War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories, including Edward Snowden’s temporary asylum in Russia; Egypt’s break up of pro-Morsi sit-ins; and Secretary of State John Kerry’s nine-month goal for Mideast peace talks.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Edward Snowden gets temporary asylum in Russia. Supporters of Egypt's opposed President Morsi plan new rallies in defiance of police and Secretary of State Kerry sets a nine month goal for Middle East peace talks.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers, Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News and Elise Labott of CNN. We do invite you to join the conversation. Give us a call, 800-433-8850, send an email to email@example.com, follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And it's good to see all of you.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFGood to be with you.
MS. ELISE LABOTTGood morning.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANThank you.
REHMElise Labott, after five weeks in this transit zone you now have Edward Snowden granted asylum in Russia. What's all this going to mean?
LABOTTWell, he's granted temporary asylum for one year while he figures out his onward travel plans. As we know he's accepted asylum in Venezuela but it's proving very difficult for him to get there because of the roadblocks that the U.S. putting in.
LABOTTNow, he's able to travel throughout Russia. He says he's going to learn about the Russia culture and now he's reading a copy of "Crime and Punishment." But really this puts into question the relationship between U.S. and Russia.
LABOTTThe United States is saying it's very disappointed, the Senate is up in arms saying Russia has really stabbed the U.S. in the back and calling for measures against Russia.
LABOTTAnd now the Obama administration needs to decide whether President Obama will go ahead with the planned summit with President Putin in September. On one hand obviously, the U.S. very mad with the Russians over this but they do need Russia on so many other things.
LABOTTCounterterrorism, you have the Olympics in Sochi coming up, Iran, Syria, there's a lot that the U.S. and Russia have to work to together and I think both sides are going to try to minimize the damage to the relationship.
REHMMinimize the damage, Nathan?
GUTTMANWell, I think that the sense in Washington is that the administration doesn't really want to get into a full blown clash with the Russians on this issue with so many other issues at stake. And Syria, it would probably be the most urgent matter on the table right now.
GUTTMANBut there's also Iran and there are many other issues on the table so as disappointing as it is for the Americans to see the Russian reaction and the fact that they did ignore all the direct and indirect requests from the United States.
GUTTMANIt's one of those cases probably in which the administration will have to just learn how to live with it. And to a certain extent maybe it also solves a problem of how you do deal with Snowden because he's out of American reach and the question will just remain open.
REHMAnd his father has said he's going to visit him in Russia. He, his father said he doesn't want him to return to the United States, Nancy?
YOUSSEFThat's right and he also made a distinction between his son and Bradley Manning because of the verdict that came against the former private for leaking documents to Wiki leaks.
YOUSSEFHe was sentenced to as many as 136 years in prison and so he's trying to make a distinction between his son and Bradley Manning and he has come out and said that while, as an American, he's retired from the Coast Guard, that he was saddened by this.
YOUSSEFHe was proud of his son for being a whistleblower and he's made a very important point of suggesting that his son is a whistleblower and not a spy because that's...
REHMNot a traitor.
YOUSSEFThat's right because that's the legal distinction that he's trying to make. Because ultimately what Bradley Manning's verdict raises into question is can people who consider themselves whistleblowers then be charged as spies? That Manning verdict sort of sets a legal precedent. It's a win if you will for the U.S. government on that regard.
REHMWell, and then the question becomes, what happens next? What does he do? Does he travel to either Cuba or Colombia or some Latin American country?
GUTTMANWell, he has a year at least formally he has now. He was granted asylum for a year so he has some time to think about his next move. And one option would be to extend his asylum status in Russia once this year is over or to find some way of getting him to Latin America in which he'll find somewhere to give him permanent asylum.
GUTTMANBut the fact of the matter is that now he has a year and if Putin really wants to use this as a card playing with the United States we'll probably hear a lot of Snowden in the next year.
REHMShould he fear for his life, Elise?
LABOTTI don't think he has reason to fear for his life in Russia. I mean, presumably if the Russian government has given him asylum that there is some type of protection. But he does feel that he's in fear for his life. No one knows where's he's gone. He's gone to an undisclosed location. He's under a kind of custody if you will of the Wiki leaks folks that say they're helping him with his security and everything like that. I think in Russia he's probably pretty safe.
