THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 9, 2013
Guest: Mark Mazzetti
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Temporal precision now, the new MSNBC.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Patting myself on the back.
MADDOW: Thank you, man. Thanks, Chris.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
And then there were five. First was New York. Second was Colorado.
Third was Connecticut. Fourth was Maryland. And now, today, number five:
it`s Rhode Island.
The smallest state in the nation today became the latest state in the
nation to move forward on gun reform. The package of bills announced today
in Rhode Island by legislative leaders, and the state`s independent
Governor, Lincoln Chafee, was the product of an interagency working group
that included the attorney general`s office, the state police, lawmakers,
the governor`s office.
This was a group set up by the state shortly after the Newtown
elementary school -- excuse me, the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre
in Newtown, Connecticut, in December. They set this group up to review the
state`s laws and then today in response to that massacre and their review
of the state laws, they put forward nine bills.
Nine bills that include a ban on assault weapons and high capacity
magazines and improving the reporting of mental health information to the
state`s background check systems. It`s fairly comprehensive package, these
Now, in terms of whether or not this fifth state is likely to pass the
legislation they`re considering, it may helpful to consider the partisan
background of what the legislature looks like in Rhode Island.
Yes, do not adjust your television sets. It really is that lopsided.
There are eight Republicans for the 29 Democrats in the state Senate. And
there are six Republicans for the 69 Democrats in the statehouse. Wow.
Rhode Island will have a debate over these measures and some may be
changed by virtue of the debate, but this partisan breakdown in the state
means these measures will likely pass.
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on December 14th,
there`s definitely been bipartisan cooperation in the states that have
reformed their laws thus far. That`s particularly true in Connecticut, but
it`s not irrelevant to note that all five of the states that have moves
thus far are blue states. I mean, with the exception of the New York state
Senate, which is part of a legislature that right now is more easily broken
down into indicted and not yet indicted as opposed to Republicans versus
Democrats, the exception of New York, which is a little weird in terms of
the state Senate, all of these states where gun reform has passed or is on
its way to passing since Newtown, all of them are very heavily dominated by
These are blue state legislatures who have been making the progress on
guns so far.
Well, how does that translate to change at the federal level?
The United States Senate is back in session today. The House is back,
too, and this is all about to become very not hypothetical anymore. This
is on the docket. This is on the schedule. It is happening now.
And one of the ways you can tell is that the tone of the pressure is
changing. I want you to look at this new ad. You haven`t seen anything
like this before. This is a new ad that`s just started running for Mayors
Against Illegal Guns.
It`s an ad about Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey. It`s
targeting Senator Toomey, but it is not an ad against him. It`s
essentially building him a home state-centrist practical narrative for why
he ought to be on the side of reform. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: On gun safety, Pennsylvania has a strong background
check system. But guns don`t respect state borders. Now, the U.S. Senate
can pass comprehensive legislation that will stop criminals and the
dangerously mentally ill from using a loophole to get guns. Senator Toomey
understands how important that change is.
SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I`m in favor of making changes to
a background system.
AD NARRATOR: In Pennsylvania, almost 90 percent of us support
comprehensive background checks. Call Senator Toomey. Tell him it`s time
to take Pennsylvania solutions to Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, here`s the interesting thing about that ad. You never
see ads like that, right? I mean, first, mostly, I guess it`s interesting,
but this is essentially ad in favor of a Republican senator finding a way
to support reform in a way that will resonate with his home state.
But can we just put up on the screen the end of it? The last frame,
kind of the call to action? Can we do that?
So, lots of political issue adds end with kind of a call to action
like this. Demand action. Call this number. You`re supposed to call the
number and with an issue ad, it either connects you to the interest group
running the ad and try to talk you into donating the money, or volunteering
or putting your name on something. Sometimes, in a negative ad where
they`re targeting somebody, the call to action phone number at the end will
be the office phone number of the person who has been targeted in the ad as
the bad guy.
So, in that case, people moved by the ad will call that person`s
office and complain about whatever the ad told them to complain about.
But in this case, again, this is kind of a positive ad. At least an
encouraging ad for Senator Toomey in Pennsylvania to support nationally a
policy that is working and noncontroversial.
So for this ad, this is really interesting. Look at what happens if
you were moved by this ad and you decide to answer the call to action at
the end of it. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for demanding action from Congress to
end gun violence. In a moment, you`ll be connected to your senator. If
you have the option to speak to someone directly, please speak to someone
directly. Stay on the line for talking points. Or press one now to skip
talking points and be connected immediately.
