's the question. did you actually see those photographs you describe so vividly in your article. he described how they went in and how they looked and he said no. i said how did you learn about them. he said i was given a briefing about them from somebody i trust and he described him very vividly. i said why did you say you hadn't seen him. he said well something to the effect that he wish he had or the editors didn't want it, it was more vivid if i'd left that out. i'm telling you, that's what happened. i can understand, look, he
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didn't see him. it didn't happen. i'm sorry. it just didn't happen. they didn't know what to do. the body was a mess. let me tell you why it was a mess. the seals were only supposed to fire a few shots. they come in in groups of six in a dinghy. one guy guarded the door and by the way, when they used the plastic to blow up the door, they had learned in advanced exactly the dimensions of the fitness of this field because if you use too much of it, it will kill you. it had just the right amount. one of the questions is how do they know just enough to knock the door down with anybody getting hurt. anyway, all because they are giving us that kind of intelligence. there's a lot of back and forth once they decided to play ball with us. so, what they did is they fired a lot of bullets at him. you don't have to do many but
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each guy took some shots and there's not much left of the body. we will never see photographs of the body. they produced one with two holes in his head and i don't know how they did it. there were a lot of holes in the guys had. i don't have to tell you how easy it is to make a photograph. everyone saw that wonderful movie, anyway, it doesn't matter, the movie that described how we faked a war back in the clinton years. anyway, what happened is. >> you mean wag the dog. >> wag the dog. remember how there's a dog in a brook running and let's change the color of this, you can do that. anyway, i don't know why people don't pay more attention to that stuff.
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>> i found a quote from hillary clinton when she just became secretary of state on her first visit to pakistan. this was in the first part of 2009. she said, this is a quote from her on that trip. she said this in pakistan, i find find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where osama bin laden is. now she would not have said that, i don't think, in 2009 in pakistan if she didn't have some assurance from the intelligence community that in fact the pakistanis did know in 2009 exactly where he was. >> there she is on record saying, after the rate in 2011, just two years later, she said, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone at the highest level of pakistani government knew. so another word she went back on what she said after the raid. i don't want to introduce politics into this decision but what does that say about secretary clinton and you think
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this is something she should be asked if she is running for president? >> it's not going to be asked because it involves too much, it's complicated and politics. >> it's a simple question. she said this once in two years later she said that. >> will then you have to, you may be somebody who is biased in the question about what happened. that's an uncomfortable thought. in his initial statement that night, the president, when the political people went out he made a statement in which he made a lot of assertions. i read a lot about it i don't know whether he knew everything he was saying was untrue or most of it was because president sometimes give a speech and they read it. i don't know, he described bin laden as having been confronted with weapons and we had a treasure trove of documents, here you are, on the run and they talk about all the books,
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sometimes they say the seals forgot the books that night, or some of them, i'm sure sure they're very bright, but i can't imagine the seals, are being in a panic looking at the book casing which one do i want to read first. it's comical some of the stuff they did. they have to buy in to that story. that night the president also said i want to thank the counter intelligent forces from pakistan. they had to get rid of that. they were saying within days that the president misspoke. within a week, i knew the day after the race that there was trouble. i did know that from somebody high up that gates was considered to be an enemy and he was against us. what people don't want to know about me, i wrote a piece for
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the new yorker about the pakistani bombing. i spent weeks there. i really got into some interesting stuff. here's what happens in the government. you do a story and you come in with some issues, this is the obama administration and the white house denies everything. so they denied we had that. i said, whatever i said, i said our goal basically was to make sure pakistan could not fire a bomb without our approval and if they ever tried to, we wanted to be in a position position to knock out the whole system. the whole system, so so they couldn't fire, electronically, attacked the igloos, it's a pretty tough thing to say. after denying all of this, the white house called up my editor
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and he called me to say the night before the story closed, it goes to print friday night at midnight somewhere in tennessee. he said they're very concerned and if the story goes, one of the things we did at the new yorker and we do at the is give them a chance to talk. they said the american government, someone that he respected a new, maybe just because of the position had told them that if the story is published as it was we would have to close our embassy immediately and our consulate, we have a bunch of consulates, we would have to move the country out for fear of riot. the fundamentalists us who love to bomb would attack us for alleging we had, so we tone down
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the story quite a bit. i have contacts. i have contacts in pakistan and i heard the day after that there was problems in river city inside the white house with five gates. he was seen as someone who wasn't on the team on this. i heard then from somebody close to the intelligence in pakistan, three-page e-mail that described what i ended up writing. i went to some americans who would've known everything about it. i'm sorry, i have contacts. i as a journalist, we all have to depend on briefings. if you're covering the white house, you have have to maintain good relationships. you can't go off the wagon too much. you can be aggressive but not too far. the thing you want is somebody
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in the government, there's many people like this whose loyalty, when they sign the oath of office as to the constitution and not to the president paid when you have somebody like that on the inside who is appalled by the line and a misdirection, and also leaving the two senior generals who control the bomb with a reason to hate us, we left them with two options. one was to tell everything to the people. we knew he was there and have them not be able to walk to school because of fear. the other option was to do what they did. we screwed up and we didn't know our radar system. our radar system that we paid, and you can find it, all you had to do is some work. instead of calling up and begging for another briefing, take a look at what's online for the contracts that are there. you can find stuff.
