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tv   Amanpour on PBS  PBS  June 9, 2018 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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tonight, lessons from 9/11 and why extremism will remain a threat for a long time. my interview with the former fbi special agent and interrogator ali sufan. plus, advertising is everywhere and it can be annoying. i'll look into the destruction of the ad business with a media writer. good evening and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. when it comes to the fight
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against terror, few people come to ali sufan's depth of knowledge and experience he interrogated al qaeda suspects after the devastating attacks of 9/11. some of the information he got is portrayed in hulu's new tower "the looming tower." here isoufan questioning osama bin laden's bodyguard.
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soufan has since left the fbi and he runs his own security consultancy and he tells me the threat from isis and al qaeda spinoffs remains very high, indeed. we spoke as the paper back version of his book "anatomy of terror, from the death of bin laden to the rise of the islamic state" hit the shelves. ali soufan, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having me. >> you have become known all these years later after 9/11 as the explainer in chief about this terrorism, about this breed of terrorism, al qaeda, isis, that we're having to deal with. and it started early for you, didn't it?
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>> yeah. 1997, i believe. >> which is really, really, really early. what did you know then that we didn't know? >> the east africa embassy bombing in august of 1998 was the first overt attack by al qaeda. so now we're taking him seriously, we're taking his network seriously so we start working with our allies around the world. our first stop was in the uk, the main office for bin laden was actually in london and we worked very closely with our colleagues in scotland yard and intelligence services in the uk and disrupting the plot. >> that was going to be my next question. did the intelligence services here know what they're up against? do they understand how serious this was? >> at the very beginning there was no understanding even in the u.s. itself. when we were working on osama bin laden and we actually indicted him in a sealed indictment in june of 1998 before the east africa embassy bombing we had a lot of
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difficulties convincing people in washington that that individual is actually a threat. so, yes, most of the islamists, if you want to call them, who were here in london, they were peaceful people, escaping the tyranny in their own government and there was no problem with them being -- practicing the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression that a place like the uk would give. but off small amount of individuals, people like abu hamzeh almas masri. >> all in jail now. you have written that al qaeda and its successors basically this entity is like a multiheaded hydra, it's like whack a mole. it's just not one thing. has the west or those against this kind of radical jihadism got a grip right now? is the combat against them.
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is there enough? >> in order for the west to effectively take them down, we have to think in two separate ways. you have to trace network and it takes a network to take down a network. we were effective after 9/11 in taking down that network however the war in iraq was the catastrophe that gave the network back its oxygen, its blood and everything it needs to grow and even grow bigger than it used to be before. the other element is combatting the ideology, combatting the narrative, combatting the narrative that the west and the united states is basically declaring a war on islam and unfortunately throughout the war on terrorism we played into the narrative of the bad guys. the invasion of iraq, for example, with no reason, played into that. secret jails and black site
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played into that. guantanamo bay played into that. dealing in the middle east without a strategy, comprehensive strategy of where we want to go played into that. recent messages from the administration about muslim bans, for example, plays into that. the increase of islamophobia in the west, even by politicians taking the extreme fringes and making them mainstream in our society is playing into that. so unfortunately today, today, we are in way worse situation than it used to be, i believe, before 9/11. >> what? >> absolutely. i'll give you an example -- >> you just said we took down the network. the united states has just declared where its coalition that it has if not killed off -- >> until 2003. >> -- severely neutralized isis. >> absolutely not. until 2003 we took the network but the network is back. isis is going through a phase. isis today is where al qaeda was after 2001. it's going from a proto state
