Return to Transcripts main page


Do NSA Leaks Compromise Security?; High Profile U.K. Press Trial Begins; Imagine a World

Aired October 28, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Outrage over American surveillance has exploded all over the globe since NSA leaker Edward Snowden began disclosing top secret information this spring. And today it was Spain's turn, with revelations that the United States allegedly tapped 60 million phone calls in just one month. And that prompted the Spanish government to summon the U.S. ambassador and demand an explanation.

The revelations were published with the help of my guest tonight, the man who first broke the NSA story, Glenn Greenwald, and I'll talk to him in just a moment.

Now the Spanish news comes after similar reports of widespread monitoring in France and revelations that the U.S. tapped the phones of numerous world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She called President Obama directly to say the trust between the countries could be damaged by such activities.

But despite declarations of shock and outrage, spying, even among allies, is taken for granted. It's been happening since the very dawn of diplomacy. Indeed, the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says that her own phone was tapped by the French when she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

So why the uproar from Brazil to Berlin? Among other things, leaders are having to play to their appalled publics who certainly don't accept or understand why they are being tapped. When President Obama was elected five years ago, he was hailed as the anti-Bush hero by an adoring European audience.

Mr. Obama even waxed lyrical about trust in Berlin shortly before his election.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.



AMANPOUR: Well, that trust is certainly taking a hit and now European publics have started to turn on the president, in part, of course, due to these spying revelations.

Leaders of these allied nations are seeing the Obama administration pull back from a lot of traditional U.S. heavy lifting and burden sharing around the world and apparently they are not so willing right now to cut the U.S. much slack over these leaks.

And in an interview with "60 Minutes," the former number two at the CIA, Mike Morell, said the leaks had been disastrous.


MIKE MORELL, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CIA: I do not believe he is a hero. I think he has betrayed his country.

JOHN MILLER, CBS HOST: How serious a hit is that to national security?

MORELL: I think this is the most serious leak -- the most serious compromise of classified information in the history of the U.S. intelligence community.


AMANPOUR: That is quite a statement.

But what about holding power accountable? Let's get straight to all of this then with the man who made Snowden's information famous, Glenn Greenwald. And he, I know, would admit to being more of an activist than a traditional journalist and earlier this month, Greenwald announced that he's joining a major new online mass media venture. It is as yet unnamed and it promises to create a new model for investigative reporting and perhaps journalistic activism.

But Glenn, thank you for joining me again.

And you are --

GLENN GREENWALD, "THE GUARDIAN": Good to be with you.

AMANPOUR: -- you are in Rio and therefore you know perfectly well that the revelations over Dilma Rousseff and her emails being spied on has caused her to cancel what should have been a state visit to the U.S. this past week.

What, in your mind, is being gained by that?

GREENWALD: Well, what's being gained is that the Brazilian people are learning of the severe assault on their privacy being waged by a government over which they have no control and over which they exercise no accountability.

The first story that we did hear is actually about mass bulk spying of Brazilians, tens of millions of emails and telephone calls that are being collected by the NSA regarding innocent people. And we then followed it up with a story about targeting their president for spying, the democratically elected ally of the United States, the oil giant, Petrobras, and then conferences designed to negotiate economic conferences.

And so as a journalist, my question is not how can I best help the U.S. government; my question is how do I inform people around the world of the things they should know. And that's what's being achieved by this story.

AMANPOUR: Do you make judgments about what is really worth putting out there and what isn't?

I mean, certainly there -- you know, is an enormous amount. Some have called it a digital dump. That's an enormous amount going out there. And everybody knows, as I said, that leaders are routinely spying on each other and spied upon, even amongst allies.

GREENWALD: Well, first of all, you've answered your own question the way you asked it because, of course, you're exactly right, that there's a huge amount of documents that Mr. Snowden downloaded and provided to journalists.

And then he asked us repeatedly to be very scrutinizing and judicious about going through the documents and weighing each one for what is in the public interest and which ones would result in harm to innocent people.

And we have many, many, many, many thousands of documents that we've had for five months now. And I think we've published a grand total of something like 200-250 documents, which shows just how extremely careful we're being.

Secondly, it is not true that every country intercepts the personal communications of their democratically elected allies and it's definitely not the case that every country mass bulk collects the communications of millions of innocent people in virtually every country around the world. It's only the United States that's doing that and probably only the U.S. and China engaged in this massive economic espionage.

