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Homeland Security Chief to Enforce Ban; Turkey Military Purges Weakens Military; The Coral Hidden Within the Amazon

Aired January 31, 2017 - 14:00:00   ET



[14:00:12] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, out with the old, in with the new. After one presidential firing over the Muslim nation ban,

what does this mean for actual national security?

I speak to a man who has been chief-of-staff, secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, who is calling for more presidential reflection.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER DIRECTOR, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Because if he is just trying to shoot from the hip on the things he's dealing with, he --

he and the country are in for a great deal of trouble.


AMANPOUR: Plus, the Turkish military officer forced into exile after the country's attempted coup with no charge or explanation. We bring you that

exclusive interview. And imagine some great environmental news.

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

One day after Donald Trump fired his acting attorney general for refusing to enforce his Muslim nation ban, America's homeland security chief, John

Kelly, denied that it was a religious restriction and insisted that his department will enforce particularly the mandate for extra vetting.


JOHN KELLY, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: This is not, I repeat, not a ban on Muslims and we cannot gamble with American lives. I will not

gamble with American lives. These orders are a matter of national security. It is my sworn responsibility as a secretary of homeland

security to protect and defend the American people.


AMANPOUR: Now, despite reporting earlier that his homeland security department and other key agencies were blindsided by the order, Kelly

claims he did know about it beforehand. It has been a wild and rocky week in Washington. And there's no one better to discuss what all of this means

for the new president's stated objective of making America safer than Leon Panetta, who joined me from California. He served in Congress, in the Oval

Office, in the cabinet and at the CIA.


AMANPOUR: Leon Panetta, welcome to the program.

PANETTA: Nice to be with you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you to react to some of what John Kelly, homeland secretary has been saying, that this policy will be enforced by the

department, it will be enforced humanely.

What do you make of that?

PANETTA: Well, you know, we're going to have to see, obviously, how this plays out. I mean, the problem is, you are dealing with an executive

order. It does provide for stopping Muslims coming in from seven countries, stopping all refugees.

I really do think that, frankly, if the administration wanted to focus on security, they would have improved the vetting process. We already have a

very extensive vetting process. It takes about two years. It has about 20 steps. If they wanted to improve it and provide additional resources, I

think that would have been a better way to have approached this whole issue.

AMANPOUR: Certainly, Panetta, there is still a raging storm about whether this is a Muslim ban. And on CNN today, Jeffrey Lord, who is a prominent

and perpetual Trump supporter said in response to a question, well, you know, it's not Episcopalians who are attacking us. And as you know, the

president himself has given an exemption for Christians from all of these countries.

You're a lawyer. You know the constitution. You have been a department head, a cabinet secretary, CIA director, chief-of- staff under President

Clinton. Is this a Muslim ban?

PANETTA: I think any time you ban people from coming into this country, from key Muslim nations, there's no question in my mind that that ban is

based on religion and who they are.

And as far as I'm concerned, that raises serious legal questions regarding our constitution and regarding our federal loss aimed at preventing

discrimination. So I think there's -- there's some real serious legal issues involved with this order.

And that's why I think it would make a lot more sense if the president would simply revoke the order. It's a temporary order. And go and improve

the vetting process, because if he's really interested in trying to protect our country, those are the security steps that need to be taken.

AMANPOUR: Let me pick up on that in a second. But, first, to your issue of the constitution, and what this means. As you know, the acting attorney

general, Ms. Yates, was fired, because she said the DOJ would not be enforcing this executive order.

I want to play you something that the incoming Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said to Yates at a hearing in Congress more than a year ago. On

this kind of very issue.

Listen to this, and then we'll talk about it.


JEFF SESSIONS, INCOMING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If the views of the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the

deputy attorney general say no?

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow

the law in the constitution and to give their independent legal advice to the president.


[14:05:47] AMANPOUR: You are a lawyer. Do you think she did the right thing by refusing to enforce it, and from what you know, do you think she

actually personally told the president her legal views in private as she indicated here?

