Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
Egypt’s military government calls for the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. President Barack Obama considers pulling all troops from Afghanistan after 2014. And the U.S. warns China on cyber theft. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Tom Gjelten NPR national security correspondent and author of "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause."
- Martin Walker chief international affairs columnist for United Press International, senior director of the Global Business Policy Council and senior fellow at The Woodrow Wilson Center; his latest novel is "The Devil's Cave."
- Susan Glasser editor of Politico magazine.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Egypt cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood as protests for and against opposed President Morsi continue. NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, meets with human rights workers at a Moscow airport and President Obama weighs pulling out all troops from Afghanistan.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Tom Gjelten of NPR, Susan Glasser of Politico and Martin Walker of UPI. Do join us, questions, comments, 800-433-8850, send an email to email@example.com, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you and welcome back Martin.
MR. MARTIN WALKERGood morning.
MR. TOM GJELTENHello, Diane.
REHMIt's good to see you all. Let's start with Edward Snowden, he met with human rights activists at the Moscow airport. What do we know, Tom Gjelten?
GJELTENHe had this meeting with human rights activists right there at the airport where he's been holed up for a couple of weeks and one of the human rights activists actually, the representative of Human Rights Watch in Russia, so she has a lot of credibility, came out afterwards and said that Snowden will stay in Russia and accept asylum there.
GJELTENNow, President Putin has said that he can only stay in Russia if he does not release anymore damaging information. But Snowden's interpretation of that demand, according to this woman, is that he will decide what's damaging or not and since he hasn't released any information that, in his judgment, is damaging he doesn't see any problem with that precondition because he doesn't have damaging information. He's not intending to release damaging information but he's apparently reserving for himself the right to decide what that would be.
REHMWhere do we go from here, Susan?
MS. SUSAN GLASSERWell, you know, it's really interesting that he tried this move today and I think it suggests in many ways that his initial gambit has sort of failed and he's stalled and stuck there as it's pretty clear at this point three weeks in the transit zone is no place to be (unintelligible) . I can tell you myself, I've been there many times. It's not a wonderful airport to live in.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERAnd he's been offered at this point asylum from a number of Latin American countries but the question is, how on earth can he get there? The United States and its allies have made it very clear they're not going to enable his transit over their airspace.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERThere's report in "The New York Times" today about the diplomatic full-court press that the United States is pursuing, with countries in Latin America, to make it clear that should they actually go through on the asylum offers with Snowden that there would be a serious diplomatic consequences.
MS. SUSAN GLASSEROf course, the U.S. is the major player in the region and then there's Russia. So remember that originally Snowden had withdrawn his request for Russian asylum after Putin came out and made those comments. The fact that he's reversing himself so quickly suggests that he's been advised he has no other way to get out of that airport.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERAnd just one final note, you know, underscoring the sort of tragic irony of this whole situation, Russia is not exactly a place where truth tellers go for asylum and Putin's condition suggests that Tanya Lokshina, who is the Human Rights Watch woman who went to the airport at Sheremetyevo to meet with Edward Snowden, herself had to leave Russia not long ago in the face of threats because of her brave work in confronting the Russian government.
WALKERWell, theoretically there might be one or two ways out for him. first of all, there are direct flights from Sheremetyevo from Moscow to Havana. And in fact, yesterday there was such a flight which caused a flurry of alarm because it apparently decided not to take the usual Great Circle route which would go over U.S. airspace.
WALKERBut apparently there was some kind of atmospheric, metrological disturbance and so they flew south of that usual route and, so, theoretically it's possible to get to Havana without going over American airspace and without going over any NATO airspace as well.
WALKERThe second point is, bear in mind that he's only applying for temporary asylum in Russia and there is a campaign underway both in Germany and in the European parliament for him to be granted some kind of refuge there.
WALKERI think given the NATO membership of Germany, I think it's unlikely it'll come about but it's certainly going to add to this sense of European grievance against the U.S. that began with the whole phone tapping and eavesdropping business and has now gone a great deal further into making Snowden look like something of a martyr.
REHMTom, where is this going to end? How is this young man going to find his way out of the airport into some kind of realistic living situation?