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even the most top-secret contracts have to be announced. no more detail, but you can find that. they have to be announced somewhere in the government. so nobody did that. all you had to do was do the research and you would know the stories about radar networking. it left us in a position having say to their nation that there national defenses including the defense against a nuclear attack, they figure strikes from the hated indian, it's capable of being so easily defeated. it was a terrible position to leave them in. i believe that you are messing with the two guys that control the bomb. you are undercutting their faith and confidence in us. that to me, the reason behind
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the real power of what i'm writing in the real issue is that we have jeopardized a relationship of what we used to be so frightened of. it was called the islamic bomb. it is there. were not on good terms with the pakistanis. i'm sorry, go ahead. >> i wanted to shift gears a little bit in the time that we have left because a large partier book talk about syria. syria is a five cited rubik's cube with very difficult to see through the hall of mirrors there that the united states is supporting some rebels and not other rebels and were supporting iraq but iraq supports syrian government and iran supports the syrian and iraqi governments. it's a mess. you talk a lot about syria and the gas attack and a number of other things. one of the points that really struck me is the chapter you
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called military to military. to talk about how the military essentially, on its own initiative, the joint chiefs undertook to sabotage or undercut policy in syria because they didn't agree with it. you said we did this without going through political channels. on page 100 to you said obama didn't know. then you say it's not from sinister plots to go around obama to support a sod, but as few a few pages later you said ashad understood this message where we can stop presidential policy. you say it doesn't sound like military independent thinking and action but it sounds exactly like that. regardless of what you think about obama's syrian policy, isn't it kind of scary that the
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military, as you report, under took intelligence directly to ashad while official policy was to support the overthrow of ashad? >> i think this happened because , your asking a complicated question. you've done a close read on it. you're right. >> it isn't complicated, you say directly that the military did something independently without informing the white house. to essentially support, maybe not in emmett enemy but someone we were trying to get rid of. >> the issue was, for the military, it was very complicated. there was a tremendous amount of disagreement with the military and the american policy. if you remember one of the articles i wrote was called the red line and the rat line.
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it was about the shipping of weapons into turkey. we now know, it's pretty well known, he's been quite crazy, he is now, just in the last day or so, the un is raising questions about the murder of opposition kurds that are going on daily. he also supported isis very much and we have intelligence on that we have had that for years. it was very hard to get the white house to switch from the military's point of view beyond going in, whatever moderate existence in 2012, by early 2013, it had been overtaken by the crazies, by the more fundamentalist. the group supported by saudi arabia and qatar most notably. meanwhile were still shipping onto the alleged moderates who had lost a lot of leverage inside.
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many of them, by the way at the last count 61 various different tribal groups income a nation with ashad. he has been making accommodations with groups that have become disaffected that were maybe level but were disaffected because the control of the opposition was in the hands of people who if they had taken over the country would've caused enormous trouble. israel would've been concerned about an isis government because they would've been the next target. the iranians would've been moved. it was very difficult for them to get a reading in the white house. the white house was stuck on a policy and the president was isolated and my understanding was, on a lot of issues, memo from the chairman to the joint chief, general dempsey, who is now retired, would just disappoint disappear into a void peer this is something you hear quite a bit that a lot of bureaucratic stuff doesn't get to the president. he's rather isolated and removed.