PANETTA: Well, what concerns me is I'm not sure that this order was properly vetted. With the agencies that were responsible for dealing with

it, including the Justice Department, including Homeland Security, although John Kelly may have been made aware of it. He didn't have much time to

really react to the substance of the order. To customs, the customs agencies.

I mean, there is a vetting process that should go on in order to ensure that an order is enforceable and that it's legal. And I also respect very

much, and I think it's very important, the independence of the Justice Department from the White House when it comes to issues involving our

constitution and enforcement of the law.

The attorney general, the deputy attorney general, have to abide by the constitution and by the law. And if they're given a directive, which they

feel violates the constitution, then I think it is their duty, as was stated at that hearing, not to enforce that order.

AMANPOUR: And obviously, it's playing out abroad, as well. This is what Chancellor Merkel has said about this ban, and about the joint fight

against terrorism.

Just have a listen.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The necessary and decisive fight against terrorism does in no way justify a general suspicion

against people of certain beliefs. In this case, people of the Muslim faith.


AMANPOUR: I guess the big question is, what do you think this will do to keeping America safe, to the fight against terrorism? Obviously, Europe

has faced, you know, refugees and others who have actually -- or people who have used the refugee channel to commit terror in Germany, in France, in

Belgium, et cetera.

PANETTA: Christiane, I am -- I'm the son of Italian immigrants. Donald Trump is the grandson of an immigrant from Germany. All of us, certainly

in this country, are children of immigrants in one way or another. That's what this country is all about.

And I think what Chancellor Merkel spoke to are the kind of international values that we have always recognized of human dignity, and an effort to

help one another in order to be able to protect people so that we respect their rights.

What this order has done is undermined that basic principle. But worse, it has fed ISIS, our enemy. And this was supposedly what Donald Trump was

doing this for, was to protect our country.

What it has done is given ISIS the main argument they have used, which is that the western world is at war with Islam. Not at war with extremism,

but at war with Islam.

When we do these kinds of blanket approaches to denying Muslims' entry into this country, it's based on their religion. And so we fed ISIS a major

argument that I think will help them in recruiting and that increases the chances of a potential attack in this country. It doesn't lessen that

possibility. It increases that possibility.

AMANPOUR: Well, that is a very important warning that you've just put out there. It's very sobering. Can I ask you one last question? There is a

huge controversy over President Trump's political adviser, Steve Bannon, being moved up to a proper participant in the NSC.

Apparently, this is the first time that has happened. You've been, again, principle in these meetings. What effect will that have?

PANETTA: I am very concerned about taking a political adviser and making them a principle in the National Security Council. The purpose of the

National Security Council is to provide the president with experienced information so that he can make decisions on national security issues and

protect this country. That's the purpose of the National Security Council.

It isn't to have a political adviser who is going to make recommendations based on what polls well in terms of politics. That's the worst thing you

could do.

AMANPOUR: How do you think this is going to play out?

PANETTA: Well, you know, I think that's what's raising a lot of questions, because, you know, normally presidents of the United States who all go

through a shakedown period. I mean, I have seen this happen with the most experienced people who have become presidents. There is a shakedown period

as you assume the responsibilities of the president.

I'm concerned whether or not Donald Trump is willing to take the time to carefully think out these kinds of decisions. Because if he's just kind of

shooting from the hip on the things he's dealing with, he -- he and the country are in for a great deal of trouble.

AMANPOUR: Leon Panetta, thank you very much indeed.

PANETTA: You're welcome.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back, the ongoing fallout in Turkey from the summer's attempted coup.

A former senior Turkish military official speaks out after President Erdogan's purge of the military. A rare inside exclusive. That's next.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

It's a deal worth a massive $125 million. The deal just inked between the U.K. and Turkey to develop that country's fighter jet program. The west

relies on this key NATO ally now more than ever in the fight against terrorism and ISIS. But it comes at a difficult time with Ankara with

sweeping purges in the aftermath of last year's attempted coup. And according to an exclusive interview with a former senior Turkish officer

purged last summer, those changes have left the military severely hallowed as our Atika Schubert reports.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): July 15th, 2016, tanks rolled on to the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, F-16

bombed parliament and locked on to the president's plane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message on my phone, which indicated that there was something strange happening in Turkey.