GJELTENWell, I think you have to have some sympathy for him if for no other reason than, here we have a 30 year old kid whose social experience has been limited. I mean, he's been sort of, according to everyone who knew him, he's the kind of a kid that's spent all of his time in front of a computer and was a very smart but not very wise in the ways of the world and he's up against the United States government which is absolutely determined, as Susan said, absolutely determined that no country grant him asylum.
WALKERI mean, the dis-balance of that power relationship is really sobering and, you know, this poor man, you know, he may have done some really stupid, foolish, unwise things but he is up against some real trouble.
REHMBut you've got Putin on the other side who would like nothing better than, as many people have said, to stick a thumb in the eye of the U.S., Susan.
GLASSERWell, that's right and so far that's how it's played out and it's been sort of an effective thorn in their side especially since they haven't actually taken the next step of granting him asylum. It does, I think, make the decision of the Chinese to get Snowden out of there as quickly as possible look in hindsight to have been a very smart move on the part of the Chinese.
GLASSERThey, you know, I think there would be a very different narrative going on here if he had somehow stayed in Hong Kong and the accounts, the backstage accounts, of what occurred and how the Chinese pretty much maneuvered Snowden and kind of shuffled him off very quickly before he had a chance to reflect on what his future situation was going to be like I think was smart.
GLASSERRemember that the Chinese-U.S. strategic dialogue was taking place this week and it would have been completely overshadowed had this circus remained in Hong Kong and not in Moscow.
WALKERWell, let's not forget that there might be one extra alternative. There is one other place he can go to that does not involve crossing American airspace and that is the friendly shores of North Korea.
WALKERIt has a land frontier with Russia.
REHMYes, but wasn't there some talk about Iceland for a while?
WALKERThere has indeed been talk about Iceland but Iceland is also sort of an honorary member of NATO with the Keflavik Air Base. I think any NATO member is going to find it extremely difficult to defy the United States on this one.
WALKERHowever, there are nonmembers of NATO in Europe which include Finland and Austria and, as I say, there is this sort of human rights campaign underway in the European parliament to try and find a way of giving this whistleblower a certain amount of protection.
REHMAll right, clearly to be continued. Let's talk about the dramatic events going on in each of this week. Bring us up to date, Martin.
WALKERWell, it's going pretty much according to the tradition of messy revolutions of the kind that we saw in France in 1789 or in France in 1848. The initial great hopes of the Arab Spring have given away to authoritarian government which in turn has given away to military interventions and it's really very depressing that it's taking this route.
WALKERIt's become much more complicated now in the way that although the U.S. has been careful not to get particularly involved, much of the rest of the Arab world has. Bear in mind that the last government of President Morsi, the Islamic Brotherhood government, was being supported by Libya, by Turkey and by Qatar in financial term.
WALKERWell, now that they've gone and that the military is trying to put together this new government of what they call the moderates, we've now got money pouring in from Saudi Arabia and from United Arab Emirates and from Kuwait.
WALKERIn other words, poor old Egypt has become something of a footboard being kicked backwards and forwards between these contending currents within the Arab world. At the same time U.S. leverage here is pretty limited. I gather that the main avenue of discussion is between Defense Secretary Hagel and the Egyptian General Al Sisi who had lunch with Hagel some time ago.
WALKERThey've been in telephone contact, it looks as though the U.S.'s long-term financing of the Egyptian military over $1 billion a year since the Sadat went to, since the Camp David agreements, the 1970s has given the U.S. a great deal of leverage and it looks as though these F16s that were on order are going to be delivered to Egypt to maintain that.
REHMTom, who are the interim leaders, what do we know about them?
GJELTENWell, the former head of the Supreme Court but Egypt's version of the Supreme Court, Adly Mansour is the new president, the acting, the interim president. He's named a liberal sort of Western economist, Hazem al-Beblawi, as the prime minister and Mohammed el Baradei who sort of is every Egyptian liberals' favorite politician, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is the vice president.
GJELTENNow, the issue though I think behind this little triumvirate is we cannot forget that it was the Egyptian military that pulled off this coup and the Defense Minister, General al Sisi, is widely considered to be the real power behind this triumvirate. So I think that's the person that we have to look at.
GJELTENNow, there's one little point that I want to make, Diane, which is Mohammed Morsi failed. Even though he won a pretty convincing election, a democratic election, because he did not make really much of an effort to broaden the base of support for his government to practice the politics of inclusion, to build a national consensus.