REHMBut hadn't Putin said he would give him asylum if he promised he would not release any more information about the United States, damaging to the United States? So has, do we assume he has now given that promise?
LABOTTWell, he said a few weeks ago if you remember, he gave that promise and said he would not leak any more information about the United States. Originally he wouldn't take the Russian offer of asylum because he didn't want to, he didn't want to limit himself.
LABOTTBut you saw a couple of days ago that "The Guardian" put out another article about a U.S. program called X Keystone which allows intelligence agents to see everything that you've done on the internet, browsing history, searches, email, chats and more.
LABOTTWhat people have said is that he gave that information to "The Guardian" while he was in Honk Kong and so he can't necessarily take it back. But if he has a lot more information he could've given all of it to journalists while he was in Hong Kong, before he got to Russia.
LABOTTAnd that information could be leaked...
REHMWe don't know how...
LABOTTWe don't know...
REHM...how much he gave...
REHM...to the press.
YOUSSEFThat's right, I mean, he left the airport carrying four computers filled with documents that he had taken and so we don't even know the scale of what he has and how, as Elise says, how he's distributed and whose possession it's in and so it, we're sort of in limbo but the presumption is that nothing will come out while he is in Russia.
REHMNancy, talk about the closing of U.S. embassies on Sunday amid a terrorist threat. This, in my memory, to see 17 embassies around the world closing down for fear of an attack is really certainly frightening.
YOUSSEFIt is. As someone who lives overseas in one of the countries that's affected Egypt it's unprecedented since 9/11 really that we've seen this kind of closure over a very vague, unspecified al Qaida threat. At least that's what we're being told.
YOUSSEFIt's one of the reasons why so many embassies are being closed because they're not sure which embassy specifically is being targeted. All that they've said is that there was a threat on August 4th, which for in the Islamic world is the start of the workweek and that they had to close down embassies and also just now they've announced that there is a travel alert for all Americans overseas because of the threat that extends all the way until August 31st.
YOUSSEFSo it's clear that this a threat that they're taking very seriously but it certainly speaks to the limited resources we have in terms of protecting our facilities. Not only after Benghazi but remember that U.S. embassies are not secured by Americans but by the local forces in those countries and...
GUTTMANAnd also it's interesting because on the one hand I guess the threats are that serious that the U.S. would go into the length of closing embassies and warning its citizens. They're talking about something that's more than chatter.
GUTTMANOn the other hand the information isn't specific enough to actually pinpoint what's going to happen or what could happen so that's why we see this broad decision to close embassies throughout the region.
GUTTMANAnd I think more than a lot it speaks to the abundance of caution that has been the policy ever since Benghazi. No one wants to take a chance anymore and even if there is a vague threat of something they call a little bit more than chatter than no one wants to take a chance anymore.
LABOTTThat's absolutely, I mean, the reason that all of these embassies are being closed not just in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Asia, abundance of caution since Benghazi. The U.S. doesn't want to be liable if, God forbid, something happens.
LABOTTThere was a specific threat to the U.S. embassy in Yemen. That's where the primary concern is coming from but when you take that threat that is also kind of ambiguous and then you take this Ramadan special, days of Ramadan that Nancy just mentioned.
LABOTTYou have Benghazi in everybody's mind. You also have the anniversary of the U.S. embassies, the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania coming up. So all of this just leads to a heightened abundance of caution and the U.S. isn't taking any chances.
REHMAre the embassies that are being closed down all within the Middle East?
LABOTTSome of them are in Asia, some of them are in North Africa and extending beyond any embassy that was open on Sunday and a lot of Muslim weeks start on Sunday.
REHMBut if they close them down on Sunday under threat is there any reason to believe they'll open them on Monday?
GUTTMANNo, exactly not and that's what we're already hearing, that this might take a few days so they might be closed on Monday and maybe for the rest of the week. They don't really know right but obviously if there are terrorists out there and they know that the U.S. is closing its embassies on Sunday so they might prepare for something else.
YOUSSEFI just wanted to add, you know, we hear in the Middle East all the time about how al Qaida's floundering and I think a message that's being sent by doing this, unintentionally or not, is in fact they're not floundering. They have the capability to put out such chatter or intelligence that they threaten potentially 17 embassies certainly dilutes this idea that al Qaida's on its last throes if you will.