SHUBERT: This former senior Turkish military officer was posted to NATO in Europe, now he's speaking to us unanimously, fearing for his safety and

reprisals against his family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was chaos already.

SHUBERT: The coup attempt lasted less than 24 hours and resulted in the deaths of more than 200. Within days, Turkish President Recep Erdogan

launched a purge, 95,000 sacked from state jobs, 43,000 arrested. Among them, teachers, professors and journalists accused of supporting the coup.

Did you have any idea that of what was to come next? The massive purges? The --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. I didn't expect it at all.

SHUBERT: Did you fear it?

[14:15:10] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feared it, because some of my colleagues' names were on a list of people who were allegedly accused by the media,

immediately that they were the coup planners and the coup plotters so there was an immediate list by the government media telling that more than 200

generals and officers were planning this, and here's the name. They have just kept the list from a place immediately that was all too much

unrealistic, too much unnatural to me.

SHUBERT: Then it was his name on a list ordered to return to Ankara immediately, but when he learned that fellow officers had been arrested

upon arrival back home, he refused to go and was instantly dismissed. He insists he knew nothing about the coup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that any coup, regardless of the intention or the objective could be acceptable. I deny the coup. I

condemn the coup itself and who has been involved in the coup.

SHUBERT: He asked his superior about the charges, but was rebuffed.

(on-camera): Were you given any opportunity to defend yourself, find out what exactly was the reason or any charges that you faced?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I could have been given a chance to know, at least, what the accusations are against myself and maybe given some chance

to defend against -- defend myself against those accusations. That was not the case, unfortunately.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Other officers say they've had family members in Turkey arrested and jailed. Their assets seized. NATO's Turkish officers

now dread Fridays. That's when Ankara sends its list of officers to be purged.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your career, not only your career, your reputation among your peers, your dreams for yourself, for your family, for your

colleagues, for your system, for your military, they all collapse at a single moment.

SHUBERT: CNN put several of the officers' specific allegations to the Turkish government, as well as a general request for comment but the

government did not respond.

Europe and America rely on Turkey to defend against terrorism and fight ISIS, but the officer says Turkey doesn't even have enough pilots to fully

staff its fleet of F-16s anymore with hundreds of pilots having been sacked. The officer says Turkey's military is now extremely fragile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be very blunt over here, Turkish military and especially the military services army, navy, especially air force, they had

lost the war-fighting capability to a great extent.

SHUBERT: Now in exile, many purged officers find the media has put them on trial, instead. This Turkish TV report claims Germany's Ramstein Air Base

is, quote, "Where the coup was planned" as a camera rolls past the private homes of NATO officers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The enemy in Turkey is now West, now the United States, now NATO. There are -- some mechanisms left in Turkey to just reverse the

lie into reality or reverse these slanders.

SHUBERT: Turkey's foreign minister insisted to CNN's Christiane Amanpour that coup plotters had to be rooted out and sympathizers suspended. But

admitted some mistakes had been made.

MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Can you make a mistake? Yes. Our own obligation is actually to take necessary measures that innocent

people shouldn't be affected or punished or purged.

SHUBERT: Proving that innocence is nearly impossible without knowing the charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love our nation. Anyone who is silenced right now in front of all those lies and slanders, and the decline of the democracy

and decline of a state, decline of a nation, I think they're going to be counted irresponsible when some people write the history of our current


SHUBERT (on-camera): Do you believe you're on the right side of history by speaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely. Definitely.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Being here means indefinite exile with no means of clearing his name for now.

Atika Schubert, CNN.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now from Istanbul to discuss these allegations Metin Gurcan. He is a Turkish security analyst and himself a former army


Mr. Gurcan, welcome. Thank you.

You've just seen that report. What do you make? Is it creditable that these purges have severely weakened the Turkish army as he lays out there,

particularly the Air Force?

METIN GURCAN, TURKISH SECURITY ANALYST AND COLUMNIST, AL MONITOR: Thanks, Christiane, for having me first. This is not credible. It's not credible.