GJELTENThat was his downfall. So far the evidence that this new group or the Egyptian military has learned from that mistake is not impressive. They seem to be following the same formula that brought Morsi down which I think does not bode well for Egypt's future.
REHMHow soon will they hold elections, Tom?
GJELTENThey haven't said precisely, somewhere between six and nine months. Parliamentary elections first followed by presidential election later.
REHMTom Gjelten of NPR, Susan Glasser of "Politico" and Martin Walker, he's chief international affairs columnist for UPI. He is also writing novels left and right. Stay with us.
REHMAnd if you're just joined us for the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup, Martin Walker is here. His latest novel is titled "The Devil's Cave." He's also chief international affairs columnist for UPI. Susan Glasser is editor of Political magazine. Tom Gjelten is NPR national security correspondent and author of "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Susan, what about the Muslim Brotherhood in all this uproar in Egypt?
GLASSERWell, I think that at the heart of it is really a regional as well as an Egypt struggle over the question of whether the long band Muslim Brotherhood. They had a very short period of time to govern in Egypt after years of having all their leadership in jail. They now seem to be headed back to jail. So one big question I think that's very much unresolved in all of this turmoil is will the Muslim Brotherhood be allowed to rejoin whatever political process is restarted in Egypt?
GLASSERThe generals, as we discussed right before the break, have said that they will have a return to elections. They haven't said when exactly but they are outlining a path six to nine months parliamentary elections followed by a presidential election. Will the Muslim Brotherhood be allowed to participate? Then you have these regional actors that Martin referred to. You have Qatar, which has been supporting the rise of political Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood around the region.
GLASSERAnd then you have the Saudis and the Kuwaitis, the UA spending billions on the other side to try to have a return to, in effect, the status quo ante, the, you know, Mubarakism perhaps without Mubarak. The idea that they could just somehow reinstall the strongman and eliminate the possibility of politicalism. Of course, there's a very big picture question haunting this conversation too, which is if the Muslim Brotherhood sees that the political route is close to them in Egypt, the stronghold of this movement over the last 90 years, will they turn in the direction of a more militant Islam of al-Qaida and terrorism.
GLASSERThere's already a call to Jihad that has been issued. And I think there's a real question about whether you're going to see a more violent Muslim Brotherhood emerge from this tumult.
WALKERWell, the head of the (word?) mosque, who is, in effect, the most distinguished of the leading Islamic cleric in Egypt has called for peace and for calm and for reconciliation. It's been pretty clear, I think, that the Muslim Brotherhood itself split or divided between partly a generational issue, partly a regional, partly a geographic issue between upper Nile and lower Nile.
WALKERBut with, I think, Morsi not having 100 percent support within the Brotherhood for his exclusive line that he was taking and trying to grab almost all the spoils of office to him. The big issue, I think, is going to be the economy. The economy has stalled and been shrinking. I think the money that's coming in from the Saudis and the Emirates is probably going to buy enough time to get through the six months until the elections.
WALKERBut one thing that has to happen, Egypt is spending about 8 percent of its GDP upon things like fuel and break. It cannot maintain -- cannot carry on during that. But if it stops it, it's unlikely to win an election so that is going to be, I think, a real problem.
REHMAnd protests are still taking place around Egypt. Where is President Morsi?
GJELTENPresident Morsi is either in hiding or more likely be detained somewhere. And I think the Muslim Brotherhood membership, if they knew where he was, would probably go try and break him free. But I think the Egyptian government is trying to keep his whereabouts a secret in order to prevent that kind of concentration of Muslim Brotherhood protestors.
GJELTENNow, the one thing that the government has going for it is that this move came just on the eve of Ramadan. And Ramadan tends to have kind of a moderating effect on protests in Egypt because people tend to stay up all night partying and then sleep all day. So the protests, since the beginning of Ramadan, have actually tapered off quite dramatically.
REHMTom, talk about the dispute between Russia and the U.S. over who within Syria is using sarin gas.
GJELTENIt's a really important issue, Diane, because this -- you know, President Obama certainly suggested that this was the thing that he was going to pay most attention to in deciding whether to intervene militarily in Syria. You know, there were these suggestions that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in a major way would mean crossing a redline that would force the United States to reconsider its options.
