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Interview With Former Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Elizabeth Neumann; Legendary Reformer and Civil Rights Activist, Angela Davis Reacts on Confirmation Hearings of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court; "Being Blacker," an Intimate Portrait of Race in Britain with filmmaker Molly Dineen and Blacker Dread. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 12, 2020 - 17:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: If the Senate does me the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of
this job to the very best of my ability.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice over): And so it begins an issue of supreme justice wrapped up in partisan politics, amid confirmation hearings for Amy Coney
Barrett, the legendary reformer and civil rights activist, Angela Davis joins me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKER DREAD, MUSIC PRODUCER AND SUBJECT OF "BEING BLACKER": When you're coming to England, it is a completely different thing. You will land in
their country, they don't want you here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice over): "Being Blacker," an Intimate Portrait of race in Britain with filmmaker Molly Dineen and Blacker Dread, himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH NEUMANN, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: I can't see into a man's heart. But what I can look at are the actions and
the policies that he has put into place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice over): Our Hari Sreenivasan speaks to Elizabeth Neumann formerly in the President's Department of Homeland Security, now in Camp
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
It's almost back to square one as the U.K. and most of its neighbors battle the second coronavirus wave. Hospitals here report a higher number of COVID
patients than in March, and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduces a new three-tier lockdown system with different swaths of the
country under rolling restrictions. And the United States has had over 50,000 daily new cases for four days in a row now.
With the pandemic holding the West hostage, the struggle for racial justice out on the streets and a bitterly fought U.S. election on the horizon, into
this melee steps fears of an issue to further polarize America for generations to come.
The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's choice to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Confirmation
hearings are underway. Her appointment would decisively tilt the court to the right. And she says she will, quote, "apply the law as written.
At stake, a fundamental but polarizing issues for millions of Americans from healthcare and a woman's right to choose, to basic civil and voting
rights, and my first guest tonight was there at the creation of all of these. She is Angela Davis, the longtime activist who grew up in the
segregated south and came of age as a symbol of the black liberation movement in the 60s, which was the last major moment of protest and
division across the country.
And she is joining me now from Oakland, California.
Angela Davis, welcome to the program.
I know that all eyes probably will be on this confirmation hearing this week. I just wanted from your perspective, as I outlined all these rights
that you fought so hard for, what do you think is at stake with these hearings and with this appointment?
ANGELA DAVIS, ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: Well, first of all, thank you, Christiane, for inviting me to appear on your program. And, of course, so
much is at stake, the very future of reproductive justice is at stake, the future of affirmative action and other strategies designed to restructure
the institutions of this country.
We know that pivotal political moments and I'm speaking of political in the largest sense of the word having to do with power have been marked by
Supreme Court decisions. But of course, the decisions are not themselves the explanation for change, rather, the courts often reflect the changes
that have occurred as a result of social movements.
And so I think that these current hearings have a great deal to do with, you know, what unfolds both within the judicial realm, but also within the
realm of struggles for justice.
AMANPOUR: So that's really interesting, of course, because right now there is just so much on the streets that is pointing in the direction of reform,
demanding reform. Obviously, Shelby versus Holder was the Supreme Court rolling back so much of the Civil Rights movement and that was in 2013, the
Civil Rights Act rather and now we have Black Lives Matter out on the streets and making their demands.
What do you think of both the longevity and the impact of this movement on the streets compared to what you all went through in the 60s? And the
effect of a very conservative court if she is appointed six to three conservative to liberal on civil rights?
DAVIS: Well, of course, already, as a result of the current administration, we've experienced attacks on the court system, the Federal
-- well, there have been efforts to create a court system that is designed to serve as a bulwark for conservatives.
And I think, you know, certainly, if she is confirmed, we will have to bear the consequences and they will be devastating. They will absolutely be
devastating. At the same time, I think it's important to point out that the social movements, whose surges we are witnessing now have very long
The movement against racism goes back for many, many centuries, and I don't think that the current situation regarding the Supreme Court is going to
shift that field of struggle for justice, for freedom, for equality.
AMANPOUR: So many of you activists of the last 50 years have suddenly had a new life in terms of culture on television. We're seeing all sorts of
programs devoted to civil rights activists, you included; women's rights activists, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, all the originals.
And Gloria Steinem said to me last week that putting Amy Coney Barrett on the court, is like putting Phyllis Schlafly on the Supreme Court. In other
words, it is, you know, somebody who will turn back like Phyllis Schlafly did in terms of defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, women's rights,
particularly a woman's right to choose.
