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Russia Defends Intervention; Senate Investigates CIA Torture Use; Imagine a World

Aired April 10, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Forty-eight hours: that's the length of time Ukraine's government said it needs to stabilize the situation in east of the country. But clearly these people disagree with that timeline. They are pro-Russian protesters occupying a government building in the city of Donetsk. As you can see, they're fortifying their positions.

Maybe the men are so confident because they know there's a much larger Russian force just across the border. NATO's secretary-general sounded the alarm bells today, saying Russia has about 40,000 troops at Ukraine's frontier and those soldiers are, quote, "ready for combat."

These satellite images which NATO released are supposed to prove that point. They allegedly show heavy Russian armor, including tanks and artillery as well as jets and choppers close to Russia's border with Ukraine.

So is an invasion imminent? I put that question to my first guest, Andrey Klimov, from Russia's Upper House of Parliament, who joined me from Moscow.


PLEITGEN: Andrey Klimov, thank you very much for joining the program and the first thing I want to hit you with is a fresh set of accusations that come from NATO secretary-general Anders Foch Rasmussen, who says that Russia continues to amass forces at the Ukrainian border.

He's talking about some 40,000 troops and he says those are specifically not there for training but are poised to invade Eastern Ukraine.

And I want you to read -- I want to read you a quote from Mr. Rasmussen's speech, which he gave earlier today, where he says, "Russia is trying to justify its actions by accusing the Ukrainian authorities of oppressing Russian speakers and by accusing NATO of a Cold War mentality. This is nothing but propaganda."

How do you react to that sir?

ANDREY KLIMOV, RUSSIAN FEDERATION COUNCIL: Well, I can see that we have very different vision of this situation. And of course somebody in Western countries maybe prefer to see just bad grace (ph) from Russia.

But the situation is quite different. We are -- we are thinking only about peaceful exit from this situation, which now happened unfortunately in Ukraine.

PLEITGEN: How does massing troops on the border contribute to a peaceful exit of the situation?

KLIMOV: When we are speaking about troops on the borders, we have to know what the distance from the borders are these troops. And normally we have some exercises, military exercises in my country, inside my country. And we do it from time to time.

So nothing special happened there.

PLEITGEN: Now Russia has been accused by both the United States and Poland of agitating in the events in Eastern Ukraine, by forcing these events, by being behind these events, with the administrative buildings that have been taken under control.

What do you know about it and what's your reaction to that?

KLIMOV: Some behavior of some politicians in Kiev were too provocative. And this is the consequences of such kind of behavior.

Unfortunately, some Western people, including people in the White House, they try to blame Russia but do not want to look at their own stuff, which is -- which activity is really also provocative inside Ukraine as well.

Before these events in the eastern part of Ukraine, there were a lot of situations in -- on Maidan Square, including participation in the events, some authorities from America and the European Union.

Our diplomats, our senators, our members of parliament never been there.

PLEITGEN: Since when has gas become a weapon in the dispute between Russia and Ukraine?

Because today your president, Vladimir Putin, warned that gas deliveries to Ukraine might be cut short. There's the Gazprom that has not only threatened but is raising the gas prices.

That's a very long way to go, isn't it?

I mean, that's a pretty staunch weapon in this dispute, isn't it?

KLIMOV: Unfortunately, this is an old story. We have a contract. It's a commercial operation. And when you sell something, you, of course, are looking for money. But unfortunately, Ukrainian government prefer not to pay according to their obligations. And this is the problem.

And that's it.

PLEITGEN: Sir, one of the things that we've been trying to find out and that the world's been trying to find out is what exactly Russia wants to achieve in Ukraine as far as Ukraine's state structure is concerned, as far as the government there is concerned, as far as the way forward is concerned and also as far as the allegiances and alliances that Ukraine has is concerned.

KLIMOV: Well, first of all, we are looking at this country as our neighbor country. And of course we are looking for peaceful coexistence and not only we are looking for cooperation in this country with the people of this country and even with the government of this country, but legal government.

And secondly, I can tell you that we like to give opportunity to the people of this country to solve their problems themselves without any pressure from abroad, including pressure from Western world. This is also important.

PLEITGEN: One of the things that I always ask myself is that the current system that we have of state sovereignty that was enshrined in the U.N. charter was put there in large part because Russia and the Soviet Union were invaded so many times by European countries and only managed to push those European countries back with a lot of blood being spilled.

