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NSA Leak Terror Risk; Of Books, Libraries and Imagination; Imagine a World

Aired October 29, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


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

America's shadowy spy apparatus seems to be hogging the limelight, unwillingly, of course. The top two U.S. intelligence chiefs were grilled today on Capitol Hill.

Their testimony comes amid the political scandal that has exploded over tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel's telephone and apparently those of dozens of other world leaders, friend and foe alike, not to mention tens of millions of calls made by ordinary people across the globe.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, vigorously denied the agencies were doing anything wrong.


JAMES R. CLAPPER JR., DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: What we do not do is spy unlawfully on Americans or, for that matter, spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country. We only spy for valid foreign intelligence purposes as authorized by law with multiple layers of oversight to ensure we don't abuse our authorities.


AMANPOUR: But also in Washington today, the vice president of the European Commission warned that it is, quote, "urgent and essential" that Washington mend broken bridges.

"Friends and partners do not spy on each other," she said.

After months of revelations by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama, is now ordering a review of U.S. intelligence practices. The president insists that strict laws govern spying in the United States, but admits it's much murkier for U.S. intelligence operating internationally.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I've said, and I said actually even before the Snowden leaks, is that it's important for us to make sure that as technology develops and expands and the capacity for intelligence gathering becomes a lot greater, that we make sure that we're doing things in the right way and that are reflective of our values.


AMANPOUR: But the president hasn't indicated where he stands on a number of intelligence gathering changes demanded by leading senators, including chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She's long been a vocal supporter of the NSA's activities, but she's come out fighting against spying on friends.

"Let me state unequivocally, I am totally opposed," she says.

Yesterday on this program, Glenn Greenwald, who published the Snowden leaks, again insisted the disclosures prove that U.S. surveillance has gone overboard.


GLENN GREENWALD, "THE GUARDIAN": 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.


AMANPOUR: And just now another wrinkle: a report that it was the intelligence services of those U.S. allies themselves, such as Spain and France, that conducted the electronic spying that has caused so much controversy in those two countries these past few days. And then those intelligence services, we understand, shared their information with the NSA.

Now Tom Gjelten is a national security correspondent for National Public Radio in the United States and he joins me now from Washington.

Tom, thank you very much for joining me.

What can you tell me first about -- because I know you've been --



AMANPOUR: -- you've been tweeting and talking about what the U.S. might say about this report, that it was France and Spain who gathered up all that information on their own citizens.

GJELTEN: Right. Well, Christiane, these -- as you just said, these reports that were published in French and Spanish newspapers caused a huge outrage, a huge reaction in those countries and led to these allegations that the United States is now spying not only on Americans but on French and Spanish citizens.

But according to General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, who testified this afternoon on Capitol Hill, he said that the reporters that said that that was the case actually completely misunderstood the documents they were looking at.

General Alexander said that the documents actually reported on intercepts of telephone calls that did not, one, did not involve European citizens; they involved people outside Europe.

And, two, they were gathered not just by the NSA, but by the NSA, by the United States and its European allies.

So that puts these allegations in a whole different light. It really, Christiane, it really underscores the difficulty of relying as reporters, of relying on documents whose background you don't completely understand. These are documents that were apparently taken out of context.

AMANPOUR: So what does that mean now in the midst of this political uproar in Washington with certainly a couple of senators wanting to change the whole idea of the big metadata dragnet, of Dianne Feinstein, on her side saying no more spying on friends like Angela Merkel.

Does that make -- is that going to change that?

GJELTEN: Well, Christiane, the thing is that there are many aspects of this controversy. This did not involve the issue of spying on heads of state. We've had these reports that the United States has spied on presidents of Brazil and Mexico, prime ministers of -- the chancellor of Germany, as you said, Angela Merkel. That's a whole separate case. That controversy is going to continue.

The United States has implicitly -- U.S. officials have implicitly acknowledged that some of that spying has taken place. But they even defended it. General Clapper, the head of the -- the director of national intelligence, pointed out in his testimony today that it's sometimes important to know about what he called leadership intentions.

So that's a separate controversy; that will continue. That will have to be dealt with and Senator Feinstein and other members of Congress are certain to want to deal with the issue of the collection of phone records and email records in the United States or involving U.S. citizens as well.

So this news that there was some overblowing of the reports about United States spying on French and Spanish citizens, that might be now taken care of, but there are plenty other issues that will keep this controversy alive.