And yet the majority of Americans believe in Roe vs. Wade. The majority all across the country do not want it overturned, at least, that's the latest
polls. So, again, if this balance shifts in the court, and yet on the street and in people's homes, there's a different viewpoint, how far do you
think they can go towards denying people's democratic rights?
DAVIS: Well, the surge in mass movements that we've experienced over the last period indicates that moves in a conservative direction initiated by
the court, but also by the executive, will be met with protests.
It seems to me that this is the very first time in the history of this country where the majority of the people are making statements against
racism, against misogyny, and like, all periods of radical change, there are contradictions. There are ways in which conflict expresses itself, and
I don't think this is unusual.
AMANPOUR: How do you compare what's happening now to when you were on the streets? When you were famously, as we said, such a public face of the
Black Liberation Movement? I mean, in your amazing, you know, Afro, there you were. I mean, you were just so front and center, and so symbolized the
movement. How do you feel today's youth are doing versus those of 50 years ago?
DAVIS: Well, first of all, I always like to point out that even though there was a focus on me as an individual, it reflected of mass movement.
People would not know my name, if not for the international campaign for my freedom when I was in jail and initially facing the death penalty.
And so I always like to point out that I don't really consider myself an icon. I don't consider myself a legend. I consider myself as one of the
many activists who have organized and engaged in intellectual labor in order to transform our future.
DAVIS: This is a very extraordinary moment. I've never experienced anything quite like this. And as I was pointing out before, I think this
may be the first period in the history of this country where there is a major consensus, and this particular historical conjuncture reveals that
white people who would never have considered going out into the streets are recognizing their role in the ongoing struggle to end racism.
So I don't really like to make comparisons because we can't put issues and ideas within an abstract context to compare them. I like to think about
their historical context. I like to think about the continuum. And what impresses me is the fact that this current young generation of activists,
they have not only taken up the ideas that were developed in the past, but they have moved forward in ways that many of us could never have predicted.
So I am absolutely excited by these movements, and I think that they are really dedicated to creating a future in which we will have attempted to
extricate the influence of racism and heteropatriarchy, and the attacks on the climate.
AMANPOUR: Angela Davis, you mentioned, you don't want to be seen as an icon, but you were and you are, and you remain so. And you talked about the
case that made you world famous, which is when you were charged under a firearms charge, and you served 18 months in prison, and yes, there was the
death penalty at stake.
And it was people you know, all over the world, including Aretha Franklin and John Lennon who really publicize your case. And in the end, an all-
white jury essentially dropped the charges. So that's what happened.
But I say it because back then it seemed what you were doing and what the Black Panthers were doing, you supported them was very radical. And I want
to bring up a little bit of a report that our late grade Anthony Bourdain did a couple of years ago, in Oakland, where you are right now.
He interviewed Bobby Seale, the founder of the Black Panthers, and they were talking about why that name, but also what the Black Panthers stood
for, was just not so alarming given the passage of history. Let's just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY SEALE, FOUNDER, BLACK PANTHERS: Black panther is a type of animal that if you push it into a corner, it is going to try and move out of your
way. And then you keep pushing it, sooner or later is going to come out of that corner.
So I said, that's like the black people. We are just pushed in a corner. We came up with the Black Panther Party.
I said, we're going to take a position on self-defense.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST (voice over): The Panthers were viewed by J. Edgar Hoover's F.B.I. anyway, as pretty much public enemy number one. The
Panthers aims were by today's standards, shockingly moderate: equality in education, housing, employment, and basic civil rights.
But the image of black men with guns was too much for the America of 1966.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So Bobby Seale was saying to Tony Bourdain, that you know, they were a defensive movement, and that's what they wanted to be. Does that --
how do you feel when you back that footage, but also hear what Tony said, shockingly moderate, given the passage of time and today?
DAVIS: Well, but there were other aspects of the Black Panther Party. I think it's important to point out that they were anti-capitalist. We talk
about racial capitalism today.
One of the points on the 10-point program had to do with the removal of what they call the avaricious capitalists from our community.
So yes, there are aspects that might be considered moderate, but at the same time, I think that the Black Panther Party and other activist
organizations at that time had a vision of which is now only now beginning to be taken seriously.
AMANPOUR: Well, you know, you mentioned capitalism and you are obviously - - you know, you you've you spent a long time activating against it in the current way.
I just want to read you this. There's a report from UBS that under COVID, billionaires around the world, I believe it's around the world -- their
wealth rose to $10.2 trillion. That is by more than a quarter, 27.5 percent. And you've obviously spoken of the flaws you see in the capitalist
What does that say to you? And what do you think COVID, you know, colliding with Black Lives Matter, what can that do once we get out of the other end
of this tunnel?
