An interview with David Ignatius
May 30th, 2014
07:02 PM ET

An interview with David Ignatius

GPS Digital Producer Jason Miks speaks with David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and author of the new novel The Director, about U.S. foreign policy and the future of surveillance. Watch Ignatius on “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

President Obama delivered a big foreign policy address at West Point on Wednesday. Was there anything in it that surprised you?

There were two things that struck me. The first was a troubling question – whether the president has learned the lessons of his presidency. He announced the day before, and underlined at West Point, that he plans to take our combat troops in Afghanistan down to zero by the end of 2016. And I found myself thinking: here we are, contemplating having to go back into Iraq to deal with a resurgent al Qaeda that is back in Fallujah, the town from which it was expelled by U.S. troops. Here we are, dealing with an al Qaeda that has created a dangerous safe haven in Syria after the president two years ago rejected the idea from his advisers for  a robust training assistance program. Has he really gotten the lesson of those two, which is that you only create longer term trouble for yourself by avoiding making commitments when the problem is fairly new?

And I found myself wondering whether any of the graduating cadets, below the president when he spoke, were thinking, as he talked so proudly about bringing everyone home – “We’ll be on a plane flying into Afghanistan in 2017, 2018 – sometime when things have gotten ragged again, and we’re needed to put out the fire.”

To me, he seemed to be making the same mistakes as when he announced his surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan in December 2009. He announced they would be leaving 18 months hence regardless. In other words, he didn’t make the start of withdrawal conditions-based, he made it time-based. And he’s done that same thing again with the 2016 decision. I don’t get that.

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Topics: Foreign Policy • Spying
Why U.S. should care about surveillance abroad
April 16th, 2014
09:29 AM ET

Why U.S. should care about surveillance abroad

By Laura Pitter, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Laura Pitter is a senior national security researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Under growing pressure to rein in domestic surveillance, President Barack Obama recently offered a proposal to end the government's bulk collection of Americans' phone records. Under the new plan, those records would stay with phone companies but be accessible to the government with the permission of a judge. While the proposal is a step in the right direction, many questions remain about how exactly it will be implemented. But  even more important, it is just a small part of what needs to be done on comprehensive surveillance reform.

Still left unaddressed are mass bulk collection and indiscriminate U.S. surveillance practices abroad, which affect many more people and include the collection of the actual content of internet activities and phone calls, not just metadata.

A number of media reports, based on documents obtained by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, have exposed the vast and sweeping nature of these programs. According to one story, the NSA taps into main communication links of data centers around the world and collects millions of records every day, including metadata, text, audio and video. Another revealed that a program called "Mystic" had allegedly been recording “every single” telephone conversation taking place in one, unnamed country and then storing them in a 30-day rolling data base that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive. Another, last month, reported that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a court that handles intelligence requests, often in secret, authorized the NSA to monitor "Germany” – as in the country of. And yet another claimed that the NSA has developed and deployed an automated system, codenamed “Turbine,”  that could potentially infect millions of computers and networks worldwide with malware implants that can covertly record audio and video.

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Topics: Spying • Technology
January 5th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

Why tech is a double-edged sword for human rights

By Emma Daly, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Emma Daly is the communications director at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are her own.

Tech has been turned against human rights – or so it seemed from Edward Snowden’s revelations last year. The technological advances that enabled the Arab Spring and empowered citizen journalists were exposed as facilitating unfettered surveillance worldwide and outstripping legal protections.

We learned that Big Brother, a standby of totalitarian regimes, is also operating in Washington DC. The National Security Agency (NSA) was watching and gathering data from millions of people, with what many have viewed as inadequate congressional oversight, under overbroad authority approved by secretive courts. It turned out the agency overstepped even these feeble checks, as internal audits showed.

It’s clear that privacy laws passed before the Internet and mobile phones existed provide dubious protections in 2013. Governments have a duty to protect national security and prevent crime, but that doesn’t give them a pass to monitor the communications of millions of people who are under no suspicion. What price free speech when the Obama administration tries to get Snowden extradited for an alleged security breach that many see as legitimate whistleblowing?

The British government has said it has done nothing wrong and has yet to come clean on its surveillance practices and their impact on privacy. In the United States, the snowballing Snowden revelations eventually prompted a reformist outcry. There are many proposed legislative fixes. An Obama panel has recommended new limits on surveillance to better balance privacy and national security needs. A federal judge ruled the mass spying was likely to be deemed unconstitutional.