When you are connected to your senator`s office, tell them three
things. One, tell them your name and where you are from. Two, tell them
to support Senate Bill 649, which requires criminal background checks for
every gun sale in America. That`s Senate Bill 649. Lastly, ask them to
support legislation that bans assault weapons and limited high capacity
Your call is a critical part of the campaign to end gun violence. So
please stay on the line until you are connected. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are connecting you to Senator Frank Lautenberg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for calling the office of United States
Senator Frank Lautenberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We are connected you to Senator Frank Lautenberg. I love a
robot voice. There`s probably just a person who talks like that, which
makes you think it`s a robot.
It`s interesting, right? So, this ad is about Senator Pat Toomey,
right? This is an ad about how a Republican senator from Pennsylvania
named Pat Toomey should vote for the same kind of background checks that
his home state is already using, but anybody moved by that ad to call that
number at the end of it is not necessarily connected to Pat Toomey`s office
or some fund raising organization to go and support, they`re being more ads
like this on TV.
Instead, it asks you to enter your zip code when you call, and then it
automatically connects you to whoever your senator is. Oh -- so that you
can tell your senator of whom you are their constituent, right, to support
background checks. This is smart, right?
Take people who are moved by this issue and connect them to the person
they can most move in Washington. Smart.
This is just another way that the pressure is on right now. This ad
is also getting a million dollar ad buy in Washington and in 10 states.
This ad shows Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in
It is being run in states to target these ten senators. The, of
course, idea is that the senators themselves will see these ads and be
moved to do something, but the idea is also to get people who support
reform and who are constituents of these senators to make themselves known
to their senator, to call their senator and tell them, to give them a sense
that there will be support for them, too, in addition to criticism from the
NRA if they decide to vote for reform.
And the content of the ad really featuring Neil Heslin really
highlights how much the families of the kids and adults killed at Newtown
have been the most potent force in all, the most potent force in all of
this. They have let themselves be interviewed. They have met with
lawmakers in Connecticut. Yesterday, they met with the president in
Hartford. One of the sandy hook moms who lost her 6-year-old son
introduced the president in Hartford, and then the family members from
Newtown went on Air Force One yesterday with President Obama. They went
with him Back to Washington to start meeting with U.S. senators and members
of Congress today.
There are two sides. There are two formidable sides in this debate
now and that`s never been true before. The futility of trying any reform
on gun laws has forever been seen as a pre-ordained thing because of the
power of the NRA on one side of the issue, right? It was NRA on the one
side, and yes, sure, public opinion on the other side, but the NRA was seen
as too organized to ever lose even though most people disagreed with them.
Well, now, joining the side that already has public opinion with them is an
effort that is very organized and concerted and, frankly, relentless.
Today, Mayors Against Illegal Guns announced they`re going to start
giving letter grade scores to lawmakers based on how they vote on gun
issues. Just like the NRA, but from the opposite perspective.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns want the rating system to act as a guide
for voters, but also crucially for donors.
Sandy Hook Promise, the scrupulously bipartisan group that was formed
by the Newtown families themselves. They have secured themselves the
services of their own lobbying firm now to try to maximize their
effectiveness on Capitol Hill. They will meet with senators and members of
Congress directly, but they have hired lobbyists now, too.
This is not David versus Goliath anymore. This is not the
professional gun lobby running roughshod over a disorganized but heartfelt
and protest movement. This is a serious fight being fought seriously, and
with what seems like equal weight being brought to both sides now for once.
For once, it seems like the outcome is legitimately unpredictable. Watch
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: We have not seen the final draft of
the legislature that was produced, I understand, last night, but I think it
deserves a vote up-or-down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve heard, Senator, that you`re planning to
meet with the families later today. You know what they want. What do you
plan to say to them?
ISAKSON: Well, first of all, the heart of every -- the heart and soul
of every American goes out to the families of those who lost their lives in
Sandy Hook. They deserve a right to be able to sit down and talk with me
and I give them right and will be happy to me with them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there`s a lot of pressure coming from all
sides on this. Is it having an impact from the NRA to guns rights
ISAKSON: Well, it`s having an impact. It`s getting the phones to
ring and they`re ringing on both sides. Michael Bloomberg was running ads
back in Georgia, telling everybody to call Senator Chambliss and myself. I
know there are other programs going on to drive the phone calls and that`s
-- they`re doing their job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson on CBS this
morning, agreeing there that -- what he said, in talking about the
families, he said, they deserve a right to be able to sit down and talk
with me. I give them that right, I`ll be happy to meet with them.