DAVIS: Well, you know, first of all, the pandemic is a pandemic of global capitalism, exacerbated by the fact that healthcare has been increasingly
privatized in this country. And we should remember that the scarcity of hospital beds is related to the fact that hospitals operate on a for-profit
basis, and it is not profitable to have more beds than are necessary under unusual circumstances.
And I think it was precisely as a consequence of recognizing the structural racism that is embedded in the healthcare system that people became more
aware of the nature of racism itself. That is to say, the systemic and institutional dimensions of racism.
And of course racism has always been connected with capitalism. Capitalism is racial capitalism. Not only in relation to slavery, but also
colonialism. And in the very first place, so many of the problems that we are witnessing now are directly related to capitalism, not the least of
which is the fact that health itself has become a commodity.
And so I am very excited about the fact that many of the young activists recognize that ultimately, we have to imagine a world that is not dominated
by those who have been able to accumulate huge amounts of wealth. The concentration of wealth into the hands of a few people is phenomenal --
phenomenal -- and we continue in that direction. We will have an entirely impoverished planet and a few billionaires are trillionaires.
AMANPOUR: You you've talked a lot about the prison system, about law enforcement. I think you've said, obviously during your career, you've said
a lot about it. I interviewed Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and with this debate over how policing should be
taken forward. This is what she said to me about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRISSE CULLORS, COFOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: Well, right now, there may not be all of America, the whole of America who wants to stand with
defunding the police. That was the case seven years ago, when we started Black Lives Matter. America wasn't ready to stand with Black Lives Matter.
And seven years later, the polling shows that America is in fact saying Black Lives Matter and sees why this movement is so critical, and so we are
in a long haul fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Long haul fight, but where do you think the issue of policing is going to end up because the majority of Americans don't believe in in the
in the word defund. They want to reform, but not defund. So what do you -- where do you see this going?
DAVIS: Well, of course, as someone who has been involved in abolitionist movements since the 1970s, it is important to recognize -- I say that it's
important to recognize that reform has accompanied the history of policing, the history of the prison system, from the very outset, as a matter of
fact, and many of the reforms that have been instituted have ended up actually serving as the glue that has made these institutions more
permanent that has allowed them to expand.
Policing, I totally agree with the comments that Patrisse Cullors made. In 2014, when Black Lives Matter was founded, we did not see a majority
support for the whole notion that Black Lives Matter. Many people interpreted it as being black lives -- only black lives matter or black
lives are the most important lives that matter. But of course, the logic was very different.
The point was that if black lives don't matter, then no lives matter. And of course, when black lives finally do matter, that will mean that all
DAVIS: Policing -- people are often seized with fear when confronted with the possibility of defunding the police and moving some of those funds into
other areas that can better guarantee safety and security. And it seems to me that increasing numbers of people are recognizing that this demand to
defund the police is not about removing all possibilities of safety and security, but rather about in harnessing them and about recognizing that
armed human beings are not the answer to every issue that arises.
When a person is in a mental health crisis, why do you see armed people, armed human beings -- it's quite possible that that person will end up
killed, end up a victim of racist state violence.
So we're talking about new institutions. We're talking about education and healthcare and funding those aspects of our system that guarantees the
AMANPOUR: Okay. Angela Davis, thank you so much indeed for joining me.
Turning now to the British chapter of the black struggle, "Being Blacker" tells the story of South London record shop owner, Blacker Dread. It is an
intimate portrait of a life shaped by inequality, racism, and also a deep sense of community captured by the acclaimed filmmaker Molly Dineen who
started by filming the funeral of Blacker's mother.
In this clip, you see Blacker's grief amid the elaborate floral tributes to this formidable homemaker who was his mom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREAD: Freedom pass.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the handbag?
DREAD: Sewing machine and handbag. This is the most devastating time in my life.
I thought when I lost my son, I could never feel this way again. But it's in a different way, is even worse. This is the woman that brought me here.
This is the woman that I've known for 55 years of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And Blacker Dread and Molly Dineen are both joining me now. Molly in London and Blacker is joining me from Jamaica.
Molly Dineen, let me ask you first why you decided to do this film at that time, because it first aired in 2018. It's airing again, as part of the
Black Lives Matter moment and Black History Month here. What drew you to the Blacker's story?
