tv After Words Jason Rezaian Prisoner CSPAN March 3, 2019 10:59am-12:01pm EST
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.. what a great author, jason rezaian who has written the story prisoner about this 544 day ordeal in an iranian prison. my connection with this author is that while he was living through this hell in a prison in tehran, i was many people on the outside working to get him released as i am a congressman for jason rezaian in his family in california so welcome jason, i can't wait to talk about this book
>> guest: thanks for having me on. >> host: let's describe the work you were doing as a journalist in tehran. >> guest: in about the late spring of 2009, i made the decision to move to tehran to focus full-time on being a correspondent. starting in 2001, i traveled to tehran many times. by virtue of the fact that my father was originally from iran, i had iranian citizenship whether i wanted it or not and i figured after completing my studies in creative writing and making a go as a freelancer for years, not very successfully, because i was pulled away on his family business once too often, it made a lot of sense during that financial crisis of 2008, 2009 two make a switch of gears in my career and focus on this thing that i was passionate about so i started writing from tehran
about politics but also culture and about people. stories of the people and a society that we didn't know very well. 430 something years, we've had a strained relationship with tehran, with the islamic republic founded in 1979 and i thought we could do better as news reporters about this country that was so isolated. >> host: you wrote i went to iran so you didn't have to. >> guest: i wanted to give you as an american reader a window into this society on the other side of the world and one that frankly as somebody growing up in your congressionaldistrict , there was not a lot of iranians around me, not just my family, there's a growing number of people that arrived from different parts of the world after they left iran to look for greener pastures abroad.
not only was this country underrepresented in news media, we had a responsibility as a rainy and americans or americans of iranian origin to do what we could and get a better representation. >> host: set the stage because one of the things that comes through in your book is the incredible roller coaster of events like put you through over a short period of years. you had this terrible year where you lost two close relatives in short order. your college mentor christopher hitchens died, all these lousy things happened but then you began building this amazing life in iran. you have a young life life. you describe at one point you and yogi were kindof the main journalistic voice for the united states of america to get news out of iran . tell us a little bit about this life you wereliving right before the ordeal began
. >> guest: i had a tough run when i move there in 2009. i didn't anticipate so many of the things thatwould happen in our life . you can't know what's going to happen next and in most lives there are total jewish eventsthat changed the course of your life . my father and my brother's five-year-old son died within four weeks of each other . obviously my nephew was a healthy young boy and was struck by a fast-moving virus that killed him overnight. we can't imagine losing a child, has reverberations within the family that eight years later we still feel very acutely but for my father, it broke his heart and he died within a matter of weeks so that was a very trying experience and i had
to leave and ran where i was in a relationship with the woman who had become my wife but i came home to the bay area to help close up loose ends of the family for several months but all the while knowing i wanted to return to iran. i started something in my career and with this relationship that i wanted to see through . >> host: and you really got things on track. >> guest: i was in my mid-30s at this point. i hadenough life experience to know when things were going well for me professionally and they worked and i was on the rise . in 2012 i was offered the washington post correspondent job which i jumped at, as anybody would. it was an opportunity to write for the paper of record of the uscapital . who could say no to that?
