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U.S. Intelligence Officials Testify on Cyberattacks; Collapse of Mosul Dam Could Kill Millions; The Human Body's "New" Organ

Aired January 5, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET



[14:00:10] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, united front, intelligence chiefs take a stand in Washington saying there is no chance

that Russia didn't hack into the U.S. presidential election. Will Donald Trump still trash those officials after they show him what they've got this


Washington's ambassador to London Matthew Barzun tells me things might be different once he takes office.


MATTHEW BARZUN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO LONDON: Let's wait until the president- elect becomes president. I think, you know, campaigning is one thing, transition is another and actually governing is a different thing.


AMANPOUR: Also ahead, the danger and the dam. Journalist Dexter Filkins on why ISIS may not be the biggest threat to millions of Iraqis.

Plus, imagining the scientific discovery that's shining new light on to how our bodies work.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

It is a strange new world in Washington, one where U.S. intelligence officials are defending their work from attacks by their own President-

elect Donald Trump who seems to be siding instead with a foreign adversary, Vladimir Putin. Leaders of the intelligence services testified today on

Capitol Hill focusing mostly on Russia's cyber attacks into the U.S. election process.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, stood by the community's conclusion saying nothing big happens in Russia without Putin's



JAMES CLAPPER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: This was a multi-facetted campaign so the hacking was only one part of it. And it also entailed the

classical propaganda, disinformation and fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that continue?



AMANPOUR: Now Senator Lindsey Graham use his time to take a shot at both Putin and Trump.


LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Putin is up to no good and he better be stopped. And Mr. President-elect, when you listen to

these people, you can be skeptical but understand they are the best among us and they are trying to protect us.


AMANPOUR: In a statement, President Putin spokesman says Russia is sick and tired of being blamed.

So now let's go straight to Washington and CNN Stephen Collinson.

Stephen, you've been up there covering all of this. I guess the thing everybody is waiting to hear is whether Donald Trump will accept the

intelligence community's conclusions once they brief him tomorrow. We understand that President Obama is being briefed right now.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN SENIOR ENTERPRISE REPORTER: That's right, Christiane. That's really the key question. Clearly, it's very difficult

to get inside Donald Trump's head. He's so unpredictable. But I think this hearing has further eroded his political position on this issue. He's

really isolated on his own, doubting the fact of this hack, doubting the fact the Russians perpetrated it. United against the defense, the

intelligence and the political establishment in Washington.

I think he has two choices, either he continues to brazen it out to deny what other people would regard as clear facts. We've seen him do that over

and over again, not just in his campaign but in his presidential transition, or does he find a way to finesse a way out of this to accept,

look, the evidence suggests this happens but now it's time for us to create a new relationship with Russia. We can't continue in this contentious

manner in which we've been going on. Now we have to rebuild.

I think that's a possible political way out of this with Donald Trump, but as you know who knows what he's going to decide to do.

AMANPOUR: And you talk about an unprecedented situation where Donald Trump sort of in this case arrayed against his own party as well as the Democrats

and much of the international community.

Do you think this whole issue of Russia could, you know, herald an early confrontation between the president and Congress, you know, much earlier

confrontation than anybody might have thought?

COLLINSON: Yes, I think it's actually unfolding as we speak. This hearing today was a manifestation of that. You had the intelligence community

align with top Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham on The Hill.

You have Graham, McCain uniting with a number Democratic senators to propose and vote on early in the new Congress's term more sanctions on

Russia, which would go completely against Donald Trump's stated political philosophy of improving relations with Russia. That would set up the

prospect of the new Republican president having to veto sanctions that were imposed by a Republican Congress, which is an extraordinary situation.

[14:05:04] But here's where it stands. Unless Donald Trump changes his position in the coming days, he's going to take office having put more

stock in the views of Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange, both of which are viewed in Washington as sworn U.S. enemies, than he does in the U.S.

intelligence chiefs and spies on the ground all over the world. It's quite a remarkable situation, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Stephen, thank you so much.

And, indeed, James Clapper and the others up there in the intelligence community dismissed Julian Assange and his credibility on this particular

issue. Stephen, thank you so much.


AMANPOUR: Now while the committee chairman said that he does hope Donald Trump will change his views after he gets fully briefed on the Intel

tomorrow, I sat down with the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun to ask what America's allies and adversaries are making of all of

this as they bid farewell to the Obama years.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, welcome to the program.

BARZUN: Thank you for having me back.

AMANPOUR: We have talked to you since you have been here several times. Did you ever imagine on this, your farewell set of interviews that you

would be leaving with politics in your own country and in this country, where you ambassador, completely turned upside down?