GJELTENAnd when it appeared that in fact, that had happened, the United States signaled that it was ready to send arms to the rebels. And it seemed like a real turning point. Russia, recognizing the importance of this issue, has now come out with a report that in fact it believes the rebels are using chemical weapons. They have presented that evidence to the United Nations. I think it's pretty clear that this is an effort on Russia's part to forestall or blunt any move that the United States could make to support the rebels.
GLASSERWell, I think that's exactly right. I make one other point which is that I think there was a really interesting overlook story in the Washington Post this week by my friend Karen DeYoung that made the point that actually this much valued new aid and military shipments to the rebels that the Obama Administration announced has actually now never happened. And even though shipments were promised within weeks, nothing has happened. It's actually stalled on Capitol Hill, the very place where initially the criticism of Obama and the calls for action were resounding the loudest.
GLASSERAnd I think what it reflects is not only a deep-seated ambivalence across the political spectrum in the United States to have any further involvement in Syria, but a real sense that there's not much that we can really do to influence the outcomes. Unfortunately, pulling back even further it's also part of a broader narrative of President Obama's very much weakened hand across the middle east at a time when it's exploding. And the redline, saying you're going to have a redline and then not following through and doing and taking even the modest action you said you were going to take, I think it does undercut Obama. Now when this crisis erupts in Egypt, where is he to be found?
WALKERWell, let's get used to it because if there's one thing that's clear as a result of the revolution that's taken place in American shale gas and shale oil and the U.S. move towards energy source sufficiency, it is that for the most obvious economic reasons. The Middle East is going to decline in its priority level in U.S. national security concerns. The U.S. is going to be less and less concerned about the place that produces so much of the world's energy.
WALKERAnd further point I think on Syria is that we're pretty close to something like a stalemate between the Assad regime and the opposition. And as a result -- that stalemate's now been lasting for about six weeks. As a result, the opposition, which was never a particularly unified bunch, is really falling apart. And there's now a report that one of the leaders of the more moderate factions has been assassinated by the most al-Qaida like particular group within the Syrian opposition. Having been invited to some kind of peace talks and found himself shot.
WALKERThis, I think, is another reason why many people in the Obama Administration really want to hold off upon diving in to what's obviously a very messy and complicated situation.
GJELTENI was just going to call attention to that assassination as well, which we just learned about today, really indicating the division within the rebel movement. And the fact that they've had these military setbacks means that their support is really disappearing or weakening across Syria as well, because they're not in the situation where they are really fighting for control of neighborhoods like in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. And what this means is that food is not getting into the city because of the fighting.
GJELTENSo people are really suffering now, not only because of the government but also because of the rebels. It's a very bad situation.
REHMSo where does it go from here, Susan?
GLASSERYou know, unfortunately I don't see an externally imposed solution of any kind being any closer to him. Let's remember that Secretary of State John Kerry had made this his first initiative of his new tenure. And he was working very hard to convene a joint peace conference with the Russians in Geneva. It was supposed to take place in early June. Guess what? It's mid-July. Not only has it not happened, I don't even think it's going to happen. It's not on the agenda.
GLASSERAnd so unfortunately that means that the facts on the ground will continue to be determined by those players. With each faction with enough support from the outside in terms of arms and money and backing, the Russians to the Assad regime, various other Middle Eastern governments and Gulf governments to various factions to the rebels, that it's the fighting and the situation on the ground that's going to be continuing to determine the political dynamics.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to Afghanistan. Martin, explain the so-called zero option.
WALKERWell, the New York Times broke a story this week in which they said that President Obama was apparently considering a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops after the next elections. And that caused a considerable flutter, not just in Afghanistan but here in Washington. Yesterday in testimony on the hill...
REHMSo excuse me, we're talking about 2014.
WALKERYesterday on the hill in testimony, Ambassador Dobbins said that no, this really wasn't a live option. They've been trying to talk it down. Many people assumed this was just leaked in order to put pressure upon Karzai. And there are two particular issues around which this very bad personal relationship between Obama and Karzai I think seems to hinge. One is Karzai's opposition to the American suggestion of more talks for the Taliban and trying to get a broader based government.