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now to an underground terrorist organization. the idea is not al qaeda or isis or any name or aqap or al shabab, the idea is the message and narrative that they have. christiane, before 9/11 al qaeda had 400 members. 400 members, 19 of them were killed on that day. today the people who adhere to the narrative of osama bin laden are in the thousands. look at syria in idlib. look at al shabab movement in snol ya. look at yemen. before we only have afghanistan. we had kandahar, kabul, jalalabad, a couple training camps. now because of many different things to include the failures that happen in the aftermath of the arab spring, we have vacuums and vacuums all across the muslim world and unfortunately extremists, people like al qaeda and isis are the only ones who are able to fill these vacuums. >> that is a lot more apocalyptic that i thought. we get told the caliphate is
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over, that it's been disrupted, that there are attacks against all these terrorist cells and all these various places that you've been talking about just now. you are the expert on this. so how does one confront this? >> first of all, this ideology, this narrative has been resilient. after 9/11 we swiftly destroyed al qaeda and afghanistan, kicked the taliban out for a period of time however al qaeda shifted, they shifted from being an organization to being a network, to being a message and it's difficult to fight a message. the second element that i would like to talk about is sectarianism. today sectarianism in the middle east is the main unifier of a lot of these extremists. >> you mean sunni, shiite and the whole divide we see being played out? >> absolutely. the proxy war between iran and saudi arabia benefitting the extremists on both sides. sometimes they try to change their names. now we're not al qaeda, we'll al
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nusra, now we're not al nusra, we're al sharia. so they put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig. the third element of it is the arab spring. the arab spring shifted the calculus of al qaeda tremendously and the fourth and last thing about this is to focus on the ideology, to focus on the narrative, to not play into the fear that if we talk narrative and we talk about al qaeda and we talk about isis and we talk about them hijacking religious terminology that we're attacking islam. we're not attacking islam. i am a muslim and i spend my life fighting these groups because they don't represent anything about the beautiful religion that i believe in. >> so with all of this that you've said, what is your prediction, then? where do they strike next? is the west still in mortal danger? >> absolutely. i think they are now building the network. it took them -- look, after the soviet jihad, they didn't attack
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immediately. it took them years to develop the network. now, frankly, if you talk to al qaeda or isis, what do they want to do next? they don't know what they're going to do next. now they are building the network, isis is trying to find new places to go to after their defeat in syria and after the loss of the territorial lands of the so-called caliphate. >> it's extraordinary. at the same time, we are reminded of the history that led to 9/11 in "the looming tower" which is based on the pulitzer prize winning book, you feature prominently into it and it's been made into a multipart series by hulu. first and foremost, have they got it right? >> well, yes, there's definitely drama, it's hollywood. having said that, i think they stayed true to the investigative part of the story. but it's amazing to see the power of television because so many people are seeing it unfolding and they're realizing that 9/11 didn't come out of thin air. that there was a lot of things that happened before that led to that day. a lot of mistakes that we did.
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>> and it really is pointed out in minute detail by larry wright and this hulu series, the internal squabbling and conflict and holding on to their own resources between the cia and the fbi. not sharing certain informations. that was highlighted in the commission. do you think the structure in the u.s. is now properly aligned to avoid those kinds of things? >> it is. and the relationship between the cia and the fbi is way better than it used to be. but the problem, history is repeating itself. not necessarily with the intelligence community. it's repeating itself because the political leadership is not listening to the intelligence community. so the president has been briefed, russia interfered in our election, they interfered in the 2016 election and they didn't get an executive order, presidential order, from the president to take any measures against that. that reminds me in so many different ways when we used to say osama bin laden.
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when you start questioning -- your first questions early on, the political leadership didn't want to listen and today we have the same thing. it's a different type of threat but it's as damaging. >> and john o'neil, your reflections at this time on him? >> john was an amazing character and i know you've seen elements of his personal life in the show. >> played by jeff daniels in the show. >> and jeff daniels, amazing, he did a great job. he played john o'neil as seen by jeff daniels, so he didn't listen to what everybody else was telling him about john o'ne o'neil. but john o'neil was an amazing guy and he had only one love and one commitment and it was to the fbi and everything else in the world didn't matter. and that's why his social life, unfortunately, was in shambles. but john was a great leader, he understood the threat. he understood what needs to be done and unfortunately it was so tragic because he's the one who put the focus on osama bin laden.
