tv Brookings Discussion on the Intelligence Communitys Role in Predicting... CSPAN October 17, 2020 3:40am-4:44am EDT
and the intelligence community doing a fairly good job to warn and anticipate the pandemic is coming so the data that points in that direction? >> can i just say that thank you for the kind words i was lucky enough and even luckier to talk to you about sure the book would be as good as it is. i have an epilogue in the book the history of the cia from richard helms but at the end
of the book what the president knew and when he knew it from the emerging coronavirus crisis and with the intelligence community told him. and with those catastrophic consequences of a president who ignored warnings about the coronavirus and the daily brief throughout january and february. and those whose name had emerged through that time and trump later said it's the first he ever heard of the coronavirus and then said it was no big dea deal, ".
there are so many things about that statement that are suspect to begin with that first of all that the president's daily brief is by definition and also briefed verbally and then to say it was no big deal but on top of that my sources tell me that this has been reported when trump made that statement my sources tell me that the warning was clear-cut in the should be taken very seriously
equally inconceivable any previous president would it bother which evidently is the case with this president. in my mind it's a dereliction of duty as you know i talk with a whole chapter with the attacks of 9/11 and in that case, the cia there all the policies successes and intelligence failures and that the former director told me that the cia will never be abolished because then they have no one to blame but the cia was blamed after 9/11 but as i laid out in exacting
detail in the markup to 9/11 with the multiple warnings not only george tenet who tried to warn the bush white house but also the head of the al qaeda unit who goes on the record as well. he said all that but covid-19 was the sound of horns blowing down a parade of main street and not just multiple warnings from the intelligence community but also warnings from the cdc and hhs and found that mar-a-lago to tell him
how serious the coronavirus was and he was treated to a diatribe of e-cigarettes. the president didn't want to hear about it i wrote a piece that said he is unbreakable because he doesn't
want to hear it and brings the level of contempt into this job but even richard nixon brought in the past. >> even using that analogy and the congressman and the white house and the state department and he also took advantage i
, and as far as i know and as you reported in the book. >> yes. that is absolutely true. you can read about in the book and it is absolutely critical and those are critical on our democratic society ever since we have had congressional oversight which came about in the mid- seventies, it is essential the cia director , the honest broker of intelligence to congress and the american people. and as you said it is an annual event, not required by law but always happens without fail until 2020. and all of his decades of experience never heard of the
ww ta not happening? he said no. never before. and something in the 2019 threat assessment that almost nobody noticed at the time. it said "and this is january 2019 if anyone heard of covid-19 we assess the united states will remain vulnerable through the next pandemic or large-scale outbreak of the disease leading to massive death and disability severely affecting the world economy is training resources, prepare operations are inadequate to address the challenge of more frequent outbreaks that was in the 2019
report can you imagine what it would have been in the 2020? within the intelligence community knew something was coming from the wuhan province of china that this couldn't have been another 1918 so this is an issue that hasn't been talked about enough that it was canceled in 2020 and unfortunately it seems to have happened because the leaders of our intelligence community and he said things they didn't want to hear a public. >>. >> with dan coats in 2019 went
before the cameras and then to tell the truth about global warming and iran being in compliance and to the extent of the election assault and told the truth and taken to the woodshed by trump i believe the next day. that may have been the beginning of the end for dan coats but. >>. >> and with the original headquarters.