AMANPOUR: Tom Gjelten, thank you so much for joining me from Washington with that. Thanks very much indeed.

And there are still concerns that leaks are increasing the risk of international terrorism by revealing surveillance methods.

Richard Barrett is the former director of global counterterrorism operations for the British intelligence service, and he's also the former U.N. coordinator for the team that monitors Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and he joins me live now from Islamabad in Pakistan.

Richard Barrett, thank you very much for joining me.

You heard just now what Tom Gjelten has been saying, national security correspondent in the United States. That in general, a lot of this spying in Europe on citizens -- we're not talking about world leaders now -- has been by those intelligence services themselves.

What can you tell me about the methodology of surveillance?

RICHARD BARRETT, FORMER DIRECTOR, BRITISH INTELLIGENCE SERVICE: Well, I can say that some threats are transnational and they affect many more than one country. And I think it's absolutely natural that those countries that those threats do affect join forces in trying to get some analysis of what they are, what they mean and how imminent they might be.

So I don't think it's at all surprising that United States, Spain and France, in this case, might have seen particular threats as common threats and joined forces to look at them.

AMANPOUR: And what can you tell us about the whole issue of foreign leaders being tapped and being bugged, not just foes but friends alike? This is -- as you know, exploded into a big public controversy since the revelations about Angela Merkel.

Is that sort of business as usual? Is that what leaders expect?

BARRETT: Well, I think the various continuums at work here, you know, you all countries have friends, they have allies. They have rivals. They have enemies. And it depends where your target country appears on that continuum I think as to how you might approach gathering information about it.

There's absolutely no doubt that one of the roles of the State Department, for example, will be to report on what they understand to be the leadership intentions in Germany. Germany's obviously a very close friend of the United States.

So there's another continuum at work there from purely overt collection of information through to covert. And the third continuum I think which plays into this is the continuum between risk and dividend.

So clearly if you want to know the leadership intentions of your good friend, Germany, you will rely first and foremost on overt means. And I can't say what the American policy would be beyond that. But you can see what I'm trying say, that there are these various gradations when you look at any particular area of interest for any government or foreign ministry.

AMANPOUR: Now tell me from your experience, what is the percentage, if you like, of intelligence gathering on anti-terrorism kind of intelligence gathering and spying and other kind of, whether it's industrial espionage or commercial or any kind of -- other kind of rivalries' information that leaders want to get?

BARRETT: Yes, well, I think all countries, all governments set targets for their intelligence services, information where they want to collect. And after 9/11, of course, that changed dramatically so that terrorism which might have typically attracted, say, less than 10 percent of resources, suddenly attracted 60 percent or more of resources. And that, I think, was true in very many countries.

And that required a huge amount of pitching of other intentions targets to focus on this new transnational threat. And although that may have died down a little bit, I still think that the threats from terrorism, from organized crime generally, now cyber crime for example, drugs and so on, I think these are very major targets for most of the major intelligence services.

AMANPOUR: So let me play you a little bit of what Prime Minister David Cameron has said about this current uproar.


DAVID CAMERON, PRIME MINISTER, GREAT BRITAIN: I can see what has been done here, where information has been published about the work of our security and intelligence services, which, quite frankly, will make this country less safe.


AMANPOUR: So that is what the British are saying. It's certainly what the Americans are saying.

Is there any evidence that you've been able to see or hear about that supports that allegation?

BARRETT: Well, I have heard, yes, that the ability to track terrorist conversations and communications has degraded a little bit since those revelations came about.

Whether that's because they've switched techniques or whether it's because they've been more careful and more quiet, I'm not sure. I don't have access to that sort of information.

But clearly anything that reveals sources and methods that is heard by a target will change a target's behavior. And this will be true with terrorists as with any other target with the intention services may have.

So obviously, intelligence services prefer to deal in secrecy, do their work in secret and not be uncovered. So when there is any exposure of that, sources and methods, there will be a consequence for them.

AMANPOUR: And I asked you this because Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, the others, have said, listen, common sense shows that all these terrorists know that they're routinely being monitored, listened to. They just know it and so the fact that we have revealed that is nothing new. What's new is the number of ordinary citizens around the world who are being monitored.

What can you tell me about -- how do you react to what Glenn Greenwald says about what the terrorists know?

BARRETT: Yes, well, we all use the Internet, all right? We all use email and we all know that any email we send can probably be read quite easily by somebody else, should they be determined to read it.