WALKERAnd the second and more, I think, immediately difficult has been the competition of the electoral commission that will be supervising these elections. The last elections, it's broadly thought that Karzai stole a lot of votes. And there's meant to have been an independent electoral commission agreed upon that would set the rules for the elections. Karzai has said they're getting nowhere in their talks. I am going to have to step in and appoint the electoral commission myself.
GJELTENYou know, the reason that this zero option came up, Diane, is because of what happened in Iraq. Where the United States wanted to continue to have troops in Iraq, remember, and the Iraqi government refused to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the United States...
REHM...which would exempt the soldiers from any prosecution.
GJELTENThat was the issue that sunk it. As a result of the failure of the United States in Iraq to reach agreement, the United States had no option but to withdraw all its forces from Iraq. And that's the -- sort of the parallel here with Afghanistan. If there is no agreement between the Obama Administration and the Karzai government over the status of American forces in Afghanistan, essentially the United States would be forced to do what it did in Iraq and withdraw.
GJELTENBut what Ambassador Dobbins said is that he said, the situation in Afghanistan is very different than in Iraq. He does not see the Afghan government, no matter what Karzai says, refusing to renegotiate a new security agreement with the United States. That's the reason he thinks that this zero option is not going to materialize.
GLASSERWell, and for all those reasons that may be why this is more of a negotiating ploy to put this out there publically and have it aggressively shot down in the midst of those status of forces talks. So that's one possibility and that certainly was aired by Ambassador Dobbins. At the same time I think we should also recognize that President Obama fairly clearly would probably be very happy if that was the outcome.
GLASSERAnd he has made it, I think, crystal clear from the beginning of his presidency when he wrestled with assurgent to Afghanistan, that his threshold was not to have further and long term engagement in Afghanistan. And if he could find a way politically to plausibly get out by 2014, my guess is at least personally he'd very much prefer that option.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." But after the NATO U.S. mission ends in Afghanistan, what's the U.S. position going to be there, Martin?
WALKERWell, it's very difficult to define. It's quite clear that the -- we're looking at a low number of American troops remaining, something around about 10, perhaps 15,000 in affected division. Which is not going to have anything like the kind of, I think, available combat weight to hold Afghanistan or to hold anything more than the most loyal parts of the push to regions.
REHMBut in the meantime, aren't U.S. troops being killed in the process?
WALKERThey are indeed and more than, I think it's two-thirds of the American troops who have died in Afghanistan have died under President Obama's Administration. And on top of that, one reason why I'm not so sure that -- I understand what Susan says when she says that in many ways it would come as a relief to President Obama to get out. But on a simply human level, the kind of personal guilt and personal responsibility that Barack Obama as a human being would feel for every one of those American troops who've died since his surge, simply in order for the Americans to pull out, I think would be a haunting personal sense of failure for him.
GJELTENThis is President Obama's war to a greater extent than it belongs to anyone else. And he has made the argument in supporting what is largely an unpopular venture that Afghanistan is strategically important. So can -- there is this now disagreement, which is very personal between Obama and Hamid Karzai, is he going to allow this kind of difficult personal relationship to define how America sees its strategic interests in the future? I mean, it's just hard to believe that that would be the case.
GLASSERWell, I think there's another factor to consider here too, which is that Afghanistan is supposed to have an election next year to succeed president Karzai. And he's not supposed to run again. And that election, first of all, is very unclear whether it will actually take place and under what kind of security conditions it would do so. I believe that's supposed to take place sometime in April of next year.
GLASSERAnd then you have a large pullout of U.S. troops. Basically the remaining fighting forces are supposed to be gone by the end of the next summer fighting season in 2014. So number one, is that even going to be possible? Number two, does the election timetable in Afghanistan get pushed? Does it get pushed into 2015? How does that affect the U.S. presence? And then in a more broad sense, Hamid Karzai has been running, to the extent anyone can run, Afghanistan's government since he was installed by the U.S. and its partners at the conference in Germany at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan back in 2001.
GLASSERAnd so is there a real political process that can produce a viable successor to Karzai who's going to be able to govern across a very ethnically and geographically divided country? I think that's an enormous question mark hanging over this.
REHMAll right. And speaking of question marks, Vice-President Biden warned China about cyber theft. Anything new there, Tom?
