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Trump, Russia and the 2018 Elections; Undercover Reporter Exposes Use of Rape by Smugglers

Aired February 27, 2018 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Tonight, a new poll reveal that Americans don't think President Trump is doing enough to protect their

upcoming elections from hackers. We talk Russia, war in cyberspace and on land with the former US counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.

Plus, paying off your desperate journey with sex work? Correspondent Nima Elbagir's shocking new discoveries from the migrant trail.

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

The all-important US political barometer, the midterm elections are fast approaching and the majority of Americans are really worried about more

foreign interference. And they don't believe their president is doing enough to protect them from it.

A new CNN poll today shows that 60 percent of Americans are not confident of Trump's response. This, as the director of the national security agency

and cyber command chief Mike Rogers told senators on Capitol Hill today that the president has not directed him to disrupt Russia's election

hacking machine.

Here's an exchange he had with Sen. Reed.


SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Essentially, we have not taken on the Russians yet. We're watching them intrude in our elections, spread

misinformation, become more sophisticated, try to achieve strategic objectives that you have recognized and we're just essentially sitting back

and waiting.

MICHAEL ROGERS, NSA DIRECTOR AND US CYBER COMMAND COMMANDER: I don't know if I would characterize it as we're sitting back and waiting. But I will

say, it's probably - and again, I apologize. I don't want to get into the classified here, it's probably fair to say that we have not opted to engage

in some of the same behaviors that we are seeing.


AMANPOUR: Rogers also warned that Russia has not paid a high enough price yet to change its behavior.

Nobody is better suited to address all of this than Richard Clarke. He served as President George W. Bush's point person on cybersecurity and as

national coordinator for security and counterterrorism for both Presidents Bush and Clinton. And he joins me now.

Welcome to the program, Richard Clarke.


AMANPOUR: So, you heard what Admiral Mike Rogers said on Capitol Hill there. I mean, that's a pretty big admission, isn't it, from a security

chief to say that we're not countering them like for like.

CLARKE: Well, Christiane, in the Obama administration, the president decided that any offensive cyber activity, even covertly, had to be

approved by him.

So, NSA and cyber command cannot take the initiative to go out and defend the United States against the kind of bots and trolls that the Russians

have been using.

The same bots and trolls they used in the last presidential election, they're still using. And they used this year in the Virginia governor's

election and this year in the Alabama Senate election. And no one tried to stop them because the White House has to tell NSA and cyber command to do

that, to give them the authority. And the president has not given them the authority.

AMANPOUR: So, how unusual is that fact that the president has not actually directed them to do what would seem like an obvious counterespionage or

counter-hacking operation?

And compared to what President Obama did, did he give authority to fight back like for like against Russian interference?

CLARKE: No, he didn't because I don't think they realized during the Obama instructions the full scope of what the Russians were doing until it was

too late.

But it's highly unusual that after all the facts that we now know that the White House is doing nothing and it's not just in going after the bots and

the trolls.

There is a comprehensive plan that any president would have turned to his staff and said, give me a comprehensive plan to protect the American

elections against any kind of foreign interference. And if I were given that job, any one of the presidents I worked for, I would have been back in

the morning with a 10-point plan and a budget.

The president has never asked for it. There are people in the White House who could do it. The man who is now in charge of cyber policy in the White

House is Rob Joyce. He comes out of the very NSA unit that would be tasked to do this mission.

[14:05:04] So, he knows it can be done. The president hasn't asked him to do it.

AMANPOUR: What would your 10-point plan and budget do? Because you heard also what Admiral Rogers said that - or maybe it was Sen. Reed. I can't

remember which one of them said that Russia has not yet paid a high enough price to force it to change its behavior. So, what should be done? What

would you advise?

Well, just for fun, the first thing I would do is take the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg and knock it offline. I would fry every

computer in the building just to make a point. And we can do that. We can do that and it wouldn't be difficult to do. I would do that. And I would

take all of the organizations associated with it.

Putin's chef is what the guy is called who owns the so-called Internet Research Agency. He also owns the paramilitary force, Putin's kind of

Blackwater paramilitary force that's fighting in Syria. And he owns a vast network of other businesses where he's making money selling things to the

government. And you can bet some of that money is being kicked back to Putin.

I would take down the entire network of all of those organizations, do computer attacks on them, fry their software and hardware, turn their

computers into doorstops. We have the ability to do that and we should do that just to make a point.

AMANPOUR: Well, it sounds awfully exciting and thrilling actually. Sort of like something out of a spy movie. But could there be equal and worse

retaliation. I mean, it sounds eminently sensible, what you are saying, and you, obviously, have the experience in this counter domain. What might

be the response?

