tv Tim Weiner The Folly and the Glory CSPAN October 31, 2020 8:45am-9:46am EDT
holland remembers the allied une vawtion of italy during world war ii, and historian alan -- [inaudible] looks at the impact that the war had on britain in britain at bay. find these titles this coming week wherever books are sold and watch for many of the authors in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> so delighted to be co-presenting this evening's event with our great friends at a retreat for artists located on a 400-acre estate here in new york. its mission is to provide a community for artists to work without interruption in a supportive environment, and it's a huge part of the local cultural community and really the worldwide cultural community. for those of you who don't know this already, yado's virtual fall benefit is coming up next week, and that sounds amazing. so we've nicely dropped a link into the chat box so you can
find out more about that. tonight our guest author is going to be interviewed by gawrt, a distinguished magazine journalist. he covers politics, technology and -- [inaudible] contributes to wired and the author of multiple books including the number one national best seller the only plane in the sky: an oral history of 9/11. inside robert mueller's fbi and often rock about the government's -- [inaudible] he's also -- and memorably did a great interview there back in february in the manchester north sure we could do things like that. and hopefully, we'll do that again when we can. and i am so pleased to welcome tim wiener back to northshire. he was saying he's done events in vermont for his last four books, and we are lucky enough to host him in our store back in 2016 when his wonderful richard
nixon boy owe came out -- bio came out. i remember it very, very fondly. he has won the pulitzer prize and the national book awar for his reporting and writing on national security and intelligence. he covered the cia, the war in afghanistan and crises and conflict in 14 nations for "the new york times." he's with us tonight to talk about husband brand new book, "the folly and the quarry." please join me in welcoming tim and garrett. >> thank you, everybody. the history of the last 75 years of warfare between america and russia, its political warfare. and political warfare is -- [inaudible] it's the full spectrum from diplomacy to covert operations.
from friend lu persuasion -- friendly persuasion to sabotage and subversion are. and the story of the book is that we won the 20th century, and they're winning the 21st. that's it in a nutshell. you can see political warfare against the american political system, against american democracy, against the american body politic every day. we're going to see whether they win the next battle on election day. garrett, over to you. >> well, tim, it's great to have a chance to talk with you about this, and thank you, northshire and yado for hosting us tonight. i know that i speak for tim when i say we're sorry that we can't be there in person at the manchester store or even the share toe georgia store. --
saratoga store. it would be a lot more fun to be there in person, but i'm excited to have a chance to talk with tim from the comfort of his home and my home here in burlington the, vermont. so, tim, one of the things i think i want to start by asking you about this, you know, and just i'm obligated to start for the participants with a plug for just what a good book this is. and i had the opportunity to read it in galleys. my endorsement of it is on the back cover of the finished book, so i come into this a fully biased observer that this is an excellent book. but part of what surprised me in reading this was how much of this story i didn't actually know. that, you know, i'm someone who
i wouldn't have told you -- well, i have covered these topics for years. i would have told you i was well versed in this, and there were entire chapters of this book that the i just knew nothing about. and so, tim, you've written the definitive history of the cu -- cia, one of the great histories of the fbi, you've done, you know, tons of national security reporting on all manner of topics over the years. what made you think there was actually something more to say about the cold war and russia and the u.s.? where does this book come from and how, how did this concept come together in your mind? >> well, garrett, i first walked into the cia headquarters in 1987, and i called them up and said, hey, i'm going to afghanistan.
this was as we were running a secret operation shipping hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to the afghan knew ya that dean -- mujahideen holy warriors who were fighting the red army. i said you guys do country briefings, don't you, for reporters going strange places? how about it? and the public information officer at the cia scoffed and said, absolutely not, hung up on me. so i went to afghanistan. three months ofjihad and came back with my new beard, and i hadn't been back at my desk in washington a day when the phone rang. tim, how are you? guess who? the c ia public spokesman. how'd you like to come in for that briefing now? i said, that'd be great. so off i go to the cia.
