November 10th, 2013

Talks with Iran, drones, and Albania’s beautification as domestic improvement policy on today’s Fareed Zakaria GPS

CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS welcomed Ken Pollack, former CIA analyst and former staffer at the National Security Council, author of  the book,”Unthinkable:  Iran, the bomb and American Strategy”, and Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund and author of the book, “Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late”, to speak with CNN about Iran’s nuclear talks.

Husain Haqqani, former Ambassador to the United States for the Islamic Republic of Pakistanand James Steinberg, former deputy U.S. Secretary of State during (Barack Obama Administration), spoke with CNN about the case for and against the use of military drones. Richard Falkenrath, PhD, principal of the Chertoff Group, and former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Edward Luce, U.S. columnist and commentator for The Financial Times spoke to CNN about NSA leaks, and whether Edward Snowden should be considered a hero or a villain. Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, spoke to CNN about his plan to improve life in Albania by painting the buildings with color.


The full show transcript is available after the jump:



FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR:  This is GPS, the Global Public Square.  Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world.  I’m Fareed Zakaria, live from New York.

We have an important show for you today, starting with the failure to reach agreement on a nuclear deal with Iran, despite the presence of the world’s top diplomats in Geneva this weekend.  Why were they unable to make a deal?  And even if they got one, would it be sellable back home, in Iran, in the United States, in France?

Then, an assassination.  This man, Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban was killed last week by an American drone strike just when the Taliban was supposed to sit down to talk peace.

Was the killing a good negotiation strategy, a serious miscalculation?  We will discuss.

And have the most recent revelations from Edward Snowden’s trove of documents changed the public’s perception of the leaker?  Should they?  We have two experts give us very different views.

Also, can you change the trajectory of a city simply by changing the colors of its buildings?  The prime minister of this country says yes and he did it.

Finally, a woolly TV topic for certain, why one nation spent nine hours glued to the tube to watch a sweater being made.

But, first, here’s my take:  It’s difficult to know what to make of the failure to arrive at an agreement between the West and Iran.  The high level talks have ended.  Negotiations will resume at a lower level in 10 days.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments seemed the most sensible.  “It was always going to be hard to arrive at a deal with Iran when the mistrust was so deep and had gone on for so long.”

But what was remarkable was the tone of the negotiators as they broke up.  Both the Iranians and the main Western negotiator, Catherine Ashton of the European Union, were positive and constructive believing that much progress has been made.

There were voices that were much less positive.  Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized what he described as, “The deal of the century.”  His aides explained that Iran was going to get everything it wanted in return for nothing.  “A mess of pottage,” said one of them, making a biblical allusion.

The other critic of the deal appears to have been French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.  France’s hard-line position actually allowed Washington to look reasonable though, for some, it proved that no matter what position the United States takes, you can count on France to try to sabotage it.

But the criticisms of the deal sound like alarmist hype to me.  The basic agreement that might have been inked was that Iran would temporarily freeze its nuclear program including its uranium enrichments in return for some relief from Western sanctions.

During that period, about six months, serious negotiations would take place to arrive at a final agreement.  The key here is what kind of sanctions relief were the Iranians going to get?

The answer is clear, not much.  The Obama administration was not proposing that any of the major sanctions against Iran be lifted or even suspended.  Those are all passed by Congress and couldn’t be lifted easily anyway.

It was proposing to take pretty minor steps.  Europe has more flexibility on sanctions, but, from what we’ve heard, those countries were also proposing relief of very small kinds.

Now, the argument is that Iran should make significant concessions, but that the West should make none at all, that’s not negotiations, that’s a requirement that the other side surrender.

Which makes one wonder, do the critics of this negotiating process want a better deal or do they really want no deal at all so that it opens up another path to deal with the problem, which is war.

In that case, the danger for those critics was not that the Geneva negotiations were failing, but rather that they were succeeding.

Let’s get started.

You’ve just heard my take.  Let’s bring in some experts.  Ken Pollack is a former CIA analyst.  He’s been a staffer at the National Security Council.  He’s the author of a great new book, “Unthinkable:  Iran, the bomb and American Strategy.”

Joe Cirincione is the President of the Ploughshares Fund.  He’s also the author of a forthcoming book, “Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late.”