CLARKE: Look, it is true that whenever you attack a country using cyber weapons or any other kind of weapons, overtly or covertly, you risk

retaliation. But the alternative, Christiane, is to say we're so afraid of retaliation that you can keep hitting us and we'll never hit back. And I

think that's not the message we want to send.

I think we want to send the message that, if you interfere in our democracy, if you continue to do that, that's off limits. If you do that,

we will make you pay a much higher price than you have made us pay. And if you want to keep escalating, fine, we can do that, we will win if you want

to keep escalating.

That's the kind of message we should send. That's the kind of message Putin understands. He doesn't understand passivity. He doesn't understand

the sort of non-reaction the Americans are giving.

The other part of the 10-point plan, I think, has to focus on securing the machinery of our elections. We still have states where there are machines

that have no paper backup. They need to be replaced.

We still have voter registries that could easily be hacked. We know the Russians got into 21 states' voter registries. Now, we don't know what

they did. Maybe they did nothing. But they could get into them again. They could delete names. They could change addresses. They could cause

confusion. They could make it difficult for people to vote.

Our election system should be rock-solid unassailable. We could also do things to stop the Russians from putting money into our elections through

foreign cutouts. Right now, they can put money into a foreign LLC in the Caribbean and then move that to an LLC in Delaware and then move that money

into a committee that runs ads on Facebook or on TV and there's no way of knowing that right now. And it's not even clear that it's illegal.

AMANPOUR: So, why then would you surmise that President Trump is not doing some of these things that you're saying, and you say the Americans have the

capability to do it and could do it well, why, for instance, is the administration not enforcing the sanctions on Russia that Congress itself

has approved?

And, really, in light of this new CNN polls that says a really big majority, 60 percent of the American people don't think the president is

doing enough to protect them.

CLARKE: No, he's not. The Congress overwhelmingly, Republicans and Democrats, voted additional sanctions on Russia because of their

interference in our election and the administration is ignoring that law, which he really doesn't have the authority to do, is not implementing the


And the Republicans in Congress who voted for it are letting him get away with it. They're not holding hearings demanding that the law be


[14:10:03] I think there's an obvious conclusion as to why the president is not trying to stop Russian interference in our election this year and in

2020. It's because he thinks it will benefit him if there's Russian interference as it benefited him the last time.

AMANPOUR: Yes. It's really exciting. "The Economist", which is no lefty rag, has talked about a new normal, saying, "Such clear evidence of foreign

interference would normally constitute a moment for the commander-in-chief to reassure an anxious nation that the attack in an election year, no less,

would be repulsed. But that was not Mr. Trump's response. At no point did Mr. Trump express any concern for the safety of American democracy."

So, just a final on this issue, I mean, in your experience, is the very integrity and safety of America's democracy more at risk now than it was

during 2016?

CLARKE: Well, I'm not sure it's more at risk. Our democracy is pretty fragile to begin with as we saw in the last election. You can have one

person get 3 million more votes than the other and still not get elected.

And it comes down to a very small number of swing districts in any election. And if you can influence those swing districts, a very small

change in voter attitude can change the result.

AMANPOUR: Let's just move on because Russia has also tried to disrupt the Olympics. They were mad apparently that the doping scandal forced them to

operate under sort of neutral flags, neutral names, no national anthems.

And they made it look like it was coming from North Korea. So, they really are good at this. And, again, there were no consequences yet.

But North Korea now, very troubling. The UN has put out a report saying that it's been shipping equipment, material, substances that have aided

Syria's chemical weapons program.

What do you make of that?

CLARKE: Well, North Korea has been sanctioned by the United States, by the United Nations so heavily, especially with the new US sanctions, that

there's very little we can do to deter them anymore.

They try to make money however they can. If it means selling chemical weapons, they'll do it. If it means cyberattacks, they will do it. If it

means running drugs, if it means counterfeiting $100 bills, they'll do it.

The North Korean government supports itself by a whole host of criminal illegal activities because it needs the cash.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, if the sanctions are not having the impact that the world wants them to have and, in fact, causing this kind of backlash

behavior, what does that mean for any possibility of talks, negotiations? And the North Koreans have just raised it. They want to have talk with the

United States.

And, of course, the South Koreans are saying, well, the US has to lower its bar to go into these talks. Where do we stand with that?

CLARKE: Well, the United States has been asked by South Korea, essentially, to have talks without precondition. I think that's fine. We

need to have talks with them to see if there is anything that we can accept, that they can accept.

I doubt that there is, but we need to find out because the alternative, which is being discussed in the White House, is a military strike by the

United States. That could lead to the worst war that we've seen in 50 or 60 years.

So, talking is absolutely necessary. And the South Koreans are right about that. The Americans need to drop any preconditions and go to the table.