seven miles outside of washington, in lang lu, virginia. through the checkpoints, through the lobby -- beautiful lob but. marble, soaring atrium, and up on the left-hand wall as you walk in is an inscription from the gospel of john that says and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. so i go up, talk to the four afghan analysts in the cia, and they want to know what's it like. they've never been within a country mile of afghanistan, and yet they're analyzing the progress of jihad. so i go down, walk back through the lobby, look over my right shoulder and -- [inaudible] this is what i'm going to do. five years later at the end of the cold war,ring the director, bob gates, said we're going to
declassify our cold war history, warts and all. the service members of the cia did not like that because there are a lot of warts. it took 15 years to move through the declassification, and there would be a critical mass declassified information about the cia so i could write my history about the cia. on the record. twelve years have passed since then. and slowly the declassified history of the cia is revealed, you know, like a glacier melting and revealing the rock underunderneath. there's a chapter in the book about poland about two disastrous operations -- well, a disastrous operation and a
successful operation 30 years apart. the successful operation was the trade union movement in poland are. kept them alive in the '80s, solidarity, wound up being the domino that overturned the soviet empire. when, you know, the nightmare of the soviet system was revealed in the revolt of the proletariat against -- [inaudible] there are 20th century stories in this book that nobody's ever heard of. not just you, garrett. there's a story of cia support for the dictator of the congo. there's a story of how the united states tried to fight back against soviet disinformation in the '80s. the disinformation of the
soviets was really the brain child of the head of the kgb who ran the kgb in the '60s, '70s and into the '80s and then became the leader of the soviet union. kgb disinformation then and now have three goals. undermine americans' faith in their national security institutions, the fbi. and the cu e a. ever hear that the cia killed john kennedy or the fbi killed martin luther king? that's can kgb disinformation. fort deet rubbing, maryland, millions of people still believe that to this day. kgb disinformation. vladimir putin is the heir to uri andropov both as the head of
russian intelligence and as the strongman leader of russia. and, garrett, there's a straight line that runs through these stories from the end of world war ii to today. people think the cold war was then in the 20 century, and this nightmare we're going through now with russia attacking our democracy, that's a whole different story. they're one story. >> so one of the things about the book that struck me was that, or you know, you have written so much about the cia before creates a lot of its successes and myriad failures. i'm not spoiling the thesis of a book called "legacy of ashes," but your sort of general belief has been that there are more failures on the cia's books than
successes. i'm curious how this project and looking at this 12 years later changed your perception of the cia, changed your belief in how in the role that it played in the cold war and sort of what should we make of the legacy of the cia in this particular fight? >> covert action is a drug for presidents, secretaries of defense, secretaries of state. they have a problem that they can't solve through duh -- diplomacy or through the military, they send in the cia. the cia just got born in 1947. they didn't know the first thing about covert action. the russians have been at this since peter the great.
they've been at it for centuries. so our lack of knowledge of how to do these sorts of things and then a distaste because of the secrecy of the cia, coordinating things with policymakers secretaries of state, secretaries of defense led to a series of cascading failures. what the cia had in the 20th century e in the cold war that the kgb did not was money. lots and lots of lovely money. if it wanted to sway an election as it dud in its very first -- as it did in it very first covert operation ever to steal the italian election in 1948, suitcases full of cash.
if it wanted to reverse the results of an election as it did in chile in 1970, it could create the conditions for a coup. if it wanted to buy the allegiances of entire political parties, create entire political parties, it created the ruling party in japan in the 1950s, the liberal democratic party which is neither liberal nor democratic nor a party but still runs japan to this day. when the cold war ended, the successes of the cia were not only its ability to outspend. there were, we learned -- the cu e a learned, the united states learned -- through bitter experience and failure that if you dud things on a small scale, the butterfly effect was more
effective than sending billions of dollars of weapons to the mujahideen. we did that with short-term success. the afghan rebels drove out the soviet army. but the country awash in weapons without any follow-up from the united states was the incubator of al-qaeda. an unforeseen consequence of the cia's support for the afghans. .. economics support and intelligence operations. we don't do it anymore. for good oriole we are out of the game. the war on terror subsumed everything. counterterrorism was the first and last goal of the cia and
fbi. we took our eye off of traditional espionage. created conditions for the russians to launch the political equivalent of 9/11, attack on our democracy. nobody died but american democracy received a grievous wounds, unexpected attack from an unexpected direction and that is where we stand. >> my experience in tempering intelligence, there are two things that stood out to me in your book that ring true to me from covering intelligence, one, maybe this has to do with the money reason you mentioned,
the us is technical collection and technical intelligence wizardry and the soviet union, black russia, is generally better at human operations, human intelligence. the second thing that stands out in this book which is something that stood out to me in covering russia and the us, russia has a strategic patience of the us never had that you watch russia's soviet union, russia's ability carried out operations over decades. the clearest example of that being the illegals program, operation ghost stories and
inspiration for the americans where you had the deep cover of part of living inside the united states for decades and the us watched for decades, what was fascinating we are seeing and learning this fall. peter stzrok talked in his memoir this fall how on 9/11 he was already assigned one of the surveillance teams tracking the illegals coupled in boston, operation these illegals were not arrested until 2010. >> my question for you, how does the us learn patience in
political warfare or is democracy such a different system of that we will never possess the patience necessary to carry out these operations? >> secrecy and deception are not our strongest suits. it is easier for hostile intelligence service like kgb and its successors to penetrate an open society than it is for the cia to propose authoritarian society. penetration by russian and soviet intelligence, american government has been deep and long-standing going back to the 1930s.