REHMNancy Youssef, she's Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. We'll take a short break here. When we come back we'll be talking about Morsi protestors in the streets of Egypt.
REHMAnd welcome back, to the Friday News Roundup of our International stories, this week with Nathan Guttman. He's Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and the Jewish Daily Forward. Elise Labott is foreign affairs reporter with CNN. Nancy Youssef is Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Nancy, you've recently been in and are on your way back to Egypt. Morsi's supporters are still in the streets, not backing down. What's happening?
YOUSSEFThey're not backing down even though the government has suggested that they're going to clear them out. They've been camped out on the Rabau (sp?) which is in the eastern part of the city since June 28. And they're really trying to mobilize their supporters. They’ve said that their goal is to have Morsi reinstated. But arguably what they're really saying is that we're not going to accept the military intervention that removed our democratically-elected leader.
YOUSSEFAnd I should point out, when they talk about -- the Egyptian government talks about clearing the Rabau, this is not an easy task. It is a sit-in where thousands of people are. They've got tents set up. They've got bathrooms set up. It's a mini city within the city, so it's not an easy thing to clear. And I think the Morsi supporters are banking on those numbers from keeping the government from clearing them out. It's a showdown and it's increased tension now between the two biggest forces in Egypt, the military and the civilian main government and the Muslim Brotherhood.
GUTTMANWell, we've seen that the military was willing to use force in the past week and dozens of protestors were killed. But of course, as we just heard, the fact that there are these masses of people out in the streets right now does, in a sense, give them a kind of protection in assuming that the military does want to keep this under control and not break loose.
REHMBut how do we reconcile what we saw a few weeks ago with the anti-Morsi people by the millions in the street with what we're seeing now after the military has resumed power?
LABOTTWell, it's a very good question. And there are reports that the military has, you know, people that are coming in to hospitals, have gunshots to their head, that the military's really using lethal force against some of these protestors. And if they are going to make good on their promises, that they certainly are going to. And what's happening now with the International Community is they're pretty much siding with the military to say that they're doing this -- they're warning the military, you know, don't overstep. But...
REHMBut the U.S. does not want to call it a coup.
LABOTTWell, Secretary of State Kerry just very pointedly yesterday said that the military was quote "restoring democracy," asked to intervene by millions of people to avoid chaos. And that the military did not take over. You also had Kathy Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief in Cairo. She met with...
LABOTT...President Morsi. And she told him, back off the protestors. The Islamists are not coming back to power. And I think it sends a very hypocritical message to Muslims around the world that when secularists -- their democracy is threatened, that will go to bat for you but not when Islamist democracy...
YOUSSEFTo be clear, the majority in Egypt support the military's intervention. And the numbers are much bigger amongst those who go out on the street in support of the military versus those opposed to their intervention. But for the Brotherhood there is a lot more at stake than just Morsi. It is their vision for governing the entire Islamic world. What's happened in Egypt has had effects on Libya, on Tunisia, on Turkey, on Syria.
YOUSSEFAnd so what's at stake for them is not just the reinstatement of Morsi, but this was their first grab at power. They spent 84 years trying to get into power and lost it within a year? There's a joke that goes around in Egypt. You know, Morsi did in one year what Mubarak, Sadat and Nasser couldn't do in 50 plus years. He's weakened the Muslim Brotherhood and so that's why they're locking down.
YOUSSEFAnd the way they get people out on the streets is it's also a very well funded organization. So you've got Ramadan and Iftar. There are long tables of food for people to come and gather. For some people this is their way to eat in a country where the economy is so bad. So there are hardcore supporters there. But for the Brotherhood, this is their future at stake.
GUTTMANIt's also interesting that the U.S. policy discussion over Egypt is taking place against the backdrop of congress trying to push against the continuation of foreign aid to Egypt. It's only a billion-and-a-half dollars a year. But some in congress feel that that is the way to send a signal to the Egyptians. We've seen already the Pentagon stop a delivery of F16 aircrafts to the Egyptian military. But in general, the administration is trying to tell congress and it's backed not only by supporters of the Egyptian military, but also by the pro-Israel lobby.