Joe, let me just start with you by asking you do you think that there — net-net, is there a deal on-hand here?  What did you read about of what happened?

JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARES FUND, AUTHOR:  We are very close, Fareed.  I thought your opening comments were just right on the mark.  You know, we’ve seen some remarkable developments over the last couple days including the normalization of U.S and Iranian dialogue.

We now take it for granted that the Secretary of State should talk to Iran’s foreign minister, but that hadn’t happened in 34 years until last September and now they spent more time in the last 24 hours than they have in 34 years.

The outlines of the deal are clear.  Iran will take initial steps to freeze its programs in place.  As you said, we will take very minor steps to release some financial assets and it’ll be done in a phased agreement over the next six or seven months, each step building on the last.

We’re very, very close.  They come back again in 10 days.  I expect we’ll get a deal very soon.

ZAKARIA:  Ken, are you as optimistic?

KEN POLLACK, FORMER CIA ANALYST, AUTHOR:  Well, I certainly share Joe’s hope that this deal can be brought about and I share both of your hope that this — or expectation that this is a good deal.

But I think the problems that have arisen make me a little bit more skeptical.  A little bit more concerned, may be a better way to put it because, you know, the French objections don’t seem to be terribly meaningful.

As you pointed out, these are things that should be dealt with in a final status agreement between the two of them.  It’s not really clear why the French decide to make an issue of this now.  That makes me a little bit more concerned than I was going into this about how hard it may be to get it.

ZAKARIA:  Joe, let me ask you to explain, very simply, why you think that the big obstacle that has been talked about isn’t an obstacle.  Without getting too wonky, there is one reactor — a plutonium-based reactor in Arak.

The reason people worry that if a plutonium-based reactor gets completed it’s a problem, is that uranium-based reactors can be bombed.  Plutonium-based ones can’t be bombed because it would release plutonium into the atmosphere.

So why do you think that that isn’t a problem?  Because the French seem to be saying we can’t allow them to keep working on this plutonium-based reactor because once it — you know, once you reach a critical state, there’s no going back.

CIRINCIONE:  Yes.  Two reasons, Fareed.  One, it is a problem, but it’s not a problem for three or four years.  The reactor is behind schedule.  It won’t come on-line until the end of next year.

Then, you put the fuel in it and some plutonium is produced, but that takes at least another year.  Then, you’ve got to take the fuel out and reprocess it.  Iran doesn’t have a reprocessing facility.

So it’s a problem three or four years down the road.  In this interim step, Iran was apparently agreed to suspend construction of this reactor and so it’s a problem you can deal with, but it has to be dealt with later.

Let’s freeze the key parts of the program now, stop them from enriching uranium to 20 percent, lengthen the fuse in any breakout scenario.

ZAKARIA:  Ken, what about the other country, other than France, that is clearly objecting vociferously, Israel.  What do you think that tells us?

POLLACK:  Well, first of all, it’s not clear exactly what the Israelis are doing.  I think we should hope that the Israelis are doing is simply trying to play “bad cop” to try to get the best deal possible.

But, you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s — his rhetoric has been so far off to the other side that it raises the question that perhaps he is actually trying to blow up the negotiations, perhaps he doesn’t want a deal. That would be enormously damaging.

If, at the end the day, we don’t get a deal between the international community and Iran and Israel is the culprit, that actually backfires completely against Israel, against the United States and very much in favor of Iran’s hard-liners, exactly the people that Netanyahu shouldn’t be trying to empower.

ZAKARIA:  Joe, what do you think about the French one?  As Ken was saying, there’s some part of this — the French have taken a slightly harder line position on the Iranian nuclear program puzzling because on almost everything in the Middle east they tend to be — they outflank the United States, you know, by being more soft.

What do you think is going on here?

CIRINCIONE:  Well, The Guardian, reports today that the other members were furious were furious.  You have to understand.  Everybody else was in agreement and even the French negotiators were in agreement until the foreign minister arrived and threw a spanner in the works.

Some suspect this is has commercial motivations, that France is trying to position itself for lucrative contracts with the Saudis and other Gulf States by showing its opposition to Iran.  Some think it’s just a play for attention.

The reason I’m optimistic is that underlying it, these core strategic objectives of Iran, of the United States and the other states, line up.  We’re moving towards a deal.

