Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Michael Hayden; How America's 9th Most Dangerous City Became Safer; Interview with Bill Gates on Apple's Battle with the FBI, Climate Change. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 28, 2016 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:06] FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I am Fareed Zakaria.

We have an important show for you today. We will start with Apple versus the FBI. The White House plans to close Guantanamo, ISIS, and the most dangerous current threats facing the world. All that with the only man to have headed both the CIA and the NSA, Michael Hayden.

Then the richest man in the world, Bill Gates. The tech billionaire tells me his thoughts on the battle between Apple and the U.S. government, on the U.S. presidential race, and on why he is betting big to find a new energy source.


BILL GATES: It needs us to invest today.


ZAKARIA: Also, is there any way to prevent crime? Well, how about paying the would-be criminals not to commit crimes in the first place? A crazy idea or a workable solution? Find out.

But first, here's my take. It's time to quote W.B. Yates' famous poem again. "Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world."

This time it is really does seem that the political center is under intense pressure from left and right all over the Western world. In Britain David Cameron's center right government faces a revolt over his country's membership in the European Union. In Germany Angela Merkel's broad left-right coalition is being battered for her handling of migration.

Across Europe, governments that occupy the center ground find themselves struggling against energized movements from right and left.

In the United States as well, the centrists are under siege. Hillary Clinton faces the most serious left-wing challenge to a mainstream Democrat in decades. On the Republican side, the moderates have mostly collapsed. The party establishment is now coalescing around Senator Marco Rubio, who when elected was described as the first senator from the Tea Party.

The populists and radicals have filled space that major parties have vacated. You see after the end of the Cold War political parties in the West started moving to the center. Think of labor under Tony Blair or Bill Clinton's Democrats. The Republican Party is a partial exception to this rule, yet even there the last two GOP presidents, the Bushes, governed mostly from the center. Certainly enough so that they enraged their conservative supporters and fueled insurgencies.

Why are the centrists so vulnerable? The reality is that these moderate politicians have actually performed well in recent decades. Look at the challenges they faced from the integration of eastern Europe after the Cold War to wars in the Balkans to 9/11, the global financial crisis. They've managed to steer their countries through these difficult times.

The problem is that while they may be competent, centrists tend to be dull, practical types, and there is always a search for romance in politics. Even amid centrists' success, there are still enough problems to galvanize romantics who believe the answer is revolution.

For Bernie Sanders it is revolution from the left. For Ted Cruz it is one from the right. And Donald Trump almost magically mixes and matches the furies of both ends of the spectrum.

David Miliband, the former British Foreign minister, remains the most effective spokesman for Europe's modern center left. He argues that the left and right wing revolts stem from the same force -- globalization.

"The right has no good answer to the problem that globalization erodes people's identities," he told me. "The left has no good answer to the problem that globalization exacerbates inequality."

That leaves traditional politicians struggling to hold onto their supporters while outsiders promise easy answers. The easy answers are, of course, non-answers, and they mostly won't happen. The United States will not build a wall nor deport 11 million people nor place a ban on all Muslims entering the country. Britain will not leave the European Union.

But what is happening is political paralysis. The radicals and romantics might not have the power to overturn the centrists, but they can place them under relentless pressure.

David Cameron will spend the next months consumed with opposing the forces of so-called Brexit.

[10:05:02] In the United States, the country and its political leaders have now spent months debating fantasies. Meanwhile, there is no discussion of the important issues and the actual plausible policy options to deal with them regarding the global economic slowdown, massive infrastructure deficits, growing inequality, climate change among others.

Yates was wrong. The center can and does hold, but just barely. For more, go to and read my "Washington Post" column

this week. Let's get started.

I have lots to talk about with my guest, Michael Hayden, from the presidential race to Apple's battle with the FBI to drones. Hayden was the director of the National Security Agency and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the only guy to have held both of those jobs. He has a new book out called "Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror."

Mike Hayden, thanks for coming on.


ZAKARIA: So you were advising Jeb Bush.

HAYDEN: I was.

ZAKARIA: You have obviously no longer doing that.

HAYDEN: Right.

