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tv   Tim Weiner The Folly and the Glory  CSPAN  November 5, 2020 11:57pm-12:58am EST

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we are so delighted to be
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co- presenting with an artist located on a 400-acre estate. its mission is to nurture the creative process by providing an opportunity for artists work without interruptions in a supportive environment and it is a huge part of the local cultural community and the worldwide cultural community. for those of you who don't know this already, the benefit is coming up next week so we've 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 garrett, a distinguished magazine journalist and best-selling historian who covers politics and is a contributor to wired and author of multiple books including the number one bestseller the only plane in the sky an oral history of 9/11 and inside robert mueller's fbi about the
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government's cold war plans. he also did a great interview in the manchester. hopefully we will do that again. and then i'm so pleased to welcome to the setting he was saying before we came on tonight but he's done events for months and his last four books we were lucky enough to host him when his wonderful richard nixon biography of a man against the world was released five years ago. he's won the pulitzer prize and national book award for reporting and writing on national security and intelligence and he covered the cia, the war in afghanistan and crisis and conflict in 14 nations for "the new york times." writing at princeton columbia and tonight to talk about his brand-new book. please join me in welcoming jim.
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>> thank you, everybody. america, russia, warfare the history of the last 75 years of warfare between america and russia, its political warfare. political warfare is the means of a nation's disposal. the full spectrum from diplomacy to covert operation, from friendly persuasion to sabotage and subversion. the story of the book is we want the 20th century and you can see the political warfare against the political system and against american democracy and the american body politic every day.
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we will see whether they win the next battle on election day. ... >> i want to start by asking yo you, i am obligated to
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start for participants for what a good book this is. i have the opportunity with my endorsement is on the back cover. so i come in as a fully biased observer this is an excellent book. but part of what surprised me in reading this is how much of the story i did not know. know i told you to cover those topics for years. and that there are entire chapters of this book that i knew nothing about. and service history of the cia and the fbi, the topics over
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the years and what made you think there was something more to say about the cold war and where does this book come from and how did the concept come together in your mind? >> i called them up and said running a secret operation shipping hundreds of millions of dollars and those who are fighting the red army.
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and the public information officer at the cia scoffed and said absolutely not and hung up on me. in afghanistan. three months of jihad and came back i had not even been at my desk in washington when the phone rang. tim how are you guess who? from the cia how would you like to come in for the briefing now? so off i go 7 miles outside of washington in langley virginia into the lobby, through checkpoints and then was the inscription for on - - in the gospel that says he shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.
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so what is it like there is the progress of jihad so now look over my right shoulder and says i will cover this place. and with that cold war history warts and all. the cia did not like that. but it took 15 years for it to move through declassification and with the history of the cia.
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and on the record. twelve years have passed since then. and slowly and it is revealed. a chapter in the book of two disastrous operations it disastrous and the successful operation 30 years apart. the successful operation and from solidarity. and kept alive in the eighties with solidarity wound up being a domino to overturn the soviet empire.
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when the nightmare of the soviet system was revealed as a proletariat against the system. the 20th century stories in this book that nobody has ever heard of. not just you, it is a story of the cei support of the congo. it is the story of how the united states try to fight back from misinformation in the eighties. and then to be in the sixties and seventies and the leader of the soviet union. >> soviet russia and disinformation. now there was three goals
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undermine the state of the national security institution fbi and cia. and with mlk ma have this information. ever hear the united states army invented the aids virus injured warfare or laboratories? millions of people still believe that to this day. kgb misinformation. and ahead of russian intelligence from the end of world war ii through today. that the cold war was then in the 20th century know what we're going through now russia attacking our democracy is a whole different story.
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>> so what struck me was you have written so much about the ca before - - cia before with the successes and failures and spoiling the thesis of the book of legacy of ashes but your general believe there are more failures on the cia book and successes. i am curious looking at this 12 years later change your perception of the cia and your belief in the world that it played in the cold war and what should we make of the legacy in this particular
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fight? >> it is a drug for presidents and secretaries of defense, secretaries of state. and through the military and the cia. the cia in 1947 and didn't know the first thing about covert action. they been added since peter the great. and for centuries. so our lack of knowledge of how to do these sorts of things that because of the secrecy of the cia to coordinate things with policymakers and secretary of
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state secretary of defense and with the cia had with the kgb did not, was money. lots and lots of money. if you wanted to sway and election as it did in the very first covert operation never , to steal the county election in 1948, suitcases full of cash. to reverse the results as it did in chile in 1970 it created a clue. and in the 19 fifties but
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still runs japan to this day. and the successes of the cia not only the ability to outspend. united states learn to experience but if you do things on the small-scale, the butterfly effect is more effective than sending billions of dollars in weapons. we did the. short-term success the afghan rebels drove episode of the army but the country awash in weapons with no follow-up from the united states was the instigator of al qaeda the consequence of the cia support of the afghans.