i took it on with a lot of gusto. yeggi was the bloomberg correspondent and we made up two thirds of the coverage in iran though it was appropriate that we would join forces. our home became the washington post and bloomberg tehran bureau simultaneously and we were building a great life together. we traveled around the region and europe and asia, it was a good place to be situated at that time. and internally within iran, following the very dark mahmoud ahmadinejad years, 2013 there was an election of a president who was -- i
don't like the monikers of hard-line and theocracy because i don't think those terms makes sense but he was western leaning in the sense that he wanted to open relations with the rest of the world. he wanted a less isolationist policy for the islamic republic and whether or not you think the islamic republic should exist or not, the notion wanted to connect with the outside world and have better relations with the west, with the united states to integrate their economy because they understood that's what they needed to duplicate their people was a fascinating story. >> host: times were changing in tehran. i told you i almost got the feel of it being a crowd spring in tehran in the lead up to your arrest because people are coming and going and reaching out about visits to tehran. anthony bourdain came to the country and featured you in one of the shows, it seemed like thingswere opening up . >> guest: i felt very word to an extent. there was a great desire to
woo foreign travelers, foreign investment. some would say in wooing them, iran's plan was to capture some of them. but if you look at the numbers, it's a small percentage that end up in situations like i did . but it was a moment of some hope for the future of a more open future and that was really what the iranian people state their hopes in. i think my arrest, while very surprising for anybody who was watching iran at the moment can be understood in the context of this domestic spat that was going on at the time and the goal of factions within the iranian regime that don't want to seethe islamic republic opening to the world . there were doing whatever they could to throw rocks at this dealmaking that was going on between tehran and
washington and brussels and taking a very high profile american citizen working for a high-profile american news company seemed to make sense to them. >> you knew that iran had a front history with taking hostages and in some ways this regime was founded on a hostagetaking . did you worry? >> the hostage taking in iran obviously didn't start with me. had ended with my release. since i got out several americans and nationals of other countries have been arrested before. in the past three years. i have to say that knowing the history of journalists working in iran and the multinationals, i had accepted the possibility that i might get arrested before but i never expected that it would happen.
and i don't think there was any reason for me to expect that it would happen. i was working within the confines of the law and the parameters set for journalists. a lot of times people think of themselves or say out loud that you were compromised because you were working in these rules of the state. that's people's opinion, some peoples but the reality is that these news organizations like the washington post and new york times, associated press, bloomberg, cnn and a host of others would rather have people on the ground reporting and have a big black hole in their coverage. even if there are parameters set so i had become well attuned to what those were and how to operate within them. >> in hindsight, you do look back and talk about some red flags that were waving in the weeks in the days and weeks leading up, there was certainly a sense that yegi and i were being surveilled.
we were getting strange emails and we were the targets of an email wishing scam. where you are sent an email, usually by an account that looks like somebody's account that you know. often times in the letter or a digit just missing or changed. with a link in there and you click on the link and the next thing you know, your entire contents of your system are accessible by the person on the other side. >> host: the democrats know something about that in 2016. >> guest: people ask me also, didn't you take stringent cyber security questions, in a country like iran where the internet is so highly controlled, so many of these things like a vpn don't work
there. >> you must've just assumed a lot of your stuff was viewable by the authority. >> always and i conducted myself in a transparent way. >> so let's go to the terrible day that changed everything for you and reading your detailed description of your arrest in the first day of your imprisonment, i was struck that traumatic events affect people very differently, people block them out, others have vivid memories of every detail. you recounted that day and a lot of detail and it was a terrible day. you are arrested at gunpoint, you have masked men that you and your wife to your apartment. they ransacked the place, you were driven one of the most notorious prisons in the world, separated from your wife and told you may welldie . that's a bad day. >> it's about as bad as it got for me. >> but i'll tell you, on that day i still assumed that this
would get worked out quickly. that the goal of these people that had taken us and at that point we were unclear about which faction of . the apparatus had come and rated our home. at some point, their goal was to scare us and that this would end. wehad heard about other correspondence and friends being harassed . recently and over the years. people have been sequestered or detained four hours or a few days. and it usually passes. and my assumption was that with all of the things that were going on in the world, with the negotiations that were taking place between tehran and washington, at a level that they hadn't been engaged in in 30 years, that this would blow over.