ZAKARIA: If Donald Trump were to get the Republican nomination and he were to call you and ask would you be on his national security team, would you?

HAYDEN: Wow. That would be a really tough question. I would have to think whether or not it would be worth it, whether or not a candidate, Trump, would be willing to listen to folks like me. He said a lot of things in the campaign that make me incredibly uncomfortable, and so I don't know that this would be something that I would naturally embrace.

On the other hand, you know, we all have responsibilities as citizens, so I'd have to take that into account, but I guess my out, Fareed, is I don't expect that to happen. I don't expect him to ask me.

ZAKARIA: What do you think of some of his proposals and one has to ask this question because he is the frontrunner in the Republican Party right now.


ZAKARIA: He says that he believes it would be very effective if he were to threaten and, indeed, kill the families of suspected or convicted terrorists.

HAYDEN: First of all, that's not consistent with the laws of armed conflict, with any sense of Western morality, and it's not very damn effective either. You know, we talk about fighting the close fight. I mean, we've got to do some things kinetically because there are dangers today but we always knew, Fareed, there are second and third order effects. We tried to meter them so that we got the primary effect.

He's not going to come kill us, but we don't create problems further down the road. My god, what kind of problems would an action like that create for not years but generations?

ZAKARIA: Let's talk about what else is in the news. You have said a couple of things that surprised me, Mike, which is that you had a lot of sympathy for Apple's position in the Apple v. FBI thing. I would have thought, you know, NSA-CIA --



ZAKARIA: You're -- the San Bernardino terrorist has a phone.

HAYDEN: Right.

ZAKARIA: The phone is the property of San Bernardino County. There may be information there about the next terrorist attack. Don't you want Apple to just unlock that phone?

HAYDEN: So I parse it out. It's not quite as simple as that. There is a broad approach by our government and Director Comey for reasons that should be clear because of his responsibilities, really wants baked into the operating system of Apple and other big companies a way that U.S. law enforcement under all the right rules, all right, court order and so on, can cut through even the very best encryption.

Now, my view, Fareed, as the former director of NSA, that creates a weakness in that encryption. So now the question becomes -- put the privacy stuff aside. I mean, I have views on that but no particular expertise. I'm a security guy. I actually think, Fareed, on raw security grounds America is a safer place with unbreakable end-to-end encryption, not encryption that may have been compromised by our government's effort to preserve access despite the very good encryption.

Now the government has chosen I think quite wisely if not cleverly to fight about on this one specific front, one particular phone, and here, Fareed, I am far more sympathetic with the government. I don't mean to be splitting the baby for you here, but I think these are two different issues. This can, as you suggest, be a one-off, specific, one phone, limited purpose, limited time warranted by the court.

What Tim Cook is arguing that this inevitably leads to that. But the burden of proof is on Tim to actually demonstrate that, and by the way, the government's position that this is a one-off is not helped when you see suggested as we have in the press that around the country there are about another dozen phones that are waiting for such a treatment, and even here in Manhattan, you've got the U.S. attorney saying, I've got a room full of these things that I want Apple to take care of after they're done in California.

[10:10:09] That cuts against the argument that this is just a one-off. But, again, on balance, in general no enabling baked into the encryption because it makes us all less secure, but I'm willing to listen to the argument why Apple has to be compelled to open this phone this time.


ZAKARIA: But you seem to be splitting the baby because the whole point -- you know, on the one side the government is saying, look, you can always open, you know, one phone, five, 10 phones, it doesn't compromise the whole system.

HAYDEN: Right.

ZAKARIA: And apple is saying, no, no, but it does. And you've got to have to choose between those two views.

HAYDEN: But the facts matter. I mean, look, this is the heart of my book. There were no easy answers. Everything involved a trade-off. Everything was a shade of gray. We've got a shade of gray, and I'll give you my broad principle. To the degree that this moves us in the direction of that, then I think I'm opposed to this. I'm willing to listen to this argument, though, that it doesn't necessarily lead to that.