Is the Russian political class aware of the threat that all of this poses to that system of state sovereignty, of national sovereignty, what's going on right now?

KLIMOV: Well, in Crimea, we have very special case. It's a unique case, like, if you like, case in Kosovo, an explanation of some Western politicians.

When we are speaking about territorial integrity of course we recognize the territorial integrity of Ukraine. But unfortunately, there were some great mistakes, including mistakes of politicians from Washington and Brussels. After that, mistakes. We received their, so to say, revolution in Kiev and after that, there were consequences.

But if we are speaking about today's situation, of course we have to mind the history. And the history of Ukraine as a sovereign state is something a little bit above 20 years. Ukraine never been a sovereign state for a long period.

And of course this is the problem of a young state. We'd like to help them. But this is their way. They have to do their own work themselves forward, if you like. And when we offer them participation in the custom union or in the Eurasia integration, we are only speaking about cooperation and nothing more than this.

But the pressure from the West was too strong and this destabilization based on the position of some politicians who prefer to have integration with the West, but not take into account willing of people, of millions people, of dozen millions of people from the eastern part of Ukraine to have integration with the East.

This is the situation of this present country and nothing more than this.

PLEITGEN: Is there a reason why Ukraine couldn't be a member of the European Union, a member of NATO and a good ally to Russia?

KLIMOV: Look, look, first of all, I don't know what the reason to have this enlargement of NATO military organization out to our borders. If we are partners, this is not necessary at all.

If they're speaking about the European Union, I do not know any serious politician in the European Union who'd like to join the European Union with Ukraine. I do not know any of them.

PLEITGEN: How deep do you think the damage is between Russia and the West now?

And do you think it can be mended anytime soon?

KLIMOV: I can tell you that honestly a lot of politicians in the West are ready to have normal affairs with my country. They are ready to discuss with us some practical things. And we are not speaking only about oil and gas. We have to do a lot together.

But we like to have better understanding. And when one side -- an event for one side, it seems maybe that they're the only boss of the world or the only judge of the world, this is a mistake, of course. We are against such kind of ruling of our civilization for the 21st century.

PLEITGEN: Andrey Klimov, thank you very much for joining the program.

KLIMOV: Thanks.


PLEITGEN: And Russia's moves in Eastern Europe may be uniting former enemies and nervous neighbors in unusual ways. Last week, Germany reached out to Poland by returning an 18th century painting that was looted by the Nazis in 1939.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, a guest on our program earlier this week, accepted it from his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Can that be a coincidence? And speaking of stolen paintings, these two masterpieces by French post-impressionist Pierre Bonnard and Paul Gauguin were stolen back in 1970. The thieves were never caught; the works never recovered.

They're worth millions but they ended up in a flea market, where an unsuspecting Italian auto worker bought them for a mere $32. He thought they looked nice and so he hung them in his kitchen -- until now.

And after the break, a different kind of detective work uncovering a possible crime against humanity committed in the name of national security. We'll explain when we come back.




PLEITGEN: And welcome back. I'm Fred Pleitgen, in for Christiane Amanpour.

The great Roman philosopher and politician, Cicero, once said, "Laws become silent in times of war."

Many say the United States broke its own norms against prisoner abuse in its war on terror, undermining the U.S.' role as a champion of human rights and the rule of law.

CIA operatives called things like waterboarding "enhanced interrogation methods," but the only adequate word to describe them is torture. A pending report on the Senate investigation into the brutal interrogations has become a political football with critics calling it a partisan sham.

But Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says it's vital to show that the U.S. is a country that makes mistakes but also one that has the courage to deal with them.

As a CIA agent, Glenn Carle was caught up in the frenzy inside the agency to catch Osama bin Laden after 9/11. In 2002, Carle was sent to a CIA black site to interrogate a suspected top-level Al Qaeda leader. His orders: do whatever it takes to make the prisoner talk.

Carle's book, "The Interrogator" is his account of his two decades in the CIA and about how torture impacted the agency. He joins me now from Washington.

Glenn Carle, welcome to the program. Thank you for being on. And I want to get straight to this report and we have to always state that the report has not been made public yet. But we do know certain things that appear to be in the executive summary.