someone would get involved and talk sense intothe captures and say this is not what we need at this time. i miscalculated . it went on a lot longer than anybody could have imagined. >> host: at some point you switched from thinking hour by hour, day by day this is all a mistake to realizing it's more than that . was that one of the low points? >> guest: solitaryconfinement itself and i spent 49 days in solitary . my wife 72 days in prison, all of them in solitary is such an unnatural and jarring experience. you don't really take the time to think about how long this could happen, this could be prolonged and how this could end. your thinking is how is this particular aspect of it being confined in a tiny place, how long can they do this to me for? i know now that international conventions don't allow more
than several days of people being confined in solitary. unfortunately, many governments around the world including our own don't follow these conventions. they don't adhere to them. especially in cases that are deemed national security cases. which is a catch phrase that i think unfortunately after september 11, we have used in this country too often to justify the arrests of people who may have been up to nefarious acts, some plotting terrorism but also in some cases we know now were guilty of nothing more than having the wrong kind of name. and coming from the wrong fate. so the rest of the world, iran included an interview, we see it in pakistan and ethiopia and fiji and across the world, people are using these excuses now to old people in solitary for long
period the time. >> host: your captors >> guest: often and at the time i would ground them in the reality of the present . i'm guessing that you've probably still been there and i've never been there either and we're in prison right now and you claim to be a practitioner of islamic justice and everything you're doing here is runs counter to the rules and regulations of your sacred text. so your going against god's will. whether or not you and i have discussed this before, believing that higher power or not, my captors believed that they believe in one. >> host: so it was a soft spot. >> it was in achilles' heel certainly talk about the way
they treated you, 544 days is a long time to be in prison. it seems like it was lines they really carefully did not cross. they could not physically mistreat or torture you. but the psychological mistreatment was endless. they like you, you.they played games with you. talk about that. >> i would say that physical mistreatment is a tough one to quantify. but physical violence and thatsort of torture , they did not thrust me up. but they did everything they could to break me down mentally. starting with telling me that i would be executed, have my winds cut off, beheaded. my wife as well.often times they would tell us that we never see each other again. we had no idea of each other's whereabouts for the first 35 days . and that in itself was
torturous. wondering what they might be doing to my wife and i write about this and i don't go into great detail but that prison has a history of raising inmates. male and female. it's pretty well documented. so i worried about her survival, her health, her well-being. but i also worry about whether or not we were ever going to get out of it. and at certain points they would tell me you're going to be released tomorrow. other times 80 going to spend therest of your life here. it's a constant manipulation . as time goes on i was kept, the entire time where there were artificial lighting 24 hours a day. i grew sensitive to light,
and isolation you become very very sensitive to sound.i lived for a year and a half with no horizons, there was walls around me all the time and when i did get out, i couldn't sit in a car. i get carsick like a six-year-old .these were the effects that it had on me that were pretty easy to measure or identify during my time in prison and also in the months immediately following it but after, it's the lingeringeffects . and i still don't feel three years after my release like the same person that was taken in. i can't put real words to it area the brain chemistry had been fundamentally altered. >> host: by those deprivations. >> guest: by the
deprivations, by the living under constant stress. >> talk about these manipulations specifically. the human interaction you are allowed every day were ultimately with one character features prominently in the book, your interrogator . some days he would portray himself as your friend, others would be your tormentor. hazem is a compelling character in your book, i can't wait to see the casting it becomes a movie but he was full of crazy conspiracy theories. each day he would claim a new damning evidence about you and telling you you need to confess and admit it. my favorite was when he accused you of being part of a conspiracy to plant a farsi translation of the book of mormon. tell us about these things. >> guest: these are the best and brightest of a very
ideologically formed youth. he wasn't dumb. intellectually he was a bright guy. spoke pretty good english and you know, he was quick, but he had one very damning flaw that i think doesn't work in the collection ofintelligence . he's not able to put himself in somebody else's shoes. they formulate people to be ideologically pure. black and white, there's good and there's evil. while that might be helpful to grow an army of religious sycophants to keep your regime or your system propped up, it doesn't help in terms of coming up with a narrative and ultimately their job was more than anything to take
bits and pieces of information about this, some of it public, some of it they gleaned from my emails and come up with a narrative to fit the verdict that was decided before i wasever taken . so at once i was as you said, trying to bring the book of mormon, the religious text , not the musical to your man. that i was trying to foment a feminist revolution. at one point he asked if i was jewish and i knew what he was trying to say with his accent and isaid what is that , i like a cup of coffee like anybody else. he said no, a follower of the profit solomon and david. i think for people of the book, because this is a common theme in iran and islamic countries that there