By the way, it is equally offensive, I have already told you what disturbs me over here, it is equally uncomfortable for me, Fareed, to allow Apple to kind of take a position that under no circumstances at any time for any purpose will they ever help American law enforcement. That is also an unsustainable position.

ZAKARIA: Well, I guess the other way to ask this question, though, is, can you say -- can the iPhone, you know, 6 and onwards be the only warrant-proof product made in America? Anything else that is made in the United States, if a court orders you to open it whether it's a safe or computer or a box, you have to open it.

HAYDEN: You're looking at it too narrowly, all right? If American industry is prevented from building the unbreakable end-to-end encryption, the rest of the world's industry will do that, and then, Fareed -- we're going to legislate to stop technological progress. That's not a winning hand, and even if you could somehow do it here in North America, are you now going to criminalize the possession of a phone made in Denmark perhaps that actually has end-to-end unbreakable encryption? Do you see the dilemma that we have here?

And, again, I come back to the point, Fareed, on balance American security -- privacy, sure. But American security is better served. Look --


ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, bottom line.


ZAKARIA: If you had that phone, the San Bernardino phone, would you have gone to Tim Cook and said open this phone?

HAYDEN: I think I would have, and then I would have given Tim the opportunity to make the counter argument that, no, no, it's not just this. You can't make it just this. It's going to end up here. Fareed, the last three years Jim Clapper has testified, the director

of National Intelligence, all right, that the most serious threat to this country is cyber, not terrorism. And if you step back from this picture, we're actually thinking about degrading our ability a bit to defend us against our primary threat, cyber, in order to better defend us against some other threats. That's what makes this so complicated.

ZAKARIA: When we come back, we're going to talk about the president's plan to close Guantanamo Bay. We're going to talk about drones and we're going to talk about Hillary Clinton's e-mail server when we come back.


[10:17:52] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and the NSA.

Guantanamo Bay, you had to deal with this when you were running the CIA. The president says this is a stain on the United States. We have got to deal with it. Our allies keep pointing out that this is inconsistent with America as the beacon of freedom. Is he right?

HAYDEN: I don't think this is as clear and open and shut case as the president makes it to be.

Fareed, one of the arguments he says, that it's a recruitment magnet for jihadists. I don't think so. Picture a recruiting line for Raqqa, somebody tweets hey, they're going to close Guantanamo. I don't see anybody leaving the line. All right?

ZAKARIA: Why did George W. Bush also want to close it?

HAYDEN: We did. And that's a point I really want to emphasize. This is not the first two administration that's tried to reduce the population of Guantanamo. We did the same thing. It wasn't so much that it was a recruitment tool for jihadists. It's a point you just raised. It had more or less it's an issue with our allies, not with our enemies. It makes our allies uncomfortable.

Now keep in mind, Fareed, let's say the president is successful and -- I hope to God he's successful without creating a constitutional crisis, that we actually get a political agreement here, but let's say the president is successful and he moves these people to the United States. You realize he is still going to keep people indefinitely. There are some -- there are some forever prisoners in that bunch that are never going to see a court of law who are too dangerous to release but against whom we cannot martial a judicial process because of the rules of evidence, not because we lack confidence as to what they have done.

All right? And so this is only going to be a partial palliative to our allies' heartburn over our detention. The problem, Fareed, is not that we're keeping prisoners in Cuba. The problem is we believe we are a nation at war and that the laws of armed conflict apply to what it is we're doing. There's hardly a country in Europe that agrees with that, and so we believe, we get to kill people outside of internationally agreed theaters of conflict by targeted killings. None of our allies agree with that.

[10:20:05] And so it's not Guantanamo, it's not Cuba, it's this holistic view that we think we're a country at war and most of our best allies don't buy it.

ZAKARIA: One of the things that many people have felt is that the use of drones has become excessive under President Obama, that it has become a substitute for sending special operations because you don't want to endanger American troops, that rather than going after the very highest level of, you know, al Qaeda or ISIS operatives, it's being used routinely. You have huge spillover casualties, backlash in the local population. You still say you're pretty comfortable using drones.