There is a strategic shift that has taken place in Iran.  We have a Secretary of State and an administration that’s willing to take advantage of that.

I am very hopeful that we can work out the clinks, that we can take out the overload that the French want to put on the cart and come up with a clean, initial first step.

ZAKARIA:  Ken, final thought on the one final monkey wrench which is Congress.  Congress has to pass sanctions relief.  If anything, it seems to be going in the opposition direction of putting more onerous sanctions — not quite sanctions, but requirements on Iran.

POLLACK:  Yes.  I would look at this, in particular, from the Iranian perspective, Fareed.  Because, ultimately, what the Congress is doing is simply putting another brick in the wall of sanctions.  It’s not terribly meaningful in and of itself.

But, you know, across the ocean, you’ve got Hassan Rouhani who has shown a lot of courage in being willing to pursue these talks and is taking a big risk in terms of his own political position.

He’s got to look to Barack Obama to be his partner and to be willing to sell any reasonable deal to the American Congress.  And I think so far the administration is saying, don’t worry, no matter what the Congress does, no matter how many additional sanctions they pass, if we get the deal, I’ll sell it to the Congress.

The problem is so far, he’s never been willing to do that.  He’s never been willing to take the Congress on when it comes to Iran sanctions.  And Hassan Rouhani may be wondering do I really have a partner over there in Washington.

ZAKARIA:  Joe, when you look at this, take Ken’s point, if you were to get a deal of some kind that the international community could live with, that the Obama administration could live with, what happens in Congress.  Will Congress undo the sanctions because only Congress can do that?

CIRINCIONE:  Well, as you know, Fareed, undoing sanctions takes a much longer time than putting them on and you’re always going to have political opposition and ideological opposition in Congress to this president.

But the president has enormous waiver authority.  He can suspend the sanctions for a long time.  Many of their sanctions relief we’re talking about in this initial step are things that only the president has control over, freeing up certain frozen Iranian assets, for example.

And once you get a deal that starts to gain momentum, that you show that you’ve actually stopped the Iranian threat, that the deal in place is much better than no deal at all and far preferable to going to war, I think you’ll see support among the leading members of Congress build.

You already see members that are skittish on this taking some reassurance by the direction the negotiations are going.  I’m hopeful that those leaders will stop any new sanctions over the next month to give these diplomatic talks a fair chance.

ZAKARIA:  Ken, 10 seconds, do agree that if Obama does stand up, that he would be able to move Congress?

POLLACK:  Yes.  I think that Joe is right that if we get a good deal on the table, it’s going to be very difficult for the Congress to turn it down.  Because, as you both point out, the alternatives are much worse.

ZAKARIA:  Ken, Joe, thank you very much.  Very illuminating.

(UNKNOWN):  Thank you, Fareed.

ZAKARIA:  Lots more on the show.  Up next, Pakistan.  A drone strike killed a top Taliban commander there, a man who has killed hundreds if not thousands of Pakistanis, and, yet, Pakistanis are very angry about his death.  What does this mean for us?  We have a great set of experts.


ZAKARIA:  Ten days ago, a reported American drone strike in a remote region of Waziristan in Northern Pakistan killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban Hakimullah Mehsud.

Mehsud’s group claimed responsibility for the attempted Times Square bombing and the suicide attack that killed seven Americans, including five CIA officers in Khost, Afghanistan.

The group, also known as the TTP, has wrecked havoc in Pakistan itself killing thousands of civilians.  So should his demise be welcomed?  Not according to Angry leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan who criticized the timing of the strikes, which came as they prepared for peace talks with the Taliban.

Let’s get right to it.  Are drones helping or hurting?  Husain Haqqani was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States.  He has a new book out about relations between the two countries called, “Magnificent Delusions.”

James Steinberg was the chief deputy to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.  He is now the dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

Jim, let me start with you.  Does it make sense to assassinate somebody who wanted to head peace talks to try and find some kind of political settlement in Afghanistan?

JAMES STEINBERG, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE, DEAN OF THE MAXWELL, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY:  Well, as you suggested, I think that Hakimullah Mehsud is somebody that the U.S. has been concerned about for a long time.