So, he`s agreeing to meet with the Newtown families and he is
pointedly not joining the Republican filibuster effort they were trying to
use to block there from even being a vote on federal gun legislation. The
Republicans filibuster plan was defeated today. As soon as their supposed
leader, Mitch McConnell, said he would join that effort, it went down in
Mitch McConnell said, "I`m in." And as soon as he said, all these
other Republicans said, oh, really? Well, I`m out.
He`s their supposed leader, but when he said, "I`m in", they all
jumped. So, there should be a vote. No filibuster. Filibuster effort
defeated, and the plan is now for a vote on Thursday in the Senate on Harry
Reid`s package of reforms.
We are in to buckle your seat belt territory as of now in terms of
what`s happened next in this fight. In terms of whether or not there is
going to be a national response other than just bad feelings to the Sandy
Hook Elementary School massacre on December 14th in Newtown, Connecticut.
The effort to make a response to Newtown not just sadness, but real
change, has, at its core, these families who have been willing to take
their private grief public, who have at the worst time of their lives, been
going out there every day to try to keep the tragedy of Newtown at the
center of this debate every single day, to do interviews, no matter how
painful they are, to do public events, no matter painful they are, to
testify no matter how painful it is, to lobby. They`re doing everything
they can to keep Newtown and their lost kids in the news. Not letting that
They are the key to why this has come so far, thus far, despite all
the odds and despite the beltway saying it could never happen. It could
never even get this far.
Tonight at the U.S. Capitol, I have to tell you this. I can`t believe
this. Tonight at the U.S. Capitol, one Republican senator opposed to gun
reform lashed out at the Newtown families, essentially calling them dupes,
saying they don`t know what they`re doing, saying this debate and this
issue really has nothing to do with Newtown.
We`ve got this tape exclusively. This has not been aired anywhere
else. This is "Huffington Post" reporter Jennifer Bendery today with
Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe at the Capitol talking about the families of
the Newtown massacre victims.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: I think it`s so unfair the
administration to hurt these families to make them think this has something
to do with them when, in fact, it doesn`t.
REPORTER: They seem to feel it does.
INHOFE: Well, that`s because they`ve been told that by the president.
REPORTER: Thank you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator James Inhofe today telling "The Huffington Post`s"
Jennifer Bendery that the issue of gun violence and gun reform has nothing
to do with Newtown families.
I think it`s so unfair of the administration to hurt these families,
to make them think this has something to do with them when in fact it
doesn`t. The families being on Capitol Hill and believing it has anything
to do with them, according to James Inhofe, that`s just a delusion that`s
been fed to them by the president because this has nothing to do with them.
If that is the way that the opponents of gun reform want to try to
make their case in public, I think they are going to lose that argument in
this country. Senator Inhofe`s side already lost the fight to filibuster
the bill to stop it from coming up for a vote.
Today, the filibuster side lost. There will be a vote.
Senator Inhofe is, so far, refusing our entreaties to discuss this
with me. I`ll let you know if he changes his mind.
Meanwhile, watch this space.
MADDOW: That faint sound you hear in the distance, I think it`s the
left. We have one in this country and they are even occasionally
organized. And right now, the organized left with allowing themselves to
be heard in Washington, D.C., in protest of the president`s anticipated
proposal to reduce Social Security benefits. That proposal will be
released tomorrow as part of the president`s budget blueprint, but it was
leaked last week. And the way it was received was not what you would call
"well". It was not well-received on either side actually.
On the right, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said, no, no, I
don`t care what`s in it. No.
On the left, liberal groups said, how can this be coming from a
Democratic president? Democracy for America said, "This is a profoundly
disturbing shot across the bow for the progressives who called their
neighbors, spent weekends knocking doors and donated millions to reelect
Democracy for America said today, quote, "Real Democrats don`t cut
Social Security, period."
That response thus far in print today became a response in person in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN: I stand here today with over 2
million petitions -- and knock someone`s mic over (ph) --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Let`s try that one more time. Come on. Hit it. Come on.
(BEGIN VDIEO CLIP)
POCAN: Two million petitions of people in this country who agree that
the economic woes of this country are not caused by Social Security as some
people are trying to rewrite history, but just the opposite. We have to be
here to protect the people who rely on these benefits on a daily basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Wisconsin Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan at a rally
outside the White House where liberal groups, including Democracy for
America and Move On and the National Organization for Women and the PCCC,
the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, they all delivered more than 2
million signatures to the White House, saying do not cut Social Security
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Now, our job s to rally those
people and give anybody in the Congress who believes in cutting these life
important benefits. We`re going to give them a political choice they
cannot refuse, and that is if they vote to cut Social Security, they may
well not be returning to Washington. Thank you all very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont at today`s rally.