One is that torture was more broadly used than previously admitted. The second thing is that the methods were often more extreme than we've known about until now. And the other appears to be that the CIA covered at least some of it up through the committees that are supposed to oversee it.

Can you tell me how the culture within the CIA changed after 9/11?

GLENN CARLE, FORMER CIA AGENT AND AUTHOR: Yes, I can't speak first- hand to the three-point set that you made. I'm careful to restrict myself to my first-hand experiences, which I think were appalling enough, actually. And the facts are that we engaged in what we called enhanced interrogation which by America's own definitions is torture actually.

The way the culture changed is a very important question and one that doesn't receive enough attention, however. Prior to 9/11, there was always a counterterrorism component to the CIA, and it's an important one. There are people who try to kill Americans and harm American interests and Westerners and we need to stop them. That's a legitimate function.

But there's a broad spectrum of political views and interests and operations that the CIA engaged in. After 9/11, we became heavily focused on paramilitary support and activities and then we got caught up in the enhanced interrogation, the interrogations of many detainees or prisoners, some prisoners of war, other people who had been rendered, which is some instances like kidnapping.

And we didn't have guidelines that were adequate and then those that were provided clearly crossed the line of American practice and law.

PLEITGEN: So what were you expected to do? You went, you were sent to a black site. And you were told you were going to interview or interrogate a top-level Al Qaeda leader.

How did you get around that? What do you do? What were you expected to do?

CARLE: Well, I was involved in the very early days of the program, before actually the agency had had time to institutionalize procedures and formal authorizations and training and so on.

I was told, "Do whatever it takes to get him to talk. Do you understand?"

And I did understand. I was appalled. And the guidance was never explicit. They didn't say, do the following things. It was, "Pressure him. Pressure him. Be creative. Do what it takes."

It was very clear and then the methods that were used to -- I opposed but observed -- were based upon the -- frankly, interrogation methods that we saw used on American prisoners of war in North Vietnam. And part of our training as CIA officers is to go through what's called sear school training, which it has a -- it's special forces training, which has a component of what happens if you're tortured, how do you resist interrogation? How do you remain sane and some -- maintain some sense of self? Those methods were the ones that were used. And they involved sleep deprivation and sensory disorientation and so on.

PLEITGEN: Well, it's interesting, because in this executive summary, at least what we know about it, it said that there was things like waterboarding, but it also speaks of dumping people into ice water, doing various other things.

Was it that detailed? Was it that people said these are the kinds of methods that you're going to use? Or was it basically up to everyone's own invention?

CARLE: In the very early days, there was no formal guidance. And I was told -- one was told be creative, pressure. Quickly the agency realized that was not something sustainable; this is a very serious, dangerous, delicate business. And they sought guidance.

Unfortunately, the guidance on what was allowable, legal and so on, unfortunately the guidance received was based upon the interrogation methods that I described and that then became the norm, which actually was trained. And it was quite codified. You may slap with an open hand. You may throw against a wall, things like that. That's all been released publicly, actually, and it's based upon something called the KUBARK manual. That's a code name for many, many years ago. It's been declassified.

And these methods were quite clearly spelled out, to limit the officers and to control them so that they would only act appropriately and with authorization. There was great care taken for that.

The problem was that the guidelines given betrayed our own -- our own oath, actually.

PLEITGEN: So when you're an interrogator and you're in this situation with a high-value target or a prisoner of war, do you develop something like sympathy for this person? Or is this just another job that you get done?

CARLE: Oh, I think for any good officer it's never just a job you get done. In fact, the CIA officers are -- the agency does a good job of seeking people of unusual integrity and principle. That will sound contradictory, but it is not. CIA people are unusually principled people. So it's a calling, actually. And part of the job of being a good operations officer is identified -- is being able to and actually doing -- identifying with the person you were working against or on.

It's critical in any kind of work to emphathize and understand the motivations, the character of the person sitting across from you.

So absolutely one comes to identify with someone, absolutely.

Even if you oppose that person and try to manipulate them, it's a critical part of the job.

PLEITGEN: One of the big things that's in dispute is does torture actually work? Does torture lead to better information? Does torture help uncover things? What do you think?

CARLE: Well, I don't think; I know. I mean, this is -- it's one of these false debates. There's really no debate to have. It doesn't work from so many perspectives.