GJELTENYes. I'll tell you what's new. What's new is what Edward Snowden has done to this agenda. The United States took this issue of cyber espionage by China very, very seriously. There was a whole series of high-level visits to Beijing this spring. One after another, they said this has to stop, these use of cyber tools to steal American trade secrets, industrial espionage. And there was a feeling, although tentative, that their message was getting through.
GJELTENEdward Snowden then came out and says, you know the United States hacks into Chinese networks as well, as well as into the networks of other countries. The United States was very quick to point out that what they were talking about with respect to China is not what the United States has been alleged to do. But that distinction totally fell on deaf ears in Beijing. So now that effort by the United States to raise this cyber issue has really been derailed.
REHMTom Gjelten of NPR. Short break here and when we come back, your calls, your email. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First to Woodstock, Ill., Lydia, you're on the air.
LYDIAGood morning, thank you for taking my call.
LYDIAI would like to address the comment made earlier in today's program and I've heard it several times by a number of people including the president, this is a 30-year-old kid. And I find that insulting and dismissive. First of all, he may have done for us what has been pointed out in an ancient fable and many of you may know this fable.
LYDIAIt's the Lion and the Mouse and if I could just read this short paragraph from a 1909 book entitled "The Lion and the Mouse": "Once upon a time a lion dropped his paw upon a mouse. Please, let me live begged the mouse and someday I will do as much for you. That is so funny for the King of Beasts that we will release you. We had no idea mice had a sense of humor."
LYDIA"And then as you remember the lion was caught in a net of the hunter and struggled in thought and struck blindly until his spirit and his strength were broken and he lay helpless and dying. And the mouse happened to pass that way, nod and nibbled at the net and gave the lion his life."
LYDIAMr. Snowden helped construct that net as a net of security that he thought eventually was going to be the net that will take away the spirit of this great beast.
REHMAll right. Lydia, thank you for your comments. There are an awful lot of people out there Martin who think that what, who feel that what Edward Snowden did was the right thing to do.
WALKERWell, I recall a certain U.S. senator, some years ago saying that the whistleblowers were to be protected and to be respected as people who could level the playing field as nobody else could between the individual...
REHMThe question is whether...
WALKER...and that was.
REHM...he was a whistleblower.
WALKERAnd that senator was Barack Obama.
REHMI understand that. The question is whether he's a whistleblower or whether he is a traitor to his country.
GJELTENI think what's important to remember is that there are two things that Edward Snowden has talked about. One is the surveillance program against Americans by the NSA and I think there's a good argument to be made that this opened up a debate that needed to be had.
GJELTENBut he has also revealed a lot about what the United States is doing with respect to other countries and that I think you have to accept, that has had really damaging effects on the U.S. bargaining and leverage position. I mean there's just this line in a New York Times story today about the U.S./China dialogue.
GJELTENThe United States wanted to discuss North Korea with China. American officials have slowly come to understand the degree to which Mr. Snowden's revelations have changed the balance of power in negotiations with the Chinese. The Chinese are now able to cite the United States and sort of thumb their noses at the United States when the United States tries to exert some leverage.
GJELTENThat has nothing to do with a surveillance issue. That has really damaged the U.S. sort of political standing in the world for good or for ill.
REHMAll right. And here's another view from another part of Illinois. Hi Chris, you're in Quincy.
CHRISAlright, good morning, great show as always.
CHRISI would go right along with what Tom Gjelten was just saying. There are two separate issues here and I think it's possible to hold Snowden up not as a hero but as a traitor and at the same time be upset with domestic surveillance programs and realize that Snowden has done great damage not just with our relations with the Chinese and our ability to raise issues about cyber espionage but also as a U.S. official said yesterday, we have.
CHRISThere's evidence that some Muslim militants, radicals overseas, have changed their tactics in how they communicate. So one final point I want to make is that Snowden has merely substituted his judgment for the judgment of the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus. So if you want to talk about a concentration of power that's dangerous, Edward Snowden has secrets that he hasn't revealed.
CHRISWe have to assume that those are much more damaging than the ones he has revealed.