BARZUN: Yes. Well, look, what we just went through in America is certainly one of the biggest, I think the biggest political upset as it

were in my lifetime, in our lifetimes.

AMANPOUR: And probably any time.

BARZUN: Yes. To elect someone who's never held public office. I mean, that is a big deal and it's new for us as a country.

AMANPOUR: And even tonight, we're sitting, talking as the Congress is holding special hearings into the intelligence situation, trying to

investigate, you know, Russia, what it's done, how it's hacked, how it has tried to discredit America's democracy.

And at the same time, you have President-elect Trump casting aspersions and doubts on his own intelligence services.

BARZUN: I can't talk about what the president-elect is saying. It's not appropriate in my role. I can speak for the Obama administration and

President Obama in particular and his strong faith and belief in the patriotism and the professionalism of the men and women in our intelligence

community. And I didn't have a chance to see all of that Senate testimony, but here I'm gathering real bipartisan support of the great work that they

do to keep us safe and to push back against the unbelievable and unwarranted actions that Russia took to try to mess with our presidential

election. This is a big deal.

AMANPOUR: Let's go back to the Obama legacy.


AMANPOUR: In 2008, before he was president, he went to Berlin. He gave an amazing speech. I was there. I covered it. And he -- and I'm going to

play a little bit of it, talked about his role trying to become elected at a time where the world had been really turned off America by the overreach

of George W. Bush.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know my country has not perfected itself. At times we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty

and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our

best intentions.


AMANPOUR: It is interesting, isn't it? I mean, he's sandwiched between two very controversial presidencies.

BARZUN: Well, I mean, the second one that he's sandwiched between hasn't happened yet. So I don't think we should pre-judge it. I think certainly

what he touched on the beginning of that speech is this notion that he often returns to, and I think is also important for us to keep in mind,

which is this idea of trying to form a more perfect union.

Hey, we have made a bunch of mistakes. And he would, by the way, it's not in that clip because he wasn't president yet, he's made mistakes and he's

owned up to them. Things like in Libya. His frustrations around the heartbreaking situation in Syria to name just two, where he wishes that he

had been able to be even more effective.

And I think that humility and that honesty is one of the many things that make him such a wonderful person to work with.

AMANPOUR: Well, that is interesting you say that. I want to bring up a quote that he himself talked about during his Nobel speech, when he was

awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He says "Inaction takers at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later."

You know, he chose the role of inaction in Syria in terms of a military action. And you have just said that he feels that there have been

mistakes, whether it's Libya, whether it's not being able to do as much in Syria, including failing to cross the red line that he himself set.

It's come back to haunt him and the world, hasn't it? I mean, here we are.

BARZUN: No, I disagree. And I disagree because in that quote you just read he is talking about inaction. The United States under his leadership

has not been inactive. It has been incredibly engaged in the heartbreaking situation in Syria. It's been engage politically, diplomatically, to try

to bring an end to the civil war there. Oh, and by the way, at the same time, militarily, combating ISIS, ISIL, while all of that goes on.

[14:10:08] It is not as if America is hands off. Hardly we are very hands on. Now if by what you are getting at in this question, if American

leadership is only defined by people as massive ground troop invasions into a country where we weren't invited, we have some -- and I think you'll know

what I mean, hard-earned lessons about where we've gone, where that hasn't worked. And so he is responsibly trying to gauge --

AMANPOUR: I understand the Iraq hangover. There's no doubt about it. However, many have said that there is a middle ground. It didn't have to

be a full scale invasion and the inaction is not in humanitarian and political, but it is in not using diplomacy backed by credible threat of

force, which most people believe is the only way they're going to see it's going to work. And into that vacuum stepping Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Wouldn't you are.


BARZUN: No. I wouldn't characterize --


AMANPOUR: .that Putin has taken advantage.

BARZUN: No, I think that there's -- well, there is one very --


AMANPOUR: Who's winning in Syria?

BARZUN: There is one person to blame for the devastation in Syria and that is Assad. What President Obama has been very -- and it's agonizing for him

as you said, but he said, look, going in, we have the most capable military in the world.

Going in with massive military resources into a country you're not invited has unintended consequences so I wouldn't say it's a hangover thing, it's

just, that is unsustainable.

AMANPOUR: Let's move on because you are talking about partnerships. And President Obama was known for his multilateralism for his desire to have

partnerships. So that paid off in Iran, in Cuba.

BARZUN: Yes. And with climate, with the Paris Accord.

AMANPOUR: And with climate. What do you think happens to that important legacy under a new administration, where President-elect Trump has spoken

disparagingly about all three of those?

BARZUN: Absolutely. And so let's take Iran. We got to a diplomatic solution to what was one of the number one security threats facing the

American people when he took office and our friends and allies around the world and for that region. So he did it diplomatically without a single

troop being deployed, a single shot being fired. That is a big deal and it is working.

