tv Amanpour on PBS PBS May 11, 2018 6:00am-6:31am PDT
welcome to "amanpour on pbs." tonight, government sanctioned torture changed the view of america after 9/11. what is the message to a watching world of president trump's pick to lead the cia, who ran one of the so-called black sites? i ask alberto mora, former general counsel for the navy and an early public critic of torture techniques. plus, my interview with the millennial instapoet, the sensation, rupi kaur. ♪ >> good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in
london. it is one of the darkest periods in america's post-9/11 national security policy, government approved enhanced interrogation, aka torture of suspected terrorists. the practice is in the past, but the world is now watching closely as a woman associated with that program, gina haspel is nominated to lead the cia, under a president, of course, who very publicly supports torture. in a mind-bending piece of irony, the 9/11 mastermind, khalid sheikh mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times and is now held at guantanamo bay says that he wants to give information on haspel to the senate, which is likely to approve her nomination. few detainees have told their stories publicly, but one, ali al marri is coming forward and alleging torture by other arms of the american government, albeit nothing to do with gina haspel.
he admitted to conspiring with khaled sheikh mohammed, and he served time in the united states. now cnn's atika shubert has tracked him down. >> ali al marri, convicted al qaeda agent. this rare 2005 video shows how he spent many of his 13 years in u.s. custody as an enemy combatant on u.s. soil. a kill status placed him in military hands, stripped of any civilian rights. >> you american, you cook, you use the slow motion torture. you cook me for 13 years. >> now al marri has spoken to cnn, his first u.s. television interview since his release in 2015. he claims he pleaded guilty because he was tortured in military custody on u.s. soil. he now denies the evidence presented against him in court. you trained at al qaeda training camps in pakistan.
is that true? >> false. >> they say you provided material support to khalid sheikh mohammed, the man believed to be behind 9/11? they sathat you had covert communications with him on e-mail that were found on your computer. >> false. >> this was al marri's world for years, solitary confinement in a three meter by two meter cell, his bed a metal rack. the defense intelligence agency recorded his treatment and his interrogations in numerous videos and handwritten prison logs. al marri's legal team shared some of these with cnn. blackout goggles and sound-blocking head phones were mandatory whenever he was moved, his arms and legs chained. interrogations could last for ten hours or more. on march 11, 2004, al marri was woken up, quote, every 15 minutes to make sure he is alive. two fbi agents and a military officer attended, according to
prison logs. the dia wrote his wrists and ankles were shackled. al marri was continuously chanting in arabic. to silence him, cloth was used with four to five layers of duct tape not inserted in his mouth. the dia memo also states al marri had no difficulty breathing and did not appear to gag. interrogators patted and turned al marri's face to look at pictures of his family on a wall. but al marri says what he experienced was more threatening and violent. >> i was threatened again to bring my wife in front of me to be raped in front of me. they put their pictures on the wall in front of me. >> in our interview, al marri named the fbi agent he claims led the interrogation. cnn cannot independently confirm his claims. a video of the interrogation does exist, but remains sealed by a u.s. court for national security reasons.
>> i was coughing. i was choking. i was throwing up. >> the dia refused to comment. the fbi also declined but said in a statement, quote, the fbi does not engage in torture, and we maintain that rapport building techniques are the most effective means of obtaining accurate information in an interrogation. al marri insists it was his treatment in military custody that led him to plead guilty. >> some people say -- they may say this is not torture. it does not feel like this one. listen, threatening my life, that's a torture. threatening to rape, to kill, to mutate, to all of this, isolation is a torture. >> that argument doesn't work, says a former member of president obama's detention policy task force. >> there was evidence, including the computer of his which contained communications with khalid sheikh mohammed, a
research file on possible chemical weapons, and other extremist materials. so any effort to deny that he had anything to do with this is not terribly credible. that's separate and apart from the question of how he was treated, particularly while he was in military custody. >> in 2009, al marri's enemy combatant status was reviewed, and he pleaded guilty in a criminal court. but he received only eight years, reduced the judge noted because of unacceptable treatment in u.s. custody. but the judge also told al marri you do not truly regret what you did. al marri now walks free, one of the few former detainees who can identify his interrogators. his u.s. legal options are closed, but he now hopes to set a precedent by traveling from his home in qatar to europe to file charges here against the man he holds responsible for his treatment.