WALKERWell, I mean, this is a very difficult moral issue because we tried people at Nuremburg for saying, well, no, I didn't let my individual conscience govern my decisions on supporting the Third Reich. Obviously, the U.S. is not the Third Reich but I think that the thing which surprises me the most about all this is the way in which people have been shocked, shocked, shocked at the obvious, that the U.S. is spying on other countries, that allies spy on each other, that some allies help the U.S. to spy on its own people, namely Great Britain.
WALKERAn awful lot of what Snowden has been saying has been out there in the public sphere, for example, about the ECHELON program which has been debated in the European Parliament and elsewhere. It's been out there for a long time.
WALKERI think most of what Snowden was doing was in effect giving some kind of serious confirmation to his whistleblowing attempts. Now Tom is absolutely right and so is the caller. There is an area of operational procedures in terms of monitoring terrorist Islamic issues where I think we start getting into a much more dangerous area.
WALKERBut if Snowden is making that argument that I am American who believes in the constitution, think it is my duty to reveal what amounts to illegal, improper search, I will do it. That's a tough argument to challenge.
GLASSERWell, I think he's undermined, regardless of the merits and where you fall down on the particular issue. One of the biggest challenges I think for Edward Snowden is that he's really, potentially, even fatally undermined his own claim to the moral high ground and to being a noble whistleblower by seeking refuge first in China and then in Russia which are two of the most repressive, human rights-violating countries in the world and...
GJELTENOr in Venezuela.
GLASSERYou know, I, well exactly putting aside whether he ends up finally in a place like Venezuela. You know, the irony cannot be understated of him holding a meeting at Sheremetyevo today with Russian human rights activists, among the most persecuted people in the world.
GLASSERRussia is a country where the very woman that he met with was driven out of the country when she was facing a threat while pregnant, just a few months ago. This is not the action of someone who wishes not to see the moral high ground and in particular both our societies where the very, particularly the values of free speech and the ability to speak truth to power. There is no First Amendment in Russia and if there were it would not be honored.
GLASSERThis week, Russia convicted a dead man of being guilty of violations after driving him to his death in prison.
GLASSERThis is not a free country.
REHMTo Christo, Va., hi there, Brian.
REHMHi, go right ahead.
BRIANYes, I wanted to ask if your guests had heard that Mr. Morsi had abolished the Egyptian version of our Supreme Court.
GJELTENWell the, under the Morsi government there was a new constitution so I guess you could make the sort of legalistic argument that Morsi abolished the prior Supreme Court and replaced it with a new one, you know, of a new design. I'm not an expert enough in Egyptian legal affairs to know exactly what the difference between the old court and the new court is.
REHMOkay, here's an email from Nate in Ann Arbor. He says: "If Edward Snowden is in fact a fugitive, how are his team able to help him without also being charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive of the U.S.? How come Sarah Harrison hasn't also had her passport revoked? She is not a lawyer and thus has no protection under power of attorney."
GJELTENWell, she's not an American so the United States can't. I think she's Australian?
GJELTENShe's British that's right. She's British. The United States cannot exactly revoke a British citizen's passport.
WALKERThe British government, I think would be facing a very difficult decision if they decided to do so partly because you can nominate who you want to be your lawyer in the U.K. You don't have to have somebody who has passed the Bar Exam.
REHMAlright to Old Lyme, Conn., hi David.
DAVIDGood morning, what a privilege. To me and to a lot of us there's a certain preposterous quality to this entire narrative. We have a Mr. Snowden who wants to protect my privacy. We've got a Mr. Zukerberg, if I believe that, wants to monetize it and the government is a who, by the what, or the say what?
DAVIDAll I have to do to get a decent shake is to go online? You can't write this stuff.
REHMYou can't write this stuff.
WALKERYou couldn't make this stuff up.
REHMAbsolutely, your next novel...
WALKERWell, particularly when you hear about what Microsoft is now supposed to have been doing in opening its code so that the U.S. government can monitor Skype communications and so on. The big issue here I think for everybody is not so much Snowden, the human tragedy though that is probably turning out to be.
WALKERI think it is the question of is, are we going to have to redefine the very concept of privacy?
WALKERIs privacy any longer technologically possible in the kind of world that we're in? And can we as human institutions with laws and constitutions, can we find some legal space to maintain that privacy?