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the great problem today is that political warfare of these covert operations but diplomacy economic support and intelligence operations and the war on terror consumed everything and it was the first and last goal from the cia and fbi took our eye off the ball and traditional espionage and then created the conditions for the russians to launch the political equivalent of 9/11 with the attack on our democracy.
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and with that ended on this unexpected attack from the unexpected direction and that is where we stand today. >> and then one of the other things, there are two things that stood out to me is in the book so maybe this has to do with the money reason to be better at technical collection and intelligence and was a dream. and generally was better at human operations. weston out to me to russia and
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the us and has a strategic patience at the us never has and with the ability to carry out operations over decades in the clearest example of that is the illegals program with the fbi called operation ghost story and the inspiration you have the deep cover operatives and the us watched for decades in part is what it is fascinating and peter struck the fbi agent in the midst of the mueller drama talked about in his memoir how on an 11 he was already assigned to one of
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the teams tracking the illegals in boston and those from 2010. so my question i guest one - - i guess is how do they learn patience in political warfare? or is it such a different system that we will never be able to possess. >> secrecy and deception are not the strongest suit for and open society it is easier for the intelligence service like the kgb and then to penetrate
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a closed authoritarian society. the penetration by russian and soviet intelligence of america with a deep and long-standing to go back to the 1930s and united states congressman on their payroll in the thirties. and the guy was selling the soviet surprise of the day and holding public hearings and with those aging influence very specific definition
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someone of power and authority despite public opinion and public policy and the state department of the soviet spy. they had a spy inside the justice department foreign agent registration division and spies in the seventies and eighties and nineties. and with the fbi and cia. and they destroyed the perception of what was going on in russia you can count the number of successful cia
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penetrations of soviet russia and present-day russia and two hands with fingers left over. without that kind of intelligence gathering we would be surprised as we were surprised by the russian attack on the 2016 election as we would be surprised by what they will do to us in the next five weeks. i want people to read this book to understand the threat to our democracy. >> the most stunning chapter in this book which we have
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discussed in multiple occasions is the congo which you mentioned a few minutes ago. gave us the book talk versio version, the craziness that unfolded in congo in the middle of the 20th century. >> in the late fifties and early sixties nations all over the world had been captive under colonialism. and the largest of these nations and these that were invited to brussels and neither the americans who have a huge interest uranium to build the atomic arsenal gold
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and diamonds and strategic metals with the help of the cia. and then later assassinated with a belgian paratrooper. and in his place were bought and paid for an agent who was the kernel. so support, cia directs cash payments and then to pay off the leaders that supported them and that amounted to
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millions of dollars per year. then president johnson after that and approved by a president nixon after that. and american support that store $5 billion all those extractive industries of the country and that was against communism in africa. why did american support this man 33 years after the sea by a helped?
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and then to merge from the collapse of the congo. those with 5 million lives. these are the consequences of pragmatic decisions made by presidents in the cold war. so let's come back to present-day a little bit. one of the things you layout and chapter after chapter is the way the us the cia meddled in other nations election and successfully across decades of the cold war and you might
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remember off the top of your head 117. and here president trump and mike pompeo previous cia director and to write off what russia did to the united states in 2016 this is more of the same. what do you think of that as an argument and does 2016 stand out as something fundamentally different than the legacy that you layout of election interference?
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>> i'm doing this podcast based on the book talking to a number of former cia directors. and rupert president george w. bush. and then to spend his entire life in the national security role. general hayden said what the russians did to us what they are continuing to do to us today is the most successful operation of modern intelligence. and it succeeded in part vladimir putin has and donald trump and then to amplify
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propaganda. trump distorts american foreign policy in the kremlin's favor and cartels to vladimir putin and that is no secret but the question is why. with that eight from moscow in the thirties donald trump is an agent of influence and it is no secret and it is the putin propaganda but the question is why. and that is the great intelligence question of the 21t century has never been addressed or investigated. the fbi started the investigation and it vanished into thin air it is possible
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going on in the greatest secrecy as we speak but i doubt it. and with that you u.s. postal service sack. speaking it from your old employer the last couple of days about the president's tax returns. and the question of these $421 million in debt the president has coming to over the next four years and without any sense of who owns the people who owns the people who. >> i wrote a piece for wired
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and then two years ago looking at the questions if it was effectively a massive money-laundering scheme for russian wealth. >> i think you're onto something. and i have no knowledge of tax returns over the last couple of days but it continues to be a puzzle with the enormous amount of cash into the scottish golf courses that appears that doesn't appear to come from anywhere nor actually and then to continue to lose much.