MOLLY DINEEN, DIRECTOR, "BEING BLACKER": Well, originally Blacker and I had made a film 40 years ago about what he was doing in a very underground
network of sound systems in the U.K., and 40 years later, when his mother died, I offered to film the funeral for him. And we haven't met much in
And filming that funeral just shocked me really as to what I've found. I decided to carry on filming after that event, and he agreed.
AMANPOUR: And what was shocking, Molly?
DINEEN: I think the eulogy is. What I felt that was coming -- I mean, even the pastor had had a brush with the police. It seemed to me this was a
beleaguered community. They were incredibly strong family.
And there was 700 people in the church, but it was another thing that struck me, which is that it was not a very mixed event. I think there were
three white people and Blacker's mother had been living and working in the U.K. for over 60 years.
AMANPOUR: Blacker Dread, let me ask you, you know, Molly just said there were maybe three white people in the congregation for your mother's
funeral. What made you trust -- I know that you've done this film with her a long time ago about the sound system. But what made you trust Molly, a
white woman to tell your story, the much more intimate and deep story of you personally, not just the music?
DREAD: Well, yes, good afternoon. Well, Molly, I'd seen her as a friend originally, after doing the first documentary, and we did keep in touch on
And so this was an opportunity and I thought, the stuff that was going on in and around the community, around my life, around my mom, my family, my
friends, and the black community in general, Molly offered her services. This is a lady that in the intervening years or 40 years have won multiple
BAFTA Awards and this was somebody who was actually wanting to do something in the community, something real, not something that was made up because
everything that was -- that is in our documentary, everything is 100 percent real.
AMANPOUR: Blacker, I want to play a little bit of the documentary because it goes to the heart of the tragedy that affects the black community.
There's just so much gun crime, so much, you know, death whether it's here or in America, and your son, Solomon, your oldest son, I believe, was
killed. And there seem not to have been any investigation and closure into it.
I want to play this little bit of the documentary when you're talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DREAD: Me grew up in the 70s and the 80s and there was no opportunity for us. It was token black time when token blacks were given token jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think is different now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, no.
DREAD: You act diluted in the community around Brixton. If it's any different now. Don't ask me, I had my chance and I did what I did. Yes. But
you have to use -- yes, because when they grow up, and they are telling their story, like I am, they are going to say, the 2000 -- 2010 to 2020
were the hardest times in the history of England.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Gosh, it's quite prophetic what you said. I mean, you're talking about the time that we're living right now, so hard for immigrants. What
was it like when you came to England, Blacker? Did you feel hostility? Did your mother feel hostility?
I think you were only seven or eight or nine or something when you came over.
DREAD: Yes, I was eight years old and when I first came, my mom would warn me. She would say, make sure you don't go out alone. Because we lived in
crystal privacy, so I am like, really white suburban area. There wasn't -- hardly any black people living in that area. And the schools, I have --
little or no black children going to them.
So she would always warn me and say, be careful while you go out especially late at night because things are that -- we didn't understand because we've
come from Jamaica where we were out playing all day and night, and never ever thought of being inches of life. So my mom always wanted me and really
had to -- and when I went to school, it was really horrible, because I remember during my 11 plus, and passing and went back to school, I laid it
to them and they said, well, you need to do again, because you must survive that.
So they put me down in the classroom, and I got more marks done. I got the first time because I messed up on a few questions where I could have
answered. And I always thought if I got the opportunity to do those questions, again, how to be correct. And I proved myself right.
AMANPOUR: That is an extraordinary story that you were put in this good school. You did really well and they didn't believe you. And you did it
Molly, how often do you come across that story? It seems to be, you know, even talking to, you know, members of the black community in the United
States who -- I've heard this kind of story before, that they just are, you know, considered unable to keep up.
DINEEN: I think one of the things with some documentaries, you learn more about the subject after it than while you're making it and I struggled
throughout this because in a way, I thought, this can't be true that there are so many things that happened to both Steve, which is his real name,
Steve Martin, and his family that shocked me.
And it wasn't until we screened the film, in fact, in cinemas and in a lot of black communities and the response was overwhelming and it made me
realize that the ignorance was mine, that I had been unaware, that this was not particular to Blacker. This was a common story with a common narrative,
particularly in the U.K. where I don't think we've been very honest, really about the divisions in our society.
And what's happened now is boy, have people woken up to it.
AMANPOUR: So yes, Black Lives Matter movement here. We've had statues. We've had all sorts of, you know, protests in the streets. Do you think
it'll last, Molly, given all -- you know, you've been pointing your camera out at this, you know, for 40 odd years. Do you feel that this is a turning
point that this moment will last and change will come?