>> so one of my questions with those other areas to communicate of those intelligence directors do you have any communication at the white house? >> i'm not sure i could prove it one way or the other but i'm not sure it matters much. whether or not that's intelligence community leaders censoring themselves in the white house saying we are canceling the briefing. the result is the same the politicalization of intelligence and the suppression of information the american people need to know especially in a time of crisis. either way it is unacceptable.
that's exactly what richard nixon thought of the cia and in the book i was lucky because of the cast of characters beginning with decals with a dry martini in one hand who could walk into the oval office and tell lbj what he didn't want to hear. but the obvious comparison is between trump and nixon he blamed him for his lost to kennedy in 1960 and was convinced that gap that kennedy ran on in 1960 accused eisenhower and those but nixon was convinced the cia had used it to win the election.
and with that contempt for the organization but donald trump's campaign to politicize that community would make nixon a lush he has been far more overt and flagrant and blatant and successful the nixon and the latest example is the installation of john radcliffe because the only qualification he has is the pedals disinformation and as fact. so that success the nixon could only dream about now
fast-forward to 9/11 and the deer times i was lucky enough in the review said with george tenet and i said really? i thought i was nuanced to george tenet because i conventional wisdom and cia kowtowing to the rest of them and in effect made up the case for the wmds in iraq a lot of people believe it and trump exploded that belief in the 2016 election. it's more complicated than that i think we can make a strong argument that george tenet wanted to please george w. bush more than the
directors showed as he got a little too close and certainly failed with that slamdunk meeting to push back to say we don't have a very strong case. and to say did you cook the books? and those to deny vociferously and it's hard to make the studies that look at this that there isn't any hard evidence that the books were cooked by the cia they just got it wrong. which is different.
present than that by national security team found evidence. if you read it was surprising about that is that on every critical issue the agency of the government that should know the most biological weapons or chemical weapons or missiles or nuclear weapons was in strong defense of nuclear weapons in los alamos. there's no way you can make a nuclear weapon from these two so any careful reader of that document would come away with a sense and of course the other reason was whether the
administration really wanted the intelligence 9/11 and their think george can take a great deal of precision and saying we said no. >> as you know bruce having read the book that's exactly what he said to me when i said that you cook the books and he almost jumped out of the chair in the next thing he said if we wanted to cook the books all we had to do was make a connection between iraq and the archive the hijackers. we never did that but that would have been games that match point over. we never did that. now so tenet deserves credit for that group bruce how do you explain tenet having signed off on what was so obviously a terribly flawed estimate of wmd?
>> well i think i recall there and that was made at the time was we can't fight the administrative and on every single issue. the priority as we are not going to make a connection to a qaeda. that means we are going to go with the weak evidence on wmd. we will left but the main fight but we will not fight. the other thing was iraq had weapons of mask destruction and it had used the weapons so it wasn't a varied difficult propaganda case. they still had to worry about that. i want to go back to 2003
arguably there is an error of mission here and not making more clear to the american public the weakness of the case. in 2020 the american public is not even consulted and people like you and me in my case case i went ahead with the crews to brazil was having none had dangerous the virus was there's no way i would have gone. there are 200,000 other americans plus who paid the ultimate price of the failure trust them to take sufficient measures. we have had other intelligence failures. this, they knew and didn't do
anything. >> and that comes back to if you don't mind that i will make another distinction between 9/11 and the covid crisis. i argue in the case of the 9/11 warnings in the book and i think you agree with me on this bruce that all condi rice had to do when warned that she was in no uncertain terms about an imminent attack arguably all she had to do was call the principles meeting in have there have been if trent supposed meeting where you get all the heads of departments around the table head of the fbi and cia and so forth and shake the trees and in all likelihood i think what would have would have fallen out among other things was the fact that there were two al qaeda terrorists on u.s. soil for months prior.
that could have resulted in rolling up the whole thing before september 11 so there was a process failure there in 9/11. we are looking in this case with covid at something much more egregious not only in the number of americans who have died as a result but much more than just a process foul. this -- i was on the program with olivia troye who used to work for vice president pence and is now a whistleblower about this whole process and she said look there were plenty of meetings and everybody knew how serious this was. the problem was at the top the fish left ahead and if the president isn't interested in government and the president believes in magical thinking, if the president thinks he can just wish away a crisis that is a
threat to national security you are in deep trouble and we were and we are. >> is very disturbing. also interesting to me that not of the same magnitude but another [inaudible] they did standup in their own way and that's something that he famously went to church right after the murder of jamal. he listens to the investigation on the ground in turkey.