GUTTMANThey're telling them, listen if we want stability in the region we need to keep helping the Egyptian military or else other people will step in and provide those funds.
LABOTTThe Senate on Wednesday defeated a measure that would cut off aid to Egypt. Senator Rand Paul was pushing it. And I think that there is a real ambivalence in the part of the senate and the part of the administration. They want to make a message to the Egyptian military that they can't go too far. They need to move forward and have an inclusive political process. But they know that Egypt is just too big to fail. And to withdraw aid at a time that the economy is so fragile would just be disastrous.
REHMSo while all this is going on, Nathan, why the push to restart Middle East peace talks now?
GUTTMANWell, that's a big question. And some would say at least when this latest push started that it's just Secretary John Kerry's attempt to start off his term with what most secretaries of state do and it is to go to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But on the other hand there is also a lot of sense in doing it right now because looking around in the region when everything is going up in flames, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict surprisingly or ironically is actually doing okay. There's a certain kind of stability between Israelis and Palestinians right now.
GUTTMANAnd the concern here in Washington is that if there is no process going on, if we don't maintain some kind of a movement there, then this too can erupt. And that is the last thing you want in this climate in the Middle East.
REHMBut is there anything different about this round of talks, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, there is a difference in that you've got a secretary of state who's very engaged and very committed. Final status issues are on the table now and you've got both sides committed to at least giving it a try. I think the influx in the region has sort of made it a necessity for both sides because there's such unpredictability. We had elections in Egypt a year ago and all of a sudden the overthrow of the government so now more than ever.
YOUSSEFAnd I think for the United States, I can tell you in the Arab world the message is, you know, despite all this talk about Arab Spring, our priority is and remains peace in Israel and the stability of Israel. And that's a way to send that message that -- and arguably this is the one place where the United States could have a real success in the Middle East, where they frankly have floundered in places like Egypt and Libya.
GUTTMANMaybe one other thing that also makes a difference this time is that all sides seem to be entering -- maybe except for the Americans -- with such low expectations that you can only be surprised in a positive way if something actually comes out of it. Obviously the Netanyahu government is being dragged into it by the Americans, by (unintelligible) who represents the pro-peace faction within the government. Abas (sp?) also was very reluctant to go forward.
GUTTMANBut maybe this actually enabled Kerry to pull off this deal in which the Palestinians give up on the demand for a settlement freeze as a precondition, Israelis give up on their demand for recognition as a Jewish state as a precondition. And we've got the sides talking. And sometimes dynamics actually take over and even though the expectations are so low, something can happen in the next nine months.
LABOTTI really want to be optimistic about it because Secretary Kerry has tried so hard. He made six trips to the region and clearly this is a priority for him. And he really wants to make this happen. But I just spent the last two months in Israel and I didn't -- even though they're talking -- you know, saying the right things, I really don't sense a commitment. I think that John Kerry is committed more than the parties are committed.
LABOTTAnd there is a perception that Netanyahu is going to these talks and offering some concessions. He said he's going to release about 104 prisoners, because he doesn't really think that these talks are going to go anywhere. And his cabinet has said pretty much the same thing. Abas doesn't -- also, as Nathan said, has very low expectations. And unless President Obama himself is really going to show his commitment to this process, if the U.S. can get them to the table, great but they need to keep them at the table.
LABOTTAnd whether there's going to be a deal here I think is going to fall down on how committed the White House is. Right now they seem a little skeptical.
REHMBut the next round of talks is already planned in either Israel or Palestine.
GUTTMANYes, and whether we have now a special envoy for these talks, Martin Indyk who knows the region very well. And just to follow up on Elise's point, President Obama was very, very cautious on supporting the peace talks. For the longest time he had Secretary Kerry just out there pretty much on his own. And this week when we saw finally both sides come together in Washington, the president invited them to the Oval office and made phone calls to both leaders yesterday.
GUTTMANSo there is a sense that if things will move ahead even a little bit, the president will be willing to put his weight behind it.
REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones. We have lots of callers waiting. First to Arlington, Va. Hello, Harrison. You're on the air.
HARRISONHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
HARRISONI was calling because I was hoping that the panel could address exactly what Edward Snowden revealed the U.S. government has been doing. You know, briefly it involves a collection of every single email that anyone has sent since 2006 I believe if you use G-mail, hotmail or Yahoo. Every email you've sent is now in a database. They can be searched and drawn up, you know, at whim by low-level analysts. And that's basically completely unconstitutional, completely violates the principles of our society and culture. And I think it's going to have a long term chilling effect on people's ability to feel comfortable communicating with one another.
HARRISONThere's been a report in The Atlantic this week that a woman's home was raided because she and her husband had separately Googled different things that looked suspicious.
YOUSSEFYeah, that case that he's talking about was the husband had just lost his job and they were Googling backpacks and pressure cookers. And all of a sudden they got a knock on the door from the local police. And so that was a case that sort of revealed the breadth of our...
REHM...and the depth.
YOUSSEFThat's right. That's right. And the caller brings up a good point and, in fact, the revelations by Snowden has really started a national discussion because up until this point I don't think Americans were aware that such things could be done to them by their own government. And that was sort of the revelation that came out of all this. And why some people consider Snowden a hero and a whistleblower, not someone who violated the American government.
REHMAnd it is the same with Bradley Manning. There are an awful lot of people who feel that way about him.
LABOTTWell, they feel that Bradley Manning is a whistleblower because he showed how U.S. diplomacy is being done. But I think that people are saying that Snowden's case is different because he disclosed actually how the government collects your information. So some people think that that's a useful tool. Others are saying that it's very dangerous. And he disclosed how the Americans fight terrorism.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Akron, Ohio. Raheed (sp?) , you're on the air.
RAHEEDThank you for taking my call, Diane.
RAHEEDI think Elise hit the nail on the head when she said that our position towards the coup in Egypt is hypocrisy. I mean, the message we tell people is, you know, if you have a Muslim party backing and you get elected in this office and you're removed by your military, then that's okay. I mean, we have -- there are really pro -- pro-democracy demonstrators who are gunned down in the streets by the military and not a peep from this administration.
RAHEEDI mean, when you take away the labels and you strip it down, we had elections and we had a military nullify those elections. And the silence from the administration or the acquiescence to it, it just -- I think it's going to breed a new generation of terrorists. And nothing condones terrorism but we as the American public pay the price for these missteps that our government continues to take in foreign policy.
YOUSSEFWell, Raheed is really echoing what the supporters of Mohammad Morsi say. They'll say to you, we don't even believe in this democracy but we played your game. We did it legally. We won legitimately and we should be respected of such. And that the fact the United States which goes around promoting democracy would then allow the military to go in and usurp the will of the people is undemocratic.
YOUSSEFThe real question in Egypt is, what constitutes the voice of the people? Is it what happened in the ballot box a year ago or is it when millions come out on the street? And that's the central question. If you believe it's -- because legally the Morsi supporters have the ground. But the opposition would tell you what Morsi was doing in that power was rigging the constitution, rewriting the election law such that the democratic mechanisms in place wouldn't have allowed for him to be removed from office.
YOUSSEFThe counter to that is, if he was so powerful, why was he removed so easily? And so it's a very interesting debate that's going on here. And Egyptians will tell you, you know what? You guys do democracy your way. We're going to do it our way.
GUTTMANWell, we should also keep in mind that while democracy is an American priority, pragmatism did lead the way for American policy throughout the years. And that's why there was a support for Mubarak all the years and for other authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and throughout the world. It is -- America's first concern is to keep its interest and to maintain stability. I think it's pretty clear that democracy comes in second.
LABOTTWell, and that's why the United States, as Nathan said, has had such a hard time dealing with this because pragmatism and national security interests are clearly usurping values and did actually when President Morsi came to power. If you remember, while he was doing all these things, usurping the constitution, throwing out people in the cabinet, taking power for himself, the United States stayed largely silent. And they were working with President Morsi on a deal with the Palestinians.
YOUSSEFYeah, I was just going to say, you know, the real question becomes this military will overstep its bounds, will overuse its power. And what will the United States response be at that point? I think that's something that we're all watching in Egypt because on one hand it serves their interest now. But when the public turns in Egypt against the military, than what is the U.S. response? And that'll be a very tricky predicament.
REHMNancy, how do you manage to move around in Egypt?