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he's the one who tried to get osama bin laden. but on 9/11 john o'neil was at the world trade center and he was killed by al qaeda and osama bin laden. >> in the series they focus on your personal life. you met this wonderful woman, you had to keep explaining that you had to go off on secret missions you couldn't tell her about. you are the terrorist hunter and yet your marriage has lasted. you have kids. your unit survived. how? >> i'm lucky. she endured a lot and when i said one day i think we had an event at the "washington post" and somebody asked me about my date and that i left her in the restaurant and they said did she take you back? >> as portrayed in the series. >> i said, yeah, she's my wife
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now. >> there's a happy ending, ali soufan, thank you very much indeed. >> thank you, christiane. a really important insight. and now we're switching gears to the demise of the newspaper, the rise of politically partisan so-called journalism, the dominance of social media companies. my next guest wanted to explain them all and so he followed the old adage -- follow the money. it led ken auletta to the advertising industry, discovering it to be in a kate of chaos. it's the subject of his latest book "frenemies, the epic destruction of the ad business and everything else." a long time writer for the "new yorker," he told me why we should all care and how, as an i entreprene -- intrepid media reporter years ago he came close to getting the goods on harvey weinstein's sexual abuse and why he couldn't publish. ken auletta, welcome to the program. >> thank you, christiane. >> so the book is called "prenmy
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-- frenemies" and the subtitle is "the epic destruction of the ad business and everything else." explain in this case what frenemies means. >> frenemies is basically if you're in the advertising business and you have an agency which does much of the advertising, advertising and markets is a $2 trillion worldwide industry. and so it's huge and it's sports and funds all media and certainly -- and much of the internet. so if you're an agency today and you suddenly -- the people you sell your ads to, let's say the "new york times," buzzfeed or tv networ networks, what are those tv networks and newspapers and magazines doing? they're becoming ad agencies and they're saying let's bypass the agency and create adds and go directly to the client . so your publisher partners are
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frenemies but there are agencies increasingly getting into the advertising business. the consulting business that used to be deloittes used to be your accountant and mckinzie whi -- mckiare bypassing you and going directly to the client. et cetera, et cetera. the biggest frenemy is the public. because the public is basically saying we are annoyed by your ads. your ads are too long, too intrusive, particularly on my cell phone, i don't want to be interrupted by your ad so 20% of americans, one-third of western europeans use something called ad blockers to block ads. >> yet programs such as this one and many others on network television and the like depend on them, right? what will happen in five years from now to the kind of program we're watching on tv right now. >> well, $64,000 question. the reason i wrote this book, i
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don't see this as the book about just the advertising chemistry. i see it as a book about an industry that subsidized the media and without that subsidy much of the media will continue to die in a much more accelerated rate. >> so let's play delight devil's a advocate. the story of the demise of the media as we know it has been told over and over again and yet we're still flourishing and i would say and many say and you probably have written about it, too, in the post-trump era is flourishing even more. how do you square that circle? >> i don't think it is flourishing. i would challenge the assumption or conclusion that it's flourishing. newspapers are dying. you could argue that the "new york times" is strong today and you could argue the ratings because of trump are up at many -- certainly cable news
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divisions. but what's happening to the detroit news? what's happening to local newspapers around this country and other parts of the world in they're dying, they're not flourishing. and they're dying in part because advertising is dying on them. it used to be that in general the advertising -- the advertising revenues from classified ads provided roughly a quarter of the advertising revenues for each newspaper. there are no more classified ads in the newspaper. and so with that the consequences of that are profound. >> that has consequences beyond our business and beyond the right to have really profession professional journalism, because do you think the dying off of local news organizations, whether print, radio, tv, is it a saight line betwe tt and the sconctdi that were were so surprised about in the trump
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victory? >> i don't think there is any question. one of the things that's depressing as someone who covers the media and has so many years is the low regard in which we are held by the public. including the public in the heartland. probably more so than in cities like new york or los angeles or london. and that's a huge problem because it means that when we report facts those facts are not accepted as facts by a large number of americans who hold us in low regard. and so how do we adjudicate things? people -- we report that president trump said the following and he then says i never said that, well he did say that. and yet a large portion of the population believes him. that's corrosive to democracy and how do you do. if in fact trump is charged by
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special prosecutor mueller with certain charges and people don't believe those charges. they believe as trump has said it's a witch-hunt. oh, my god. >> what about in the epic disruption that you describe in "frenemies." what about this consolidation of media power. for instance, you have the sinclaire broadcast group which is local television station. it controls almost 200 tv stations and reaches more than 60% of american households and there's a new site called dead spin which produced an amazing supercut of this. let's play it and we'll talk about. >> it the sharing of biased and -- >> false news has become too common on social media -- more alarming, some media outlets publish these insane truths that aren't true without checking facts first. >> unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.