he was something of a turkey specialist. and then she came back she testified on the hill that the saudis were responsible for the murder. she never said in public that he would never speak to the public. she never denied that. as many mini-figures of both parties republican and democrat said that's what the cia says or you read about jamal khashoggi in every article that says the cia told the president that jamal khashoggi was -- and no cia judgments gets this much attention. in a way he stood up to the
president. it's a much more important issue and that really stood up to him in october. the american people have a right to know who knew and when did they know it and what did they do about it. unfortunately we aren't getting that kind of information from our leader. >> i agree with you and this is something i write about as you know throughout the book and it goes all the way back to helms and prior. i'm sure it was true with dulles and others. he famously said it's not enough to ring the bell, it's got to make sure the president hears and that is one of the toughest things if not the toughest thing for every cia director because
it's an almost impossible balancing act. on the one hand you have to tell the president hard truths but you have also got to have his ear. that is difficult in the best of times. tomas mission impossible with this president. so i would never want to underestimate or minimize the challenge that gina haspel faces with this president. there were high hopes for her i think in the beginning among a lot of people and john mclaughlin told me he thought george tenet's deputy told me anybody who can get through to the sky block, blah, blah is disappointing. in fairness to her we don't know what she says behind closed doors with trump for sure. we don't know how much she has
pushed back and we probably never will know it has gina haspel is the least likely director ever to write a memoir i would guess although helms said he would never write when neither any wound up doing it eventually. so in fairness we don't know that but what we do know is troubling as you say. she deserves credit for khashoggi, i would totally agree with that but again the failure to testify in public. she has been awol on a number of occasions when she should have been speaking to the public. she clearly feels that she needs to keep her head down and not get his shot off and but i feel that the cia director as i said before has to be that honest row group intelligence to not just
the president that to the public just to give you one example i spoke to one former acting director of the cia who said that if the president had said what he had said about -- and thrown her under the bus that he who is in charge would have immediately either come to her defense or at the very least picked up the phone called the national security adviser and said if that happens again i am out of here and i am out of here making all kinds of trouble for you and b call in every national security reporter and background brief the out of it, supporting your briefer. none of that happened and i think this may well be a case of she is a covid operator with her
dna. she spent her whole career being invisible. this doesn't come naturally to her. it come -- came much more naturally to the leon panetta's of the world who knew how to deal with congress and the white house and the public and she has been disappointing in that respect and one other quick thing which is the cia director as you well know bruce traditionally have been honest brokers who did not put their thumb on the scale of policy for recommending lethal action of one kind or another. he presents opportunities and by all accounts she was really gung ho on the lethal targeting of general soleimani the iranian general. you can argue the merits of that and you can argue that either way whether some money should have been taken out but by all
accounts she was very gung ho about that reportedly and that is really not the role in my view of the honest broker of intelligence. >> it's troubling. it's troubling because for understandable reasons. [inaudible] they are extremely good in taking out terrorists and obviously in some cases leon panetta's leadership in bringing it osama bin laden to justice is one of the cia's highest
moments. but when you start thinking about government officials undoubtedly you cross about their lot. i don't think we have seen the end of qasem soleimani. he also raised dangerous consequences [inaudible] and some of the things we have waited for in situations where we said they killed americans. that is not because the russians -- once you start this it goes very swiftly. that may come back to this point. as we think about the future it
seems to me one of the messages we grapple about is the cia and the intelligence community needs to think about the traditional [inaudible] but getting in there in the morning and briefing him is the overwhelming preference for the entire institution and the most important. everything else is priorities. it's also interesting there are different presidents to see the cbp and different ways.