And it's something that the world didn't know and now they do know. And that's the reason why U.S. officials are so angry, not because it damaged national security but because it damages their reputation and credibility around the world.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, you know that U.S. Ambassador Albright or secretary of state, was, spied upon French. So there is a lot of knowledge about spying amongst the U.S.

But about your issue, what you just said now, American officials are pretty angry; obviously you know, you just heard what Mike Morell said. He called what Snowden has done the biggest damage to national intelligence since the whole thing began.

What do you say to people like Prime Minister Cameron or law enforcement who say that actually what's happened is that the world has become a more dangerous place because now all these bad guys know how we're listening to them, and we're not able to do as much as intercepting and stopping of these potentially damaging plots as we could in the past?

GREENWALD: Well, let's just use our common sense when analyzing the claims of political officials, when they say that.

Ever since 9/11, British and American officials have screamed terrorism over and over and over, every time they get caught doing bad things they shouldn't do, from lying to the public about invading Iraq to setting up a worldwide torture regime to kidnapping people and taking them around the world to be tortured. They just want to put the population in fear by saying that terrorists will get you if you don't submit to whatever authority it is that we want to do.

And that's all they're doing here. It's the same tactic they always use.

Let's just use common sense. Every terrorist who's capable of tying their own shoes has long known that the U.S. government and the U.K. government are trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can. That isn't new. We didn't reveal anything to the terrorists that they didn't already know.

What we revealed is that the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists but is directed at innocent people around the world. That is what was not previously known. And that is why American and British officials are so angry because they wanted to hide what the true purpose of the spying system is from the people at whom it's directed. And that is the only thing that's new in what we reported.

AMANPOUR: So you, in conjunction with the French newspaper, you helped them with the story about the 70 million-plus phone calls and other emails and things that have been tapped from French citizens, this is what the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, told CNN this weekend. I want you to react when you hear it.


REP. MIKE ROGERS, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And I would argue, by the way, if the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks.

It's a good thing. It keeps the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe.


AMANPOUR: So it's about safety, Glenn.

GREENWALD: Well, first of all, a lot of people like to ask why is there so much anti-American sentiment around the world? All you have to do is listen to that tape of Mike Rogers to understand it. He basically is going around, telling the world that they ought to be grateful that, without their knowledge, we're stealing all of their communications data and invading their privacy.

But the real problem for people like Mike Rogers and other U.S. officials is that the claim that this is all about terrorism and national security --


AMANPOUR: We are having.

GREENWALD: -- Ministry of Mines and Energy.

AMANPOUR: Carry on, Glenn. Carry on. Sorry, we had a technical glitch. Carry on.

GREENWALD: Sure. Or the Ministry of Mines and Energy, which oversees the industry of minerals in Brazil or spying on economic conferences in Latin America designed to negotiate economic treaties, none of this has anything to do with terrorism.

Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are 60 or 70 million Spanish and French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras? This is clearly about political power and economic espionage.


GREENWALD: And the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.

AMANPOUR: So what I really want to know -- because this is really fascinating now, this joint venture that you've gone into or going into with the cofounder of eBay, you know, he told me that this was going to be something new and different in terms of investigative reporting and activism.

I mean, he used that word. And I know you have as well.

Tell me what we can see and what you plan to do with this new venture.

GREENWALD: So I think there's been a lot of serious radical flaws in American journalism. And it's one of the reasons why American media institutions are held in such low esteem. And I think one of the principal ones is that they're supposed to be watchdogs over people in political power and yet they've become extremely close to those in power.

Watch how often on television and in the major newspapers, reports are nothing more than American officials told me yesterday, and there's no effort to investigate those claims or to find alternative voices.

And what we believe is that journalism is about providing accountability and checks to those in power, and that's what this institution is designed to do, to find truly independent journalists who don't want to be invited to Washington cocktail parties and be invited to the houses of the officials over whom they're supposed to be watchdogs, but who are truly devoted to investigating whether or not the claims from government and corporate officials are true and revealing to the world what the truth is without fear of threats or other kinds of repercussions that the government likes to dole out to keep people afraid. And this institution is devoted first and foremost to that model of journalism.

AMANPOUR: All right. Glenn Greenwald, thank you for joining me, and we'll continue this conversation.

Now of course in a free society, a free press is charged with keeping an eye on the misdeeds of the government. But to paraphrase the old Latin expression, who guards the guardians?