He was directly involved in the attack on the CIA base.  His organization was involved in the attack in New York.  So the United States has a very fundamental interest in making sure that these threats don’t continue, right.

And I think that this has been long-standing interest of the United States.  Clearly, an opportunity seems to have arise and I think it’s quite understandable, from a national security perspective, why the administration would want to take advantage of that.

ZAKARIA:  Husain, you were involved, as was Jim, in the very arduous process of trying to get peace talks started with the Taliban.  They were on again, off again.  So it took a lot to get them going

From your perspective, assassinating one of the guys who was going to be on the other end of table, presumably, does it make sense?

HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES, AUTHOR:  Well, if he was going to be at the other end of the table, this was a very, very long table and he was very far away.

He just didn’t say that he was going to come to the table.  There were no ongoing talks.  I think that what we’re seeing is a typical Pakistan political reaction because everybody’s afraid that Pakistan’s people tend to sympathize with the process of negotiating with the Taliban.

Look, Hakimullah Mehsud and his group were put on the American list of high-value targets explicitly at Pakistan’s request because the TTP was wrecking havoc inside Pakistan and, at one time, you may recall that the Pakistani military and intelligence service used to wonder why the Americans were not striking TTP.

So I think that this is a time when we need to look at the more fundamental problem in that region which is rules and leaders who want to be close to the United States, who want to get involved in negotiating processes to deal with regional situations, but do not want to tell the truth to their own people.

ZAKARIA:  Jim, but let me press this issue though.  If you’re going to try to get a political settlement in Afghanistan, clearly at the center of the problem was the Pakistani Taliban; that is the people based in Pakistan who could cross border, make trouble in Afghanistan, made it very difficult to secure Afghanistan and then retreat across an international border to a safe haven.

So negotiating with the Pakistani Taliban was seen as a very crucial part of trying to create some kind of settlement in Afghanistan.  Has that process been derailed by this assassination?

STEINBERG:  First of all, I don’t think it was derailed.  I think if there’s going to be an agreement, it’s not because of the decision of any individual.  It would be because all of the organizations, all the groups recognize that finding a political agreement is necessary.

So I think the notion that the presence of absence of Hakimullah Mehsud will make a difference in terms of this — and I think it’s important that the message go out, that a murdered like Hakimullah Mehsud, who deliberately killed Americans, can’t find sanctuary just simply because he now indicates a vague interest in peace talks.

I think it’s now time the Taliban, both the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan Taliban, who are serious about reaching a political resolution and coming into politics, that they’ll come in because that’s their interest not because they somehow find it as a way to get clemency for their past acts of murder.

ZAKARIA:  Husain, you said something which struck me which is that there is a tendency in Pakistan to sympathize with the idea of talking to the Taliban.  There is a hostility to these kinds of targeted attacks.

But these guys are terrorists and they’ve killed many, many more Pakistanis than they’ve killed Americans.  Why is it that the — explain for us — you know, is the anti-Americanism so strong that even if America does something that actually gets rid of a terrorist who’s killing Pakistani civilians, people assume it must be a bad thing?

HAQQANI:  Fareed, if you read my book, you’ll find that the first anti-American demonstration was not a reaction to drone strikes.  It took place in May 1948.

Pakistan leaders have consistently negotiated with the United States by a riling of the Pakistani public against the U.S. and telling American leaders that I’m your best hope of keeping an unruly country under control.

And that process has not stopped.  So if the Pakistani public is simply not informed or educated about terrorism the way it ought to be, then there will be confusion.

ZAKARIA:  Briefly, Husain, where does this leave us?  Is this — you know, are these protests from the Pakistani government pro forma and in a few weeks we’ll be back to normal?

HAQQANI:  I think we will be back to some kind of a relationship.  Look, Prime Minister Sharif’s visit to Washington recently was the third attempt of a reset in relations between Pakistan and the United States since 9/11.

And I don’t think he or his government want that attempt to completely fail.  I think they will placate public opinion for a little while, but they will come back to talking to the U.S. because, at the end of the day, negotiating with the United States is far more important for Pakistan’s leaders than negotiating with the Taliban.

And when they do negotiate with the Taliban, they will have to have a plan for what they want at the end of it.  Do they want Taliban and their ideology to prevail in Pakistan or do they really want to take Pakistan into the 21st century?