Just think rationally for a moment. If you were placed under duress and you're under pain and severe discomfort and fear, what do you want to do? You want that to stop. How do you get it to stop? By talking.

And we found that that was exactly the case, Abu Zubaida apparently said what he thought would suffice to have the measures stopped. And even beyond. Then once you get beyond that, an officer's job, an interrogator's job is not simply to get somebody to say something ,but to say something true.

And on top of that, to be able to evaluate the legitimacy, the veracity, the reliability of the information before using it, because otherwise, I could say to you, the moon is made of cheese. I promise. I promise. And then you go off and you act foolishly.

And so whatever you hear, however it's obtained, you also have to assess it and then see if it's reliable. What is more likely to be reliable? Information obtained under duress, where the person hates you, then you are causing severe pain or information obtained more willingly? It's a straightforward assessment to make.

PLEITGEN: Now this report is, of course, very difficult for the agency, this whole process was very difficult for the CIA. It's also very difficult politically and it's become a political football in many ways.

Why do you think it's taken so long and it's taking so long for this report to actually be published? Because the Obama administration clearly wants it out there.

CARLE: Well, it's not a surprise. I think to anyone involved in the national security, foreign policy or political establishments, these are very delicate, explosive, important issues. And the agency -- any institution, not simply the agency -- will seek to protect its reputation and its practices. It sought to act effectively and to follow its orders. That's true.

The report says that not only were errors made but egregious ones and lines were crossed that should not have been crossed. So it's a natural reflex to protect the institution and protect the officers who sought to serve.

In addition, in the American system, with the separation of powers, in our government between the executive branch, and which the CIA is a part, and the oversight committees, of which the -- from which the report comes in Congress, there's the natural tension by design. That's a healthy thing, friction that it creates notwithstanding. It's designed to create friction so that no one branch of government, no one party, no one faction, no one section can have uncontrolled influence, power or responsibility.

So painful as this process is, it's part of our democracy and the triumph of it, frankly. And it's natural that the executive branch -- in this instance the CIA -- oppose having its problems revealed and it is proper that the oversight committees do so and it's important work that frankly the truth be out.

You know, the CIA's -- as you enter the lobby of the CIA, engraven -- engraved on the wall is a quote from the Bible, that says, "Know the truth" -- "Seek the truth and it shall make you free."

And that's our mission. And this is part of that process.

PLEITGEN: Glenn Carle, I want to thank you very much for being on the program and giving us this very important insight into this very, very important and often undercovered topic. Thank you very much.

CARLE: Thank you.


PLEITGEN: If the willingness to admit mistakes is a challenge for established democracies like the U.S., imagine how hard it is for nations like Egypt, walking the tightrope between autocracy and liberty. A case of trial by error when we come back.




PLEITGEN: And a final thought tonight, imagine a world where justice is delayed not once but five infuriating times. It's a story we've been following for months now -- for 103 days, to be exact. That's how long three Al Jazeera journalists have been jailed in Egypt for allegedly fabricating stories and aiding terrorists.

Cameras were banned from the courtroom today, but it didn't stop a torrent of tweets by Patrick Kingsley of "The Guardian," reporting on the trial. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were confined to their familiar cages hoping that the judge would finally dismiss the charges against them, especially after the prosecution tried to introduce videos allegedly incriminating the detained journalists, which included a documentary on Somalia, a Kenyan press conference and a wildlife video, all of them completely unrelated to the situation in Egypt.

Peter Greste told reporters during a recess that the evidence was, quote, "a complete joke." The judge threw out the so-called exhibits, but then adjourned the trial yet again until April 22nd. And that means our colleagues will remain in custody.

Calls for their release continue, but no voice has been more compelling than that of Greste's own parents, who appeared on this program yesterday.


JURIS GRESTE, PETER'S FATHER: I also wanted to say that we know and be assured that what keeps Peter going is knowing that people like Christiane and other international media are taking an interest in it. And that buoys him up no end.


PLEITGEN: A new constitution ratified by 98 percent of Egyptian voters back in January states in Article 70, quote, "Freedom of the press, printed, visual, audio and electronic publication, is guaranteed."

Until those words become reality, Egypt itself remains on trial.

And that's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter @FPleitgenCNN. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.