is one god and jews, christians and muslims are the same god and we're all part of the same lineage. but i make light of this because it's what i could do to survive and as the accusations, the ridiculous accusations mounted, and the whole that i was in was seemingly getting deeperand deeper , laughing about it and holding on to the prospect that someday, you and i and me and many other people might sit around and talk about this as a story was the only thing that could get me through i want to read a section of your book about hazem and it really struck me . it was literally your final minutes in tehran. he had put you through so many had games and
psychological traumas but you also kind of got to know this guy and it was a strange friendship. >> guest: relationship. >>host: relationship, thank you . they took me through a side door to a ceremonial entryway. i looked at all ofthem one last time. i stared at hazem for a long time until we both smiled . then i did a crazy thing. i hug him. yes, it's even possible to develop an attention attachment to know and develop an attachment to your captors and know that that's human. >> look, it was very important for me in telling the storyto be honest . i could paint horns on these guys and tell you that they were electrocuting me with cattle prods and hanging me by my wrist and you know, put
me through mock executions and the like. and that would not have been true, many people would just haveaccepted it as fact . what i wanted to do was give you a human portrait of who and what i experienced. in the hopes that in reading this, those people who are so hell-bent on a regime change in that country might understand that as terrible as hazem is and his ideology is, i think there's way to change it. and on the flipside of that," in washington and in europe and often times in the community of iranian dual nationals whether they are american orbritish , canadian or european who believe that and not just dual nationals, other nationals who believe that any country that is standing up to american
imperialism is on the right side of things, that's not true either. these are bad people doing bad things to innocent folks like myself. so what i'm hoping is that you walk away with this book from this book having a more complete understanding of america, of iran, of the issues being a journalist. of human nature and the world that we live in in 2019. >> and ultimately, just how much i love my wife. >> host: that comes through loud and clear. let's talk about yegi. i'mnot not sure i know any two people more in love with each other than you too but your marriage was tested by this experience . >> guest: we were cut off from each other for those first 35 days, told many things about each other that both knew not to be true but you know, such at the same
period of time where people were tryingto get you to turn on your spouse , i assumed that sometimes it worked. it didn't work for them on us. when she was finally released after 72 nights, she became the advocate on the ground that anybody stuck in trouble in the country would want. when we look at other people who are in that same prison and their flights are being talked about in the newsmedia and we hear about what their spouses are doing or not doing , she always has an opinion about it because she was effective in doing what she could to bolster my rights, which exist but if you're not able to access them, you're not going to access them. she was able to figure these
things out as she was relentless but also to get this it's in pieces of information out to the world and as you know, we are working on this for many months. and contact with my brother, i also have a big brother who was relentless and a mom who is fearless enough to 72 years old, she's from illinois. jump in a plane and come to tehran and not be pushed around and said my son hasn't done anything, i'm not going to leave until you let him go . >> i want to get to those efforts to get you free and the role that each of the folks you mentioned but before we go there, after yegi was released, she continues living in tehran and for our period, you're kind of a high-profile public enemy number one within the country. your trial such as it was was sort of like the o.j. simpson trial in america and yet yegi was your wife on the outside
seeing all that being subject to all of the folks around her that were being fed this propaganda. talk about that. >> guest: i think she was so disappointed at how she was treated in those months after my release. runs and relatives disappeared out of fear. people would say things to her, they recognize her in the street as the spies wife. there was a case going on in the same courtroom as my case , at the same time about a man who during the mahmoud ahmadinejad years had embezzled from the iranian coffers and on the nightly news, they would refer to him as suspect cz when they would
talk about his case to protect his presumption of innocence. protect his presumption of innocence and also to protect his families privacy. everybody know who this guy was. when they talk about me, moments later it was five rezaian so this was what my wife had to deal with and what my mom had to deal with, what my in-laws had to deal with but what we understood , what we came to understand was more of a full citrus they were in their attack on me, the reality was they were just responses to what was going on in the rest of the world. >> host: let's get to that. as the months go on you begin to learn about this incredible effort spearheaded by amazing big brother ali and also the washington post
and your mom who was the first one that came to my office, my congressional office and got us involved in part of this effort your employer, the washington post . what they mean to you to know that there was this hashtag out there, i don't know if the cameras can pick this up but these little lapel pins, free jason and the global movement of journalists and others on your behalf got rolling. >> i found it hard tobelieve but as time drags on , after i came out of politics and could access iranian state channels, so that's a very warped viewof the world . to see all of these reports about me and my guilt and how terrible i was. what i wouldn't see was what was going on in the rest of the world in support of me but i didsometimes .