bill clinton [inaudible] he never got an oral briefing. he just would not be they read the book very very closely. the agency's morale was terrible because they didn't have access. w may not have listened and may have ignored the warnings but the agency's morale went through the rest that i can only imagine when trump doesn't take oral briefings and doesn't. [inaudible]
as we think about the future presidents and i think the congress [inaudible] the congress and through the congress needs to be the customer as well. we have an appreciation to make this known to the public. a simple way to do that of course is to register it as a worldwide threat. >> it's an optional exercise. >> it's a legal responsibility. that is classified but he's in a
classified briefing usually. even a classified briefing usually has a public consequence and it seems to me that ought to be changed i would recommend to joe biden. one thing to do and i think it would recommend something like that. >> i completely agree with you and i think that the other thing that frankly i think never got enough discussion and i was talking about it a moment ago for lack of a better phrase i don't think anybody is clear about what the rules of engagement are for targeted killings of figures like general soleimani either so i wonder if
that isn't something that needs to be looked at. but i agree. those two things and it may be as simple as making the ww tha requirement, you are right. >> while we are talking about taking out terrorists one of the most revealing parts of the book are insights into the killing of imad mughniyeh. in the post-9/11 world. >> are we allowed to say his name out loud? >> i think so. own a world dominated by soleimani and osama bin laden many americans have never heard
of imad mughniyeh at imad mughniyeh was probably the worst terrorist of the 1980s, 90s and on responsible for the attacks of the american embassy in beirut and by the marine corps bombing and responsible for the abduction of numerous americans and brits and others held hostage in lebanon. a spree link to the iran-contra scandal into the almost being discredited by ronald reagan. hugh tell us in the book more
about it or they don't want you to spoil the book but i certainly want people to buy it. can you speak a little bit about how first of all why people wouldn't talk and then what you ultimately learned. >> yeah, sure. it's the most incredible untold story that i can think of over the last 50 years because as you say imad mughniyeh was the most wanted terrorist in cia history. he did all of that. he was responsible for all of the things you just talked about and he was considered the most intelligent, crafty, elusive character they had ever gone after. he wore disguises and the cia
literally had one grainy photograph of him and that was it. they could never keep up with him or pin him down. among other things he created -- he was a brilliant operational chief of hezbollah and he created the so-called shaped charge which was a super sophisticated ied they would go through the steel of a tank like a knife through butter and it literally drove the israelis out of lebanon. that weapon alone, so he was this extraordinarily dangerous character and the cia and assad chased them for decades. i tell the story which i won't go into detail about that which has never been told about the time that the cia very nearly
got him on bill clinton's watch and george tenet's watch the cia director are they tried to kidnap him in beirut to take him to a ship offshore and failed. a bit a decade went by before they finally found them again and it became a joint cia operation that finally resulted in his death in damascus in 2008 and it's an unbelievable hair-raising story as you know bruce. nobody will talk about imad mughniyeh and no one in any position of responsibility at the cia or the u.s. government or former cia directors will say anything about him to this day. they won't talk about it.