AMANPOUR: Wow! And, of course, a very different situation in Syria. Of course, all the sort of powers had an aim. They all went after ISIS. And

now, they think ISIS is pretty much defeated.

First of all, do you think that's true? Are you concerned about a metastasizatoin of ISIS?

CLARKE: Well, ISIS has changed from being a terrorist organization that held cities - large cities - that administered territory to now going back

to being a traditional terrorist group, which is a covert group that hides in multiple cities around the Middle East and in Europe.

But they're not defeated. They've been forced out of cities. Many of them have been killed. Many of the leadership has been killed, but the

organization is still there. And it's still a threat.

AMANPOUR: It's incredibly important, all of this. Richard Clarke, we're so fortunate to have your unique insights. Thanks so much for joining us.

And, of course, as we know, the latest in the war in Syria is the relentless bombardment of Ghouta, that suburb of Damascus. There has been

some brief humanitarian pause. We'll see how it goes.

[14:15:07] But we know that Syria has contributed to the worst refugee crisis since World War II, but it's not just the Middle East.

Huge numbers of Africans try to reach Europe's shores. And for years, they've been making the perilous journey across the Sahara through war-torn

Libya and across the Mediterranean.

Libya is the most dangerous of all. CNN revealed last autumn that smugglers were auctioning off migrants as slaves there. And now, a

correspondent, the one behind that shocking report, Nima Elbagir is back, going undercover in northern Nigeria to show the central role that rape

plays in the smugglers' operation.

And I spoke to her about this earlier.

Nima, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: So, the idea of women and the sexual abuse and harassment, the physical dangers they face in all aspects of life including the

humanitarian area and naturally along the very perilous migration route that you've been covering, what did you find about the particular risk to

women in Nigeria in your recent report.

ELBAGIR: Of the back of the end of last year, what we were trying to understand is how active are these routes? How active do they continue to

be in spite of all this international talk about wanting to cut down on the exploitation and the trafficking that happens along these migrant routes.

So, I and my producer, Lillian Leposo, we posed as women attempting to be trafficked to Europe. We wanted to see how easy it was. And, frankly, it

was incredibly easy. Within 24 hours of arriving at Edo State, we were meeting with a smuggler in his home office, as he essentially implied to

it, as of the local brothel.

And then, that was it. We were on the move. And he made a point of pulling me aside to be very clear about the fact that on this route, I

should expect to be assaulted, I should expect to be raped.

AMANPOUR: We're going to play a piece of that particular conversation that you had with this smuggler.


ELBAGIR: Tonight, Oveke is working out of the local hotel that doubles as a brothel. Inside the brothel, we're told to wait. We don't know what

we're waiting for. Utterly unprepared, but all of a sudden, we're on the move. Our journey to Europe is underway.

We move to the local bus depot where we're told we'll be put on a bus heading north. But first Oveke wants to know if I have everything I need.

OVEKE, NIGERIAN PUSH MAN: Like, what do you call it? Nigerians say here, they have a gold circle here. We have "kiss", you know "Kiss". Do you

know "kiss"? We have "kiss" here. You just have it in your bag, for the journey. In your bag.

ELBAGIR: So, we can't travel without the contraception?

OVEKE: We can get them for you, you're not paying. We'll get them for you.

ELBAGIR: As part of -

OVEKE: Yes, as part of the journey.

ELBAGIR: Part of the journey, you'll get it for us. Because the women are abused? What happens? The women are abused on the trip?

OVEKE: In Libya.

ELBAGIR: In Libya? What happens? They get pregnant?

OVEKE: That's why I was telling you to have those things.

It's not a guarantee, sometimes we have to meet one of them, like say somebody asks. I would like to assist you. You know what that means.

Don't tell me you don't know what I'm saying.

ELBAGIR: Yes, I understand.

Taking me aside, Oveke repeats again, "Condoms. Don't struggle if you're raped and ultimately trust in God."

With that, we board the overnight bus to the north. The door is locked behind us. From here begins the journey into the unknown, a journey that

promises a litany of horrors - rape, trafficking, slavery. Once we're sure the bus has moved out Oveke's sight, we jump off. We at least are safe.


AMANPOUR: So, I mean, it is an extraordinary moment and it's clear that you don't continue that particular leg of the journey, but you have been to

Libya, the other side. So, this man was telling you, I guess, kiss is a brand of condom and that you were being made to understand that this was

par for the course, that women who tried this were more likely than not to be assaulted, as you said.

ELBAGIR: Well, and the sense that we got it that it was more than that, that this was part of what the criminal network put in place to further

maximize on the investment as they view it of smuggling these women.

[14:20:05] But in addition to however much you're paying to arrive in Europe, you will also work off some of that cost. And that's not made very

clear to you at the beginning. You saw him there speaking to me almost as if those condoms were for my protection, whereas actually those condoms are

part of the criminal activity where women are forced essentially into sex slavery.