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so yes, they did decide that it was very important for the shard to remain in control. if election time went on he would be out of office but at this time he was shaky in 2013 and we also were very concerned, i will tell you, it is a fact, i have documents, it doesn't it doesn't matter, i even mention the documents in one story, it was very's secret stuff that i had that by early 2013 we knew saudi arabia and the turks were passing chemicals into l moussa and what became isis that when melded together created a form of very powerful nerve agents. it's very difficult to work with but we knew that had that capability. there were a big studies in june and july done about it.
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in may, june and july, even one study about how many troops would it take to wipe out all the chemical weapons that were in the opposition's hand. it was 60000 troops. we thought about doing it. this was before the august event in which we claim bechard murdered his own people with the nerve gas. the issue was, we had the kind of intelligence that he needed. we have satellite intelligence, we have intercepts and the germans were there helping them and so we passed it, the germans asked for help i'll tell you something about dempsey. we always think of them of as kind of neutered. he majored in english at the military academy and the army, which does this often, recognized that he was quite skilled as a student.
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they allowed him to spend two years getting a masters degree in fine arts at duke. he is renowned amongst his friends and peers for his reading knowledge and his knowledge about yates. the day he retired, he tired august 31 of last year, and on september the first, instead of joining the 14 boards of dispense and make $500,000 a year or more, he went back and was given an appointment at duke and he is teaching there. he's a different cat. he made the call, i guess with the help of others inside the joint chief and outside the government to start supplying ashad, the president of syria, intelligence that would help them turn the corner on the war, which it did.
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>> that doesn't seemed like treason to you? to deliberately undercut the president's policy? you can quit if you are a general and then you can speak out but really your kind of need to salute and say yes, sir if you're in the joint chief, don't you? >> i find it pretty refreshing that we have a chairman of the joint chief that tried to express a view and in the next paragraph, i wrote the former by name. i mentioned dempsey by name as well. i quote him by name. >> are we talking about michael flynn. >> michael flynn. >> i was going to ask you about him because, you cite him as a source, one of the few people on the record that you talk about. you portray him as a truth teller and someone who resisted obama. he was fired as head of dia a
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couple years ago. here's the thing about flynn. he recently emerged as an advisor, one of top advisers to donald trump. >> absolutely. >> has written a book with michael ledeen. >> they are writing the book now. >> no it's published. >> i didn't know that. >> pretty soon. its title is field of fight, how we can win the global war up against radical islam and its allies. flynn has clearly put himself in the camp of an extremist on fighting islam and the global war against terrorism. i don't know why he was fired from dia, but from from the sound of it he was fired because he was insubordinate. he was a radical who wanted to go after these guys and he accuses the president of not wanting to fight hard enough
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against islam and all of that. just like the ultraconservatives do. >> you quote him as a truth teller. >> because one of the issues about him, as you know, he also worked as the head of intelligence for the joint special operations command for years. >> right and he worked with mcchrystal in iraq during the most brutal of the time in iraq when there was just fascinating people by the hundreds during the counterinsurgency effort in anbar. >> absolutely, there there was a lot of stuff going on that was considered to be wonderful. if you notice, they always got great press that he was promoted by obama and he was head of the war in afghanistan and so on all of that, flynn was always there, he was very active with the
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press corps and a lot of people had his e-mail which is how i got it and the issue for me there was you described some of the who's very conservative and got pushed out but the fact of the matter is, what he said was very consistent with everything i knew. he was willing to say it on the record. what it was is that there was a whole series of reports that summer and isis emerged very early about how dangerous they were and how they have access to chemical weapons too. on that basis, i will tell you that obama, he was shoved out and they wanted him shoved out earlier but when you get a source on the record and he saying something that you know from documents that you have and if you make it a point to make sure he was somebody who was held, he was considered a wild
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man but if you go back and look, you see by so many journalists along the way, he wasn't necessarily in this case somebody on the record that was saying what suited -- what he was saying was he and the chairman of the joint chief, their staff were sabbatical on this issue. there were many issues they were not some fascicle on. his real problem was he created internally and was re- organizing things on the inside. i don't think, i think in all fairness, he was calling it as he sought. in that case he was absolutely right and i had documents that demonstrated it. they came from his office and went to his office, all sorts of stuff, cia, israeli intelligence and some of the information
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going on about the potential in the opposition before what happened in august. : and he was very conservative and always saying things but it's you go back he was used as an authority by all the major media when he was working for jsoc though he was a right-wing guy like many officers a


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