they would show different reports or they would cut two locations live when the foreign minister of iran briefed john kerry or president obama were giving speeches so i caught little snippets and i would see people i knew. at one point there was a news report and they were talking about this psychological warfare that the americans were fighting against iran by using these hostage cases, so-called hostage cases to dampen the mood at the nuclear negotiations and as they're talking about this, they flashed footage on the screen and my brother is standing there next to a woman in a his job who i had no idea, turned out it was sister on the air commodity alongside the talkshow host
on montel williams who became a big supporter and advocate, former serviceman who supported him year as well. so i could see these things and once or twice i saw marty baron, executive editor of the post talking about me and demanding information and my release but behind the scenes , there was so much more going on. i get into a lot of thatin the book . it reads i hope rather seamlessly but constructing, reconstructing what various people were doing. the post, within my family , in the usgovernment , congress, anthony boarding who was also really staunch advocate for us. mohammed ali. and then other little things. edward snowden at one point tweeted about me. no one chomsky and a whole slew of scholars wrote
letters demanding my release. at one point one of the kardashian sisters even tweeted hashtag free jason. i think she thought i was armenian. it all worked out in the end but it took this, i think you can probably see this as well. you've dealt with many different issues over the years. i think it's fair to say that it's pretty rare that so much momentum can get behind the idea of a single person. >> it was a remarkable team working on your behalf but you were just seeing these little pieces from inside the prison. eventually you began to have more regular visits withyour wife and mom , they were able to brief you on what was going on but. >> guest: they didn't know what was going on. >> host: that was true, they were in a ran.
>> guest: it meant so much that people cared. what i wasn't sure about was it my government care? and you know, it took months after my release toget the full story and i think i chronicled it well . i just people read it because i think you can learn a lot about what a government, what this government can do if an issue becomes important. >> host: i want to come back to that but for now, take me back to one of the weirdest days in your book. we're leading up to a point where they're trying to get you to do a video confession. really important to them to get you on tape giving some sort of confession. and they're always dangling privileges when they're not threatening to dismember and ask of you and one day take you shopping. >> in preparation of these what i call completely optional force confessions,
they say look, you've lost a lot of weight. and i had, when i was in solitary those 49 days i lost 49 pounds. and they brought my close that i had been arrested in to me, put them on and even with the belt, couldn't keep them on. i looked ridiculous. they said we need to take you out of the prison and it's going to be a test to see if we releaseyou back into society , will anybody realize who you are or whatever. since this was the most bizarre thing in the world. it remained in the back of a car blindfolded as usual, be on a highway, took off the blindfold and took me to a well-known men's clothing store . and you know, iranians have different ideas or the iranians have different ideas of taste in clothing that i do. so they were trying to get me
put on these kind of shiny suits area and that, if you want anybody to believe these confessions, you're going to have to put me in close that i would wear myself because otherwise i'm just going to look ridiculous so they let me pick out clothes. it was so bizarre because this same guy thatarrested me , the same team of people where there throughout the prison, a couple of times i was taken to the hospital, every time i was taken to court, the day that we were released it was always the same group of guys. half of them have surgical masks on but on this day, your concierge, theirpersonal shoppers . >> the theme of eight or nine guys. people keep asking what the occasion, is thisforeign guy and all of this because i have an accident . they said he just got engaged and we're getting him some clothing so he can go and