HAYDEN: I am, and I push back on the premise hidden in your question about massive civilian casualties and so on. I have seen the numbers. None of those numbers comport with my personal life experience, but you bring up a great issue, all right? This may make war too easy, all right? And I'm not talking about here about the operators, Fareed.

You've got a young man or woman controlling an unmanned aerial vehicle staring down at a target for hours if not days, waiting for him to kiss his family good-bye, to get out of the compound before you take the strike. That's not easy. That exacts an incredible emotional stress on our young forces in the armed forces.

I'm talking about at the political level. At the political level it's an opportunity to do something and be seen as doing something without committing the political capital of putting Americans at risk, and I'm not in the business of putting Americans at risk, but you understand how attractive that might be at the political level.

ZAKARIA: If it's not important enough to send two special ops teams, then you should be asking yourself is it --

HAYDEN: Are you sure this is important enough to go do it? Yes. And by the way, it's not at the operational level. It's incredibly stressful there, believe me, I've seen it.

ZAKARIA: They say that those drone operators have the same PTSD that real pilots do, regular pilots.

HAYDEN: That's right. But it is a really attractive option at the policy level.

ZAKARIA: Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. Forget about the issue of whether she should have done it. Obviously, she shouldn't have done it. Do you think there is some real danger here in terms of a threat to national security? There are 55,000 e-mails she's released and it doesn't --


HAYDEN: Right. And we know there's some bleeding of what's been -- ZAKARIA: Right.


ZAKARIA: Originally identified as classified information.

HAYDEN: It wasn't originally marked --

ZAKARIA: Right. Right.

HAYDEN: You don't grow classification on the surface.

ZAKARIA: It wasn't originally marked, it was later marked.

HAYDEN: Right. Right.

ZAKARIA: But bottom line, sort of in substantive real terms, do you think there is a real danger?

HAYDEN: If I were still at NSA and someone told me Sergei Lavrov or someone like that --

ZAKARIA: The Russian foreign minister.

HAYDEN: Had a personal e-mail account that was just his unclassified stuff, I'd have moved heaven and earth. Think of the insights that a foreign service would get even to unclassified information. I don't mean to be suggesting we may or may not do anything against the Russian foreign minister. I'm just saying Secretary Clinton is a legitimate foreign intelligence target, and her personal, OK, government, but unclassified, just assuming that to be true, e-mails would be of great interest to a foreign intelligence service.

And, Fareed, to round it out, I would lose respect for a whole bunch of intelligence services around the world if they weren't thumbing through the pile now.

ZAKARIA: Mike Hayden, always a pleasure to talk to you.

HAYDEN: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Next on GPS for centuries societies have wondered what is the best way to discourage criminals from committing crimes?

Well, one city in America is trying a novel idea. Paying the would-be criminals to stay out of trouble. Is it working? It actually seems to be. I'll explain.


[10:27:51] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. Here is a strange idea for you. What if cities paid likely criminals not to commit crimes? Think it sounds crazy?

Well, Washington, D.C., may start doing just that. After murders in the nation's capital went up 54 percent last year, the city council recently voted for a crime bill that includes a provision to give money to those who are most likely to commit acts of violence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All those in favor of the amendment in the nature of a substitute say aye.


ZAKARIA: Two hundred people per year could receive payments in conjunction with mentorship and therapy.

Criticism of the proposal has been withering, as you might imagine, and the bill is not certain to go through, but here is a really crazy part. Another city has run a similar program for several years paying out tens of thousands of dollars, and it appears to be working.

In 2007 the bay area city of Richmond, California, was the ninth most dangerous city in the United States. Things were so bad the city official thought about asking the National Guard to be sent in. Instead, they created the Office of Neighborhood Safety, a new department separate from law enforcement that would focus on reaching out to the community to fight gun violence.

DeVone Boggan, the head of the program, says he discovered a game- changing data point a few years in. About 70 percent of the gun crimes in the city were caused by only 28 people in 2009. If you could reach those 28 individuals, Boggan thought, maybe you could bring down the crime rate. So Boggan and his team spent weeks trying to find those young men, gathering almost two dozen of them for an unlikely meeting at city hall he says. They were offered a deal. To join an intensive multifaceted program of mentoring and therapy known as the Peacemaker Fellowship.