DINEEN: How can I possibly say? But I think that when truth comes out for that to be dismissed and become a fashion or just a temporary thought
amongst people, I think it would be a tragedy.
I think this has to be seized this moment, and built on, I really do, because I have had privileged access to Blacker and to his life. Most
people don't have that opportunity.
AMANPOUR: Blacker, you also when you were -- you know, after this thing happened to you at school, you left the school eventually, when you were
13. You ran away.
And you found refuge with a group of Rastas, for want of a better word to describe them, but people who kind of brought you up and molded and shaped
you and took care of you. Can you describe the impact and the effect that that had on life? This is still in London.
BLACKER DREAD, MUSIC PRODUCER: Yes, I was very lucky, because I was leading up the path. I was well, well up the path, actually.
And I spoke to a few people. And they said to me at the time, go and go and visit the Rastas, go and speak with the Rasta community, because the Rasta
community, they got different rules, they got different regulations. They teach you discipline and the things that -- just basic respect for yourself
and respect in other people and for their values.
And I was very, very lucky, because then I joined the sound system, and rules there were basically the same. You had to fall in line and you had to
I remember, when Molly first came around us, and the boss for the sound system, lady -- he said to me, you see that lady? Take care of her. Make
sure she's all right.
And that was the first time I had met her. I didn't know her from anywhere. And the boss said, make sure you take care of her.
So that was the kind of thing I grew up I knew you had the respect people. You didn't look at the color. The color didn't matter, because when I was a
kid in Jamaica, the color didn't matter. And it was the person that mattered.
And I think, with what's going on, people are actually realizing what's going on. They're realizing what really matters. We have got a great saying
in the music world, because I'm in the music world, and we always say, it's the same blood runs through everyone's veins.
So, nobody can stay alive without blood running in through their veins, and it's the same color, so there's no discrepancies there. We are all one
AMANPOUR: I'm going to play another clip from the movie. It's towards the end of the documentary, Molly.
And you're -- again, you're following Blacker. And there's a vigil for a young boy whose name was Kamari (ph). He was stabbed outside of his school.
And here in this clip, his friend Bryce (ph) is speaking about the pain, but also about the black community.
He's kind of pleading for cohesion. Let's just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't shed no tears yet, but this really affect me.
And I just want, as black people, because I am black, and that's all I know. I want us all to be together. How come every other single culture can
be together, but we can't?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black people is always fighting over nothing.
As a black kid myself, I think that black -- us black boys especially, we don't value our other people. But we'd rather go fight people, go and stab
and shoot people. And it's just for what?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Molly, how do you feel seeing that again? It's quite dramatic, that, from a young boy.
DINEEN: Yes. Yes, what a brilliant, brilliant young man. He's called Bryce, and now works at the Brent Civic Centre.
I thought it have an absolute tragedy. Again, it was one of those films that was humbling step after step after step because of what I was learning
and what I was realizing was a truth, and a truth I had been living in, but not had access to.
I mean, I learned so much through spending that time with Blacker and Naptali. And I thought there was something so extraordinary and
overwhelming about a child at that age, A, having to address those issues, but, B, standing up and appealing to people.
AMANPOUR: And just very quickly, Blacker, last word to you. We have got about 30 seconds.
You have gone back to Jamaica in order to give your son, your youngest son, a chance at school, right? He wasn't even getting it here in the U.K.
BLACKER DREAD: Yes.
And I'm so proud of him, because, at the moment, today, actually, he's starting university in the U.K. He probably would have been another stats,
because that's what they wanted. They wanted him to be another stats.
And I just -- I wasn't going to have that, because I knew the kid that I knew at home was a brilliant kid. He knew everything. He was reading. He
was writing. He was doing everything that a young child don't want to do. And then they said he is naughty.
I actually went to his school, observed him, and realized that the work they were giving him wasn't good enough for him. He was doing it so fast.
And then he would mess it up. And they said he was a bad kid. He is starting university today.
I'm sorry. The U.K. education system needs to take a look at themselves and how they treat these young boys, because there's lots of brilliant people
that are nothing getting an opportunity.
It's great to hear he's starting university. Congratulations.
Blacker Dread, thank you so much. Molly Dineen, thank you for joining us.
The film "Being Blacker" is airing again now.
So, back in the United States, American intelligence and security agencies say that white supremacist extremists are the deadliest domestic terror
threat to the country. That shocking evidence, of course, was in full view last week, when the FBI said it had busted a plot to kidnap the Michigan
governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and overthrow the government.