i believe, i asked every cia director and they all said no, no we can't address it. yesterday i was speaking to the kennedy school, the intelligence project at the kennedy school and had a bunch of middle eastern active intelligence operators none of whom would comment either so it's extraordinary and i think it's because a deal was struck and i think george w. bush promised the israelis in 2008 that the u.s. would never acknowledge its role in the mission and you can. all about it in the book. but the one thing i'll say about it is i harass poor john brennan and i wouldn't take no for an answer and kept asking him what he could tell me about imad
mughniyeh and brennan finally paused and said he died quickly period, end of sentence. that's very dark web. speaking of which just after the election john was not in my a.c.t. class. a few classes later. i have known him since the late 1970s. he has become one of the most vocal directors particularly since -- he would say donald
trump whether he's awaiting agent orange unwitting agent is the question. i'm very sympathetic to his argument with donald trump's behavior around russians. much more than we know now but for a former director to make statements like that and -- as taken some criticism. iran has taken some criticism and heat including recent memoirs by david ignatius. it all gets back to the question we have been kind of had coming
up for the last 45 minutes. what is the director's response ability vis-à-vis the public vis-à-vis explaining what's going on. and the irresponsibility after they leave the job detail. in those cases where we have memoirs like we have now they are very revealing. they don't really tell you anything. no real secrets. there are a lot of good atmospherics but rarely do you get a humdinger wow i didn't know that. and brennan in particular on his speaking out and directors and general, we have talked to every living director now and how they
see it. said let me begin by saying out loud you brought up panetta because i had a big advantage in this book overall of the cia directors and anybody who has ever worked there which is no review. nobody reviewed anything i wrote and it is cia directors told me more than i probably should have at times and some of them did, nobody was in the room to say excuse me mr. panetta you really can't say that. so i was really lucky in that respect and you are right that panetta doesn't reveal secrets in his memoir but he sure told me an amazing story about standing in arlington cemetery at one point and he was at the funeral for a young woman who had died in a suicide bombing in
afghanistan. at that moment in the crosshairs of the cia drone at that moment and he was also told that there were innocent civilians quote in the shot end quote as he put it. then edit told me all about how he called the white house and said what do you think in the white house that this is on you leon and he said thanks a lot fingering his rosary beads and saying his hail mary's as a devout catholic and made the decision to greenlight the lethal drone strike which did in fact wind up killing some civilians. and we got him as he said to me. ..
>> there is a lot of resentment about how vocal and how partisan he has been against trump. a lot of people are uncomfortable with it. i was with bob gates outside of seattle when the letter arrived for him protesting security clearance. and gates told me i will sign it but i sure don't agree with this stuff.
so they are uncomfortable but the irony is that brandon by all accounts as cia director with obama he were scrupulously nonpartisan in the book of intelligence by all accounts everybody in the situation room said brennan just let obama have it , whatever it was. he wasn't afraid to tell stephanie did not want to hear. so i word respectfully to suggest that while this tradition of being above the fray and nonpartisan as a former director is something of ordinary circumstances is valuable and traditional
, these are exceptional circumstances we have not had a president before who stood on stage with vladimir putin and basically he took his word over our own intelligence community. and i think it should tell people something when not only john brennan but mike hayden and james clapper and a lot of other people have decided that these are times that are not normal and we are compelled to speak u up. >> you are absolutely right. you are an extraordinary man.
and i would hope that post trump we have a thorough investigatio investigation. >> it sounds like the e-mails after 2016. >> let me just add to that, woodward reports that former senator coates became convinced the russians had something on trump and cannot think of any other possibilities. i found in my reporting of the
book, senior cia official officials, former senior cia officials, one of them ran russian operations for years he said after helsinki that this one person in particular said i could think of no other possibility. no possibility other than vladimir putin has something on donald trump. he didn't mean compromise a could've been a financial relationship, but something. >> and to go around and around and around and that is the responsibility when we have
hill to make it possible after the question. so the normal oversight with the intelligence community. >> that's true. and as you well know, back in the seventies the front lawn - - the family jewels were disclosed at 693 page compendium of the attempted assassination. the whole world of intelligence changed and congressional oversight began and it changed everything for the better. and after this period of time
and we have been governed, i will use that term loosely whose loyalties are questionable at best to me with think it is time for some reform. and checks and balances. it is true the oversight has been effective, but lately not so much as you said. >> are on - - i would argue the agency should have any covert operations we told you and so we cannot help you.
>> our time has reached this is a great book and innovative and it fills the niche but also to tell the story what do they do all day? and how they interact. that story has never really come out before thank you chris for being on the show today and thank you to the audience for watching. >> it has been a pleasure. thank you for all your
this is about 40 minutes. >> i am honored to be here to launch our quarterly johns hopkins form. schedulingst-minute change, the president is unable to join us. we can think of no better person with whom to begin a series of dialogues about policy then dr. anthony franchi. for millions across the country an