So anyone who would attempt to role that back is -- and, again, they may do that. That is two things happen. One, you lose that visibility into the

program and number two, you lose the international cooperation that brought that unified pressure to bring them to the negotiating table in the first


Cuba, it's a different situation. The flows between the two countries are already working. It's early days, but they are happening. And then on

climate, you have states in our country like California who are doing more than is required under the Paris climate. You have major corporations,

including the automakers doing more than what's required because it's good for business.

AMANPOUR: And finally, you've known President Obama for a long time. This has been a very charismatic, cool couple in the administration.

BARZUN: Indeed.

AMANPOUR: Just give me your reflections. And, particularly, did you ever expect Mrs. Obama to be so lionize --


BARZUN: Isn't she marvellous?

AMANPOUR: You see? Everybody is going to miss her.

BARZUN: No, it didn't surprise me. 11 years ago, we went up to the book launch in Chicago. They kindly invited us up there. And we were new to

Chicago and we met a bunch of people and everyone was sort of talking about this guy who was Michelle Obama's husband. Really.

And so she's always been remarkable for people who have known her and now, I think, the country and the world have seen what a remarkable leader she

is, he is.

The thing I would emphasize that I am inspired by every day, isn't really the cool factor. I mean, yes, they are both really cool. That's lovely.

It is they are radical inclusiveness. They just include people. They listen to other people's opinions that are different from their own and

they do that every single day. And I think that is something that as an ambassador I've been inspired by and I think as I head back to civilian

life, back home, each of us as citizens can make that step every day to just include people.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Barzun, thank you very much indeed.

BARZUN: Thanks.

AMANPOUR: And after a break, a disaster of biblical proportions is brewing in Iraq. I speak to the journalist whose recent report paints a terrifying

picture of the fragile Mosul dam. That's next.


[14:16:00] AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

ISIS, sectarian militias, crippling violence, Iraq is beset by problems, but could the country's most dire danger be water? We've heard rumblings

about the precarious Mosul dam over the past two years, but did you know that it's the most unsafe in the world and experts say it could collapse

any day?

It would unleash a tsunami-like tidal wave, which would rush down the Tigris within hours. Mosul still under ISIS control would be submerged

within days, Tikrit and Baghdad, too. Millions could die.

Shockingly, there is major disagreement about how serious the issue is and what should be done.

So joining me now is "The New Yorker's" Dexter Filkins, who has just visited the dam and he's written a major report on what he found there.

Dexter, welcome to the program. I mean, this is truly one of those natural disaster movies in the making, but it's real.


AMANPOUR: It's real.

FILKINS: Yes, it is.

AMANPOUR: And we've been reporting it for a long time, but this is the most in depth that I've seen. So just play for us the catastrophe if it

should break. What is it going to look like.

It's pretty crazy. You know, you have this enormous dam. It's like 2 miles wide, 400 feet high and behind it, the reservoir has 11 billion cubic

meters of water. So it's an enormous lake.

If the dam breaks and the fears are pretty high that it will, you have this enormous, essentially a tsunami that rolls down the Tigris more than 100

miles, essentially flooding everything in its path.

Mosul, a city of 2 million people would be under about 80 feet of water in an hour. And so that's just no time to evacuate. It would sweep all of

the cities before it and it would arrive in Baghdad after about three days.

Baghdad would be under, at a minimum, 16 feet of water which is enough to flood most of the buildings in that city. That's a city of 6 million

people. The international airport would be flooded. Therefore no planes would be able to get in to mount relief efforts.

So when they did the computer models on this stuff and kind of factored in, you know, how quickly people could evacuate, the estimates are like

astounding. They are like anywhere from 1 million people to 1.5 million could die in the flood.

AMANPOUR: Wow. And --


FILKINS: It's incredible. And I think what -- go ahead, sorry.


AMANPOUR: No, sorry. I mean, yes, those people could die, but what about the survivors? You say that because the airport could be flooded, couldn't

even get in humanitarian aid or any life saving methods?

FILKINS: Yes, it's really -- somebody I was interviewing said to me, is that OK. Like do we have a lot of dead people, but what about everybody

else? You know, how do you -- how do you feed say take Baghdad. How do you feed 6 million people when it's under 15 feet of water and the airport

is closed. And so yes, there's a lot of worry out there.

AMANPOUR: Can we just give us the reason why it's so dangerous?

OK, it was built under Saddam and it's all about the rock, isn't it.


AMANPOUR: The quality of the rock which seems to be dissolving on which it's built.