But it doesn't stop us having that exchange of intimacy over email, which email encourages. You sort of tend to think it's a sort of one-to- one private communication.

And I think what terrorists are saying, obviously they're much more careful than the average person. They will use communication methods. They'll get careless occasionally. They'll make slipups. They'll reveal telephone numbers and things like that until they're reminded, look, this is dangerous. This is affecting us directly. We'd better be more careful. And then they close up again.

AMANPOUR: Richard Barrett, thank you so much indeed for joining me from Islamabad.


AMANPOUR: And while brand USA is under siege for snooping on America's allies, back in the 1960s, that quintessential American export, rock 'n' roll, helped spark a democratic revolution.

We started this week marking the death of Lou Reed, the legendary rocker whose music influenced David Bowie and a host of other artists.

It also had a profound effect on Vaclav Havel, shown here together with Lou Reed in Prague back in 2005. In the 1960, Reed's band, The Velvet Underground, became the soundtrack for the underground movement that brought down communication and made Havel a playwright and a dissident the first democratic president of the Czech Republic.

And when we come back, another lifelong fan of Lou Reed's, the author, Neil Gaiman. He'll tell us about his true love, books, which have become a cause worth fighting for, word by word.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And changing gears, we're going to talk about books and words.

Europe's newest and largest library has recently opened in Birmingham right here in England, and who opened it? None other than Malala Yousafzai. She's the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban because of her love of books and learning. And her fight for girls' rights to an education in Pakistan.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, EDUCATION ACTIVIST: A world without books is like a body without a soul. And I say a city without books and a city without library is like a graveyard.

Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.


AMANPOUR: I interviewed Malala and I felt first-hand the power of a child with a book. But she also exemplifies the threat that anyone with a book poses to extremists everywhere. It's no coincidence that burning books is often one of the first acts of a dictatorship. Burning books is like burning memory, history, a people's very existence, as I witnessed when Sarajevo's magnificent Austro-Hungarian library was shelled and burned during the Bosnian War.

The heroism, though, of ordinary citizens making up a bucket brigade to douse and save their books, their treasures, is perhaps an even more powerful statement.

Now the novelist and screenwriter Neil Gaiman has made a passionate case for the power of books, of libraries and of imagination. In a lecture presented by the British advocacy group, The Reading Agency, earlier this month, Gaiman says that leaders who would close libraries in the name of ideology -- or in the name of austerity -- are closing the gates to the future.

And Neil Gaiman joins me live now in the studio.

Thank you for being here.

NEIL GAIMAN, AUTHOR AND SCREENWRITER: Thank you for inviting me.

AMANPOUR: So with your passion, just how did you react listening to Malala? You know, she's 16 making such a convincing case.

It's so convincing and it's so true. That's the -- it's one of the things that absolutely fascinates me like right now, is giving books to kids, educating the young, giving them access to reading and to fiction is one of the most important things we can possibly do.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it is really under threat?

GAIMAN: Yes. I really do. And I think it's under threat, though, not because of evil. I think it's under threat because, A, you have austerity and, B, there is an absolutely mistaken idea that a library is shelves of books somewhere and why do you need shelves of books? You can have a million books on your iPad, so why would you worry about this thing? Let's close it and save money.

And it misses everything I think that libraries are good for and librarians are good for and libraries as common spaces, libraries as places where you can discover what you like, where a child can walk along, pull books off a shelf, where those who are not Internet savvy can go and discover books.

AMANPOUR: And you've talked about the unique experience, the journey, the imagination that books, libraries, can give a child.

Tell me about that.

GAIMAN: I was -- I was a booky kid. I will never forget the joy of getting my parents to drop me off at the local library on their way to work and just going in and reading my way through the children's library, going and exploring in the card catalog back when they had card catalogs, pulling books off the shelf and then nervously edging out into the adult world.

And dealing with librarians, discovering the joy of things like the inter-library loan, where you can tell them you want a book they don't have, and they will go and get it for you.


GAIMAN: Absolute magic.

And I think the most important thing is that you are teaching a child how to imagine. The imagination, it's a muscle. It's a really important thing. If you want to build the future, if you want to create a literate generation, if you want to create a generation that is not criminal.