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Topics: Human Rights • Spying
December 22nd, 2013
08:30 AM ET

Dennis Blair: Administration has done a bad job of explaining NSA program

Fareed speaks with President Obama's first director of National Intelligence, now retired Naval Admiral Dennis Blair, about the NSA surveillance program. Watch the full interview at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Do you understand the kind of anger that this has generated around the world and in the United States, because there's a sense that the NSA – and it is really about the NSA – has this technological capacity to look into almost anything, anyone's phone calls, anyone's emails. And the response of the intelligence community seems to be, well, trust us. We're not going to do anything really silly with this.

I do believe, and I tried when I was Director of National Intelligence, to talk more openly about this program. I think we can do that without talking about specific details, which are what have to be kept secret. And I think that this administration has done a bad job of explaining it. And had we done it from an early stage, from the time that I was DNI on, then these revelations would have been less shocking.

I think a couple of things are worth mentioning, though. The scale of these programs is large because the scale of communications is large. And there are billions of phone calls, emails, tweets and other forms of communication being made all over the world.

So in order to try to find ones that are being made by those hostile to the United States, it will require big programs, large computers, lots of data.  So that simply is a question of scale, not a question of principle.

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Topics: Spying • United States
November 2nd, 2013
02:47 PM ET

Law of the jungle not good enough

By Fareed Zakaria

The revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency and its spying on foreign – even allied leaders – has been embarrassing for the Obama administration at a time when it hardly needs more bad news. Last week, European leaders reacted angrily to claims that the United States had been eavesdropping on calls, including listening in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

The revelations prompted Merkel to warn relations with the U.S. had been severely shaken. But is all this more than just an embarrassment? And should it raise alarms abroad and at home?

At first glance, this is a story that is less about ethics and more about power – the great power gap between the United States and other countries, even rich European ones. The most illuminating response to the revelations came from Bernard Kouchner, formerly the foreign minister of France. He said in a radio interview: "Let's be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else." Kouchner went on to add "we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."

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Topics: Europe • Spying • United States
Zakaria: Intelligence oversight situation unacceptable for democratic society
October 30th, 2013
12:01 PM ET

Zakaria: Intelligence oversight situation unacceptable for democratic society

CNN speaks with Fareed about the controversy over National Security Agency spying activities in Europe – and what it means for ties between the U.S. and its European allies. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Intelligence chiefs were very unapologetic in their answers in the House committee hearings yesterday, defending the NSA spying programs. Is that enough to satisfy European allies?

Well, they've got two problems on their hands. The one is the European public. And the other is European leaders. So much of what they defended was the kind of metadata or using leads to follow up and figure out if there are terrorists. And that kind of thing, what you're doing is you're looking at patterns, you're seeing a bunch of phone calls from Saudi Arabia to Hamburg, Germany. Who are these people in Hamburg? Why are they being called?

I think people understand that the European public is very disquieted by the idea that they're being spied on by the American spy agency. That's one piece of it. The other piece, which they didn't defend, was the spying on Angela Merkel, the leader, the eavesdropping on phone conversations.

Now, that's always gone on to a certain extent. The key difference is, as the French foreign minister said, the Americans do it so much better than any of us that we're all somewhat jealous.

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Topics: Europe • Spying • United States
Analyst: Eavesdropping row will blow over soon
October 24th, 2013
04:19 PM ET

Analyst: Eavesdropping row will blow over soon

CNN speaks with Christian Whiton, former senior advisor at the U.S. State Department and author of Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War, about the allegations that the U.S. has been eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls. This is an edited version of the transcript.

I guess everyone spies, but it used to be done in secret. So is the only surprise just how far up the U.S. surveillance program actually goes?

Well, it shouldn’t be that surprising, especially if they are putting wireless signals out there. Because that is the allegation – that it was Angela Merkel’s cell phone. So of course it isn’t just the United States, but also probably the Chinese, the Russians, others, who sweep up electronic intelligence. The point is that you are not really supposed to get caught. And if you do get caught, and it is raised to a senior level, then it’s natural that they are going to protest, which of course is what Germany is doing. It’s what the United States would do if we found out that someone was listening to President Obama’s cell phone.