YOUSSEFPretty easily surprisingly. I mean, at the height of it, we would get shot at every day. I can tell you that at the -- I don't go to Tahrir Square because the sexual assaults there are so prevalent that it's -- I just don't do it. I've actually had to hire a male translator because I don't feel comfortable going there. When I go to the Muslim Brotherhood rallies I wear a veil, I pull out an Egyptian ID card. I don't take out a notebook. I use my phone and pretend I'm texting to take notes so that I can get a real sense of how they're feeling and not be seen as a journalist, but just as an observer of what's happening there.
REHMWhat could happen if it were discovered you are a journalist?
YOUSSEFWell, the day that CC announced that General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the minister of defense, announced that Morsi was no longer president, we were at the Brotherhood rally. And a journalist was beaten up right in front of us because he announced himself to be a journalist.
REHMNancy Youssef. She's Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Short break and more of your calls, comments when we come back.
REHMAnd just to reiterate for our listeners, shortly after 11 this morning the U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert because of an al-Qaida threat particularly significant in the Middle East and North Africa. They go on to say, current information suggests al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August. The travel alert expires on August 31.
REHMLet's go back to the phones and to Orlando, Fla. good morning Art, you're on the air.
ART (CALLERGood morning, Diane, and to your panel as well. I've got a question concerning Mr. Snowden. I know his father claims him to be a whistleblower but doesn't he lose some of that credibility when he releases the information of our gathering data on foreign entities?
LABOTTWell, they're gathering data on entities, U.S. and foreign and so I think that he is trying to raise attention to more of the U.S. portion of this but clearly when he is, that's what everybody is so concerned about and that's why people are saying that when he is revealing how America collects information on terrorists that terrorists are already changing their communication patterns because of this.
LABOTTAnd you know, people are saying that they would lose all respect for China and Russia if they haven't fully harvested his digital data. So he says that he did not give anything to the Chinese or the Russians but the U.S. is not fully convinced of that.
GUTTMANAnd of course, he loses a lot of credibility because of his choice of where to seek shelter...
GUTTMAN...the cooperation with the Chinese and the Russians, Venezuela, Cuba, definitely that doesn't help his case.
REHMHere's a question for you Nancy from Barry in Ashburn, Va. "We've been told Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood support was strongest outside Cairo, not within that major city. We seem to only get news about what's happening in Cairo. What about the rest of the country?"
YOUSSEFYeah, it's a great question. I should start by saying that Morsi never had anybody's support in the way we think of politicians having it. He was called the spare tire candidate when he ran. This was not a guy who was charismatic and really drew people behind him.
YOUSSEFA lot of people voted for him because he wasn't Ahmed Shafik, his opponent, because he was going to bring Islam to government which was absent during Mubarak and so he came in without sort of a wide, sort of popular support. He might have won 52 percent of the vote, but amongst eligible voters, he only had 24 percent.
YOUSSEFSo that support started to disintegrate almost immediately in office and amongst people outside of Cairo I don't think the support is as much for Morsi as a person, but for bringing Islam and Islamic values into government.
REHMLet me follow that with a call from Glen in New Orleans, La. To you, Glen, you're on the air.
GLENYes, I'd like to know what are the American interests, that they want to see Morsi out of power?
GUTTMANWell, I think the first American interest is stability, keeping Egypt pretty much stable despite this bumpy transition it is going through and that's the most important interest in the region. Of course the United States also sees it as very important maintaining the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel although we should note that Morsi was pretty good in doing that.
REHMAll right. To Brian, in Grand Rapids, Mich., hi there.
BRIANHi, good morning, Diane.
BRIANI've got two quick questions.
BRIANThe first, could you give me an update on the colonel who leaked the stuxnet virus to the press, what the situation is there and secondly, could you give me some more information on our new secretary to the U.N. and any clues what direction they may be taking the U.S. in.
LABOTTI'm not quite sure what the status is on the person that leaked to the press, but you know that the administration has really been cracking down on a lot of these leaks and we've seen with The New York Times' James Risen, James Rosen of Fox and the Associated Press that they're really cracking down on these leaks.
LABOTTAh, Samantha Power she was just confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She's a long-time, close aide of President Obama, really a human rights defender, did a lot of work on the genocide in Rwanda, and wrote very passionately about it. She was one of the people that was very fervently fighting for more U.S. involvement in Libya and along with Susan Rice, whose her predecessor and now the national security advisor along with Hillary...
