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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  January 10, 2013 12:00pm-1:00pm EST

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>> rose: we begin this evening talking about enhanced interrogation technique or as some call it, torture. we talk about whether it works, whether it is moral and whether as depicted in real life or in the film zero dark 30, it helped lead to the killing of osama bin laden. we talked to john miller, mark bowden and peter bergen. >> there are two key questions here and one cancels out the other. let's be cold and clinical because there are nuances and compilations and opinions. talk with the practical question, a does it work. b, does it work better or faster or more accurately than conventional interrogation techniques. if the answer to question one is
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no it doesn't work any better or faster or no it's not effective or does it elicit the truth, it just elicits answers just to make the pain stop then you don't have to move on to the complicated moral arguments. you say fit doesn't work we can skip the moral argument. beyond that i think if you do move on to the moral argument, we can't set the bar as we have has a nation for generations to be the street cop on the world stage that enforces the standard for human rights that says to other governments you shall not torture, you shall not hold prisoners in communicado. where does our moral high ground go when we engage in those same practices we ask others not to do because it's convenient or we consider it urgent. >> rose: move the movie argo tarring and directed by ben affleck is how the canadian ambassador somehow helped some
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americans during the time of the iranian hostage taking to survive and get out. we talked to the actual ambassador ken taylor the form canadian ambassador to iran. >> our thought was yes they were canadians, that was our fundamental starting point. we didn't quite care what they did in tehran. the movie team that we thought would work, canadians movie team. sympathetic to the revolution, whereas the u.s. of course couldn't send the movie team. and then at the u.s., there was no moon in the united states at the time to be sympathetic to the revolution. that format in our minds would be effective in influencing the iranians to quickly pass them through and do what they could to help. >> rose: torture the movie,
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zero dark 30, the ambassador and the movie argo when we continue.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: the debate over the legitimacy of torture is in the high lines surrounding the new film, zero dark 30. the film has generated much controversy and will figure promptly in hollywood's award season that culminates with the oscars on february 24th.
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here's what general stanley mcchrystal said to me yesterday. >> i think the ambiguity of the movie, i'm not arguing whether the movie is true or not but it forces the debate. it actually shows both sides of it. it shows the horror of torture, the cruelty of it but it also shows the underlying rationale for somebody who might argue for it. so it sort of puts it right in front of us that says how do you feel about this and how would you feel about this in the future. it's also easy to feel about it this way. if we go back to 9/11 -- >> rose: and you hear the voices. >> it's different. but you have to set yourself a moral compass because long term i believe, my personal position, if you start down that path, we won't be who we need to be and we won't be internal to ourselves and we won't be perceived who we must be perceived to be. >> rose: the national conversation is sparked by the
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film comes at the time of leadership changes at the c.i.a. state dent and pentagon. from washington peter bergen cnn national security analyst and author of man hunt, the ten year search of bin laden from 9/11 and from new york delaware mark bowden he is author of the finish and the killing of osama bin laden. i want to talk large before we get to specifics. i'll start with you peter bergen. what do you believe about torture as a way to get information that's vital to the united states national security interest at the moment or longer. >> generally speak it's unethical and counterproductive. i'll give you how torture got us involved in the iraq war to a
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large degree. a guy was tortured by the egyptian security service and told them a bunch of baloney about al-qaeda being trained by saddam hussein. that edged up as a key part of colin powell's -- to the iraq war. it's not only unethical and counterproductive, it can produce misinformation and in this case costly misinformation. >> rose: therefore under no circumstances should it be used? >> yes. i mean it's sort of a principle lesson in civilization for some period now. >> rose: mark bowden. >> i think it has been a principle of western civilization much arneed in the breach. i do think that torture is something that ought to be banned because if you try to authorize it in any way, i think it inevitably leads to large scale abuses. nevertheless, i do think that in certain rare circumstances, it
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is the, it's the right thing to do. although i do believe that anyone who take that step, ought to have to break the rules to do it. and then be in a position of having to depend themselves for taking that action. >> rose: what's the right -- give me an easy case for a right circumstance and a more difficult for -- >> an easy case didn't involve national security but it came up a few years ago when a kidnapper in germany kidnapped a ten year old boy and he buried the child in a container alive. and went to pick up his ransom. he was captured when he picked up his random and he refuse to tell the police where he buried the child. there was a limited amount of time that that child had to live. the german police chief threatened to torture the kidnapper who promptly confessed where he put the kid.