It`s not that there is not a left in this country. I think we are a
center-left country broadly speaking, if you look at the way we vote and
the polling on what Americans like in terms of policy.
But we are more accustomed to seeing the right take on Republicans on
economic issues than we are used to seeing the organized left take on
Democrats. So what happens next?
In order to figure out, it maybe makes more sense to talk to a
Republican than a Democrat since Republicans have had to right the book on
dealing with their angry base and Democrats for a long time now have not
had to worry about that.
Steve Schmidt joins us now. He`s a Republican political strategist,
senior strategist for McCain-Palin, and an MSNBC contributor.
Steve, does it make you really happy to see leftist yelling at
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It makes me a little bit happy. It
makes me happy that the president`s put a budget forward where we`re going
to have some reality when we talk about what we`re going to do about these
entitlement programs so they`re around in the next generation.
But when you see the congressman from Wisconsin speaking there, I
think he`s engaging in almost sheer demagoguery. Let`s see what the
president`s proposal is and, hopefully, there`s an ability to work across
party lines to come up with a solution that strengthen these programs in
the face of the demographic challenges and demographic pressures that
they`re all under.
MADDOW: I understand that you are -- you are sympathetic to cutting
entitlements. I am not. I am very sympathetic to these guys demands about
leaving Social Security alone.
But just as a matter of political tactics, what is the most effective
form of pressure that you have ever seen sort of base activists use against
their own side. Republicans have been dealing with these kinds of fights
on the right for a long time. Democrats don`t much have to deal with this.
SCHMIDT: If you look at the Bush administration and President Obama
from a polling perspective is roughly where President Bush was in any one
of a number of polls at this point in his second term as well. President
Bush took on his base and really two big fights. The first was an
immigration fight, the base prevailed and then there was tremendous anger
over the nomination of Harriet Miers in 2005 as well. And in both of those
instances, the base got its way.
The president was not able to amass a coalition of the center, of the
center left, of the center right that was able to overpower his own base.
So when your own base turns against you, when you`re heading into midterm
elections, when you have from President Obama`s perspective a difficult
negotiating partner with the Republican Congress, the angry base, hearing
from them, will make a lot of Democratic members of Congress very skittish,
make Democratic senators skittish, and they may communicate back to the
White House, look, we`re not going to walk the plank for you on this. You
may not have to ever run again in another election, Mr. President, but we
have to run an election in November.
MADDOW: The parallel with the Harriet Miers in immigration period in
the George W. Bush second term, I think is -- it`s fascinating and I wonder
if the Republicans now look at that and see President Obama as being sort
of in the same boat. When they think about Republican policy objectives
and, of course, Republicans really want to cut entitlements, wouldn`t they
be better off working with the president against his own base rather than
just saying no to him on this? Or are they looking at the Democrats and
saying, oh, we like this split?
SCHMIDT: Well, I think Republicans would like to see agreement, some
Republicans would like to see agreement that gets the country on to a
sound, fiscal footing, which includes many, many problems that we have to
deal with. But part of those problems, the package of problems that we
have to deal with are the costs of these entitlement programs, Medicare,
Look, Republicans don`t want to see these programs go away. We don`t
want there to be a country without a social safety net, the overwhelming
majority of Republicans. But we have to change these programs that were
founded in the middle of the last century and update them so they can be
solvent and they can be applicable through the 21st century.
MADDOW: But if Republicans want that aim, they rejected the
president`s budget out of hand without even seeing it, knowing that the
left is giving the president grief on this. If they want an outcome in
which entitlements are cut and the president is offering that, horrifying
the left by doing that, Republicans shouldn`t just be saying no to that if
they care about that as a policy outcome, right?
SCHMIDT: Clearly. From a political perspective, what the noise on
the left allows the president to do is to claim the center, to claim the
high ground of reasonableness. And when the Republican response is no,
even before the budget comes out, it makes it difficult for them to get on
that high ground of reasonableness.
And when the Republican response is no --
SCHMIDT: -- even before the budget comes out, it makes it difficult
for them to get on that high ground of reasonableness. So politically, the
noise on the left makes President Obama seemed more moderate, more centrist
and that probably puts upward pressure on his poll numbers.
MADDOW: Steve Schmidt, Republican political strategist, senior
strategist from McCain Palin, MSNBC contributor and all around good sports
-- Steve, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to see you, man.
SCHMIDT: Good to see you, Rachel.