AMANPOUR: Before I get to the cover of what you've just brought in, I want to just follow up on what you've just said, and you've quoted it before, what Albert Einstein said, that "If you want your children to be intelligent," he said, "read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

GAIMAN: What I love about that is it's telling you a bunch of things. First of all, it's tell you read to children. I think that's an obligation.

I think as parents, as friends, as adults, the joy of reading to children, the joy of doing the voices, the joy of finding some time where you are not being distracted by telephones, by televisions, by all of the glorious distractions of the 21st century and you make some time and you read and tell stories, is huge.

And it tells children that they can go into these books, into these forest of words. They can take these 26 symbols and a handful of punctuation marks and build them into stories themselves.

AMANPOUR: And you've spoken very convincingly, for instance, to students in the United States, among others, and I was really struck by what you said about the perils of success and the virtues of making mistakes and failures and learning.

And you said that once upon a time, you misspelled the name Caroline, and from that, I presume, came "Coraline," your book --

GAIMAN: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: -- and the famous, famous film. Tell me a little bit about mistakes and what kids should know growing up.

GAIMAN: I think what you need to -- one of the things you need to know is that mistakes are fine. There's nothing wrong with mistakes. Mistakes demonstrate that you're actually out in the world and you're doing something. You are active. You're engaged.

I worry because I meet people who want to be writers and they want to be artists or they want to be musicians, but they're sure it has to be perfect. And that terror of trying to be perfect stops them doing anything. They do nothing.

What I try and tell people is use your mistakes. Treasure your mistakes.

I remember typing a letter to somebody named Caroline and looking down and I'd mistyped it into Coraline. And I thought, that should be a name. What a great name! I wonder what somebody like that will be like? And the next thing, I wrote my book and then seven years later I'm at the Academy Awards seeing if we were going to win. We didn't. But it was great.


AMANPOUR: What about, you know, scaring the pants out of children?

GAIMAN: Oh, I think --

AMANPOUR: With that book?

GAIMAN: It's such a great English tradition, though, great British tradition. It -- I -- for me, it was "Doctor Who." For me, as a little kid, it was the joy of watching "Doctor Who" from behind the sofa where they couldn't get out and get you. And it taught me something really fun, which is it's OK to be scared in small doses. It's OK to be scared safely. And it teaches you to be brave.

"Coraline" is all about being brave.

AMANPOUR: And you brought "Sandman."

GAIMAN: I did.

AMANPOUR: That's your comic.

GAIMAN: It's the first --

AMANPOUR: It's the first one that's come out in more than a decade.

GAIMAN: It is. I wrote the last --

AMANPOUR: -- if we can --

GAIMAN: -- "Sandman" in 1996, it was published. And now it's the 25th anniversary. And I thought, 25 years after the first one came out, I have to come go back and write more. So I'm getting six episodes and the beautiful covers, some of the most wonderful art by a glorious artist named Jay H. Williams III (ph). And I'm -- and the fun thing is getting to bring these characters out again.

AMANPOUR: Well, it's really great to talk to somebody who has such a passion for not just obviously what you do, but for the words and for the libraries and we're going to take a short break, but we're going to come back, and we're going to do a tribute to libraries.

Stick around.


AMANPOUR: And prophets of doom who predicted the demise of libraries can look back exactly 44 years ago today, when a simple message "LO" was sent between two computers linked by a network that came to be known as the Internet. The message was meant to say "log in." But the system crashed after only the first two letters.

An omen perhaps, that for all its promise the Internet cannot replace another search engine that never failed and only requires a card and an imagination?

We'll explore that, as I said, when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, with Neil Gaiman as our guide, we've just explored the creative power of books and the quiet places where we can read, think and dream.

So again imagine a world without libraries. In the age of the Internet search engine, when one click can take you from Plato's cave to the planet Pluto, some fear that the library was a dinosaur doomed to extinction.

But a new history of library architecture by James Campbell with beautiful pictures by Will Price reminds us that libraries have always been a citadel of learning in a sea of change. In the Middle Ages, public libraries like this on in Italy were rare and the books were so large and so precious they were kept chained to the desks.

Thanks to Gutenberg and the printing press at the dawn of the Renaissance, books became more acceptable, able to be displayed on shelves like these at the Codrington Library at Oxford University.

And libraries like this one in Paris, once the exclusive preserve of monks, became public spaces, where scholars, students and book lovers could sit for hours with the world an open book. From the ornate book-lined walls of an Austrian abbey to an ultramodern incarnation in China, libraries remain very much alive.

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