LABOTTAlso, well, it's not a confirmable position, Susan Rice.
REHMOh, right, forgive me.
LABOTTBut along with Hillary Clinton really fought for U.S. involvement in Libya and there is an expectation that between Susan Rice and Samantha Power alongside President Obama that they're going to fight very strongly for human rights causes...
LABOTT...particularly in Africa.
REHMLet's talk about Afghanistan. You've got lots of civilians killed or wounded. The number rose by something like 23 percent in the first six months of this year as U.S. forces depart. Nancy?
YOUSSEFThat's right. That was the finding by the U.S. Mission in Afghanistan. Not only 23 percent overall but 61 percent amongst women, 30...
YOUSSEF...percent amongst children. And what's interesting is while IEDs are the number one cause of those deaths that we're starting to see more people die from gunfights that as the U.S. troops pull out we're seeing a bolder Taliban counterattack and that they're launching these attacks in communities where the U.S. and coalition troops used to be.
YOUSSEFAnd so that's why the numbers have gone up because more people are caught in the crossfire between bolder Taliban forces and inexperienced Afghan forces.
GUTTMANAnd this is a disturbing sign because the U.S. of course was planning its withdrawal in 2014 and there was this hope that the local forces, that are generally in charge now, would be able to fill the void. And people were talking here about the option of zero forces on the ground after the U.S. withdraws.
GUTTMANAnd these numbers seem to indicate that if you go for the zero option it will be very difficult to maintain security in the country.
REHMAnd in Iraq a wave of car bombs, Elise?
LABOTTA wave of car bombs really raising fears that the sectarian strife that you saw five years ago after the U.S. invasion is really returning. There have been over the last week more than a dozen explosions. July was the deadliest month since 2007, over 1,000 killed, spiked during Ramadan.
LABOTTAnd all part of this, al-Qaida in Iraq is claiming responsibility for a lot of them, but it's really to sow up, you know, hatred against the Shia-lead government and more bloodshed between Sunni and Shia.
REHMAnd let's go back to the phones to Little Rock, Ark. Hi there. Rod.
RODHi Diane, how are you today?
RODHey, I would like to request that after I give my comment that I be able to respond to the spin that these guys are going to put on it.
REHMI'm not sure. We'll see what you have to say, Rod.
RODI anticipate the spin. Okay. First of all, Mayflower, Ark. a spill larger than the Exxon Valdez happened on March 29th. There was also a spill in Magnolia, Ark. that was out in the woods and was not in a neighborhood so no one really knows about it because it's been lost in the thread of the national press.
RODI have been attempting to document this via several methodologies. One is a blog called exxoncology.tumbler
REHMOkay, Rod, you know what? I'm going to stop you right there, not because what you say is not accurate, but because this is the international hour of the "Friday News Roundup". If you had called in the first hour, we would have heard the whole story. I am aware of what's going on in Arkansas and we have talked about this in the past and I do promise you we'll talk about it again.
REHMLet's go to Fairfax, Va. Alice, you're on the air.
ALICEHi, yeah, I have two comments. One is about Edward Snowden and I have not heard this in all of the media coverage and I am totally confused as to why there is such, why this is even news because any thriller that you've read in the past 25 years has talked about the NSA and how they cull through all the phone numbers in the country.
ALICEI mean, they had a movie just recently about...
REHMWell, movies tend to be fictional?
ALICEI've read it in so many novels over so many years.
REHMYou're sure? And I once again, that's fiction, but what we're coming to now is the reality of what does happen. And by the way, we've received several emails asking us to clarify that the family under investigation by the police for ordering a pressure cooker was actually turned in by his employer, not because of the...
REHM...NSA's, not because of NSA's surveillance. The Washington Post is reporting the NSA had nothing to do with it. Alice, do you want to finish your comment?
ALICESure, sure. There was also the movie and I grant you this is fiction but I always assume that if things are fictionalized that obviously other, you know, terrorists, politicians, you know, other governments, they know. They know that we're doing this. I honestly, I've been reading. You know I've read for many, many years and these things, I don't. They're based on fact.