FILKINS: Yes. Yes, it's a beautifully constructed dam and it's in the wrong place. And so it's -- as you said, it's sitting on a bed of soluble

rock, and so the rock when it comes in contact with water starts to dissolve. And that, you know, you can see that's like really dangerous.

And so from the minute the dam was finished, in 1984, more than 30 years ago, there have been teams, hundreds of people have been working at the

bottom of the dam pumping in tens of thousands of tons of cement and concrete underneath the dam as these caverns open up underneath it. And

they work around the clock 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for more than 30 years to basically stave off the collapse of the dam.

[14:20:06] And they've kind of done it. There's been a great deterioration over the years, but the big turning point came when ISIS seize the damn in


AMANPOUR: And what does that mean?

FILKINS: That means, basically --

AMANPOUR: I mean, did they stop pumping that stuff in. I mean, what did it mean?

FILKINS: Yes. Well, ISIS only held the damn for like a week. And then the Kurdish militia came in and kick them out. But it was enough that the

whole staff that works the damn and that's 1500 people who are doing this kind of constant, what they call, grouting, pumping cement to the ground,

everybody laugh.

And it's really hard to get a straight answer. I spent a lot of time trying to get a straight answer from Iraqi officials, from American

officials on how long the damn went without any work being done there.

And so, you know, the water kept -- keeps washing the foundation away. And I think at a minimum, it was four months. And so I got them all in these

documents that were classified and you can see that the Americans went in after they took the dam. After they retook the dam. And they started

looking at the damn and they are horrified.

You know, they thought, oh, my god, you know, like this thing is going to - - this thing is going to go. And the crucial thing what's happened over the past couple of years since ISIS had the dam was it basically started to

move. And it's moved four times since then. And that, you know, the implication is that because the ground is moving underneath.


AMANPOUR: Yes, yes, yes. And one of the people who you quote says it's like a nuclear bomb with an unpredictable fuse and it could happen any

time. But here's the thing Dexter, which I find just traumatic.

You've got several different views on this. One of the directors of the dam from your article says, sure, "We have problems, but the Americans are

exaggerating. This dam is not going to collapse. Everything is going to be fine."


And then we have another engineer, the former Mosul dam engineer who is now in Sweden who said this to us, you know, last year. Listen to what he



NADHIR AL-ANSARI, FORMER MOSUL DAM CONSULTING ENGINEER: Sooner or later the dam will be -- will be destroyed because once the cavities underneath

the foundation are so big that they can't hold the weight of the dam, then the dam failure will be within minutes.


AMANPOUR: So which is it? I mean, if you can't get a consensus on the danger and the imminence, how is it going to be fixed?

AL-ANSARI: Well, I -- really what's happened is, you know, behind the scenes -- I mean, it's a very strange situation as you point out. You have

the director of the dam. He's been there his whole life and honestly I think it's a matter of pride so he says everything is fine.

And, meanwhile, like behind him, like everybody is panicking. And so, and no one wants to say anything publicly because they don't want to embarrass

him. So you have the Iraqi government, which is utterly dysfunctional, you know, on a good day. And they essentially refuse to say publicly that the

dam is in danger.

But then you have all the engineers and you have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who every time they take a measurement there, they're like, oh,

my God, you know, we got to get to work here.

So the work is happening.


AL-ANSARI: You know --


AMANPOUR: And very briefly -- sorry. Sorry, sorry to interrupt you.

Very briefly, would there be any fair warning or would it just go?

AL-ANSARI: I think if the dam -- someone said to me you'll hear a crack and then the dam will go and in 12 hours it would be gone. It would

disintegrate that quickly.

AMANPOUR: Wow, Dexter.

AL-ANSARI: It's crazy.

AMANPOUR: It's a really important article, and I hope the right people are reading and some action is taken.

Thank you so much indeed for joining us.

Really interesting.

AL-ANSARI: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: And when we come back, we turn from the infrastructure of entire countries to the infrastructure of our own bodies. Imagine a world, waking

up to a whole new organ, an acknowledge part of us finally gets some credit. That's next.


[14:26:30] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world getting to know itself a little better. After all these years, the wondrous human body

still has the capacity to surprise.

A recent report identifies a newly discovered bodily organ called the mesentery. For more than 100 years, it was seen as multiple fragments

inside the human body. Now research from the University of Limerick in Ireland is showing the body part from a different angle and finally giving

the mesentery the credit it deserves after all these years.

It is in fact one organ which links the gut to the rest of our body. It helps coordinate our immune system to defend us from the spread of disease

and it prevents our intestine collapsing on the pelvis when we stand up and walk around.

So hiding in plain sight, being taken for granted, the mesentery has been doing a pretty vital job. Most importantly, the discovery by Dr. J Calvin

Coffey could provide a fresh approach to surgery and treating disease.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.