atika shubert, cnn, amsterdam. >> so to be clear, al marri does not claim that the cia tortured him or that gina haspel had anything to do with his case. but haspel did one a black site where detainees were waterboarded. and she is connected to the videotape destruction. she told a senate wednesday she would never allow the cia to restart its torture program, but she did have trouble answering this question. >> it's a yes or no answer. do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? i'm not asking do you believe they were legal? i'm asking do you believe they were immoral? >> senator, i believe that cia did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools that we were authorized to use. >> please answer yes or no. do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral? >> senator, what i believe sitting here today is that i
support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to. >> can you please answer the question? >> senator, i think i have answered the question. >> no, you've not. >> alberto mora has been leading the charge against haspel for cia director. he served as general counsel of the u.s. navy in the bush administration and was one of the first to warn officials about abuse. he is with me live now from washington. alberto mora, welcome to the program. >> thank you, christiane. >> so you really have been leading the charge. and you do it from a very particular advantage point, as a legal scholar, as a member of the u.s. government, the u.s. military, given that you were general counsel at that time. and you were very early if i might say whistle-blower against these techniques. what do you think is going to be the root for gina haspel?
do you think she can survive this kind of questioning right now? >> she shouldn't. as we know senator mccain last night came out against this nomination. i think when the senators reflect on that position and the moral authority that senator mccain brings to this question, i think any of them who might be tempted to vote for her might reconsider that position. >> so let's us just read what he actually did say. i believe that gina haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. however, her role in overseeing the use of torture is disturbing and her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying. of course referring to that clip that we just played. but i want to ask you this. does it strike you in her favor that according to all the testimony by the cia and all the officials who have been rolled out now to promote her and speak about her, they say that it was even worse at this particular site before she got there, that
waterboarding was happening hundreds and hundreds of times, and she reduced it. >> i don't know that to be true, but the critical question -- i would say the only question really with respect to this nomination is whether or not gina haspel tortured. now, there are a lot of individuals who are associated with the cia's torture program. not all of them saw the actual torture sites and saw the actual torture being applied to the victims. the evidence seems to indicate that gina haspel did. that puts her in a different kind of category. so she saw the pain. she saw the blood. she saw the unconsciousness. she saw the techniques of torture being applied. that makes her a torturer. and i would argue and do argue that anybody who has that kind of title is unqualified not only to be the cia director, but unqualified to be -- to have any position of responsibility anywhere in the u.s. government. >> i want to sort of take you back to that incredibly heated
very difficult atmosphere that changed the face of america and how it reacted after 9/11. and you were in the pentagon. you were in the military. you were the u.s. navy's general counsel when the plane slammed into the pentagon on 9/11. take us back to what was the state of people's minds and their reaction and their fears at that time? >> the atmosphere was, particularly among the intelligence community and the national security community which i was a part of, the atmosphere was one of fear and fury. the fear was of course that the second al qaeda attack might occur at any given moment and more americans would die. that was a very palpable feeling that possessed all of us. there was also fury that this savage murderous attack had taken place, and there was fury at those who had perpetrated the attack and desire to defend the country, but also to bring them all to justice. so that was the atmosphere at
the time. it was for some time after 9/11. >> well, i ask you this because evan yesterday, i mentioned a lot of former cias, those who really have not spoken, have not come out of the shadows have been rolled out to defend her nomination. and she does seem to be universally liked amongst korea's cia, including a former analyst phil mudd who told jake tapper on cnn yesterday that you have to put this in context of those times, and that the attacks on her he says amounted to hypocrisy. just listen for a moment. >> now that we don't face the same threat and that we have different senators, it's okay to attack one of my former colleagues. i am pissed off. this is collective amnesia. we didn't do it. america did it. get over it. >> alberto mora, america did it. >> that's ridiculous. first of all, i'll bear witness to this, many individuals at the pentagon also were instantaneously opposed to using
torture as a weapon of war. every senior military lawyer i worked with during my entire five years at the pentagon was of the view that the use of enhanced interrogation as they called it was torture and was illegal and was counter product and made america weaker, not stronger, and violated our values and our principles. that has all proven to be true. the torture program that cia initiated, and other civilians in the military and caused enormous strategic damage to the country, including to our values. let's remember, when we defend the united states we defend not only the people we defend our freedoms and our values. when we tortured, we damaged our freedom and our values, and it brings to mind the saying of albert camu, that defending a democracy, we need to take care that we don't adopt the weapons that we're seeking to destroy in order to defend. torture is and was that sort of weapon. >> so what happens then when the president of this nation, donald trump, has said on several
occasions that torture works and that waterboarding works? and even worse, he would sanction. what does a cia director do if she is then, you know, confirmed and then asked to continue this if there is another such situation? >> well we have a pro torre president who has appointed a cia torturer to be cia director. the cia torturer, by the way who can't answer the question whether the application of torture is immoral or not. so we know what she'll do. be i torture as a weapons of war. and she's going to be an example of a country which uses torture occasionally, does not hold anybody accountable for that. will not call it immoral and will set an example to other nations who might be inclined to follow the same picture.