If they stayed with it for six months, they could earn as much as $1,000 per month over the nine months that followed. All of them accepted the deal and the results since then, Boggan says, have been remarkable.

Of the 68 who have participated in the program since 2010, 79 percent have not been suspected of a gun crime. Remember, these are the worst of the worst in Richmond. what's more, since Boggan's department was created, homicides have plummeted from 2007 to 2014. Firearm assaults also dropped dramatically during that period.

But what about the cost of doling out thousands of dollars to would-be criminals?

Boggan argues that his program is chump change compared to the current price tag for gun violence.

In 2015 Mother Jones published a fascinating investigation breaking down the costs of American shootings, from hospitalizations to legal fees to imprisonment. Each gun homicide cost taxpayers almost $400,000 on average.

The total cost of gun violence, including the financial impact on the victims, came to over $229 billion per year in 2012, more expensive than obesity and just a bit less than federal Medicaid spending.

Boggan's program spends, on average, $70,000 every year on the stipends for all of its participants, on average, he says.

But what about the moral argument? Should we really be paying people to be virtuous?

Boggan argues that, if anyone needs the extra help, it's the individuals in his program. They are forgotten members of society with hardly any support from parents, schools or their communities.

Besides, let's face it, our current approach to crime isn't really working. Maybe we need some innovative ideas to save taxpayer money and American lives.

Up next, the world's richest man, Bill Gates, founded the world's biggest software company, Microsoft. I will talk to him about the battle between Apple and the FBI, and I'll ask him what he thinks of Donald Trump in the White House.


ZAKARIA: Earlier in the week I had a chance to sit down with the world's richest man, Bill Gates. There is, as always, much to talk to him about, from the American presidential race to his bold new bet to find the fuel source or technology that will wean us all off carbon. We'll get to all that in a moment.

But first, I wanted this man, who made his billions in information technology, to tell me what he thought about Apple's battle with the FBI, which needs special access to the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone.

Apple, as you know, is thus far refusing to help. Gates made headlines this week for backing the FBI. He said those headlines did not correctly characterize his views. Listen carefully to what he told me and you be the judge.


ZAKARIA: When you were running Microsoft, if the FBI had come to you and said, "There's a Microsoft computer here; we have a court order; we need you to open up this computer because we need to see what information is in there," would you have complied?

BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT, AND CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Well, I think any company, when the final judicial ruling issues, will -- will comply. I don't think there's anyone who's saying that they'll disobey a court order. Whether they think, in general, the government should be blind to all activity and that -- that there's no real legitimate function to get at information or that the safeguards aren't there, you know, then you have to say, well, what about ever collecting taxes or stopping child pornography, or, perhaps most importantly, as terrorism moves from conventional approaches to nuclear and biological, who are you counting on to find out early and make sure it doesn't happen? So there -- there are issues about safeguards. The U.S. government,

under J. Edgar Hoover and other cases, did take this right of surveillance and not use it entirely tastefully. And so, you know, I think most people hope that the safeguards are appropriate so that the government isn't -- isn't totally blind.

ZAKARIA: The argument one could make is, well, Apple shouldn't be deciding this issue of privacy; yes, there should be privacy; the government should be very careful with this data, but those are decisions to be made by the elected representatives of government, not by a private company?

GATES: Well, and even Apple would agree. I don't think Apple is going to defy -- you know, maybe they'll take it all the way to the Supreme Court to make sure the government really insists and that it's totally the government's responsibility and that they can say, "OK, we -- either we don't like the safeguards of this country or we don't like the safeguards of other countries and, hey, we resisted this, but we had no -- no choice."

Other than -- so I think, at the end of the day, the government will decide about this, and in the meantime, the debate about, oh, do we have the right safeguards in place; what is the role of government in terms of being able to see bad things or enforce its laws, you know, that's all been -- although I disagreed with specific things that go on, the idea that this has become more of a discussion of, "Hey, we didn't have safeguards for the FBI a long time ago; what do we have now" -- I doubt we'll go in the direction of saying, "OK, let's make the government blind because they messed up in the past," but the overall discussion is worthwhile.