All right. Here for the interview tonight is Mark Mazzetti from "The
New York Times." This is going to be really good. That`s coming up.
MADDOW: Did you hear the terrorism trial for Osama bin Laden son-in-
law is going to be delayed? They were supposed to go on trial in New York
City in September. But they (INAUDIBLE) until next year now.
The reason they`re going to have to delay is because of the sequester?
Federal defense lawyers are being furloughed and so the bin Laden`s son-in-
law trial has to be put off for months.
In related news, the spelling of the word you`re looking for is A-S-I-
At the same time we learned that news, we also retreated to the latest
threatening terrorist video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former number two
in al Qaeda who become the new leader of al Qaeda when the old leader Osama
bin Laden became dead. And that`s kind of the simultaneous truth of it.
The United States, 12 years after 9/11, still responding to real terrorists
and real threat, but responding in a way that gets filtered through really
mundane, pedestrian and occasionally bone-chillingly stupid every day
Thanks to a new account from a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter that`s
just out today, we`ve now got a whole bunch of new reporting as of right
now on the bone chillingly stupid side of this process. That`s the
interview tonight. That`s coming up next.
MADDOW: OK, a picture to show you of Barry Goldwater. Senator
Goldwater, of course, the least successful Republican candidate for
president in the last 75 years.
But this is him at a Senate hearing in 1975. This is a decade after
he ran for president and lost. As you can see, he is holding up a gun and
looking through the site mounted at the top of the gun in the hearing room.
This is not an ordinary gun though. It is a gun rigged to shoot
poison darts. It has been rigged up by the CIA in the 1970s reportedly to
be used in assassination attempts.
This hearing was part of the Church Committee investigations into what
the CIA was actually doing back in the `70s and how much of it was legal.
This was right after Watergate, right? And the immediate impetus for
creating this committee was to look into whether the CIA was acting
improperly here at home, here in the U.S., right?
We think of the CIA as the agency that`s supposed to be operating
inside the U.S. We think of the CIA as operating elsewhere. They`re
supposed to be spying on our enemies abroad.
But that initial focus of whether the CIA was acting improperly at
home, that essentially got eclipsed, thanks in part to some off-the-record
comments from the post-Nixon Republican president, Gerald Ford, which CBS
reported in 1975 as follows: "President Ford has reportedly warned
associates that if the current investigations go too far, they could
uncover several assassinations of foreign officials involving the CIA."
Because of those comments from President Ford, the Church Committee
ended up changes its focus. They ended up spending a lot of time looking
into whether the CIA really was assassinating foreign leaders or trying to.
They, in fact, turned up a ton of lurid details of CIA efforts to kill
foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro in Cuba and Patrice Lumumba in the
Congo, and General Rene Schneider in Chile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. FRANK CHURCH (R), IDAHO: We have sufficient corroborating
evidence to make it clear, but the CIA was involved not only in planning,
but in certain cases, also in attempted assassinations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Before the Church committee issued its final report,
revelations like those led President Ford to issue this executive order
banning the U.S. government, including the CIA, from engaging in
assassinations, going forward. "No employee of the United States
government shall engage in or conspire to engage in political
So, between the Church Committee expose and the president`s direct
order on this, the instruction seems, at least to the laymen, to be kind of
clear, right? The CIA`s an organization for spying in other countries. It
is not an organization for killing people in other countries.
How is that working?
Mark Mazzetti, the national security correspondent for "The New York
Times" just today published what aims to be the definitive account of the
ways that our government has been killing people since 9/11 without always
admitting to it, but because Mark Mazzetti is a real on the ground reporter
and not just a blow hard like me who pontificates about these things
occasionally in print, one of the things that we get from Mark Mazzetti`s
new account is a ton of new detail that we`ve never had before. And some
of that detail has big political implications.
Some of it doesn`t and it`s just amazing stuff to know. For example,
the first early model predator drones. So, it`s drones not just to do
surveillance, but to shoot missiles. The very earliest model predators
were equipped with, quote, "a haphazard control panel that some pilots
liken to the scattered features of a Mr. Potato head doll. Just one of the
significant design flaws was that the button that killed the engine on if
drone was located only about a quarter inch from the button that launched
the Hellfire missile." What could possibly go wrong?
Also, the first drone strike that was conducted in Pakistan to kill
somebody was announced by the Pakistani government as their own military
operation. Now, it wasn`t their own military operation. It was the CIA
who did it with a drone. It was apparent before now that the two
governments had lied about who is responsible for actually killing that guy
in Pakistan in 2004. It was pretty clear that Pakistan hadn`t actually
done it, that we had done it.