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in this case the police chief lost his job because they're very strict in their rules against torture for obvious reasons in germany. nevertheless i would argue that if i had been, i believe if i was that police chief i would have made the same call. >> rose: what's a more harder case? >> well i think it's more difficult when you are -- >> rose: you don't know -- >> right. it isn't as clear cut as that. that's why these instances are very rare. when we talk about the movie, zero dark 30 they present a very compelling moment where interrogators might well be justified in trying to coerce intelligence out of a captive. >> rose: john, in general. >> i think that's two key questions here. and one can sums out the other. let's be cold and clinical because the question has a bunch nuances and complications and opinions. start with the practice question. a, does it work. b, does it work better or faster
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or more accurately than conventional interrogation techniques. if the answer to question one is no it doesn't work any better or faster, or no it's not effect it was or doesn't elicit the truth, it just elicits answers just to make the pain stop then you don't have to move on to the complicated moral arguments. you can say fit doesn't work we can skip the moral argument. beyond that, i think if you do move on to the moral argument, we can't set the bar as we have as a nation for generations to be the street cop on the world stage that enforces the standard for human rights, that says to other governments, you shall not torture, you shall not hold prisoners incommunicado or do those things. where does our moral high ground go when we engage in those same practices that we ask others not to do because it's convenient or we consider it urgent. >> rose: do you believe it's
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effective? >> as a reporter, and as a former national security official and intelligence officer, i know f.b.i. agents who say it is the opposite of effective. it elicits bad information, and skilled interrogators can get more faster through other techniques without having to touch anybody. i also had the opportunity to work with some of the very c.i.a. officers who are depicted in the interrogation scenes in the movie who say we didn't know what was going to happen. we needed to get information right away. and you can't say it doesn't work because we got information after using these enhanced techniques as they call them clinically that we weren't getting before. now we have nothing to compare it to. we didn't kind of do the control tests where we tortured them for one set of information and interrogated them for another and able to cancel that out scientifically. there's no proof it works any better than anything else and the moral question is so messy
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that frankly, charlie at the end of all that with all the national peak i think the american people have kind of speaken on it. they don't have a taste for it. >> rose: what was it peter, after 9/11 because cheney and others said let's take the gloves off so to speak. >> well the climate as know charlie, i mean it changed dramatically and the c.i.a. and others use some of these techniques. but just to pick up on something that john miller said. one of his former colleagues at the f.b.i. in fact derived one of most important pieces of information after 9/11 ought to be the most in the course of conventional interrogation, he elicited the name of mohamed from an al-qaeda detainee which was really the key to finding out how the 9/11 operation was actually controlled. >> rose: how did he do that. that's only such an interesting
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point. >> yes. the guy that he was talking to, he used his childhood nickname. the agent i'm talking about is -- he chose the detainee i know a lot but. i know your childhood nickname. he treated him with respect although he didn't respect them personally but that's a useful tool in interrogation. this guy this detainee was brought aboard three times and none of that produced any information of any real particular use. he did fill in some gaps but it wasn't like this critical pace of information that came from the conventional interrogation. >> rose: what do cia agents people that you know within the cia say about what they got from water boarding during those years and all of those dark places they had around the world. >> well as john's pointed out, there are plenty of people at the agency who say this was pretty helpful. none of them say by the way that