AMANPOUR: That is an extraordinary description there. It's an extraordinary discovery. You, obviously, have reported what you've

uncovered to the authorities in Nigeria presumably.

ELBAGIR: We have. And they talk about ongoing investigations and they talk about the fact that trafficking is something that they are working to

uproot. But the reality is that they really don't have what they need to take on this challenge.

The criminal networks are incredibly coordinated. They are making an extraordinary amount of money. This is a business that brings in tens of

billions of dollars a year. And the Nigerian authorities at the best of times are no match for these criminals. They aren't even a match for the

criminals in the north of the country Boko Haram, let alone such an organized entity as we see in the south.

AMANPOUR: Well, you just mentioned Boko Haram and, of course, you've covered that story as well. And just this week, another 100 girls have

been abducted and despite the best efforts of the government that keeps assuring us all that they're doing something about it.

I mean, this is still a very, very real problem for the girls there, isn't it?

ELBAGIR: Yes. In a society that is still so very, very traumatized. And actually, what's extraordinary about that part of the country is that this

a part of the country where there were real ambitions for these girls.

When we covered the abduction of the Chibok girls a few years ago, that was part of what made this heartbreaking is that these were girls who aspired

to be doctors, to be teachers, to go out and change the futures not just of their families, but of their whole communities.

And in one fell swoop, this extremist group extinguished that. And the fact that they have been able to do this again will make parents even less

likely to allow their daughters to go out and forge their own futures. That is part of the double tragedy of this, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, the Chibok girl abduction sparked the #BringBackOurGirls movement. It was very big in the United States and

around the world. And, yes, people are looking at this with deep, deep- seated alarm because Boko Haram is the Nigerian version of ISIS. And this is a very active network still then.

ELBAGIR: And it also raises concerns (INAUDIBLE 2:42) when the American soldiers were called in Niger. What is the broader political background

here, the impact of Chad being put on President Trump's travel ban, the impact of Chad withdrawing a lot of its troops that were based in the

region in the west of Africa that were part of the effort to combat Boko Haram. Is this a resurgent Boko Haram that we're seeing off the back of

all of that?

Those and other questions that so many in the intelligence communities are having to ask themselves, Christiane. Is the knock-on effect of an ill-

advised Muslim travel ban that brought in Chad when Chad was a necessary ally?

AMANPOUR: And, again, of course, the death of those four American servicemen has been played out and playing out in the US right now as

everybody is trying to figure out what the mission was and why four of their loved ones had been killed out there. So, thanks for explaining a

little bit about that.

Let's just go back to this surge of migration and the pipeline. Why are you finding - what is the principal reason for despite the danger and

despite the horrors, even the slavery auctions that you uncovered late last year, what is the reason for them continuing to make this perilous journey?

Is it war? Is it economics? Is it climate ravages and the inability to sustain themselves in those parts of Africa? What is it?

ELBAGIR: It's pretty much all of the above. It is war in some parts of Africa. It is despotic regimes like Eritrea in east of Africa. But it's

also fundamentally grinding poverty.

Victory, this extraordinary young man who we spoke to who had been rescued from slavery in Libya, we were able to go meet with him in Nigeria when he

had returned back to his family, he was homeless.

He couldn't move back in with his mother and his siblings because, if he did that, it would mean less food for his younger siblings. So, he made

the choice to sleep where he could, to eat when and where he could to try and put everything he had to help his mother and his younger siblings.

And that is the reality that they flee from. And when they're not successful, that is the reality that they go back to. And oftentimes,

poverty can be just as dehumanizing as what these migrants suffer en route to Europe.

And until that is dealt with, we're going to see people taking these horrifying risks.

[14:25:05] AMANPOUR: Well, Nima, this is a very important point because after your groundbreaking reporting on the slavery aspect of it that you're

talking about and profiling Victory, many nations in the in the region and many European nations - I remember there was a big summit, it's sparked a

big sort of UN outrage and some action and they all say, OK, now we're going to repatriate all our citizens.

But you're saying that they're going back to potentially worse and they could actually maybe even try that route again.

ELBAGIR: And many do. Many that we spoke to say we have every intention of doing this again because what we have here is just - it is a living

death, one person described to me as, to have no aspirations, to have no future, to have such narrow horizons.

And until there is a concerted effort to tackle not only the push factors, the poverty, but also to really go after the people who are benefiting from

this. This is so extraordinarily well coordinated, Christiane. This is a mafia. It is a criminal network that snakes from one end of Africa to the

other. And it has to be dealt with as such.

And the international community has to find the will to put the resources into going after the leaders of these networks.

AMANPOUR: Nima Elbagir, thank you so much for joining us.

Such important reporting.

And that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.