the united states congressman on payroll in the 1930s, and this guy selling soviet spies fake passports and holding public hearings. that is an agent of influence, very specific definition. someone in a position of power or authority can sway public opinion, in russia's favor. you can think of many others, alger his at the state department, in the justice department's for an agency registration position, the
treasury, they had spies at the wartime civilian intelligence, in the 70s, 80s and 90s running soviet counterintelligence at the fbi and the cia, they cleaned our clock. and they distorted american perception of what was going on in russia, the number of successful cia penetrations, soviet russia and present-day russia, you will have something left over. without that kind of intelligence gathering we will be surprised as we were surprised by the russian attack on the 2016 election as we will
be surprised, in the next five weeks. i want people to read this book, how it operates to understand a threat to our democracy. >> the most stunning chapter in this book which you and i discussed on multiple occasions, which you mentioned a few -- the book talk version of the craziness that unfolded in the middle of the twentieth century. >> they were captive under colonialism.
for cia agent. he had been a kernel and ruler of the congo. supports -- straight cash payments to help him run the government, the leaders who supported him, was approved personally by president kennedy and amounted to millions of dollars approved by president johnson after that and approved by president nixon after that. was unremitting. american support for this dictator became a kleptocratic who robbed this country blind, stole $5 billion in gold,
diamonds, natural resources, a murderous to radical, our bulwark against communism. why did americans support this man until he was toppled from power 33 years after the cia helped cement the power, the cold war was over. a conflagration that emerged from collapse of the congo, unnoticed in america was an african reward to save 5 million lives. this is the consequence of pragmatic decisions by presidents in the cold war.
>> present day a little bit, one of the things you lay out in chapter after chapter, the way that the us, cia meddled in other nations elections successfully and unsuccessfully across decades in the cold war. you have the number in the book, something like 117, 137 elections. >> between washington and moscow, election interference in 117 elections in other countries in the second half of the twentieth century. >> you hear donald trump and
mike pompeo, sort of right off what russia did to the united states in 2016, this is more of the same, we do it to them all the time. what do you think of that, does 2016 stand out to you as something fundamentally different from the legacy you lay out in election interference? >> i am doing this podcast, a number of former cia directors, had a talk with general hayden who ran the cia, george w. bush, former director of the national security agency spent his entire life in the national security movement. general hayden said what the
russians did to us in 2016 is what they are continuing to do today, the most successful covert operation in the history of modern intelligence and it succeeded in part because vladimir putin has in donald trump an agent of influence. trump amplifies russian propaganda pretty much every day, trump distorts american foreign-policy, cows house to vladimir putin, that is no secret, the question is why. i mentioned before, the american congressman who was an agent of influence for moscow and the 30s. donald trump is an agent of influence for the russian federation in the white house.
it is no secret that he kisses vladimir putin's ring. the question is why. that question, which is the great counterintelligence question of the 21st century, has never been addressed, never been investigated. the fbi started an investigation and vanished into thin air. it is possible it is going on in the greatest secrecy as we speak, but i really doubt it. i think the trump justice department strangled it in its crib, put it in a u.s. postal service sack and threw it in the potomac. >> we see reporting from your old employer over the last couple days about the president's tax returns, pretty good too.