Here in Britain, press ethics are right now on trial as some prominent members of the media are in the dock for phone hacking, where the implications go far beyond the storied walls of the courthouse known as the Old Bailey. The cozy relationship between the ship of state and the Fourth Estate when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

And as we digest the implications of another slew of U.S. spying allegations and revelations, the practices of the press and its relationship with the government is in the spotlight here in Britain.

Just down the road from us in the famous Old Bailey criminal courthouse a trial is now underway of two former newspaper editors from the Rupert Murdoch empire.

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson face charges that include conspiring to hack mobile phones at the now-defunct tabloid newspaper, the "News of the World."

Among the victims, the missing school girl, Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered. That scandal sparked the Leveson inquiry, which examined the culture, the practice and the ethics of the press. And it heard from more than 180 witnesses, including the former prime minister, Tony Blair.

Brooks, who is also charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice, is a former chief executive of News International, and she arrived at the Old Bailey with Coulson, who is a former "News of the World" editor and also the former communications chief for Prime Minister David Cameron. They, along with six other defendants, deny all the charges.

The accusations have reverberated through the top levels of British politics and journalism. And despite a number of press regulations recommended by the Leveson inquiry, ministers and journalists are still at odds over just how or whether to do that.

Sir Harold Evans is the former editor of "The Times" and "The Sunday Times" in the U.K., part of the Murdoch empire. He says that voluntarily self-regulation by the press is required and he believes that nobody is suggesting the state should interfere with the freedom of the press.


AMANPOUR: Harold Evans, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: You know, we are not allowed to talk about the specifics of the trial underway because of British laws regarding trials. But can I ask you, as a former "Sunday Times" editor, what do you think is the implication of two editors on trial, two former big-time newspaper editors on trial?

What would that mean for the British press?

EVANS: I do think the British system is right to have respect for the individuals on trial. And it's much looser in the United States, but you very often get trial by newspaper in the U.S., which I don't approve of.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about further implications, as I said, because a lot of what's going on is also about is there going to be some kind of regulation of the British press? You know, to be clear, the United States has the First Amendment. There's almost blanket freedom in the U.S. to publish just about anything.

There are stricter laws here in Britain. But a huge hubbub over whether there should be some formal regulatory process, where do you come down on that?

EVANS: Oh, quite clear. I've always thought the First Amendment was a pretty good idea, actually.

And what Leveson proposed, in effect, was to create a kind of British First Amendment.

But I think the press is making a big mistake at the moment, at least large sections of the press are making a big mistake in caricaturing what Leveson said.


AMANPOUR: Well, what do you mean by that?

Harry, what do you mean by caricaturing and why do you think, if it's so good for the press, as you point out, why are they so resistant?

EVANS: Some of the circulation efforts of the British press, many of which I deplore, are actually the kind of thing that a regulator would make punishable by law. Now everybody keeps saying, oh, they could have prosecuted or stopped this by the ordinary criminal law.

Not so. A lot of the harassment, surveillance and following people that went on in this odious period in the British press would not have been easy to prosecute. And asking an ordinary individual who's -- like the Milly Dowler case, for instance, who's took a murdered girl, is suddenly the subject of intrusive press inquiries, tapping her cell phone.

Can you imagine that family going to law about that? Of course not.

So Leveson provided a remedy for the most heinous offenses.

AMANPOUR: So you think there should be some kind of regulation?

EVANS: Oh, I tell you what I do think. I think there should be what Leveson proposed, a First Amendment, and there should be voluntarily self- regulation by the press. Nobody is suggesting, nobody except some people in the press -- the state should never interfere with the freedom of the press. I've spent most of my career fighting for the freedom of the press.

I've been involved more often than most editors in fighting governments, to suppress things. And I see nothing in Leveson that needs to stop really good investigative journalism and exposure journalism.

And by the way, I've joined in this regard by the real hero of exposing hacking, Nick Davies of "The Guardian." And "The Guardian" was about the only paper which took it seriously.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk then about another issue that's exploded into the public and the politicians don't like this at all.

The whole Snowden NSA cascading leaks, it seems like every day we open another newspaper to find yet another revelation. You've just heard what Glenn Greenwald has been talking about.

Is there a responsibility by the press to be careful about what they publish as the British prime minister is saying?