ZAKARIA:  Husain Haqqani, James Steinberg, fascinating conversation.  We’ll be back in touch.

Up next, What in the World.  Has the United Nations come up with a way to actually end wars?  It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  I will explain.


ZAKARIA:  Now for our What in the World segment.  Take a look at this soldiers in the Congo, the blue helmets are, of course, a giveaway.  They are part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force.

That’s not exactly a terrifying group, is it?  After all, the U.N.’s Peacekeepers have always been seen as a rather hapless, toothless bunch.

But these guys are different.  They’re part of the U.N.’s new Intervention Force Brigade.  Unlike the rest of the blue helmets who are only allowed to act in defense as peacekeepers, these soldiers are on the offense with the authorization hunt and attack enemy forces.

This is a first, a historic change for the U.N and a new strategy in the Democratic Republic of Congo where more than five million have died since 1998 amidst a complex civil war.

Over the last 18 months, government troops have been fighting a rebel group called the M23.  The rebels were encroaching deeper into the country and had already taken over the city of Goma.

Meanwhile, the U.N.’s Peacekeepers were powerless to intervene.  They had no mandate to engage.  All that changed in March, when the U.N. gave a 3,000-strong force the green light to attack.  The balance of the fight shifted and, this week, the rebels surrendered.

Could this be a broader turning point?  Could the success in Congo be replicated elsewhere?  What effect would U.N. Peacekeepers have in Syria, for example?

Well, it’s not as simple as it sounds.  Consider the make-up of these peacekeeping forces to start.  As of September, there were a total of 97,000 U.N. troops, police and military experts.

It’s not a permanent force.  The personnel are actually loaned for various nations.  South Asian countries are the top providers, Pakistan and Bangladesh with about 8,000 each, followed by India, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

In return, the U.N. gives these nation’s a standard rate of $1,028 per soldier per month.  For many developing countries, including India, this is several times more than what a soldier actually gets paid by the government.

So if you’re a poor country, contributing troops to the U.N. is actually good business.

Now, look at the other side of the ledger.  According to the U.N., the total peacekeeping budget comes to $7.5 billion.  More than a quarter of that is funded by American taxpayers.  That’s more than the next three top contributors combined, Japan, France and Germany.  China and Russia are in sixth and eighth places, respectively.

Each of these funders has its own agenda.  So, for example, if the U.N. were to propose an aggressive roles in Syria, China and certainly Russia would likely oppose it.

Or take another example, U.N. Peacekeeping Forces could never police parts of Kashmir, the volatile area contested by India and Pakistan.  Among other problems, a substantial amount of troops are actually South Asian of course.

It’s a reminder that everything at the U.N. has to be sanctioned by its member states.  The U.N. cannot act without political will, resources and mandates from these countries.  And their national interests will often trump any broader international interest.

A 2005 study by the Rand Corporation compared major nation building operations that were led by the United States with those led by the United Nations.  Of the eight American led missions, only four were considered a success.  Germany, Japan, Bosnia and Kosovo while there were four failures including, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The U.N., actually, had a better track record.  Seven of its eight missions brought peace.  Of course, the U.N. tends to get into a situation when the major powers have already reached some kind of agreement.

Still, it’s worth giving some credit to these troops and a hoping that they will succeed in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they now are.

Up next, Edward Snowden says he’s being vilified when he actually did the United States a lot of good.  Did he?  We have two very smart guests with two different views.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR:  I’m Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines.  We’re getting a clear and more devastating picture today of the typhoon tragedy in the Philippines.  The mayor of the coastal city of Tacloban says the storm may have killed as many as 10,000 people.  The Philippine Red Cross estimates at least 1,200 people have been killed.  The typhoon has destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and left residents with little food and water.

Police in the Houston area are searching for two suspects after a shooting that left two people dead and 22 others injured.  The shooting occurred late Saturday at a house party in the suburb of Cypress.  Witnesses say the house was filled with about 100 people, mostly young adults.  Injuries ranged from critical to minor.

You might want to keep your eye on the sky for the next day or so.  A European satellite is tumbling into the Earth’s atmosphere.  No one knows exactly where it will land, but the ocean is the best bet.  If the satellite or parts of it happen to land in an area near you, you don’t have to worry about contamination from nuclear power.  It was powered by solar panels and a lithium ion battery.  Those are your top stories.  “Reliable Sources” is at the top of the hour.  Now back to Fareed Zakaria GPS.