take pictures with his beyoncc. it was the weirdestday of my life . >> host: you got a tailored suit of clothing but it didn't stop there because they wanted you to buy sweets and flowers . >> guest: this was their attempt to sort of try to convince me that they were doing right by me. because you know, you've got the lead boss of this whole operation says you need to bring sweets and flowers for your wife because you put her through this. i wanted to use a word but i definitely can't use on c-span but i said guys, this is crazy. this is ridiculous. i have a choice, go and get some flowers. okay, you needed. the ones over there, the most expensiveones that they got. i told them i don't have any money will put it on your bill will add it to your tab . and so we brought some
pastries as well. at that point i had a cellmate and he and i were kind of starving and i knew that bringing those back to the cell that night would be a well-received booty and it was. >> host: tell us about this kangaroo court of the trial where you have this harsh infamous judge that assigned to your case. you have strange interactions with him on the court days. there's not anything we would think of as evidence presented, there aren't any real specific charges, but you have these strange days where you're technically in trial and then long gaps that follow. i want to read from page 196 of your book where you describe what ultimately came to constitute the charges
against you, the case against you. you write, on the surface this is what the case was all about. a guy who is with some level of empathy towards iran, describing in plain english elements of the islamic republic's those to an audience that for decades decided not want or could not understand. it was too much for hardline ideologues to comprehend means it was impossible for them to accept . if you can't on it, control it or understand it, you must destroy it. that was theattitude i found myself up against and that essentially is what they were charging . >> they publicly in the propaganda that they would produce would say he was sharing classified information directly with obama. he had all this information aboutthe nuclear program . he was advising the iranian administration to accept a bad deal. all of this stuff that had no grounding in truth whatsoever but when it came time to come to court, they pulled out articles that i've written area and i would go
meticulously and look, i've been in prison for a year at that point and i've been interrogated about all of these things relentlessly for months so when i got into the court, i had to be well prepared answers for each one of these things that i was being accused of. first and foremost, by your own laws and your own reckoning, it's not a crime. i didn't break any rules. second, it's ridiculous that you're accusing me of this sort of thing because i'm here in your country with complete permission. they had cameras set up at every one of my support sessions. i think the intention was to have something they could show on their propaganda. to my knowledge, not a single second of those trial sessions has ever been released or put on iranian television.
not in a raw form, not in a manipulated form. because fortunately, my wife had convinced me that they were trying to get me to concede guilt. they would tell you in many countries when you're taken hostage, they'll tell you just plead guilty. we need to show that to the world and tomorrow you get to go home. it doesn't always happen like that but you and i have seen it when it has but yegi was adamant about the fact that you haven't done anything wrong and i don't want to be married to the guy for the rest of my life who said he was guilty when he wasn't . she's a strong-willed woman and a smart one at that so i'm glad in retrospect that i handled it how i did. but it was scary.
>> host: let's talk about what might have been the low point, you want to fast forward to christmas time 2015 . a month and a half before you were released. the jcp oa, iran nuclear deal , the agreement is sealed. it seemed your fate at some point was intertwined with this but when the deal was done and you were not released, that had to be pretty scary. >> host: wasmore than scary . i thought that i had been forgotten. i had all of this evidence explained to me by my mom and wife to know that people were writing about me, people were talking about me but i also knew that in international politics sometimes there are collateral victims. and i worried that i would be oneof them .