LABOTTWell listen, I mean as you said Diane, you know, a lot of these movies are fiction but although I don't think anybody in America maybe knew the extent to what the NSA was doing I think there is an expectation that the government is watching you.
LABOTTI mean, again, I was just in Israel and I was talking to some Israelis about what was going on and they said, oh that's nothing. They, you know they thought that that was kind of tame. But I mean, look, all of us are in the international field.
LABOTTWe call up people in sketchy places around the world. Some of them are bad guys in our reporting. And I just assume, I do assume that the government is monitoring my calls, not listening in as the government, as the administration said, they're not listening in. But it is a reasonable expectation that these, this data is being mined and if there are a lot of calls from one area to another in counterterrorism, I'm not saying I agree with it, but I wasn't really surprised.
REHMAll right. And to Salt Lake City, Adam, you're on the air.
ADAMHey there, guys, how you doing?
ADAMI just wanted to make a comment to kind of clear some people's fear about what the NSA can physically store on the search queries that they're putting out. So one of the NSA data centers is actually in Utah and those blueprints for that data center were leaked a couple of weeks ago and a few calculations were done based on the size of the data center to see how much physical storage they could put in there.
ADAMAnd it comes to around 3 to 12 exabytes which if you tried to store every email of every person in the United States would come up to a far greater number than that amount of data storage that they have available.
REHMYou learn the most interesting things from callers.
LABOTTThat's right. I mean, you always say that the callers are guests on the show and it's amazing how much they -- I don't even think I've ever even heard of an exabyte.
REHMNor have I, but you are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Nancy?
YOUSSEFYou know, I think it's interesting that Adam and other callers want to clarify what the NSA is and isn't doing and the fact that we don't know I think is part of the story because up until recently, certainly up until 9/11 there was an assumption of public accountability and that we would know what the government was doing.
YOUSSEFAnd that somebody could be arrested in Atlanta and it's conflated with the NSA, I mean, it speaks to the sort of uncertainty that I think almost bothers people more than what's actually happening. You know in a place like Egypt there's an expectation that you don't get accountability from your government officials but I think there's a shock in this country that you're starting to experience here.
LABOTTI think the U.S. government also is realizing that. Last week I was in Aspen at this security forum and there were a lot of U.S. officials saying that we need to be more transparent and explain these programs so people don't have fear of them.
GUTTMANAlso, it's interesting to note that you don't see any kind of public outrage because of what we learned about the NSA. I think, I mean, polls show that most people see it as reasonable or maybe a little bit exceeding a reasonable search into your privacy but nothing more than that.
REHMLet me ask you finally about this election in Zimbabwe. Do we have any official election results yet?
LABOTTThe official results are not in. They'll be announced, we expect, on Monday, but basically...
REHMThe challenger is saying...
LABOTT...is saying it's a farce. It's a sham.
LABOTTPresident Mugabe did do well in areas it seems that he doesn't usually do well in and that, you know the opposition says that that's because there are so many voters that are over 114 years old that these tolls are really ghost tolls and there are like thousands and thousands of fraudulent votes.
LABOTTAnd it harkens back to 2008, the last election where opposition members were beat up. There was a lot of international intervention and eventually there was this coalition between Morgan Tsvangirai and President Mugabe and I think Zimbabweans are really fearing that if this election, that there'll be a repeat of that violence.
YOUSSEFWell, it's interesting because we have a president now who's been serving there since 1980 who was part of the movement for Zimbabwe's independence from the British. So the idea that there could be new leaders, it's sort of extraordinary in and of itself. The African Union today came out and was cautiously willing to legitimize the election process, very cautiously, so and yet we've already heard barbs being traded back and forth that this process wasn't legitimate.
YOUSSEFSo the real test will be on Monday when the results are expected to come out. Not only what they are but how both sides react to it. Will this president in fact step down as he said he would if he loses? And if not, what happens next? I think the security forces are ready to clamp down very quickly but even that presents its own risks.
GUTTMANAnd of course, if these results actually stand and Mugabe is the winner, his next term will be the term in which he determines who will be his successor in power. Obviously he can't go on forever and this is why he.
REHMAh, he's 89 years old. Nathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward, Elise Labott, foreign affairs reporter for CNN and Nancy Youssef, Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, be careful out there and thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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