Elizabeth Neumann was assistant secretary for threat prevention at the Department for Homeland Security under President Trump. She says she
repeatedly flagged the danger of these racist groups, but those warnings fell on deaf ears.
Here she is explaining to our Hari Sreenivasan why, despite being a lifelong Republican, she is not voting for President Trump this time
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks.
Elizabeth Neumann, thanks so much for joining us.
I want to ask first, given the plot that was revealed against Governor Whitmer of Michigan, was that an escalation to you of what you had been
studying when you were in the government?
ELIZABETH NEUMANN, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY ASSISTANT SECRETARY: It certainly is the thing that we have been most concerned about the last few
Militia movements, white supremacists that are violent have certainly been with our country for decades. We have seen a resurgence over the last 10
years. And, in particular, in the last two to three years, we have noticed an increase in recruitment, an increase in diverse groups forming and
morphing and changing, but all with this common theme of wanting to either accelerate existing violence or cause violence for the purpose of leading
to civil war and overturning the U.S. government.
SREENIVASAN: There was a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security that was just published that basically makes this point, that this
is right now the threat that we need to be worried about.
NEUMANN: It's right.
The Homeland Threat Assessment was released last week. That document was something that was called for in a strategic framework that my team wrote
about a year ago, recognizing that the threat was changing, and we needed to do a better job communicating to the country, to our state and local law
enforcement partners what the nature of that threat was, and to make sure we're constantly updating it.
But, yes, it did find that what -- now, the government can't call it this, but, if you look at sources like ADL or CSIS, what they describe it as,
violence from right-wing extremist groups are the most significant, in terms of both historical patterns, as well as in the current moment we're
The ADL did it an assessment that 76 percent of all terrorist attacks in the last 10 years come from this right-wing extremist perspective. So, that
includes things like white supremacists, and it also includes what we saw in Michigan last week with the militia movement.
SREENIVASAN: Is there something about this time right now, in the time of COVID, that is making it easier for these groups to recruit?
I mean, what are the kind of underlying conditions that are necessary to tap in to someone's angst?
NEUMANN: That's a great question.
We have had numerous studies over the last decades about what causes somebody to go and commit a mass attack. Secret Service does these studies.
The FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit does these studies. Private academics do these studies.
And they come up with a profile of individuals that have usually risk factors in their background, as well as some sort of set of stressors that
have occurred in their life.
So, what we have all endured in the pandemic includes a number of stressors that are common to people that carry out attacks, things like loss of a job
or financial stress, loss of a loved one.
But one of the commonalities here is just this sense of uncertainty, this lack of belonging, social isolation. And, again, we have all experienced
that this last year.
So, one of the things that we were very concerned about, my team and I started looking at in March, are we going to see an increase in attacks
because these stressors are increasing, and it's going to create more vulnerable people that might be susceptible to radicalization, and
eventually mobilization to violence?
And the answer we -- the conclusion we came to last spring was that, yes, this is highly likely. And so we wanted to get the word out and educate
people, if you're seeing somebody, a loved one that is -- has concerning behavior or is -- has changed in some way, that's the time to reach out and
get them help, well before they cross that criminal threshold.
But it is a very tense time right now in our country. And we all need to be doing what we can to be kind to one another and to get people help that
might be vulnerable to that radicalization.
SREENIVASAN: The president went out of his way earlier this year to say that he wants to brand Antifa domestic terrorists.
Why not call the -- why not call the white supremacist groups, the right- wing groups -- they're also engaged in terror.
NEUMANN: I was very concerned when I heard him say that, for two reasons.
One, we don't have a statute that allows us to label groups domestic terrorism organizations. We do have a statute for foreign terrorist
organizations, but not one that labels domestic terrorist organizations. And that's one of the things that, during my tenure at DHS, we were
advocating to have the conversation about whether we needed a statute to be able to do that work.
And there's lots of pros and cons about whether or not that's a good idea. But we felt like the moment that we were living in, with this increase in
domestic terrorists, in domestic terrorism, that we needed to at least have that conversation.
But the White House wouldn't let us go there. So I found it odd that, a year after El Paso, all of a sudden, he's willing to talk about domestic
terrorism, but he's doing it in the context of Antifa, which nobody in the counterterrorism community would was concerned about Antifa.
What we were concerned about was what we saw in El Paso, or in Poway, or in San Diego. These are -- these are -- I'm sorry -- I should have Pittsburgh
and Poway and El Paso. Those are the places where we have seen extreme hate motivated by -- and while they were supposedly lone individuals, these are
people that were connected online to an ideological movement that promoted violence, incited violence for the purpose of their end goal of eventually
overthrowing the United States and establishing a white nation.