>> you paint a very bleak picture. alberto mora, thanks for bringing your clarity to this issue right now. gina haspel has said she will never reinstate torture, but as alberto mora points out, who knows in the future? and the destruction of the tapes of torture that was happening at that black site. now, the post-9/11 world has also become incredibly hostile to immigrants. the fallout is felt in almost every corner of the globe. my next guest has channeled her life challenges through her cathartic collection of poetry. she is rupi kaur, who at just 25 years old is one of the brightest stars of her generation. she was born in india. she moved ed td to canada with family when she was just 4, and her poetry, when she first began posting on social media as a teenager has attracted a huge fan base.
she is often labeled the instapoet. and today she has 2.6 million instagram followers, and she is the author of two books, "the sun and her flowers" and also "milk and honey", a "new york times" best-seller which has been translated into 30 languages. earlier this week i found out from rupi that it's not been all smooth saying. she joined me from her home in canada. rupi kaur, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having me. >> let's just start at the beginning. you were only 4 when your parents brought you to canada, right? your father came as a refugee. what was it like growing up in that sort of other environment, that other world? >> i think the biggest thing was growing up without my dad there. and so what i do remember is when we landed at the montreal airport and i was 4 years old and my dad was there to greet us, and i had no idea who he was. and he was all like oh, hello,
daughter. and i was who are you, strange man? get away from me. and that was the start of my journey. >> and of course you didn't start speaking english until fourth grade, which is around 9 or 10 years old. so let me just ask you to read, if you wouldn't mind, from, let's see, i want you to read from page 131 of "the sun and her flowers." i want you to read from your book "the sun and her flowers" about the immigrant, about the other in the way you describe it. >> perhaps we are all immigrants, trading one home for another. first we leave the womb for air. then the suburbs for the filthy city, in search of a better life. some of us just happen to leave entire countries. >> i'm really interested watching you say your poetry, and i know that when you go to bookstores or readings or when
you're giving on-stage presentations, you are mobbed. what do you think it is about the way you construct language about where you come from that resonates at this time with that group? >> before i was sharing poetry like this i was more of a performance poet. so that's where i built my first sort of connection with my readers. and i think it's -- i heard somewhere, and it was many, many years ago when i first started writing. and i don't remember who said this. but the quote goes something like write what you fear the most. it's the thing that's most universal. and at the time there were so many things that i feared or that i was confronting, whether it was introduce, sexual violence, domestic violence, like a great many things. and that's all i wanted to write about. and i was terrified of it. but i said i'm going to do it. i'm going to do it. and i think that's why so many
people have gathered around my work, because these are things that even though they seem like we're the only ones going through them, these things, these emotions, whether they're sorrow, whether they're joy, all of the hardships, that's are the things that are most universal regardless of race, color, crass, and creed. >> i want to then ask you again to read from your book "milk and honey" from page 13, in fact, which is quite graphic in the language used and the illustration that you use. it is about the violation of a woman's body. and i guess as you know, there is a huge amount of concern about what's happening in india right now, the rape of young children, the protests against it, the lack of accountability. read from this page, because it is really quite profound. >> you have been taught your legs are a pit stop for men that need a place to rest, a vacant
body empty enough for guests but no one ever comes and is willing to stay. >> what were you saying then? i -- from such a young age, i've been surrounded by then it was girls and now they're women talking about sexual violence. these are things that we have to whisper, right? because they only happen to a few people, and we just don't talk about them. but i remember that slowly me and my best friends, we started to share our own experiences, whether they happened to our mothers, whether they happened to our grandmothers, our aunts, our sisters. and suddenly what i realized was this is way too common and this is not okay. and so in regards to what's happening in india and most of south asia at this time, it's been happening for so long. i write because i think that it's so necessary to heal from it. and that's the only way that we can break the cycle and create