what i didn't know was that there were secret negotiations going on at been happening for over a year over my fate and the fate of other americans being held in iran. so as the year wound down and the jcp oa was set to be implemented, you remember the days leading up to christmas, there was a presumption that it would be finalized and implemented in early january but there was a lot of back and forth that had to happen. it's called implementation day. >> wasn't set to be january 16, and the being january 16 because there was actually going on about a variety of issues including me. >> i couldn't have known that and i didn't know that. i think the last 24 hours or so which i don't want to talk
about because i want people to read it as i think it is incredibly thrilling to see how all of these big geopolitical ships that were happening at that moment affected our little, let's not spoil the ending but i find it fascinating that the swiss played an underappreciated role in all of this. we don't have diplomatic relations with iran the swiss do they could communicate efficiently with the regime and they are also pretty good negotiators. >> guest: they were intermediaries in negotiations with myself and mayor hammadi and another couple of americans that were released but didn't travel with us. they provided a jet to fly us to safety. and it was. >> swiss hospitality. >> incredible swiss hospitality in every conceivable way and i
considered several people from the swiss foreign ministry to be lifelong friends. almost like family to yegi and i because without their intervention and involvement, this not have been possible. >> the swiss were heroes in this whole story but you cut a better deal and even you knew they had cut, even when you were being released, you were at the airport ready to go. i won't spoil all the details but it turns out they feel that the iranians did not want to honor. big pieces of. >> i think it's important to note that the people that were negotiating this deal over my faith and the faith of the others were not the same people that had possession of me. it's typical rug merchant stop. multiparty deal for a lot of different pieces of inventory and a couple of them don't belong to you. >> and so there was a lot of
jockeying going on right up until the end . cousin who we meet early on in the story because he was my interrogator from day one was there with me the airport as you say. he was unaware of the details of this deal. and i think probably very purposely so. i think they would be kept in the dark by their higher ups about how this was actually to play out. and fortunately, the swiss were permitted and played this incredible intermediary role up until literally until we got on the plane. >> host: was a minute to minute thing and thankfully and the right way. it's not a happy story but a happy ending for that part that came close to not being
so. >> guest: i bristled to think about hi mike how my life would be different if things didn't work outexactly how they had . >> host: let's go back to that dark period when you're worried that maybe the nuclear deal done, you might be forgotten.you had a chance to watch barack obama live in the state of the union address in your final days as a prisoner. and he didn't say a word about you or the iranian prisoners, the other americans. that must have been rather devastating . >> it was scary at the same time i came to understand that if something really was in the works as i have been told, that it probably wouldn't talked about in such a public forum. i didn't know back my brother was your guest that night at the state of the union. you took yegi and i as your guests the following year.
and i think the state of the union is so, the view of the state of the union from the tens of millions of people watching at home and me and my iranian prison while it's happening is very much focused on the president of the united states and one or two people that happened to be in the room. what people don't understand is what a representation is of the country at the moment. member of congress rings against. that i imagine has something to do with what's going on in their district for an issue that's important to them personally, politically, professionally and to know in retrospect that my brother was there with you changed my view of it. but on that day, i think it was january 11 or 12th 2016, just before the speech was to be given, iran captured an
american navy vessel, an armored vessel and had wandered off course into iranian waters steadily but trespassing. by our government on admission, trespassing into iranian waters. i was watching this unfold on television. my heart said because i thought to myself, this is going to blow up any opportunity i'm going to get out, probably cost american lives and within a matter of hours, it was resolved. >> host: this ended up being a hopeful event for you because that told you things were maybe on a better track. >> guest: it was a hopeful event but one that also just said why did i spend the last 45 days in prison the us secretary of state and iranian foreign minister can avert this potential crisis
at earlier points in the relationship might have ended up in a military confrontation, and armed us vessel illegally and iranian waters, it sounds, sounded out. but they were able to resolve this peacefully and quickly and it gave me an inclination that these things are possible, mountains can move and a few short days later they did. >> host: talk about your attempt to put your life back together because it's not a hollywood movie when your release . you don't run down the tarmac from the airplane, but your relatives and everybody moves on withtheir life, it's a little more complicated process . i had a chance to meet you for the first time at the army base in germany as you were getting that reentry process but there were throngs of media from all over the world there with the bright lights wanting to talk with you. there were doctors from the
us government wanted to assess your physical and mental health. talk aboutthe process . >> it's an ongoing process. it continues now. i'mthankful that i listened to the advice of my psychologists, their database . and my family. to take a few days to really readjust to the notion of freedom. freedom is the best gift and privilege anybody could ever hope for but it takes some getting used to. pride of it for as long as i was so having a choice and agency back in my life, didn't feel natural at first. i had gotten to a point where if i wanted to go to the bathroom for the last year and a half, i had to askfor permission . i didn'tknow what i wanted. i didn't know what i could
say no to and i was skeptical of everything . i think i've retained some of that skepticism. the response of public response for people in the united states andaround the world , the family has helped restore some of the faith that i think i lost inhumanity. but i found it much harder to trust. i was someone who was a fairly intrepid traveler for most of my life . i don't want to go places i'm unfamiliar with now. and i want, i hope to , to challenge that as the years go forward. it was such an integral part of my life and it's going to be tough and it is tough. i have tons to be thankful for and i always try and focus my attention on what i do have rather thanwhat we lost .