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>> $421 million in debt coming due in the next couple of years. trump is personally on the line for this. so to whom is the money owed? and how will it be paid back? you and i and the audience today know how security clearance works. the number one red flag is unexplained that. donald trump could not get a security clearance and any government especially the american government given what we know about his finances the
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enormous national security risk in itself because vladimir putin knows because he runs efficient intelligence service intelligence service
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influence in return. everything is a transaction in one way, shape or form. pretty much all of it is about the money with trump. if trump is ou trump is out of e loses the invisibility cloak of presidential power and i think we will come to find out the answer as to why, and it's not going to be pretty. let me ask you one question harkening back to another one of your books and then we will start to open up for questions from the audience on the off
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chance anyone actually has any questions about russia, u.s. intelligence, trump or any of the other topics we've mentioned over the last 35 minutes you wrote a biography of richard nixon and now a lot of the meat of the modern frame of the volume is donald trump. i wonder if they sought deeply about these men who have faced impeachment. what stands out and how do you
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see them as different and the same? >> there is a line that runs from nixon to donald trump. roy cohn had been the council during the hearings and his protector who was against competition and probably the most crooked lawyer in the united states for many years, utterly amoral and ruthless and viewed some of that into richard nixon and donald trump. there was a shamelessness in the work of roy cohn that he views
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the political lives as shamelessness and recklessness. >> how do you see them as different? >> nixon had a better sense of power. say what you will but he understood american foreign policy. vice president for eight years under dwight eisenhower, possibly the most masterful president in foreign policy in the years since world war ii. he had been all over the world. he knew things.
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donald trump is richard nixon on twittetwitter minus 50 iq point. >> richard nixon on twitter would be a fascinating thing to try to play out. he actually does seem like he would take to it. i am fine diving into the chat to take some questions. >> go right ahead if you like to. we are happy to. >> if you are out there and have a comment, long or short, just
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let us know in the chat and we would love to open up this conversation. kate asks the first question which i'm told he's not only morally bankrupt but has multiple bankruptcy filings himself. how does he continue funding his business ventures? >> through the skillful manipulation of debt and with the help that remains mysterious of one of the most suspect banks deutsche bank. that's all i can tell you about that. >> talk to us a little bit about
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the doctrine and what you learned about it in the course of the book and what america should know about it. >> he was a soviet and russian general and in short it was crystallized and something he wrote years ago that all warfare is based on deception and will be decided by information, information warfare we mean propaganda, disinformation and the control of cyber operations that can distort what you perceive.
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the ability of the russian cyber commanders, their social media puppets to get inside of the head of the president of the united states and senior republicans in congress and get them to dance to a russian tune is one of the most remarkable achievements and we don't know the half of it. >> what did this book teach you about what u.s. intelligence needs to be doing better? if you were going to be sitting down with the new cia director or director of national
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intelligence what advice would you give them about what we have done well or have not done well? >> he will have to pick up pieces of a large and powerful machine donald trump has shattered and undermined and imagine the power of america diplomatic, economic as an orchestra and everybody got instruments. there is no sheet music now. the instruments are broken and the next president will have to be the conductor and the composer to get the band back together as it were and make it play in harmony.
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>> what do you think in terms of a strategy what has the u.s. succeeded at and not succeeded at as you look back over the political warfare? >> when america was able to project its power by representing american democracy as a far superior form of government and way of life in soviet communism, which is kind of a no-brainer, it succeeded. one of the great crisis of the present day is that we cannot predict american democracy. american democracy is in deep, deep trouble and the authoritarian form is a much
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more attractive model in much of europe for example there are nations, former soviet satellites, hungary, the czech republic and the united states embraced into the military alliance at the end of the 20th century because they were becoming democracies. they are not functioning democracies right now and in part that is because we are not a functioning democracy right now. we have been wounded by russian intelligence operations and we are rubbing salt in those wounds ourselves. we are doing it to ourselves right now. >> that is one of the things that comes through in the 2016 reporting around what russia accomplished in their attack on the united states. the success of the agency online
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really was exacerbating the political division that it doesn't really have the ability to inject divisions that didn't already exist to soak fire and exploit the seams of the democracy as they already exist. >> by rubbing salt in the wounds of the relations they sought out to protect the black vote which the trump campaign did to the ability of what the russians were doing and the trump campaign did and is doing today to work in harmony is
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breathtaking. >> marcia asks about bill bar and sort of how he fits into this political mess that we are living through today and i want to frame that in the context of your answer about roy cohn that donald trump has sort of repeatedly -- >> where is my roy cohn. >> that jeff sessions wasn't in his corner in the way he expected the attorney general to be about bill bar clearly is. talk to us a little bit about your view of bill bar and his work in the justice department over the last 18 months or so. >> his federal role has been to