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any plots were averted. people i've spoken to on the record, robert richard who ran detail vision of the cia told me we didn't avert any plots. it was more about filling in particular holes. described sort of a almost like a scrabble board where a particular detainee interrogation might get you a triple score because you had all this other form of information pocket litter that helps you get something and helps you get a triple score as it were on the scrabble board. but that is very far cry from we found this on bin laden through these types of techniques. now the senate intelligence committee said there's no evidence of this. in fact the information came from other sources contrary from the impression you might get from watching zero dark 30. >> rose: we'll come to zero dark 30 in a moment. when did the country change its position on water boarding or was there a position to be changed? >> in the days after 9/11 and to
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be fair, it was the general assumption across the intelligence community and the fbi that there was another attack, that it was shrouded in secrecy, that it was coming soon and that it could be as bad or worse than 9/11 and there certainly were and this is documented other plots that were in the works. and the idea was we have to get ahead of this because we can't have another 1500 or thousand or god forbid again 3,000 people killed on a single day not while we have a government standing that is supposed to protect the people. so there were these conversations that started, but when you get down to the ground zero of this story, it was a couple of former air force contractors that were working for the cia that were in the business of developing the tactics for american special forces people who are captured behind enemy lines and how to
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resist interrogation and enhanced interrogation or torture and they said what if we turn this inside out and use the very techniques we teach our people to resist on those we're trying to question. they sent a lot of memorandum to the office of whitehouse council and the bush administration and down to the justice department and they got a lot of opinions saying to a certain exat any time some of these things could be legal. once they had that sign off a stack of legal memos saying they wouldn't be committing a crime the c.i.a. started doing these things. >> rose: is there difference what the bush administration did and what the obama administration does. >> obama administration does not enhance in interrogation techniques or the -- it ended during the bush administration. the obama administration has other stories. they engage in drone attacks. but torture has been a no-go. >> rose: raising some questions about what drone attacks are. it is called the killing of so
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is ma bin laden. did torture play a role in finding osama bin laden and killing him. >> yes, it did. it played a role, it didn't play a key role but definitely speaking specifically, the fact that there was this fellow called ahmed from kuwait surfaced in a number of the early coercive interrogations. at the time the interrogators and the c.i.a. didn't know who that was in particular so i would have to say the most important piece of information, and i don't know how we obtained it exactly was connecting that from kuwait to a real person ahmed. that was really the key. so i think those who argue that the hunt for bin laden really gained traction when we attach that name to a person can argue i think fairly that from that
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point and including that point there was no torture involved. but the fact that we were interested in this ahmed came from a number of interviews that are actually fairly notorious. >> rose: peter same question. >> well look, the senate intelligence committee has spent three years investigating this question. they've written a 6,000 page report which unfortunately has not been made public yet and they basically say that's not the case at all what mark bowden has just said. they said the critical information did not come from a coercive interrogation. both mark and you and i watching this program are disadvantage here because obviously we don't have access to the classified record. what's available in the public record suggests that certainly somebody who did give up a key piece of information was coercively interrogated but it was the intelligence committee's assessment and i don't think it's a group of people prone to
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make false statements, that the information did not come at a coercive interrogation. it's also by the way acting director of the c.i.a. mike moral released a public statement saying that is the not the case. >> i think what happens here is once you take the world of facts and really happens and you inject the world of politics into it everything gets blurry. people have said and it's true that one of the people who was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques is one of the people who gave up the name of the bin laden courier. but the senate report points out that he gave that name up before he was subject to these water boarding sessions. so yes, both statements are true but you have to pay attention to the detail. >> rose: let me turn to the movie. you've seen the movie. >> yes. >> rose: so what does the movie say? >> well, the movie has been kind of miscast by people on both sides of the argument.