the question of these $421 million debt the president has coming do over the next four years, without any sense of who owns that, who owns the people who own that. >> have any theories? >> host: i wrote a piece for wired, two years ago, looking at the question of whether the trump organization was effectively a massive money-laundering scheme for russian wealth. >> i think you were onto something. >> i have no knowledge beyond what i have read in the new york times the last couple days
but it continues to be a puzzle that the president is thinking an enormous amount of cash into his scottish golf courses that appear to both -- cash that doesn't appear to come from anywhere nor go anywhere, the scottish golf courses continue to lose money. >> the $421 million of debt that is coming do in the next couple years most of which trump is personally on the line for, trump is presently on the line for this it raises two questions. why? to whom is this money owed? how is this money going to be paid back? who is going to finance trump's debt?
you and i and some of our audience know a few things about security clearance and how it works. the number one red flag for security clearances unexplained debt. donald trump could not get a security clearance in any government, especially the american government given what we now know about his finances. it is an enormous national security risk in and of itself, who his creditors are because vladimir putin knows because he runs an efficient intelligence service a good deal about trump's finances and the knowledge is in itself compromising information. when we ask ourselves why trump cows house to vladimir putin we
have several theories which i explore in "the folly and the glory". when is he is a useful idiot and he does vladimir putin's bidding because he doesn't know what he is doing. 2, he is an agent of influence, which is the theory that i described to. vladimir putin flattered him on the campaign trail, and offered him political support including but not limited to covert political support. vladimir putin gains influence over trump and trump exchanges his influence in return. everything with trump is transactional in one way, shape or form. it is always about the money with trump. if trump is out of office he
loses the invisibility cloak of presidential power and i think we will come to find out the answer as to why he kisses vladimir putin's ring and it is not going to be pretty. >> let me ask you one question building off of that that harkens back to another one of your books and then we will open up for questions from the audience on the off chance that anyone has questions about russia, us intelligence, trump, or any of the other headline grabbing topics we have mentioned over the last 35 minutes. if you wrote a biography of richard nixon and now a lot of the sort of meat of the modern
frame of "the folly and the glory" is donald trump. as a historian who has thought deeply about these two men, two of the three presidents, four presidents, what stands out to you and unites them? and how do you see them as different and the same? >> there is a line that runs from richard nixon to donald trump. that is roy cohn who had been joe mccarthy's council in the mccarthy hearings and his protector, who was against
stiff competition, the most crooked lawyer in the united states for many years, was utterly amoral, utterly ruthless and interviewed some of that ruthlessness into richard nixon and donald trump who he also counseled for the last decade of his life. there was a shamelessness in the work of roy cohn that imbues the political lives of richard nixon and donald trump. a shamelessness and a recklessness. >> host: do you see them -- how do you see them as different? >> guest: next was way smarter. nixon had a much better sense
of power. say what you will about richard nixon but he understood american foreign-policy. he was vice president for eight years under dwight eisenhower, the most masterful president in foreign-policy in the years since world war ii. he had been all over the world. he knew things. donald trump is richard nixon on twitter minus 50 iq points. >> host: richard nixon on twitter would be a fascinating -- >> guest: i know! >> host: thing to try to play out. he actually does seem like he would take to it during the same dark night hours that donald trump does.
>> guest: it would be something to uphold. >> host: i am fine, trying to takes questions. >> host: go right ahead. we are holding out for you. >> host: any one of you have a comment, long or short just let us know in the chat and we would love to open up this conversation. the first question, effectively, i am told trump is not only morally bankrupt but has multiple bankruptcy filings himself. how does he continue funding his business ventures?
>> guest: through debt, skillful manipulation of debt and with the help remains mysterious, of one of the most suspect major banks, deutsche bank. that is all i can tell you about that. >> host: talk to was a little bit about what you learned about the office of doctrine in the course of this book and what america should know about it. >> guest: garamond stuff was a soviet russian general in the general staff and the doctrine in short is, it was crystallized in something he wrote tweet 7 years ago, that
all warfare is based on deception and all warfare in the future will be decided by information. by information warfare we mean propaganda, misinformation and the control of cyberoperations that can distort what you perceive. the ability of the russian cybercommanders, their trolls, their social media puppets, to get inside the head of the president of the united states and senior republicans in congress and get them to dance to a russian tune, one of the most remarkable achievements in history of intelligence operations. we don't know the half of it.