Those are pretty scary ideologies that I feel like the U.S. government should be taking very seriously. But, instead, we're talking about Antifa,
whose primary cause is just to oppose those that they perceive to be fascist. They don't have an end aim of overthrowing the U.S. government,
for example, so a very, very different set of threat actors.
SREENIVASAN: You were at the Department of Homeland Security when the march in Charlottesville happened. What went through your mind when you saw
NEUMANN: That moment in 2017, I think we all were -- I'm failing to think of the right word. It just -- it was such a turning point for us.
It was no longer polite to be racist, right? For basically my lifetime, it was not polite. You had to hide it. You had to cloak your language.
All of a sudden, it's right out in front. Like, people are not ashamed to show their face. They're not ashamed to associate themselves with that
level of hatred that I think we all thought was, for the most part, gone in our country.
And so to see it just so blatant and in your face, it was rather frightening. And it was a clear moment for those of us in the
counterterrorism community to say, we have a problem on our hands. This is -- we thought the problems of the '90s were gone and past us. It turns out
they were here all along.
SREENIVASAN: You were also at the DHS, and you mentioned, after the El Paso shooting.
And in that manifesto, what was kind of intriguing for reporters that were reading through it was there were phrases in there about fake news, about
invasion, that had kind of filtered through.
And what did you do, what did you say to the White House after that?
NEUMANN: It was really stunning to see how much what might be classified is alt-right ideology had filtered into this manifesto.
And it was a moment where you were talking at the White House in hushed tones, like, hey, do we understand that we're now contributing to this
problem? The language that you're using to probably help your reelection or to argue for why you need money for a wall is showing up in terrorist
manifestos. So we need to change.
Like, if you did not realize it was having this effect, OK, I can give you grace for that. But now we know. And you need to change your rhetoric. That
was not -- nobody was interested in having that conversation.
So they were happy to talk about violence prevention. They were very supportive of the programming that my team was working on at the time to do
more prevention work. Not interested in talking about the president's rhetoric.
SREENIVASAN: Speaking of the rhetoric, you just saw the debate.
Chris Wallace gave him an opportunity, a relatively easy one, to say, here's your chance to denounce white supremacy. Watching that, did you
expect he'd say what he did?
NEUMANN: I think I must be really naive, because every time that he gets one of those softballs, I'm like, all right, here's the moment.
And the reason I hope for that is not because I'm expecting the president to change. But, again, I'm a counterterrorism professional. I want the
country to be safe. And if the president would clearly, consistently denounce this, it takes some of the air out of the balloon of recruitment
and perhaps any plans that somebody might be making to commit acts of violence.
So, you're always hoping that your leadership does the right thing. And when he botched it yet again, seemingly intentionally, and then botched --
the second time that he was asked to clarify, refused -- he actually used the words. It was only on the third time that he -- that he would actually
say the words, I condemn white supremacy.
That is -- that plays into the mind-set of these extremists. They believe that the government is controlled by elites, by Jews, and that the
president, even though he's on their side, he has to follow their rules. And so they believe his first and second refusal to condemn, and only
condemning on the third, is a wink and a nod, like, I'm really on your side, but I have to -- I have to condemn you now, because that's what the
elites are making me do, but I'm really on your side.
So, there's -- it actually plays into their conspiracy theories. And it makes it that much worse.
SREENIVASAN: There was a moment where the president went out of his way to criticize Governor Whitmer, not necessarily the people who were planning to
do her harm.
NEUMANN: Maybe the fault is on his advisers. Maybe they do not realize that they need to be telling him these things, or they're fearful of
telling him these things.
But if he does not realize that his language in April about "liberate Michigan" and very, very viciously attacking various governors that tended
to be in Democratic states that were conducting pandemic mitigation measures that, politically speaking, those on the right might think were
too much, too much government overreach, I can appreciate that there's a political dialogue and good government dialogue about how you best handle
pandemic mitigation measures.
But he wasn't entering into that dialogue. He wasn't bringing people to the table and saying, hey, let's have a conversation about what the best way to
do this is. In fact, he actually said, the federal government's not going to do this, states, you figure it out, which is not, by the way, what any
of our pandemic plans suggest should happen.
So he's already thrown it on the states, the states are scrambling to figure it out, and in the midst of that, he's adding this angry rhetoric to
the conversation, which spools his supporters up.
NEUMANN: And then you saw people coming to the capitol with guns, protesting at their state capitol.