This week, Germany’s “Der Spiegel” published a piece from Edward Snowden, an open letter with the grandiose title, “In a Manifesto for the Truth.”  The former U.S. intelligence contractor says he should not be vilified by Americans since his leaks have led to calls for reform of the intelligence agencies.  Indeed, in recent weeks as the revelations about the enormous extent of the NSA spying have rolled out, I have noticed a sea change in attitudes about Snowden.  In conversations I’ve had and opinion pieces I’ve read, many smart people are starting to believe that Snowden’s leaks were valuable, if not laudable.  One of these smart people is Edward Luce, the Washington columnist for “The Financial Times.”  He wrote a piece this week entitled, “Snowden Has Done Us All a Favor.”  Also, with us today, is Richard Falkenrath, former deputy homeland security adviser, former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and now a principal with the chart-off group and the contributing editor at Bloomberg TV.  I’m guessing, Richard doesn’t see Snowden as having done us any favors.

So, Ed, why don’t you start us off by telling us what do you think is the principle benefit of what Snowden did in the sense of I understand the revelations shed a light on this, but what are we doing wrong that needs to be fixed?

EDWARD LUCE, COMMENTATOR, FINANCIAL TIMES:  I think there are two principle benefits.  The first is that he has shown just how porous this system is.  He could sort of describe that as the friendly hacker benefit, or unfriendly hacker benefit, that he’s shown if a 29-year old working in Hawaii who is a high school dropout can download this kind of stuff, then thousands of other people — or perhaps tens of thousands of other people are capable of doing it.  It was going to happen anyway.  So, that’s useful from a national security point of view.  But I think far more importantly, he’s educated us about the degree to which our lives are monitored, chronicled, stored up in clouds, cross-tabulated.  That, you know, even those who are very sanguine about the need for intelligence, have been surprised by it.

My point, really, is that whatever Snowden’s personal motives, you know, whether he’s a saint or a criminal or a more complex mix of the two, the net effect of this I think will stimulate a debate that we need to have at this time of frighteningly changing technology.  The intelligence agencies are going to do what they can do.  That’s in effect what he’s taught us.  The only constraint on them is what they can do technologically.  And I think this is — it’s a huge service for us to be aware of the extent, to which that’s going on.

ZAKARIA:  So, first on the specifics of the wisdom, I can understand the NSA tapping — doing all kinds of things analyzing metadata to find terrorists in Europe.  Hamburg is a big city, you know, it was a big cell.  Should it be using its most aggressive methods to, for example, tap the phone of the chancellor of Germany when presumably the kind of intelligence it’s getting there is, you know, is Germany going to bail out Greece and questions which, fine, you can tap the phone, but you could also ask them, you would probably get 80 percent or 90 percent of the answer.  How should we think about that issue?

RICHARD FALKENRATH, FORMER DEPUTY HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER:  I think the basic point is correct, that that particular operation, if we look just at it based on what we know seems now imprudent.  And it was — been one because someone had said this is a low level, low priority intelligence requirement to collect on allied talks or whatever, a technology the NSA operatives figured out how to do it.  It was legal for them to do it, and so they did it.  Despite being legal, it was imprudent, because the risk to the bilateral relationship and, indeed, to the governance of the industry and to our telecommunication companies outweighed any possible benefit we can get.

ZAKARIA:  Do you think there should be greater constraints on the NSA in terms of what it can do, both in gathering data from private citizens abroad and gathering data from leaders?

FALKENRATH:  I — you’ve got to separate it from legal constraint and policy constraint.  On the legal side, I’m content with the current legal framework, and I hope that it doesn’t change as result of this, though it is possible — will be.  I think on the policy side what the administration does within the law and where it decides to put its priorities, that part needs to be tightened up and strengthened.

ZAKARIA:  But just for prudential reasons, the risk to reward ratio with an allied government, for example.


ZAKARIA:  … is not worth it.

FALKENRATH:  And that, I think, that we can argue went too far.

ZAKARIA:  But you are making a larger argument that in a democracy, the prospects of these intelligence agencies being able to, you know, tap phones, analyze — look at emails is frightening.