But what was not known until now is that that first ever guy we killed
in Pakistan with a drone strike was not somebody that we were really after.
And it wasn`t like he was killed by mistake. He was not a senior al Qaeda
figure. He was not somebody that the United States had grand designs on
and really desperately wanted to go kill.
He was somebody who Pakistan wanted dead for their own reasons.
Pakistan was mad at him for their own reasons. But the deal was, if the
United States killed him, we thought maybe Pakistan government would let us
fly our drones over their country to do stuff that we wanted to do.
So, the first guy that we killed with the drone in Pakistan in 2004,
Mark Mazzetti reports, that he was essentially killed as a favor to
Pakistan so that they would hook us up and let us kill more people there
that we wanted to kill. It`s like with a drug dealer, first one`s free.
OK. Just one more, the first time the U.S. government used a drone to
kill somebody outside of a declared war zone. So, outside of Afghanistan,
we did it in Yemen in 2002, a CIA predator drone killed this guy, who U.S.
officials believed was the mastermind behind the USS Cole bombing.
Again, this guy was not killed in Pakistan, he was killed in Yemen.
The government in Yemen didn`t want to be known they were letting the
Americans come in to kill people on their soil, so the government in Yemen,
when this guy died came up with this elaborate story about how it was an
exploding gas can that killed him -- really terrible domestic accident that
killed this unfortunate soul. That was the Yemeni government`s cover
But then, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz went on CNN and
started bragging about this drone strike in Yemen, the one that Yemen
wasn`t acknowledging was a drone strike at all, how it had been so gravely
successful for the United States.
Quote, "Yemen`s president was furious when he heard about Wolfowitz`s
comments. His government had been made to look like fools and liars and he
demanded American spies and diplomats in Yemen appear in his office
immediately. Since Washington couldn`t keep a secret, America`s hidden war
in Yemen would be scaled back. He ordered the predator flights to stop
immediately and they did for nearly eight years."
Thanks, Paul Wolfowitz.
Thanks to Mark Mazzetti`s new book, we now know some astonishing
details we never knew before.
The big story, of course, is that in addition to the wars being fought
by the U.S. military over the last decade, the CIA has also become a full
time killing people operation. A lot of us thought that was something our
government had stop from happening.
One of the unintended consequences of the shift may be that they while
the CIA was busy killing thousands of people in places like Pakistan and
Yemen once we got back in there, at every place that we`ve been using our
supposed spy agency as a covert new branch of the military, while they were
busy doing that, they were also busy missing what was about to happen in
Tunisia and Egypt and Libya. Our spy agencies didn`t give us any idea that
those revolutions were coming. Our spy agencies apparently had a lot to do
besides the spying we need them to do.
From the man who broke the story of the CIA destroying its
interrogation tapes from the Bush era torture years, from the man who won a
Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the war in Afghanistan and the war next
door in Pakistan and their connection to each other, Mark Mazzetti has now
just published "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and the War at
the Ends of the Earth."
Mr. Mazzetti, "New York Times" national security correspondent --
thank you so much for being here.
MARK MAZZETTI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I summarized a lot of things in your book that you put with a
lot more careful detail. Did I get anything wrong you feel like I need to
be smacked for?
MAZZETTI: It was -- the story, the book is about the secret wars of
the last 12 years and how they`ve been carried out and some of the deals
that have been brokered with foreign governments in order to allow the U.S.
to carry out these operations, the idea of the book was to look away from
the big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and examine how the sort of shadow
wars had been carried out first of all by President Bush, but also embraced
and in some ways escalated by President Obama.
So the focus is largely in Pakistan, Yemen, parts of Africa and one of
the things that I get into, which you said very well with the history is --
I mean, the CIA has this history where they get pushed and pulled in
different directions and it starts out as an espionage service and then,
one president or another wants to push them into covert action and
paramilitary and assassinations. And then there`s this period of the
Church Committee and retributions and retrenchment and then they`re accused
of being risk averse and then 9/11 happens and they go back in the other
So we`ve been this the period for significant 12 years, where the
agency really has fundamentally changed into this paramilitary
MADDOW: And as an organization, even prior the CIA being the CIA,
even if it`s organizational predecessor, they have always done some form of
covert action. It`s always been in the mix, as you say, in the sort of
cyclical mix, but we did see such a dramatic swinging back in the other
direction with the Church Committee and those other reforms, I can`t
imagine that happening now because what the CIA is doing now isn`t seen as
much of a scandal as anything that led up to the Church Committee hearings
was seen as.