So, he has this pattern of riling people up. And, in most cases, the action that occurs is not in fact violent. But there are those few instances where
it does become violent. And that's where I feel like he should be held accountable.
If you don't learn the lesson of El Paso or Kenosha or now Governor Whitmer's impending kidnapping plot, like, when is he going to learn that
his rhetoric matters and it influences very vulnerable people? And just a small portion of those people might actually move towards violence, but
that small portion are affecting Americans.
And he doesn't seem to value his responsibility to keep us safe. That is what a president's first job, is to protect us from all enemies, foreign
and domestic. And he has neglected that responsibility.
SREENIVASAN: Now, you have not been shy about calling his words and actions racist. I mean, the R-word seems to be a third rail for so many
people to use.
Why do you, with the evidence that you have, see it that way?
NEUMANN: I can't -- I can't see into a man's heart.
But what I can work out are the actions and the policies that he's put into place. And for the first few years that I worked in the administration, I
gave them the benefit of the doubt. I believed that many of the things they were trying to do were for the sake of securing the country.
And I was in the department where we were implementing many of those actions that did have security value. But, over time, I have now multiple
examples where we would approach a situation and say, OK, we have addressed this security concern.
The refugee ceiling is a great example. We have addressed the security concerns. We can now raise the ceiling and feel comfortable that the people
coming in through the refugee program have been properly vetted, they are who they say they are, and they do not have ill intent towards the United
States. Let's let more people in.
And what we have seen instead is, over the last three years, a steady lowering of the ceiling. So, at that point, you start to realize, this
isn't about security at all. This is about keeping people out of the country because they look differently than you.
You also look at the president's language, the people that he praises, the countries that he praise tend to be predominantly white. Sweden and Nordic
countries, he thinks they're great, and he wants more immigration from there. He wants less immigration from African countries.
So, over time, that pattern and practice, whether he realizes it or not, his language and his policies are, in fact, racist.
SREENIVASAN: There's people watching this interview, and they're going to say, you know what, I have seen that lady before. She was in an ad. She's a
Biden supporter. Of course she thinks this way.
But your political credibility or your political history a little bit, you voted for the president. You chose to work for his administration.
NEUMANN: I did. I am a lifelong Republican. I grew up in Texas, where it was kind of part of the way you're raised is to be a conservative, be a
Republican. I worked in the George W. Bush administration.
I reluctantly voted for Trump in 2016. I don't think he actually reflects many conservative values, but I was persuaded by some arguments that I now
think were not great arguments, but I was persuaded. And I had not planned to come in, but somebody asked me to come and work at Department of
Homeland Security, because they needed people with previous experience in government.
And so I came in and served for three years. But it was not -- part of the reason I'm speaking out is that I think many of the people that chose to
come in and help the president -- and we all kind of hoped he would rise to the occasion -- he clearly has not -- we did a lot to try to help him be
successful as a president.
We helped ensure bad decisions were not made. And I know that history will judge us, whether we were right or wrong to have gone in and try to help
prevent what in our minds were potentially really bad policy decisions that in some cases may have led to war, or may have led to bad handling of
But, as we have seen with the COVID response, there's only so much that the good people can do inside the government. If the president wants to ignore
something like COVID, the trickle-down effect is pretty significant. And it's impeded the ability of the government to do what it's supposed to do
in a natural disaster like COVID.
So, for me, it became clear that the American people deserve to make a decision based on the totality of the facts. And I don't mean to say that
the people that were working in the government for the last three years were covering things up, but that's kind of what it was.
A lot of the good policies that people point to from the Trump administration, it's because not -- it's in spite of Trump, it's not
because of Trump.
And I feel like the people, American people, deserve to know the facts and make a decision for themselves when they vote this November.
SREENIVASAN: Elizabeth Neumann, thanks so much for joining us.
NEUMANN: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And finally to Iran, where tributes are flooding in from around the world following the death of the voice of Iran, Mohammad Reza
Shajarian, the classical Persian singer who's died from cancer at age 80.
For more than 50 years, his music touched the hearts of millions of people all over the world. And his trademark ballad "The Dawn Bird" has become an
ode to freedom.
Now, despite a raging COVID epidemic in Iran, hundreds of fans gathered for his funeral this weekend.
Shajarian was scrupulously apolitical in public, until the regime cracked down hard on protesters during the so-called Green Revolution of 2009. For
supporting the youngsters, the government banned him from performing in his homeland ever again.
But he was much beloved at home and abroad.
And we leave you now with more of his performance and the emotional outpouring during a charity concert for the Bam earthquake that struck Iran
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.