real change. >> you're really young. how much of this specific kind of writing is autobiographical? what sort of, if ever -- have you had any encounters with violence, with that kind of misogyny or sexism? >> yes, i have. i think this is a question that i get the most because the work -- i write in first person pronoun. so the work is very personal. milk and honey and the sun and her flower, it's not 100% autobiographical work, but i've had my fair share of experiences with sexual abuse and sexual violence, which is why i think i empathize with other people so much who have gone through perhaps similar acts of violence. and it's why for a majority of my writing career i focused on that specific topic. >> i just want to read out a few other lines from another of your poems, and it maybe goes to the heart of the me too era that
we're living in right now. you're writing essentially to women. you say, "i want to apologize to all the women i have called pretty before i've called them intelligent or brave. i'm sorry i made it that shag something you're born with is the most you have too be proud of when your spirit has crushed mountains. from now i will say things like you are resilient and extraordinary, not because i don't think you're pretty, but because you're so much more than that." it's gorgeous. it is so beautiful. i'm sure many, many of your readers have responded to that how have they? . that is an all-time favorite. i feel like my readers are the best readers in the world because they'll recite that poem to me, and they make me feel like a total pop star. so thank you to them. that piece is really -- it holds a really important place in my heart. i remember that i tried to not write that piece at all because i thought that piece was just a little bit silly at the time. i wrote it years ago.
but it came to me in my mind, and it sort of replayed. those 13 lines or however many lines, they replayed in my mind like a long on repeat. i was trying to write about other things, but all i could hear was that poem. after three months of hearing that poem going on and on in my mind, okay, i need to get this out of my system. >> i just want to go back to your mother as well, because she was a stay-at-home mom. >> yes. >> you were encouraged to speak punjabi at home. >> we were only aloud. >> only aloud. well, great, you hung on to your culture. it's great. but you do talk about being embarrassed about the accent, being embarrassed maybe about people seeing and hearing your mom speak. and let me just read again to a beautiful illustration you've done of your mother. you say "my mother sacrificed her dreams so that i could dream." i mean, it's so profound yet so simple. and it sums up almost every refugee mother that i've ever
encountered. do you appreciate now what she did for you then? >> yes. i know this sounds so silly, and it can even be a little bit cliche, but even like as you're saying these things to me, i can feel it in my heart and in my stomach. it makes my stomach turn. her life and the way that it's gone and the things that she's had to give up so that i can have this life, it just -- it moves me in so many ways. and it makes me feel bad at the same time because i remember being at the supermarket with her and being so embarrassed because i would be off buying some chips and candy, and she would be screaming my name. punjabis are really loud people. she would be "rupi, come here" in punjabi. and i would be oh my god, i just want to disappear. and i would yell at her.
whoa, you're ruining my life, you know, dramatic teenager, of course. and then i remember we would go to check out the groceries. and she would pull out like a zip lock bag full of change. and i would be like this woman wants the ruin my life. like why, mom? why do you have to try so hard to be different? and not realizing that she wouldn't buy herself a w walleto that i could have a backpack. and now i reflect on that. and that's why have i an entire chapter dedicated to the story of my parents. >> i want to go back to the beginning and circle back to the notion of instapoet. you don't follow anyone back. what lies behind that deliberate action of yours? >> there was a point a couple of years ago, you know, as i was gaining such a large readership that so much of my time went into social media. and instead of writing or doing the other things that i loved that was so absorbed in it.
so that was my deliberate act of being like i need to take a step back from this and focus on what's important. there is so much that comes with comparing your life to other people. i think it was causing a lot of pressure. for me. and i realized that my presence probably does the same to other people. so i realize that i'm also a part of that issue. but i think the conversation in the next couple of years needs to go around what social media does to the mental health of young people. >> well, on that note, rupi kaur, thank you so much indeed for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> what a refreshing voice in these harsh times. and that's it for our program tonight. thank you for watching "amanpour on pbs" and join us again tomorrow night.