ZAKARIA: Do you feel like we're entering a kind of brave new world with digital that is scary, where so much of our lives exists on these devices, so much of the information is available?

Does that feel to you, like, liberating? Does it feel to you like it's worrying?

GATES: Well, most of those things are -- are incredibly valuable, the ability to pick music as you choose, the ability to remember your kids growing up and go back and look at that stuff anytime you want. Electronic medical records will let us find disease patterns and say, OK, you know, exercise really does count, or certain nutritional things do, or actually, you know, a little bit of wine actually isn't -- isn't that bad for you.

So I'm -- I see the potential, as long as you have the safeguards. The place where technology is the most daunting to people I wouldn't say is so much privacy as it is the labor substitution, where a lot of the jobs in the economy, eventually a computer with better than human vision and better than human manipulation skills will outcompete the labor function.

ZAKARIA: So then that leads me to the question of the current presidential race. What do you think of what you're seeing right now in the -- in the presidential race? GATES: Well, the issues that I'm really in depth on are really two,

because of my full-time work at the foundation. One is the role of foreign aid in lifting up poor countries in health and agriculture and other things and the incredible value that the rich countries, including the United States, have had in helping those countries, and that we're getting smarter about doing that. And Melinda and I have chosen to put a lot of our money against those same causes in partnership. So that generosity is important to me.

In 2008 both Obama and McCain committed to generous foreign aid, and it's great when that type of U.S. leadership, the greatness of the U.S. helping lift other people up, that that's a very positive thing.

I'm not sure, in this election, will we end up with a mutual commitment to engage internationally in that way or not? I'm hopeful on that.

ZAKARIA: I'm guessing Donald Trump would not be in favor of generous foreign aid to help foreigners?

GATES: It will be interesting because, if you want to help people in their own countries and be happy in their own countries, you know, maybe that is a good thing in some way. And, honestly, it is America's...

ZAKARIA: If you can help...

GATES: ... at its best. The -- the Marshall plan that helped rebuild Europe, and business-type thinking that measures this stuff, makes sure it's well spent, that is happening, and we're part of a whole movement towards being more open about which policies don't work and which ones do.


ZAKARIA: Up next, Bill Gates and some of the other richest men and women in the world are putting their money where their mouths are. They're teaming up to tackle climate change but in a novel way. Gates will explain when we come back.


ZAKARIA: This week Bill Gates and his wife Melinda released their annual letter in which they lay out the priorities for their foundation for the year and the challenges they want to tackle with their vast sums of money.

For Bill, it is energy. He is concerned about the long-term impact of global warming and wants to wean the world off carbon-based fuels. But he believes that current approaches are too incremental. We need a Big Bang, a new miracle energy source that has almost no emissions and is cheaper than coal.

So he called up a bunch of his billionaire friends and asked them to form an investment fund called the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to do what the rest of the private sector won't, put money into energy long- shots that could fail in a big way or succeed in a big way.

The group includes the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros and Richard Branson. It's a bold bet. Listen to him explain why it is so important.


ZAKARIA: You studied the scientific literature very carefully. Do you think global warming is a reality and is man-made and is an urgent problem?

GATES: Yeah, there's no doubt about those things. It's only urgent in the sense that the amount of time to solve the problem is so long. That is, the -- the problems caused by climate change in the next 20, 30 years, are not that dramatic, but because, when you emit CO2, it stays in the atmosphere for literally hundreds of years, you've got to revamp your energy system that's creating those emissions. And the people who follow this remind us how long it takes to make a change. So it's a long-lead-time problem, but it -- it needs us to invest today.

ZAKARIA: And so what you're saying is that the only way we could actually bend this curve in a significant way and get it to the place where global warming will not pose a threat to the planet is to have a new source of energy that is plentiful and that is cheaper than coal, which is currently the cheapest energy, right?

GATES: Exactly. So we need to find a path. So one path would be to reduce the costs of today's solar and wind by another factor of three, and then to have a magic storage solution that meant that, over the course of a day or the the course of weeks, when you can have no wind, that the energy is still available.