I mean, let me briefly introduce myself, first. I got my M.A. degree from U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and I served in -- within the flags of the

NATO for many operations.

And I resigned from the Turkish military two years ago at the rank of major to pursue my academic career. Now I'm an Istanbul-based independent

security analyst writing for a D.C. base and monitor news agency on security-related issues. And everybody knows me.

[14:20:00] I also know very well that on many security-related issues, such as Turkey's iron-fist approach in the fight against PKK, the handling cost,

ongoing Europe's operation and the military reforms just after the July 15th coup attempt, I have a sort of critical stance. And I am criticizing

openly the government's handling of the -- you know, security related issue --


GURCAN: But I'm not detained yet. So the point is, you know, I am very careful about providing constructive and technical securities.

AMANPOUR: Right, OK, which is what I want to ask you about, Mr. Gurcan. You know, obviously, you accept that there have been a lot of purges. What

effect has it had on the military, if any?

GURCAN: I mean, Turkish military has around 2,000 officers and 95,000 NCOs -- I mean, Non-Commissioned Officers. And around 8,000 of them have been

purged so far. So the ratio of generals -- I mean, it's around 40 percent, relatively high. Staff officers around 30 percent. And particularly Air

Force pilots around 40 percent.

These are, you know, relatively high ratios. But the recovery plan is very aggressive. They try to be implemented by the Turkish general staff. And

they are planning to refilled those coverage within two years. And we are following if they can do or not. And I'm ready, and my friends -- other

military and security analysts, both retired officers and civilian ones, we are ready to criticize the government and military elite sounding of the

situation, if they have a, sort of, mismanagement.


AMANPOUR: OK. All right. Can I ask you a further question that he brought up? That he is, you know, unable to defend himself. He hasn't

really been told the specific charges and he and apparently a group of them -- you know, fear that they will not get a fair trial if they come back.

What is -- you know, what have you noticed from, you know, those similar kind of situations? Have anybody been able to get a fair trial?

GURCAN: Christiane, I mean, I have to be frank. You know, I -- I took my military at the age of 16, just after from the military high school --

honor, courage, full sacrifice to the nation and home land. These are the main principles we swore off.

So, I mean, my friends -- you know, those officers, they do not need to live in shadows. They can openly, you know, reveal their identities and

they openly would want to say if they have a say, they want to -- they can say what they want. And if I were one of them, I will truly turn back to

Turkey, because, you know, I am -- if I feel myself that I am 100 percent sure that I'm not guilty, and I have nothing to do -- I have nothing to

hide, then I will be raided to be in prison, you know, during the investigations, if necessary and will consider this as a part of my



GURCAN: And as a part of step to -- how can I say? To think that I am at the end of the day, will be, you know, sentenced, not as a guilty guy. So

I think all honorable Turkish officers who have dignity, self-respect and courage, can say they all have strength to do that. You know, they are


AMANPOUR: All right.

GURCAN: .are combat-approved soldiers. And we are talking about 100, you know, officers who are still on the ground.

AMANPOUR: All right.

GURCAN: I highly understand to turn back to Turkey, and, you know, trust to the Turkey's legal processes.

AMANPOUR: OK. That is the other side of the story.

Metin Gurcan, thank you so much for joining us from Istanbul tonight.


And coming up, we imagine the pristine beauty of a newly discovered coral reef along the banks of the Amazon River.

But first, this standout image on one of America's shorelines. Protesters writing "resist" in letters 25-feet high in the Arcadia National Park in



[14:26:45] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, you may remember that we have already told you about coral bleaching right here, which is decimating the

reefs across the planet as the rapidly heating climate heats the ocean, as well.

Well, imagine discovering a new and flourishing watery world. These are the first pictures ever taken of a massive 3,600 square mile coral reef in

the mouth of the Amazon River discovered less than a year ago. Dozens and dozens of species have already been seen in the reef.

Green Peace organized this expedition to capture these images of the ecosystem. But now the coral could be at risk, because oil companies

hunting for reserves beneath the basin are looking for permission to exploit them. And if the Brazilian government approves, drilling could be

next. Way to spoil a perfectly good news environmental story.

That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.