>> host: what did this book teach you about what us intelligence needs to be doing better? if you were going to be sitting down with a new cia director or a new director of national intelligence, what advice would you give them out of this book about what we have done well or not well? >> host: the next president of the united states, if there is one, will have to pick up the pieces of a large and powerful machine donald trump is shattered and undermined and imagine the power of american
diplomatic, philharmonic orchestra, everybody got instruments. there is no sheet music now, the instruments are broken and cacophony in sue's. the next president has to be conductor and composer to get the band back together as it were and conduct it and make it play in harmony. is a mammoth test. >> host: what do you think, in terms of strategy what has the us succeeded at or not succeeded at as you look back over 75 years of political warfare? >> when america was able to project its power by representing american democracy as a far superior form of
government, kind of a no-brainer it succeeded. one of the great crazies of the present days we cannot project american democracy. american democracy is in deep deep trouble and the authoritarian governance of vladimir putin is a more attractive model, there are nations, soviet satellites like poland, hungary, the czech republic, the united states embraced into the nato military alliance at the end of the twentieth century because they look like they were becoming democracy. they are not functioning democracies. we are not a functioning democracy right now.
we have been wounded by russian intelligence operations and we are rubbing salt in those wounds, doing it to ourselves right now. >> host: that is one of the things that comes through in the 2016 reporting around what russia accomplished in their attack on the united states. what russia's success and the success of the internet research agency online really was was exacerbating political divisions that russia doesn't really have the ability to inject divisions they didn't already exist. what it has the ability to do is stoke fire and sort of exploit the themes of western
democracy as they are ready exist. >> the number one target information operations, 2016 operation were black americans. and by rubbing salt in the wounds of american race relations, they sought to express the black vote. which the trump campaign did too. the ability of what russians were doing and what the trump campaign did it is doing today to work in harmony is breathtaking. >> host: marcia asks about william barr and how he fits into the political mess we are living through today and i want to frame it in the context of your answer about roy cohn who
donald trump has repeatedly - >> where is my roy cohn? >> that jeff sessions was not in his corner the way he expected the attorney general to be. william barr clearly is. talk to us about your view of william barr and his work in the justice department in the last 18 months or so. >> guest: bar's central role has been to erase the evidence gathered through the commitment intelligence investigations of robert mueller and the fbi to exonerate the guilty, investigate the investigators, to nullify trump's henchmen like michael flynn and roger stone.
and to pervert the administration of justice to protect a deeply corrupt president, a deeply compromised president. history will not be kind to william barr. lest we forget, some 30 years ago william barr was the attorney general too under president bush the elder and he managed to get the criminal convictions, criminal investigations and indictments up to and including the secretary of defense on bush's pardon desk in christmas 1992, as he was about to leave office, bush pardoned them all and that was the final cover above the iran contra
investigation and william barr did that. he knows what he is doing. >> host: we have time for one or 2 more questions. if you want to drop one or 2 questions into the chat please do so. one of the questions that i think a lot of people are struggling with, debra asked about this in the chat right now. how do you play chats against someone who has appended the chessboard and strewn the pieces all over the room? how does joe biden take on donald trump? what are your thoughts and predictions about the debate
night and how do you think biden should tackle debating donald trump? >> guest: there is not much to do at this point. we are now deep into what the soviet author and journalist calls the authoritarian attempt. donald trump has signaled that he will not accept the results of the election and that he will stay in power no matter what. i'm not sure joe biden has a trick in history bag to deal with that. we are in deep trouble, folks. the only way around it is a massive landslide vote that would prevent trump from claiming that he won.