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>> this is extremely dangerous to our democracy. >> that's a little like dante's nine circles of hell but this is a deeply conservative organization and that mash-up was script given to each and every station where they just had to read it over a certain issue. so every single station was reading the same thing so describe for american viewers what that means to their knowledge base. >> the knowledge base is skewed to a certain set of facts that are ideologically driven. they satisfy president trump's ideological desires, they are his supporters. he's going to welcome them. whereas he doesn't like cnn so he presumably has had a say on having the fcc and the justice department bring an antitrust action against at&t which once acquired cnn.
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>> ronan farrow who published his me too exclusive for which he's won the pulitzer prize, he won the livingston award as well, he credits you and a lot of your previous reporting on harvey weinstein and a lot of your mentoring and moral support to him for enabling him to be able to carry on with this story. tell us about that and why perhaps didn't you write this story? >> well, i tried to. in 2002, i profiled harvey and i came within inches of having -- i knew about his sexual predations and i knew women, i had names, i could -- women would whisper to me, men would whisper to me but no one would put their name on the story. i confronted harvey weinstein in 2002. i thought we were going to come to blows over it because he was enraged, he knew i had evidence of him -- i thought i had evidence of him raping a bomb during the making of
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"shakespeare in love." and he basically said -- his defense was -- after he settled down and started to cry he said ken, this was a consensual affair. and you're going to ruin my marriage and my kids' life. he had three young daughters then with his first marriage. david remnick and i, the editor of the "new yorker," then had to make a decision, do we publish something with anonymous sources even though we believed it was true when as remnick pointed out the "washington post" had 11 women on the front page accusing former senator robert packwood of sexual harassment. these were women who identified themselves by name. we had no one by name so we decided not to write the story. we wrote about what a bully harvey was and his sexual predation was an extension of that physical bullying of other people. in 2015 i tried once again to nail him for predation and i couldn't get anyone to go on the
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record. ronan farrow calls me up last spring and he says -- he interviews me about harvey on the phone. we talk, he says ken, your papers and your tapes of interviews of your pieces, including harvey weinstein, were donated to the fork public library, can i have access to them? i gave them access. he listened to that. he said can i interview you? he interviews me. he tells me he had eight women, three of them on camera testi testifying to harvey's predation and five of them off camera but nevertheless their voices and he had the tape of the italian model who harvey grabbed her breasts and tried to solicit and the police had a tape of that. i said this is fabulous, you got the goods, ronan. i said what's the next step? he said i take it to nbc, i meet with the president of nbc news the first week in august, this is last august. so i e-mailed him the second week in august and i said so what happened? he said they turned it down. they didn't think i had enough evidence to go on camera. i said that's crazy. i then introduced him to david
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remnick, and i had nothing to do with it after that. i just testified to david remnick this was a serious young man, as he's proven. >> ken, you said you couldn't publish your story because you didn't have people on the record and you just couldn't do it. do you in retrospect wish you had done it with anonymous sources and if you had done it the you think it might have protected and saved the subsequent women who claim they were assaulted by weinstein? >> that's a fair question, christiane. but the "new yorker" is not the "national enquirer." we're not going to publish -- you don't publish a story that has a profound impact on people and children when you don't have proof and i didn't have proof. i basically had people whispering to me. but they didn't have the courage or they were too afraid to come public with it. might it have had an effect? yeah. do i think about that? of course i do. but i think about journalism and
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i think as a journalist i think the decision the new yorker made was the right decision at the time. even though -- you know, do i have questions whether it would have had an impact? yes. but our job is not -- means and ends matter here and using foul means to get to a good end is not the way to go in my judgment. >> we live in amazing times. ken auletta, author of "frenemies" thank you so much for joining us. >> my pleasure, christiane. >> as for the full story of why ronan farrow couldn't get his exclusive broadcast on nbc, he tells us that will be the subject of his next book. that's it for our program tonight. thanks for watching amanpour on pbs and join us again next time.
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