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there's a movie about torture or it's not. it's a movie about a ten year hunt for osama bin laden. so people who watch the movie, charlie, have taken from it what they want to extract from it in support of their argument. it movie shows people resisting torture and giving bad information. one of the iranianic turns in the -- ironic turn is there's a seen where he's so incoherent he gives up blurry information he can't make heads of tails of. >> rose: they asked for a date and he said monday tuesday wednesday thursday friday. >> he probably won't remember that and they trick him into thinking that he gave them information. that right there argues for if you're actually a skilled interrogation and you can trick people why do you need anything else. one of the big problems charlie is, at the end of 9/11 there
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were three principle groups, the c.i.a. which spent most of it's time since 1947 recruiting people by figuring out what their problems were or giving them money. the military which spent most of its time fighting wars and the f.b.i. which had 12,000 agents who from the day they come into the f.b.i. academy became professional interrogators and interviewers. and somehow they elected to let the intelligence people and the military people take the lead on the interviews, which they worked very hard at and tried very hard at. but wasn't their core skill set. and you know i think if we had life to live over again that would be something to reconsider. >> rose: did you ever engage in teaching at all or instructing at all in which you used the battle of algiers as a kind of explanation. >> when i used to teach terrorism courses back in los angeles with the joint terrorism task force, i would always start with the battle of algiers because as a historical
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document, it showed that the terrorists used terror to turn the people against their government because the government couldn't protect them. and the government went to such lengths to put the terrorists down that they became the other terrorists and the people turned on them. when you start a terrorism discussion you got to remember one of the goals of terrorism is to destabilize government and one of the risks is government will over react and destabilize itself. >> rose: peter did you advise the movie makers at any point. >> they asked me to come and look at the early cut of the movie. i advised them as an unpaid adviser i advised them the torture scenes they had in there were basically way over the top. and mark the screen writer told me subsequently that based on that critique and somebody else in the room who made the same critique they kind of toned those scenes down. but that said when we saw the film in october, you know, a film that was deep in post production. and the first 45 minutes of the
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film as you know charlie you've seen it half an hour of which are taken up and pretty intense torture scenes. those of course make for much better film making where an analyst says i found something in a file and it's really the key to finding bin laden. at the end of the day the emotional weight of this movie are the torture scenes and that's i think what most film goers are going to take away of being the context in which bin laden was found. >> i think the amalgam there is what the movie is kind of inject some of the techniques used by the military in places like abu ghraib which was off the charts and against the rules. but even some thing that happened if places like guantanamo and kind of blended them in with the cia's techniques which are actually much more to use the word clinical. >> rose: what do you think, mark? >> i think the movie is neither pro torture or anti-torture. i think it fairly presents torture as being part of the
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story and i think in fact my reading of the film, i wasn't invited to look at an early screening, i'm just talking to someone who ready the screen play and watched the movie. but i think that they, the theme of the film is really the c.i.a. officer maya at the end left with the question un, she doesn't state this, but you're left with the question was what we did to get this man worth it. and i think part of the ambiguity that general mcchrystal referred to is about torture and about whether the early steps that we took which we subsequently corrected were necessary. or whether, you know, they made the end result worth the means. so i think that dramatically is what that film, one of the questions that that film is asking. i think it's appropriate to ask that question and i also think
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as i said earlier, that to portray this story honestly, you can't leave out the fact that in the early stage of the game, detainees were being handled very roughly. >> rose: and the c.i.a. officials i know say somehow they were able to pick up certain pieces of information that did contribute. on the other hand it could have been they had it already or they got it later in a better way. >> the only way you would ever know if they could have gotten it without the methods they used is that they had not done what they did. but history is history. >> rose: right. >> if you go by the -- argument and he was the special agent of the f.b.i. and did a large number of these interrogations before there was any enhanced interrogation techniques used, he would argue that he was getting more information at the skilled interrogator before they started the enhanced techniques.