EVANS: Well, I tell you, that is certainly true. And I don't think Alan Rusbridger is a reckless, careful terrorist saboteur, anything of the kind.

In all the cases I was involved in, where national security was inveighed against "The Sunday Times," and there are at least about four or five occasions, Northern Ireland being a particular example, there wasn't any real national security, when we exposed the real evil betrayals of Philby, the spy, the betrayals of him were outrageous.

But they were covered up and when we tried to do -- expose the cover- up, we were told that's national security. It wasn't. It was a national embarrassment to the people in power.

Having said that, I do not go along with the idea that an editor should publish anything that falls into his hands. That is not right.

And we have many murderous enemies out there. And I would personally -- and I don't think Alan -- I'm sure Alan Rusbridger would not do anything to lead to the murder and killing of innocent people.

AMANPOUR: I hear you loud and clear. Of course, Alan Rusbridger's the editor of "The Guardian," but do you think that the leaks are being just spewed out into the press?

Or do you see that there's any kind of culling, any kind of sort of, I don't know, care being taken over what's printed and what's not?

EVANS: I tell you, I think there is in responsible papers. Now "The Guardian" is a responsible paper.

My understanding -- and it's only my understanding -- is that what has been published so far is not so much the real anxiety and the governments are entitled to feel anxious because they have the duty to protect us.

And we'd yell like hell if they neglected it out of some, you know, libertarian idea, which I do not go along with.

But the -- I'm told that what's most concerning them is what has not yet been published but what has been downloaded by Snowden. So we can't judge it.

We always have to be very, very careful of what's called the Stasi principle -- my friend, Clive Irving (ph), a great investigative journalist said, he said, "The technical means expands to surveil the soul of the governments making use of it."

However, having said that, we do live in an age of particular threats from terrorism and anybody who takes that casually is betraying the principles of human decency and dignity, just as much as those who try to suppress embarrassing details coming out.

AMANPOUR: What do you make of the hullabaloo created over the alleged spying on Angela Merkel's mobile phone?

EVANS: I think it -- if I might put it this way, it's most unfortunate if tapping the phone or listening to Angela Merkel, we've better things to do.

I tell you one better thing we might do, government should -- the United States and Britain and the European should do something about cyber security where thousands of commercial secrets are stolen every day.

I'm not -- by name -- other countries, you know, China's the leader in this. But everybody does it.

So we -- the cyber security, ability to shut down airports and power lines and cause absolute chaos is a real threat to national security and I think much more serious a threat to national security than some sleuth trying to listen to Angela Merkel saying "Danke Schoen, mein freund. Wie geht es ihnen?"

AMANPOUR: Harry Evans, on that note, thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: And someone who's had his own adversarial relationship with the press was the late, great Lou Reed. He died yesterday at the age of 71.

The legendary and pioneering rocker was a famously fearsome interviewee turning more than one journalist into jelly with his spiky and confrontational style.

When we come back, we'll remember another world figure who's left the stage. But first, we'll leave you with a bit of Lou Reed's signature sound, always a "Walk on the Wild Side."




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, it seems sometimes as if democracy itself is on the defensive with the U.S. government and its allies glancing warily over their shoulders at each other. While a free press feels free to snoop wherever it likes.

Now imagine a world where a shy, devout intellectual took on an all- seeing, all-powerful leader and helped create Eastern Europe's first modern democracy.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki was a journalist and an activist when his native Poland was in the iron grip of Soviet Communism. And when Polish workers struck at the Gdansk shipyard back in 1980, launching the solidarity movement, Mazowiecki joined the protest. He became a trusted adviser to Lech Walesa's Solidarity's charismatic leader as the movement forced the Communists to relinquish power.

In 1989, a historic parliamentary election gave Solidarity seats at the table and Mazowiecki became Eastern Europe's first democratic prime minister, flashing that victory sign. While headliners demanded the ouster of all former Communists from the new government, Mazowiecki called for a thick line to separate its Communist past from Poland's future, allowing some former Communist officials to help build the new nation.

After he left office that same pragmatic humanity sent him to the embattled country of Bosnia in 1992. As a United Nations human rights envoy, he reported on the atrocities there. And after the massacre at Srebrenica that killed over 8,000 Muslim men and boys, he resigned in protest, adding his voice to the international outrage that then led to Western intervention.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki died today, a moral compass to the very end.

And that's it for tonight's program. Remember, you can always contact us at and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.