>> host: do you have any thoughts what you expect to see from russia over the next five weeks? >> guest: intelligence officers divide when they are looking at what an opponent will do, the capabilities and intentions. i'm not sure anyone does know what russia's intentions are. create chaos, trump is the chaos candidate. in terms of their capabilities, they can as they've been doing once ran somewhere attacks against the companies that provide software, they can look at voter registration rolls and create havoc. they have the capability to bring down the electrical grid
on election night. that would create chaos. >> host: how strongly do you think russia has attempted to play at hand over the last five weeks? you talk about a realm of projects and operations with varying levels of deniability that would provoke presumably varying levels of response. >> guest: from this president who won't even grapple with the fact that russians have bounties to kill american soldiers in afghanistan, this president will never counter russian intelligence operations. the best way to put it, chaos is their candidate, trump is
their vehicle. having pulled out the most successful political warfare operation since the trojans took in that horse i would be stunned if they sat on their hats and said let the american people decide. >> host: keith in the chat asks how did the fbi and the cia get so far behind technologically? >> guest: you know that answer. in the time since the 9/11 attacks, for some time thereafter, fbi agents could not send emails to each other. they couldn't download a picture on their computers. in the late 90s, director louis free called in the director of
systems operations at ibm to tell him what can be done about this problem which had been a problem for 20 years. and he said to the director of the fbi you guys aren't on life support, you are dead. and while things have gotten marginally better, the fbi is no longer appear a bit of paper as it was at the turn of the 21st century, there is an inherent problem and you have written about this brilliantly. if you want to protect in formation within the american government you have to go to's ireland security, if you want to share information with the fbi, the state department, the cia, a lower level of security, this is a dilemma.
every level of security that escalates within your system screws things up. if your goal is to share and coordinate information. nobody has ever solved that. that is a central problem of cybernetics. >> of final question. we have seen the us in recent years become more aggressive in cyberspace, donald trump has acknowledged this so the nsa can talk about it, the nsa and cyber command attack to the internet research agency over the fall of 2018 to try to protect the midterm election,
and deter further interference. >> guest: they are back. >> host: do you think with a change of president that the us is in a position where it will have turned a corner and how it conducts political warfare or acknowledges and engages in political warfare or is this an area where you think as a democracy that turns over its leadership as regularly as we do with different branches of government pursuing different priorities that we will always be behind in this? >> guest: this president has broken the machinery of american national security. the next president, if there is one, will have to rebuild it. that includes not only putting competent individuals in charge at the top of the pyramid but
rebuilding faith in those institutions that this president has attacked as nazis and storm troopers, faith in american diplomats, this president has attacked american diplomats as humans come. we are broken. we are broken country. we are a failing democracy. russian intelligence operations have created some of that failure. but their triumph was to put an agent of influence and agent of chaos in the white house. we can't calibrate how many votes, how many minds russian disinformation operations suede. didn't have to be a lot, did it? there were contributing factors to the election of donald trump.
that is a tragic for american democracy and if we don't get back in the game, there will be trouble ahead. >> host: thanks for joining us. it has been a pleasure talking to you tonight. the book, "the folly and the glory," i highly recommend it. an incredible lesson in history, i thought i knew and turned out to have been blown away page after page throughout reading it. so thanks for what you have done throughout your career most recently with this book to shed the light on some of the most opaque chapters of recent american history. thank you north shire in manchester, saratoga, for hosting us and putting this together tonight.
it has been a great conversation. i perceive a chance to talk to you. >> guest: thanks to north shire, thanks to everybody in manchester and saratoga springs and. you learn more about this. i started the podcast, whirlwind, based on the book and goes above and beyond. i have had more fun doing this in the last couple months than i have had in a long time. it is worth a listen. i encourage you. called whirlwind. check it out. >> i am popping a link in the chat, this information. and link it there. this was fascinating, disturbing but appreciate you taking time to be with us tonight.
we will see you back tomorrow and the rest of the weekend a month. thank you for doing this. thanks, everyone, have a great night. >> host: some publishing industry news. a former publisher at crown books, editor of michelle obama's memoir launched an independent company, with those who market their books. instead of relying over traditional retailers and advertisers. a british publisher and founder, of the largest literary award has died at the age of 87.
including kurt vonnegut and gabriel garcia marquez just to name a few. in other news publishers weekly released a survey on the political traits of book buyers, 92% of book buyers are registered to vote and 30% more likely to cast a ballot than other americans. in regards to political affiliation 38% are registered democrats, 24% registered republicans and 38% are affiliated with another party. also in the news, book sales are close to 7% for the first nine months of the year. adult nonfiction sales are of 2% over the same time last year and a museum dedicated to the study of words and language open in washington dc. the museum houses several across 3 floors. that is found at planet word museum.org. booktv will bring new programs and publishing news, you can watch all of our past programs anytime, booktv.org. >> welcome to america's