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>> i have no doubt that's true. i think a skilled interrogator would turn to coercing almost as an admission to failure. there are people who are really good at this. i don't think there are many of them. >> rose: peter, you're nodding in affirmation? >> yes. i mean, i think just to change the subject a little bit, the reason we're having this discussion about zero dark 30, it's not a movie in the conventional sense. the film makers have presented it as a form of history and they said it's based on first person accounts. we're holding this movie to a slightly different standards the reason we're having this discussion because the filmmaker themselves have in a sense offered it up as a form of journalism. i think as a piece of film making it's a good piece of film making. as a piece of journalistic history it falls short i'm afraid. >> rose: falls short because? >> because there's no evidence that the way to find bin laden came through these coercive techniques. >> rose: but they did have a lot of interviews within the
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c.i.a. and within the pent g un -- pentagon, mark did and there was a woman who had the equivalent responsibility and obsession as maya did. am i right. >> it's more a creative choice to have a woman at the center of this. the billion law unit was full of woman. there was jan who was involved. there are also a lot of goes. an analyst called john, a pseudonym to played a critical role. at the end of the day there was a president obama who barely appeared in this film to made the desist -- decision to go ad put the navy seals on the ground. as an epic directed by a woman obviously the star of film making, that's much more defensible than the portrait of coercive interrogation that the
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film present as history. >> rose: mark, how does the film do in terms of depicting the essence of the raid, the essence of the pakistani mission? >> they do a very good job. there are some things that aren't exactly true. they depict for instance three blackhawks on this raid. the one blackhawk crashes and a third blackhawk mysteriously appears to carry them out. in fact, there were two chin hooks and two blackhawks involved. i think on the ground details, clearly they were talking to people who were there or who knew that story because they got that i think at least according to my understanding of what happened fairly accurate, accurately. >> rose: take a look at this. this is one more quote from general mcchrystal in his conversation with me last night. the other argument away from this is that smart interrogation in which you develop
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relationships nine times out of ten will get you more. >> absolutely. that's when we eventually -- >> rose: using information you have so they take no more than, etcetera, etcetera. >> all of those things. but building the relationship. the detainee that actually led us or gave us the critical step to find the spiritual advisor who led us to zarkawi we had for a number of days but we built up a relationship and it was not co-usive at all but a constant build of relationship between interrogators and this individual who finally decided to provide the information. >> rose: because? >> for a number of reasons. one, he was upset about his brother, his brother had fled the country. i think that he was going through a moral question on al-qaeda, all of these different pieces of it. there are lots of reasons, and it's hard to say exactly but it was not because he was
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mistreated. >> just to say when they stopped using these techniques the discussion didn't stop. what happened was the obama administration ordered that, and this was a process that took a long time to develop, that there be a joint c.i.a. team of highly trained interrogators working with an fbi team of trained interrogators, working with numbers of the intelligence community together. this would become, it's for exactly what mark bowden said a moment ago, there are very skilled interviewers but there aren't many of them. so this was to basically have an interrogation swat team, they would become experts in the very subject they were about to question and they would learn all the best techniques of interview and interrogation so that we wouldn't have to face this question again. >> rose: do you like the movie? >> i liked the movie a lot. and i think reflecting back on
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what peter and mark both said, it is a document but it is not a documentary. they did their reporting very much like journalists but in the end, they had to awe mal got mise characters, scenes and everything that happened. so what you get is a slice of history in a context but you don't get it exactly as a transcript. >> rose: mark, did you like the movie? >> yes, i agree with john. they did a better jonathan most based on a true story hollywood films but i also agree with peter and i've written this i think that they oversold themselves as journalists telling an accurate, detailed accurate picture of what happened. i don't agree that the picture they portray as one that shows torture as the keying to finding bin laden.
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it's a good film. i think it adheres more to the lines of within the lines of are history than most of these hollywood films do. >> rose: peter. >> yes. i basically i agree with everything that john and mark have just said. it's a very good film. this discussion and many others like it are going to ensure that millions of people will start thinking about knees questions in a way they haven't -- these questions they haven't done for some period of time and that's a good thick. >> rose: that's exactly what stan mcchrystal said last night. >> it will have an effect for recruiting for the c.i.a. the sacrifices they made as well as for u.s. special forces. >> rose: thank you. see you tomorrow morning. >> bright and early. >> rose: mark, thank you. peter. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: great to have both of you again. we'll be right back, stay with us. ken taylor who was the
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ambassador to iran from 1977 to 1979. during the iranian hostage crises he helped smuggle six americans out of the country. this extraordinary story was dram typessed in the film argo released earlier this year, i am please to do have him at this table to talk about his life as an ambassador and a movie which is lionized a role he plod so thank you for coming. >> thank you. >> rose: tell me about the events and what you saw and what it was like that day. when the iranian students and others stormed the american embassy. >> well quite frankly it didn't come as a great surprise. you may recall the american embassy, u.s. embassy was taken over, ambassador bill souterland was there at the time. but the response was quick. a senior person at the foreign