LUCE:  It is frightening.  It might well be necessary.  And maybe it is necessary.  But in a Google and Facebook and others are increasingly going to be depicted as the Huawei way — the Huawei ways of America by opponents, by competitors.  Huawei being the Chinese company, a telecom company that is often …

ZAKARIA:  It operates for the government when it is asked to.

LUCE:  Exactly.  And it’s seen as a sort of — of arm of the Chinese state.

FALKENRATH:  You mentioned this companies — Google, Facebook, Twitter, remember what their business model is.  I mean they are in the data-mining business themselves.  But instead of Article 2 of the Constitution as legal basis, they use in terms of service agreement, with their subscribers, which no one reads, which gives the company a permission to mine the data voluntarily provided to it, and that becomes the basis of a billion dollar business.  So there is a bit of irony for the chairman of Google to be criticizing this when his entire business consists of getting people to voluntarily turn over their data in exchange for a very good service.


FALKENRATH:  … which then is data-mined.

ZAKARIA:  Do you think this is a turning point that — I mean — you’ve been in Washington and you were at the White House.  Do you think that there is now going to be much — whether it’s the FISA courts, which people say, the courts that oversee the NSA, which seemed to have granted essentially every request the NSA ever made of it, do you think all of that is going to change?

FALKENRATH:  I think it will change in a global level.  I think this is a very big deal.  And we have had since really the big dawn of the Internet age, a U.S.- centric Internet.  And the U.S. companies are the most competitive in a global Internet economy.  We are still the hub of many data exchanges that are occurring around the world.  And I think this event, these disclosures, will accelerate a shift away from that to a more multipolar Internet.

ZAKARIA:  Gentlemen, pleasure to have you on.  Thank you so much.

Up next, a special way to transform a struggling city.  The answer involves using bright colors of paint.  I’ll explain when I speak with the prime minister of Albania, next.


ZAKARIA:  My next guest is a man who’s dabbled in many careers.  He was once a painter living in Paris.  He was once part of his country’s basketball team.  Then he turned to politics. He became the mayor of Tirana, the capital of Albania.  Now, he has a different position in Tirana.  In June he was elected prime minister of the country.  Edi Rama joins me.

I want to talk to you about what you did as mayor.  Because I think it’s a fascinating story.  Tirana have lot of problems, a lot of crime and you decided to solve it by painting.  What did you do?  Explain.

EDI RAMA, PRIME MINISTER, ALBANIA:  When I was elected with a very big majority, I had to face a very high expectation with no budget.  And so I decided to start and paint the buildings, the old communist buildings that were then deformed by illegal interventions.  Everyone trying to get his own space after the change, so breaking …

ZAKARIA:  After the fall of communism.

RAMA: Breaking windows in the first floor to transform living rooms in flower shops or in bars breaking ceilings up to have an additional room, transforming balconies in part of the space, and so all of this wild deconstructivism full of dust and gray has been painted and turned to be really u-turned for Tirana from a city where everyone got lost in dust and waste in a city of hope.

ZAKARIA:  But explain why painting the buildings orange, what did that do?

RAMA:  It was, like, a wake-up call for people because when I was elected practically the municipality was an unexistent institution, tax collection was absolutely ridiculously low.  People would not participate, would not pay taxes, wouldn’t want to listen about any regulation, because from a very frozen society, totally collectivistic, passing in a space of freedom where everyone wanted to redefine its own identity was kind of very, very difficult.  So …

ZAKARIA:  And your first painting …

RAMA:  Trying to bring people in was not through words, but through giving them signs that yes, the city can be livable and so, everyone can enjoy it, but also should participate.

ZAKARIA:  When you first tried to paint the buildings all these different colors, the E.U. tried to stop you, because they said it didn’t conform to E.U. standards.

RAMA:  And in fact, it came — it came like this — it was a project of fixing some sidewalks and some lighting in the entrance row of Tirana with E.U. money.  Small money.  And so I then decided to paint the facades with these strong colors that were like really a wake-up call.  And when the first buildings started to be painted, I had a call from the guy who was in charge and he said, Mr. Mayor, this is a catastrophe.  It’s traffic jam, everybody is stopping.  It’s a catastrophe.  And I have this French man who was supervisor of E.U. just screaming at me.  I don’t understand what he’s saying, but he’s very nervous.