REHMAnd can it possibly be true that Russia has just spent thousands of dollars on typewriters because they want paper copies?
GLASSERWell, in a way, that's a resonate fact of the week. I was thinking of that typewriter story. There's another story that's an interesting story in the paper today about the debut of the Atlas robot yesterday in Massachusetts which is supposed to be the first of a new category of humanoid robots sponsored by the U.S. military, the goal of which is initially to operate in conditions like rescue say a nuclear power accident where humans cannot safely operate.
GLASSERRight now they say that robot which kind of looks like C-3PO from "Star Wars" is at the level of a one-year-old, but, you know, think how quickly one-year-olds grow up. You know, it seems relevant in the context of this conversation.
GJELTENWell, you know what, just about any adult today can remember before we had the internet, before we had email, before we had cell phones, I mean the world has changed so dramatically and we're sort of accustomed to thinking about how great it is and how convenient it is. But whenever you have technological change that fast and that sweeping there's going to be another side to it.
REHMSo, has this Snowden story sort of overwhelmed people's thinking about their own personal privacy? The privacy story in this country doesn't seem to be getting as much press as Snowden does.
GLASSERWell, that's a classic. It's an element of human nature as I think anyone who studies this would tell you. It's a human narrative that's captured our attention. The story of a person, the overwhelming abstraction of privacy as an issue is one that I think sort of causes a brain shutdown even though the issues raised are very similar.
GLASSERWe're now doing it in the context of this personal drama of a 30-year-old trapped in the airport. It's something that our brains I think are hard-wired to relate to that story more easily than the privacy story. But I also, I did want to circle back and make the point that governments, the United States government, the Russian and Chinese governments, they were good at spying on us before there was the internet, before there was Facebook.
GLASSERWhen we lived in Russia we were told every single room in this apartment is bugged. If you need...
GLASSER...to say anything, go outside.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban is marking her 16th birthday by delivering a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York. It's her first public speech since she was attacked on a bus in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley after standing up for her right to go to school in her home country. Let's hear a little of what she has to say.
MS. MALALA YOUSAFZAIOn the 9th of October 2012 the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed.
REHMIt's interesting, Tom, that this young woman has such courage, has such fortitude to speak out after this disaster.
GJELTENLast year, we gave the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union of all institutions. It should have gone to Malala.
GLASSERYou know, Ban Ki-moon today said that she represented the ultimate nightmare of the Taliban, a girl with a book and I think that, you know, in a way it's part and parcel of the conversation we're having about Edward Snowden.
GLASSERThis is an asymmetrical age and the fact that a young girl with, armed only with her ideas can capture the world's imagination around an issue in this way, you know, suggests that there are not just bad consequences but positive ones to a world where we can sort of distribute her words much more widely than the isolated Pakistani valley where she grew up.
WALKERThis takes us back full circle to our earlier discussion about the zero option and withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan because one of the things that U.S. and NATO troop presence has done has made it much more possible, much more feasible for young women in Afghanistan to go to school.
WALKERIf and when those troops get pulled out, then the prospect of Afghanistan returning to some kind of Middle Ages becomes hideously more likely.
REHMIt's interesting that some three million people have already signed a petition that Malala has presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
GJELTENYeah, I think the question is how she is seen in Pakistan. I mean, we've had, the situation in Pakistan has been deteriorating. We just had the security officer for Pakistan's president assassinated this week. The Pakistani Taliban have done so much damage to that country and yet there seems to be an inclination on the part of many Pakistanis to blame the United States for all its troubles.
GJELTENYou know, I would like to think that one of the results of Malala's testimony is sort of a waking up by the Pakistani people to the source of their own problems.
REHMBut you're shaking your head, Susan.
GLASSERWell, you know, I am. I think one piece of the context that suggests why this is such a hard problem. Malala comes from the Pashtun belt of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a part of the world where more than 90 percent of the women cannot read. They are illiterate so first of all, it's a much more radical act to call for literacy in that situation. But it suggests an enormous, a lifetime project to deal with this problem.
REHMSusan Glasser of Politico magazine, Tom Gjelten of NPR, Martin Walker of UPI and The Woodrow Wilson Center, thank you all and have a great weekend.
GJELTENYou, too, Diane...
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Jill Colgan. The engineer is Aaron Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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