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ministry brought some troops and the embassy was cleared in three days. but there was no law and order at the time in tehran. it was still a chaotic revolution restate. there was no judicial process and the embassies looked after themselves. but when the u.s. embassy was taken over, we thought that because of the previous scenario, that it's going to be three or four days and the message had been sent, that is that the u.s. is vulnerable, that the iranians are very upset with the shah's potential good return through the offices of the u.s. from our own embassy we could hear the crowds but that was not tehran. everybody was demonstrating about whatever the subject of the day. this looked more serious. there were two, three, 4,000 more people. the intent seemed to be to bridge the walls. we kept track largely with
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telephone calls of other ambassadors who passed by and then the radio, of course there was no television that day of the event. >> rose: when was the first time that you knew that there was some americans that were not contained in the embassy. >> the embassy was taken over on sunday. on wednesday more my colleague got a telephone call from his counterpart, he said we're on the run. he said well where are you. and he said well we're seeking some place to stay. we've tried a couple embassies, we tried a couple empty apartments. we've guantanamo -- got no money. we know if we're seen on the streets we'll get apprehended. i'll check with the ambassador but why don't you come here. he came up and we both thought this is the right thing to do. so i sent a message back, a
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flash. you don't usually use a flash message in normal day diplomacy. a flash means it strips right through the other messages come in. >> rose: what did it say. >> it said what we intend to do is provide safety and shelter for five u.s. diplomats who made it out the side door. would you concur. the reasons for doing this are apparent, it's a canadian response. particularly u.s. diplomats in jeopardy. this went to the undersecretary who immediately thought of some time the prime minister foreign minister and they immediately said yes. take them in and however you manage it, manage it well. good luck. >> rose: so how did they get there. >> they were brought over by, they had stayed one night at the
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british embassy and the british embassy driver brought them over. they came in, sat down. we said hello to each other. just made themselves comfortable. had a drink or coffee, whatever was soothing. and one of the diplomate mark said to john said well does your ambassador know that we're coming to stay. i'd like to thank him. he said well yes he's sitting next to you. some way or the other i didn't seem to play the role of ambassador very well. and that started really three months. two weeks later the swedish ambassador phoned and said would you mind coming over to the office. i said fine. he said well i'll tell you, when the embassy was taken over there was one u.s. diplomate who was discussing issues with one of my staff and we have him stillhere after two weeks but we really
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can't keep him here much longer. what happens if they're apprehended. so i was wondering, canadians and americans look a lot alike. how about would you consider having them come to your place. i said well, it really doesn't make much difference what's the difference between five and exsix. he joined us. two stays with pat and myself, my wife and four stayed with who was in charge of the immigration consulate. >> rose: how long were they there. >> three months. >> rose: when did you know of the plan to rescue them? >> well immediately when they joined us, ourselves at the embassy in tehran and ottawa were working on an exit strategy. they couldn't stay forever. we thought what happens if the situation with the 52 at the
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embassy is resolved, they immediately return home and we say hey wait for our six. because the iranians would have suspected that since they had special treatment or they were outside the embassy and doing some subversive that they were c.i.a. officers although they weren't. so we worked out and sent some proposals to ottawa how to get them out. these were digested by ottawa and views were exchanged with washington. but naturally enough, the u.s. were focused primarily on the 52 plus at the embassy. that was the major issue. and the six, well they were safer for canadians. but we had our own staff to think of. we wanted to move it along. and so finally after about two
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months, flora mcdonald the foreign minister met in brussels. they are diplomats. and they said if you don't we're quite capable of getting them out. >> rose: you could. >> yes. >> rose: how would you have done it. >> we went through the various scenarios, which could have been petroleum engineers. they could have been nutritionists because we would have been a gesture to help a country that's in a revolution, food shortages, how do you are work that with the school children. they could improve the crop rate, a country in disarray. >> rose: why was the idea of having the c.i.a. agent which we'll see just a moment played by ben affleck concoct the scheme that he did? >> well we thought our scheme were simpler and more effective. >> rose: it sounds like it to
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me. >> but tony came up with an ingenuous scheme and costly and intricate. a lot of thought. and we went along with the other ones, in ottawa and tehran that we thought we could carry out. because basically all the documents came from -- the passports, the credentials, credit cards, you name it. that was all prepared. and we thought that since the documents were all there, the scenario really was that important. as long as they were authenticated as canadians, we could pull it off no matter what they intended to serve and what role they were played. >> rose: then mendez who knew tehran who was a c.i.a. signify. >> yes. >> rose: who concocted a scheme. >> yes. >> rose: that they would be
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part of a movie. and then they concocted a scheme so that it would appear to the iranians they would have all kinds of things they would suggest a movie being made, items in the press and all that stuff. >> yes. that's their way. that's the sequel but our thought was yes, canadians. that was our fundamental starting point. quite frankly we didn't quite care what they did in tehran as long as it made some sort of sense. the movie team we thought would work, canadian movie team sympathetic to the revolution. whereas the u.s. of course couldn't send a movie team. and then at the u.s. there was no mood in the united states at the time to be sympathetic to the revolution. and that format in our minds would have been effective in influencing the iranians to quickly pass them through and do what they could to help them.