Can you imagine anything pulling us back as far in the other direction
as that committee did?
MAZZETTI: Well, certainly, if you`re looking at just drone strikes,
they still have widespread support among Republicans and Democrats in
Congress. We`re only beginning to see more public scrutiny and beginning
to see members of Congress ask for more information about what`s happening.
John Brennan, the new CIA director, has indicated he would like to move the
agency back in the other direction. Move some of the paramilitary
activities to the Pentagon and get the CIA back more into the spying
business. We`ll see if that really happens.
John Brennan as you know, has been very intimately involved in the
drone program for four years.
MAZZETTIT: Previously as President Obama`s counterterrorism adviser.
So, what I write in the book, if there is going to be a shift, it will
probably be something that probably takes several years because you do have
-- it`s a generational thing. You have a generation of CIA officers who
came in, who are younger and came in after 9/11, and who have really been
socialized in war and who had been focusing on man-hunting and killing, as
opposed to traditional espionage.
MADDOW: Because John Brennan has been so involved in the killing part
of the CIA, of the killing part of the counterterrorism operations since
9/11, is this kind of a Nixon goes to China moment? By putting him in
charge of the CIA right now, as a person who`s advocating that the CIA give
up some of those capacities, is it possible he`s there because he has the
credibility to say, listen, I`m not a softy, I`m not afraid of killing
people, I just know we ought to be focusing on spying instead?
MAZZETTI: Well, he certainly has the presence and support. There`s
no question. He`s one of President Obama`s closest advisers.
So, what he does and advocates would be considered to have a blessing
of the White House.
MAZZETTI: There are constituencies in the CIA to want to dial back
some of the counterterrorism operations and to go back to the espionage
intelligence analysis that they`ve been doing traditionally because they
realize there`s opportunity costs. As you put in the set-up piece, there`s
-- the real questions about the CIA`s performance during the Arab spring
and whether they were really able to provide intelligence to the White
House about what was happening, as it was happening.
And so, and the question was, was it so focused, did it lift so far in
one direction that it had not been, it would not been able to do the sort
of traditional spying.
MADDOW: You write in a big picture sense, that the changes that
you`re documenting here have, in your words, lowered the bar for waging
war. These weapons systems are unbound by the normal use of it, rules of
accountability during wartime, that kind of shift -- John Brennan is
successful and we assume the president is successful if it`s his aim, and
some of these ways of waging war move back cleanly into the military and
spying agencies become more cleanly agencies, would that help change some
of those accountability issues you`ve identified?
MAZZETTI: It`s possible. I mean, the last few weeks have been
stories about, you know, the CIA giving up drones and it all moving to
military and then there`s been some cheering for that, because there will
be more accountability. But you should point out that -- we should point
out that the military does drone operations, for instance, in Yemen,
Special Operations troop, and they`re not exactly transparent. We have
sometimes, a harder time finding out about the military drone strikes in
Yemen than we do about the CIA drone strikes.
So just because they`re in the military, doesn`t mean there`s going to
be a government spokesman at the podium every day talking about operations.
It`s going to be probably country specific. I believe that it will be less
likely that CIA gives up drone strikes, for instance, in Pakistan for some
time because there are these arrangements with the Pakistan government and
have been since 2004, that the arrangement is that nobody talks about this.
MAZZETTI: And nobody acknowledges it. It`s under covert action
authority for different domestic political reasons. So it will I think
take some time.
MADDOW: The granular detail you`re able to supply to these debates
we`ve all been having so much is really just incredibly invaluable.
"New York Times" national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti, the
new book is called "The Way of the Knife: the CIA, a Secret Army and the
War at the Ends of the Earth", congratulations on this. Thank you so much
for being here.
MAZZETTI: I appreciate you having me.
MADDOW: If you have wondered why anywhere else in the world, a drone
strike has to be approved by the White House, but if it`s Pakistan, it
doesn`t -- this will tell you. You should read it.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: If you wanted to come back in your next life as a
congressional district, you wouldn`t want to come back as Illinois 2. The
most recent seat holder of that seat, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is now
awaiting sentencing after he and his wife pleaded guilty of using three-
quarters of a million dollars of campaign funds for their own lavish
personal expenses, things like a $43,000 Rolex, and pair of stuffed elk
heads, and a hat that once belonged to Michael Jackson.
Congressman Jackson resigned. He`s facing more than 4 1/2 years in
federal prison when sentenced this summer.