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try to erase the evidence gathered through the criminal and counterintelligence investigations of robert mueller and the fbi, to exonerate the guilty, to investigate the investigators, to mollify against trump like flynn and roger stone and to prove or to the administration of justice and protect a deeply corrupt president and deeply compromised president. history will not be kind to bill bar. lest we forget some 30 years ago he was the attorney general, tomac under president bush the
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elder and he managed to get the criminal convictions and criminal investigations and indictments of the senior bush administration officials up to and including the secretary of defense on christmas, 1992 as he was about to leave office and that was the final cover of the iran contra cover of investigatioupinvestigation andr did that, so he knows what he's doing. >> i think we've got time for one or two more questions. if you want to drop one or two more questions, please do so one of the questions i think a lot of people are struggling with
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and deborah asked about this how do you play this against someone who has upended the board and strewn the pieces all over the room and what i mean is how does joe biden take on donald trump, what are your sort of thoughts and predictions about the debate and how you think he should tackle debating donald trump? >> i'm not sure there is much he can do at this point. we are now into what they call the authoritarian attempt. donald trump has signaled he
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will not accept the results and he will stay in power no matter what. and i am not sure joe biden has the trick. we are in deep trouble and the only way around it is a massive landslide vote that would prevent trump from claiming he won. >> do you have any thoughts on what you expect to see from russia over the next five weeks? >> intelligence officers defined when they look at what an opponent will do, what they see and what they can try to find out in the capabilities and intentions. i don't, and i am not sure anyone does know what the intentions are except they want
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to create chaos and trump is the chaos candidate. in terms of their capabilities, they can launch attacks against the companies. they can get into the voter register rules. they have the capability to bring down the electrical grid of a large city on election night and that would create chaos. >> how strongly do you think they are tempted over the next five weeks? you talk about a realm of projects and operations with varying levels of deniability that would provoke presumably varying levels of response.
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>> from this president who won't even grapple with the fact they have bounties to killed soldiers, he will never counter the russian intelligence operations. i think the best way to put it is chaos is the candidate, trump is their vehicle and having pulled off the most successful operation since the trojans took in that horse, i would be stunned if they said let the american people decide. >> how did the fbi and cia get
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so far behind technologically? >> you know that answer. at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and for some time thereafter fbi agents couldn't send e-mails or download a picture on their computers. in the late '90s they called in ibm to tell them what could be done about this problem which had been a problem for 20 years and he said to the director of the fbi you are not on life support, you are dead. while things had gotten better, the fbi was no longer a pyramid on paper as it was at the turn of the 21st century.
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there was an inherent problem here you had written about brilliantly. if you want to protect information within the american government you've got to go through high level security and if you want to share information among the fbi and state department, cia this is a dilemma every level of security within the system screws things up if your goal is to share and coordinate information and nobody's ever solved that. that is the central problem. >> let me ask a final question
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there. we have seen the u.s. in recent years become more aggressive in cyberspace. the u.s. a did an it did and prt trump has acknowledged this now the nsa and cyber command and research agency over the fallen 2018 to try to protect the midterm election and discourage further interference. do you think that with a change the u.s. is in a position it will have turned a corner and how it conducts political warfare or acknowledges and engages in political warfare or is this an area you think just as a democracy it turns over its
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leadership as regularly as we do with the different branches of government pursuing different priorities that we will sort of always be behind in this? >> this president has broken the machinery. the next president if there is one will have to rebuild it and that includes not only competent individuals at the top of the pyramid but rebuilding faith in those institutions that the president has attacked faith in the american diplomacy, american diplomats as humans. we are broken. we are a broken country. we are a failing democracy. we've created some of that
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failure, but the triumphalist put an agent of influence and agent of chaos into the white house. we cannot calibrate how many votes or how many minds the russian disinformation operations swayed. this is certainly contributing factor to the election of donald trump. it's not the deciding factor but it is a factor. if we don't get back in the game, there will be trouble ahead. >> thank you for joining us. it's been a pleasure talking with you tonight. the book the folly and the glory i highly recommend it. it's an incredible lesson in history and that i thought i knew and i turned out to have
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been blown away page after page. so thank you so much 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, manchester and for helping put this together tonight. it's been a great conversation and i appreciate the chance to talk with you. >> thank you to everybody. if you want to learn more about this i just started a new podcast based on the book and i've had more fun doing this the
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last couple of months than i have in a long time. it's worth a listen and i encourage you. it's called whirlwind. >> i'm putting that link into the chat with that information. this has been fascinating and we appreciate you taking the time to be with us. we will see you back for more great events through the rest of the week and month. thank you everyone and have a great night. >> appreciate and.
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