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but as it progressed, the cia and my colleagues in ottawa, developed a different type of movie. eventually roughly a day and-a-half before the diplomats left, tony mendez came over and we met and talked. and then the departure took place. a couple of observations during the term of this, tony was resourceful and great c.i.a. agent. the c.i.a. worked very well with ottawa but what doesn't necessarily come through in the movie is that this was a canadian operation as well. we had our staff to think of. we had the iranian local staff to think of. so our concerns were certainly focused on the six u.s. diplomats. but roughly 30 other people.
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who could have been in jeopardy. so in the movie where they say it's either stop or go or tony mendez is making the case. that's not the way it was. i bought the tickets three weeks before for $25,000. pat was a scientist this tehran. >> rose: a scientist. >> yes. she was teaching at the university tehran medical school. she was a research scientist in hepatitis at the iranian blood transfusion service and the pastor institute. she had some back pay coming and she went to the director and said we're just leaving for a while, my husband is leaving to go back for consultations and i'm going back with him. i'm just wondering if there's any possibility of getting my back pay. and he said of course.
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so he gave her a check and it was the day the bank was open. the next day we waited. they said well here's the check but the banks aren't open. so this is i think illustrates the nature of the other side of iranians rather than the one that see rioting in the streets. they were there and said oh you got back pay and they said but the bank's closed. they said do you know what we'll do. give us the check and we'll give you money. and then after you leave we'll cash it. whether they did or not. pat came back and this was prior a bit and said i've got back pay. i said oh good, how much do you have. she said $25,000. i said great. give it back, you'll get it back. i used that money to buy these three sets of airline tickets. pat claims i never paid her back. >> rose: let's take a look at the movie. this is tony mendez played by
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ben affleck should be noted as anybody who read anything about this movie that ben affleck is the director and the star. he plays tony mendez as the c.i.a. agent. here it is roll type. >> they've hiding at the canadian ambassador's residence. fortunately we do not believe the iranians are aware the six escaped. >> so what we ride for this are bicycles. we identify back roads from the district. a couple rack lines through the mound tons to the crossing. >> cars are off the table because of the roadblocks. >> wait until the weather clears up and deliver the six provides them with maps to the turkish border. >> we have intelligence they can't ride bicycles we're prepared to send in somebody to teach them. >> you could just send in training wheels and meet them at the border with gatorade. >> it's 300 miles to the turkish border. they need a support team with
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tire pumps. >> we were asked to troubleshoot this. >> it's winter. you can't afford to wait around until spring for them it's nice to take a buying ride. the way out is the airport. we send thp this pass ports and he takes hem out on a commercial flight. >> rose: do you think this film under plays a kutdian role. >> fundamentally yes. >> rose: what is the most important thing you haven't sold us about the canadian roles. >> one aspect which i will go into. it is, it grips you. the first time my wife pat saw it she turns to me and said we got out okay didn't we. i said we're sitting here. >> rose: they came out how much longer. >> later that day. pat had left the day before. there's one part where ben
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affleck is talking to me or tony mendez. and i say to ben affleck, i've got instructions we're going to close the embassy. so you got to movie the departure date up. you got to really move this along. it's inconceivable the canadian government would close that embassy before they left. >> rose: right. >> if we were at the u.s. embass i'm the same. the u.s. embassy wouldn't contemplate closing the office and say well the six of you are on your own now. it's just not right. so the movie is, plays canadians as rather passive when actually the tickets are one example. that is there wasn't the last minute of flurry. >> rose: and there was the passports. >> the passports which we had to