>> host: i was surprised you named your book prisoner because you were really hostage . >> guest: i like the term hostage better. i had long conversations with my editor about that. i think that ultimately, there have been a lot of books called hostage. but initially if you go back and you look at the releases that we made, the press releases we made when i first started working on the book, it was going to be a book called hostage but ultimately the powers that be got involved and they decided it was a more appropriate title. >> host: that's what it's like when you write a book and work with publishers but you and i both know you are a hostage . let's talk about being an american. this experience must have changed your sense of identity as an american and
maybe even your feelings towards her own country. you wrote a bitabout that in the book. talk about how you feel about being an american . >>. >> i consider myself first and foremost a human and right alongside that an american. we can be as american, hyphenated in any way we want and that's not a right or a privilege that afforded to people of most countries in the world including iran . so i take back privilege really seriously and more so now than i did before but i always, i always appreciated and honored the moniker and the freedomthat our blue passport allowed us to explore the world with . unfortunately i think in recent years and i'm not going to just say over the last two years, i think this is been going on or a couple of decades. that moral authority that we were known for throughout
much of the 20th century is really come under the question. >> i hope that is not completely eroded. but i like us to get back to that and i like to compel you and your colleagues right around the corner to do more to work together to protect the values that we can all agree on. >> protecting journalists is ahuge part of that because of our traditional commitment to a free press . >> i think that we can talk about our colleague jamal khashoggi and his gruesome murder at the hands of the saudi government. i applaud the efforts of congress to seek justice and demand justice in that case. conversely, i'm very distraught at beyond disappointed and scared at the administrations nonresponse to his murder.
and his trend of attack on journalists, it has been amplified in the last couple of years, i thinkthey've been going on for a long time. we see it more often now in democracies than we ever have before, right around the corner andkannapolis seven months ago .>> as your congressman i'm proud of how you've used your platform . as an author, as an advocate to fight the fight for those values and i want to ask you one last question is we're out of time and i had two hours of other material. >> will do it again, if they want to come back again i'll be happyto . >> cousin was watching right now, what would you say to him. >> he probably is watching. these guys have a hard time letting go. and i think i would tell him it's hard for you to do.
but take yourself out of your shoes and put them in mind. think about all you did to me and you've done for many other people and in similar and in different circumstances and no in your core, you're on the wrong side of history. >> host: thanks for the great conversation. everybody needs to buy this book because it's a fantastic bookwritten by a fantastic person . thanks jason. >> guest: you very much. >> if you'd like to view other "after words" programs online, go to our website booktv.org, type "after words" into the search bar and all previous episodes will be available.
>> every year book tv covers book fairs and festivals around the country. nearly 400 today and here's a look at some of the events coming up. this weekend we live from the 11thannual tucson festival of books , held on the campus of the university of arizona. the virginia festival of books in charlottesville take place march 20 through the 24th area and on april 6, look for us at the san antonio andannapolis book festival and later in the spring your live from the los angeles times festival of books at the university of southern california. and then in may it's the gaithersburg book festival in maryland . for more information about upcoming book fairs and festivals and watch our previous possible coverage, click the book fairs have on our website, book tv.org. >>.