So, I went there and I saw — it’s like — it was like the really big car accident in the middle of the street so everybody watching this facade of orange some laughing, some screaming, some saying what’s happening and then this guy came to me and said, this is scandal.  I said what is scandal?  This horrible color is a scandal.  How one can stand this.  I said, OK.  We want to do it.  And they said, no.  Stop it.  Because it’s out of any standards.  Any E.U. standard.  I said do you see anything in E.U. standards around?  He said, no, but this is with our money.  I said OK, if you want to stop it, then I’ll make a press conference and will say that you are acting like the Stalinist commissions that decided what color is the sky, what color is the land, what color is the skin of the people.  And then he said, we may negotiate.  I said every negotiation is great.  So, every consensus is great.  So, let us do it.  And so, we did it, and then the effect was fantastic.  Because people started to participate and then started to reshape their shops and everything so they felt safer.  And this was a beautiful thing.

ZAKARIA:  So, I mean there’s this theory in the United States called the broken window theory.

RAMA:  Yes.

ZAKARIA:  You must know it, right?  Which is like you go into a crime ridden neighborhood and the first thing you do is you fix the broken windows and that makes people have a sense of order and then they start reclaiming it.  Is that what you think you did?

RAMA:  My experience showed me very clearly that beauty is much more intimidating if I may say than brutality.  So, what you can do with colors, with greenery, with lighting, with public spaces, you can never do with police and with, you know, law enforcements in a neighborhood where people have nothing to lose.

ZAKARIA:  Mr. prime minister, pleasure to have you on.

RAMA:  Thank you.

ZAKARIA:  Up next, the key to a TV rating success in Norway.  No, not GPS sadly.  It is instead about woolly sweaters.  I will explain.


ZAKARIA:  The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate to a record low of 0.25 percent on Thursday in a bid to inject some vigor into the European economy.  Meanwhile, the United States Federal Reserve’s target interest rate remains at an all-time low, also at 0.25 percent

That brings me to my question of the week.  What is the all-time highest interest rate for the U.S. Federal Reserve?  Is it A, eight percent, B, 12 percent, c, 15 percent, or d 20 percent?  Stay tuned.  We’ll tell you the correct answer.

My book of the week is actually a magazine.  The “Atlantic’s” “Technology” issue is absolutely first rate.  Take a look at two great articles, one on artificial intelligence, the other one why computers are making us lose valuable skills.  Think of GPS and your ability to navigate as one example.  Also, a list of the 50 greatest inventions since the wheel.  The last part is a bit gimmicky, but you’re likely to find yourself arguing with it.

And now for the last look.  In Norway, where the divorce rate is 40 percent, one official has some advice for married couples.  Do as Tina Fey and Steve Carell did in the movie “Date Night.”  Go out.  The date ended with car chases and mobster confrontations …


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, it turned sideways …


ZAKARIA:  But at least they weren’t home on the couch.  Last Friday, 1.3 million Norwegians were home watching the smash hit television show.  That’s a quarter of the nation’s population, tuning in for over 12 uninterrupted hours for a national knitting evening.  Yes.  Knitting.  So-called slow TV is huge here.  Whether it’s seven hour train rides, a full day of salmon fishing, 12 hours of burning wood or 30 hour interviews.  More than 50 percent of the population once tuned in for a ship’s 134-hour coastline cruise.  The knitting evening did have a dramatic twist.  After hours of knitting, they attempted to break the world time record for producing a sweater.  Starting from the very beginning the shearing of a sheep.

They unfortunately missed the record books, but eight and a half hours later, voila, a sweater.  One company plans to bring slow TV to the United States.  Perhaps it will be a hit.

Compared with 21 hours of Senator Ted Cruz reading “Green Eggs and Ham” discussions about wool seem absolutely spellbinding.

The correct answer to our “GPS Challenge” question was D, 20 percent.  To combat double digit inflation, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker briefly raised interest rates to 20 percent in the early 1980s.  This contributed to the country’s plunge into recession, but of course, its subsequent recovery.  The historical average in the U.S. has been around six percent.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week.  I will see you next week.  Stay tuned for “Reliable Sources.”