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get a new set because theirs were on calendar. the chase at the airport was exciting. but what happened on the departure was i gave each of the six one ticket on swiss air and one ticket on b8 so if any mechanical problems came up. the embassy car picked them up at 4:00 in the morning, picked up tony at the hotel. went to the airport and i said to our driver, park in the diplomatic parking space. it was chaotic but there's still a diplomatic parking place. there is some protocol. >> rose: what would have happened if you were caught. >> i think that the staff largely would have been persona non-grata. myself probably would have been held back and the iranians would have made a case that we were
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harboring c.i.a. agents and this is a treasonable offense. there would have been a back and forth. i would have eventually got home but the other element to the story that makes it, heightens it a bit is that from our office, we were viewing intelligence for the anticipated commando raid. and that would have placed us in a greater degree of jeopardy since they would have reason to say it's a treasonable offense. the six, i would have maybe stood around before i left. the other aspect that would have been found out would have been a bit more serious. but the departure say was, it was nerve racking for the six u.s. diplomats. but our approach was that we leave the cars nearby the
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airport. i said if there's any difficulty or trouble let's say we'll travel another day. come back to the cars and come back home and i'm still here. and as it worked out, they went through, they were questioned but they pulled themselves off as genuine canadian at least to the iranians and there was very little interrogation. >> rose: in other words there wasn't a stop and go as you get from the film. it was much easy exit. >> no. so it had in that sense, it had a good ending. good conclusion. charlie i think in one way you can say why has it got broad appeal i think is it's a simple story with a good conclusion. six people are held and they are having a bizarre set of ways. everybody likes a story that way. >> rose: what would have
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happened if jimmy carter had said to the iranians, this is war. you have taken americans hostage, i'll give you 30 days to release them or 44 hours, whatever it is. if you don't, you're at war with the united states, and we will use all means necessary. >> i think the iranians would have been defiant. >> rose: really? >> khomeini would have seen it as this country has been subdued by the americans since the shah returned in 1953 from rome and that today's iran will submit to that. >> rose: that would be true with khomeini and true today in
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terms of the sanctions. >> i think so. it's hard to, the country is so opaque these days. but to another sort of avenue to your question would be to some extent that was the reason for the commando raid. i think the tension if you recall in new york every day the frustration of the u.s. citizen. here we are a super power. here a country that we hadn't even thought of except the shah had a lot of money and he's going to by pan american airlines. what's happening. can't we do anything about this? whether or not there was as well a vietnam syndrome at that time, we've had one, what some u.s. citizen saw as humiliation. we're not going to stand for this but rather as a full scale invasion or a war or a deadline. i guess that's what maybe
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generated the thought that let's have a surgical commando. takes off the pressure. the odds are it could work. >> rose: we've gotten to know how get seals are with osama bin laden it probably could have worked. >> those were early days with special forces. colonel beckworth. i guess they drew upon different services and took them together. and they trusted the helicopters which -- >> rose: one of those helicopters have to go down. thank you for coming, great to have you here and talk to someone who is depicted in a very popular motion picture. >> well, the recollections are
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still fresh. after 32 years, everything's rather still vivid. and the mistakes you made, you tend to conveniently forget. but at least the conclusion is good. >> rose: i'm struck by the fact you say you could have done, the canadian government could have done this and it would not have been as farfetched as the ruse they used by creating this with tehran and all that stuff. >> the other aspect is we don't need to test it at this point. >> rose: exactly right. thank you very much. ken taylor former ambassador from the government of canada to the government of iran. thank you for joining us. see you next time.
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