So that storage approach, that's one way we could go -- or there are scientists working on taking the sun and, instead of making electricity, making gasoline directly from the sun. And that's magical because we know how to store liquid hydrocarbons, gasoline, in big tanks, and send them around in pipelines.

If nuclear fission was cheaper and dramatically safer, which -- that's the next generation there is called the fourth generation, and I'm invested in one of the companies working towards that, that would also be a -- a great solution.

ZAKARIA: Why did you think you needed to collect a bunch of billionaires to fund this?

Shouldn't governments be doing that? Isn't that what governments should be doing with our tax revenues?

GATES: Well, there's a -- a very good debate about the role of government. In basic research, there's not much debate because you can't make money on it, and so you get bipartisan funding. As soon as you move away from basic research to the early companies and the loans that they get and the grants that they get, you're getting into a gray area which feels uncomfortable for some people in terms of picking winners and, you know, is it more influence than merit and those things? And so that's why, in order to encourage the governments to step up, I said that the risk-taking part that the private side -- there are a number of people who are wealthy enough to bear the risk and care about this issue came together and committed billions of dollars in funding for the companies that spin out from the research.

So that's the Breakthrough Energy Coalition. And I was amazed. Virtually everybody I called up said yes right away. And so we ended up with a pretty large group, and now that we've got our funds structured, we'll also go to endowments and some corporations and bring them in as well to make it as large as we can.

ZAKARIA: Bill Gates, pleasure to have you on.

GATES: Thank you.


ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," it may not be making fuel from the sun as Bill Gates is hoping for, but one desert kingdom is trying to wean itself off oil by making the most of its very sunny location. I'll tell you more when we come back.


ZAKARIA: This week President Obama announced his plan to close the military prison at the American naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It brings me to my question, when did the United States first lease the 45 square miles of land and water at Guantanamo Bay and why?

Is it 1823, a slave transfer station; 1846, a naval base for the Mexican-American war; 1903, a coaling, or fueling, station; or 1927, an airmail stopover station?

Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer.

This week's book of the week is not a book, though it's book-length. It's a magazine, the journal Foreign Affairs just published it's March/April issue, and it has a terrific set of essays on economics: Larry Summers on the great slowdown, Tyler Cowen on the end of innovation, Ruchir Sharma on demographics, Zachary Karabell on lessons from Japan, and lots more on politics and diplomacy as well. It's well worth subscribing to Foreign Affairs, or just buy this issue off the newsstands.

And now for the last look. You just heard Bill Gates talk about his quest for an energy miracle. Well, halfway around the world, the king of Morocco pressed a button and turned on what will be the world's largest concentrated solar plant. Even before half of the project is finished, it is already visible from space, as NASA points out.

The Noor power plant works by using parabolic mirrors to focus the sun's energy onto pipelines carrying fluid. The hot fluid gets turned into steam which then turns turbines, much like many conventional sources of electricity. The plant can operate when it's cloudy or at night, as the fluid also heats molten salts which continue to generate steam for hours.

Concentrated solar power has been used for over 30 years right here in the United States. In Morocco, once completed, the Noor complex will produce enough power to supply clean energy to 1.1 million people by 2018, as the World Bank points out.

So why aren't there more solar projects like this, especially in places like Morocco that are full of deserts? According to the World Bank, it's been seen by some as too expensive compared to fossil fuel alternatives.

But think about it this way. We're never going to run out of solar power. Every six hours more solar energy reaches the world's deserts than all of humanity uses in an entire year.

The correct answer to the "GPS Challenge" question is "C." One hundred thirteen years ago this week, on February 23rd, 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt signed an agreement with the Cubans to lease lands in Cuba for coaling and naval stations. The coaling part means resupplying vessels with the fuel that made their engines run. The agreement said Cuba would be given protection for its people and recognition of its newly declared independence. The relationship, of course, changed when Fidel Castro took over in 1959. In fact, Fidel and his brother reportedly have refused to cash the annual $4,085 rent checks the United States pays for Guantanamo as a protest.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.