Before him in Illinois 2, the previous representative of that district
also resigned. He went to prison. Congressman Mel Reynolds served in the
mid-`90s until he was convicted of several charges, including having sex
with an underage girl who volunteered on his campaign.
Before Congressman Reynolds, Illinois was represented by Congressman
Gus Savage, who was investigated by ethics committee for accusations he
forced himself on a female Peace Corps volunteer on the congressional
junket to Zaire. Congressman Savage denied the allegations, but later
wrote the woman a letter of apology.
So, the last three tries at representing Illinois 2 in Congress were
kind of a nightmare, which brings us to tonight. "The Associated Press"
tonight has called the race to fill the empty seat in Illinois 2 for the
Democrat in the race, with 76 percent of precincts reporting, this
candidate got a little more than 74 percent of the vote.
So, behold, the newest member of Congress, the latest to represent the
people of the second district, is Robin Kelly. The people of the second
district frankly deserve a break and some decent representation.
Tonight represents a fresh start for Illinois. Congratulations to the
district. Good luck. I hope it works out better this time.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: People like to watch others set up dominos and then knock
them over. Apparently, that is a thing people like to watch on the
internet. Such a long, tedious time setting them up, and then klikitty
klakitty down, they go in a flash.
As of three weeks ago, there were 15 Democrats in the Senate on record
who`s opposing equal rights for gay couples. Then, on March 18th, the
Hillary Clinton domino fell. She reversed her long held stance on the
issue. She came out in favor of marriage equality. She said she supports
it personally and as a matter of policy and law.
And then here`s what happened right after that. Within less than a
week, it was Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill coming out in support of
same-sex marriage. The very next day, so did Senators Jay Rockefeller, and
Mark Warner, and Mark Begich.
The next day was the big Prop 8 case before the Supreme Court. That
same day, Democratic Senator Jon Tester from Montana came out and said he
was for same-sex marriage. The next day, the Supreme Court heard the DOMA
case, and it was North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan`s turn.
The next domino was Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, then, Senator
Tom Carper of Delaware, then, Senator Bill Nelson from Florida. Then on
Friday, two more Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe
Donnelly of Indiana. Then, yesterday, the domino named Senator Tim Johnson
of South Dakota also toppled.
That is 12 U.S. senators in three weeks evolving in very rapid
succession. That doesn`t mean it`s all of them, though. There are a few
holdouts left among Senate Democrats, and by a few, I mean three -- Mary
Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Joe Manchin of West
Virginia. These are the last three remaining Senate Democrats against gay
marriage. And being among those three is apparently an awkward place to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: I have very personal views about
same-sex marriage. I believe people should love who they love and marry
who they want to marry. But I`m a lot like other people said my views
evolved on this. But my state has a strong constitutional amendment
against gay marriage and I think I have to honor that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Personally, I am totally for people having rights but you
know, I am just a senator, so, yes, personally love and marry who you want
to love and marry but I will actively work to deny you your rights that I
believe you should have. Leadership.
Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor also took a turn trying to justify being
one of the last three holding the stance. In an interview with the local
TV station, he said, "I would put me down in the undecided category. I did
talk with some friends of mine in the gay and lesbian community over the
last week or so. We talked about this issue. We also talked about a
question I received in the office not too long ago where they asked whether
being gay was a choice or whether you were born that way. I told them, I
said, honestly, I haven`t thought a lot about that. Maybe a lot of people
think about that, I haven`t spent a lot of time thinking about that. One
of the things I hear is that they feel very strongly that it`s not a choice
for them and I respect that, I am not going to dispute that."
Excellent! Mr. Pryor does not dispute gay friends` claims being gay
was not a choice for them, but he is not thinking about it other than that.
When there was some confusion about whether Senator Pryor meant he was
undecided on same-sex marriage, he came out promptly to clarify. He said
he`s definitely opposed to gay marriage. His office emailed the station to
clarify that point.
What he meant about being undecided, he is undecided whether or not
gay couple should be able to have benefits if they work for the federal
government. That`s what he`s undecided on. He`s not undecided about
rights generally. He is just really opposed to that, to be clear.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has so far declined to elaborate
on his stance, and why he is still one of the three Democrats in the Senate
opposed to marriage equality, given how awkward and convoluted it`s been
for the ones who are still trying to justify that position. I might advise
Senator Joe Manchin to not try to go there.
I mean, if you feel like you can explain it, sir, and make sense while
doing so, hit it out of the park. Otherwise, on this one, we are all
waiting to hear how you explain it.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Lawrence has a rare prime time interview with Senator Dianne Feinstein
of California tonight.
So, please stay tuned for that. Have a great night.
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