So is this really a crisis of trust between allies, or is this being done because now that it’s out in public, Germany, France, Mexico, Brazil – they have to say something, they have to protest for domestic consumption. It’s kind of done with a bit of a wink and a nod?

I think especially with Germany and France, of course, they are very familiar with U.S. signals intelligence, which is the technical term for eavesdropping…We use a lot of signals intelligence, we share it with our allies. And they spy on us too. France is one of the most aggressive collectors of intelligence. So what you are seeing is a bit of kabuki theater that will probably blow over before too long.

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Topics: Germany • Spying • United States
June 17th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

Hayden explains NSA 'meta data program'

"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden about the recent revelations of former CIA contractor Edward Snowden about alleged NSA activity.

Tell me what your reaction is to the revelations of Edward Snowden.

Well, I'm very disappointed that these legitimately secret things have been pushed into the public domain where they help our enemy and punish our friends overseas and our friends in corporate America. But in terms of what the agency is doing, frankly, Fareed, I think it's what the nation expects the agency to be doing – to be defending the United States while still respecting American law and American values.

So I want to ask you, is the NSA listening in on phone calls that Americans make?

No, it's not. Unless, of course, it's got a very specific, individualized FISA warrant, which has been the situation for more than three decades. In terms of the one program which I'll just call the meta data program, the one that the FISA order to Verizon seemed to reveal, this is indeed about meta data. It's about fact of call. NSA is getting, from the telecom providers, records that they create for their own purposes.  These are essentially billing records that the telecom providers are sharing with the NSA.

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Topics: Spying • Terrorism • United States
Israel's intelligence failure
(Getty Images)
October 20th, 2011
11:30 AM ET

Israel's intelligence failure

Editor’s Note: Yossi Melman is a feature writer and columnist for Haaretz, specializing in strategic issues. He writes about Israel’s intelligence community, nuclear matters and terrorism.

By Yossi Melman – Special to CNN

In the shadow war between Hamas and the State of Israel, the Islamic Palestinian militant movement Hamas had the upper hand this week. Their victory in securing the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners comes at the expense of their domestic rival - the moderate Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas. This is bad news for peace in the Middle East.

Tuesday, in a dramatic prisoner's swap, Israel released 477 male and female Palestinian prisoners - some of them mass murders - and is due to release additional 550 in two months in return for one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, who was in Hamas captivity in Gaza for 64 months.

The Shalit deal is above all a result of a humiliating failure of the Israeli intelligence community as a whole but in particular on the part of the General Security Services (Shin Bet), the organization responsible for intelligence coverage of the territories - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The outcome was that the Israeli Defense Forces were not able to even explore the operational feasibility of a rescue mission. FULL POST

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Topics: Intelligence • Israel • Spying • Terrorism • Uncategorized
September 30th, 2011
11:09 AM ET

Zakaria: Calling out Pakistan’s dangerous game

Editor's Note: Tune in Sunday at 10a.m. ET/PT to watch Fareed Zakaria's full interview with Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

In his last official statement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen chose to publicly highlight the connections between the Pakistani military and the Haqqani network, one of the most deadly terror groups operating in Afghanistan. What Adm. Mullen said in public this week is something many U.S. government officials have felt privately for years.  The question is: Why did Mullen feel it was necessary to speak publicly now? FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan • From Fareed • GPS Show • Pakistan • Spying • Terrorism • United States
August 24th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

American intelligence collection capabilities are "stunning"

John Miller has had a fascinating career weaving between media, law enforcement and intelligence. You probably remember John Miller from his ABC News interview with Osama Bin Laden or his seat in the anchor chair next to Barbara Walters.

What you probably don't know is he just left the post at the pinnacle of the United States Intelligence Community. Until earlier this month, Miller was overseeing intelligence analysis in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. That's the president's principal intelligence adviser.

He joined me to offer his insights for the first time since he's left the job. Here's an edited transcript of our discussion: FULL POST

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Topics: Spying • Terrorism
August 23rd, 2011
01:00 AM ET

How not to be a spy

If you're an impressionable young person with dreams of becoming a spy, I have one piece of advice, don't take your cues from the Former East German Secret Police, the Stasi.

A Berlin gallery has an exhibit up of photographs found in the Stasi archives after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And what you see in the video above are all from a course the State Security Service taught on the art of disguising.

This was considered an inconspicuous appearance.

No wonder our side won the Cold War.

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Topics: Europe • GPS Show • History • Last Look • Spying
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