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Burden of Proof

Espionage Case Puts Strain on U.S.-Russian Relations

Aired March 26, 2001 - 12:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ROGER COSSACK, HOST: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

In the mid-1980s, the era of Gorbachev and Perestroika ushered in a new chapter in America-Russian relations and the openness of Glasnost led to the fall of the Soviet empire. We'll be talking about that and more on BURDEN OF PROOF, when we come back. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We responded in a way that was measured, realistic, practical and as far as we are concerned, that ended the matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEI KARAGANOV, POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think that this particular episode will have a lasting effect. I mean we know the spy scandals usually have an effect for two to four weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we can have good, strong relations with the Russians. They'll just understand my administration is one that takes firm positions when we think we're right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

In the mid-1980s, diplomatic tensions between the White House and Russia began to erode because Perestroika began to take place and relationships began to become warmer. But now, last month, a 25-year veteran within the FBI was found out and we, and it turns out that Robert Hanssen, FBI mole, was in the White House and now we are back, perhaps, to where the Cold War was. Joining us today on our show is Oleg Kalugin, who is a former with the -- excuse me. Let me just get this straight so I can have it, Oleg Kalugin, who is formerly with the KGB, David Major, who is formerly with the FBI here in Washington, Catherine Dunnigan (ph), who is on our left in the front, and in the back, Laura Spattanooda (ph) and Chris Canty (ph). Looks like we had some problems, but we'll try and get these things all worked out as we start.

First, Oleg, I want to go right to you. As a former KGB member, what has happened recently with Robert Hanssen is such that it calls back the old cold war. Is this something that we are now going back to, the cold war between the Russians and the United States?

OLEG KALUGIN, FORMER KGB MAJOR GENERAL: I would not characterize the situation as you do. I think the elements of the cold war are obvious, but to go back to the cold war you have to revive the Soviet empire -- the Soviet empire is dead -- subversion of which was the part and parcel and the heart and soul of Soviet KGB operations is now dead, no more.

Intelligence collections has remained, but it has been on the upswing lately, that's correct, because in Russia today, particularly with Mr. Putin's ascent to power, we have the former KGB officers who are willing to restore Russia's greatness, who wish to put the Russia on the same footing as the United States and who, in fact, revived some of the old practices and tactics.

So in that sense, some elements of the cold war have definitely crept into international affairs. And, well, the United States responded in kind when they found out about Hanssen. But I believe that Hanssen is on the surface. Things go far beyond that.

Over the last several months, at least a couple of Russian intelligence officers defected to the west, one in Canada, the other in the United States. And they obviously revealed to the U.S. government something which really made them exasperated and angered the country, which has been trying to facilitate Russia's economic progress, Russia's democracy have been fooled. I mean the country recipients of that aid, of that good will, instead used the taxpayers money to pay for the spies on the United States. And that's what makes things really different.

COSSACK: David, Oleg says that well, it's not going back to the way it was in the cold war, but, in fact, perhaps it's gotten a little icier. In terms of relationships now between the United States and Russia, is it more important than ever that we have counterintelligence?

DAVID MAJOR, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Absolutely.

COSSACK: Why?

MAJOR: The intelligence targeting of the United States is not a byproduct of the cold war. I mean during the time that the Soviet Union was our ally during W.W.II there were 235 agents of the NKVD operating in the United States. COSSACK: That was the forerunner of the KGB?

MAJOR: Correct. And that was during the time that they were allied against Hitler. Now, during the cold war we had intelligence collection because it was in our interests and it was also in Russia's interests to do that. But just because we now have a warmer relationship and I hope we have a very warm relationship with the modern Russia, it is in their national interests to try to collect intelligence.

But what was interesting in this case is that Putin and the Russian government made the decision to deploy according to public information over 200 intelligence officers here in the United States. Now, that's a very large number and that makes it very difficult for counterintelligence to deal with those kinds of numbers.

COSSACK: All right, we talk about intelligence and we understand that. That's the gathering of facts, the gathering of information. But then we talk about counterintelligence. What's the difference? Oleg, what's counterintelligence?

KALUGIN: Well, the main mission of counterintelligence is to combat hostile intelligence services, to neutralize, to make them inefficient and ineffective. Well, in a sense counterintelligence people, in my judgment, should be superior to intelligence people because they have to defeat the enemy, who is well equipped to spy on the hostile country. So they have to be intelligence officers and counterintelligence officers. They have to know the trade craft of the intelligence and they have to develop and perfect their own trade craft, how to combat the intelligence operations.

COSSACK: David, you obviously were very involved with counterintelligence and here's your counterpart. When you would plan counterintelligence, tell us how the planning goes ahead to do that?

MAJOR: Well, counterintelligence is all about being very sophisticated in the methodologies used to look at what I call the art of the probable. Oleg is absolutely right and when you talk about the facts, you have to have a complete understanding of what intelligence collectors are doing.

Now, it's not always done, collection is not always done by hostile countries. In fact, the United States has a number of friendly countries that also conduct intelligence against us. That's the first thing you have to do in your planning process, do you care if some nation wants to run intelligence operations against you?

Once you do that, you have to understand how they do it, where they do it, what they're trying to get. Then you have to forge and mount an operation to identify, penetrate and then neutralize this activity. And counterintelligence is not about catching spies and prosecuting. It is about neutralizing the activity of intelligence collection against your national interests.

COSSACK: And Hurst, if I could go to you for a second, Hurst Hannum in Boston, the notion that we in America try and run an open and free society -- we have the First Amendment, free speech -- how does that fit in with what we're trying to do in terms of intelligence and counterintelligence?

HURST HANNUM, INTERNATIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: Well, I think that it's clear that our commitment to free speech is not absolute and freedom of information, as well. Spying and counter spying is something done by every country and something that even international law sanctions.

The action that the Bush administration took in expelling the Russian diplomats, while it may have been wise or unwise, was certainly legal, as was the counteraction taken by the Russian authorities.

So it shouldn't surprise us that these sort of games go on. Sometimes one might question whether they're more due to testosterone than an actual need to gather information.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. When we come back, did the Hanssen case touch off a domino effect in exposing alleged spies or did it just make U.S. officials more paranoid? Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I believe that our State Department and this administration took the right actions in terms of indicating that we will not tolerate the kind of efforts and activities that characterized the problems we had recently announced in the FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Late last week, Pentagon-Kremlin tensions heightened as the U.S. and Russia expelled diplomats from their respective capitals. The latest moves come in the wake of the arrest of a 25 year FBI veteran for allegedly spying for the Russians since 1985.

Once again joining us today from Boston is international law professor Hurst Hannum.

Hurst, the notion of diplomatic immunity, how does that play in terms of what we can do and what we really can't do to these people that we suspect of being spies?

HANNUM: Well, it's one of the areas of international law that is absolutely clear, which is unusual. What's clear is that diplomatic immunity is absolute. It covers murder, it covers traffic accidents and it covers spying. And so once a person is suspected of being a spy or even proven of being a spy, if that person is accredited to the diplomatic establishment of another country, the only recourse that the United States has is to expel that person.

That expulsion can be immediate. There don't have to be any causes behind it. And that in a sense is an exchange for the immunity the diplomats enjoy.

Remember, it's a two way street. International law and diplomatic practice are not handed on down from on high. They're developed by countries because it's in their best interests to do so. Our people spy, their people spy. It was quite amusing, to some extent, to hear the administration say that they wouldn't tolerate this sort of activity when one of the things that Mr. Hanssen is accused of disclosing is our building of a tunnel underneath the Russian embassy so that we could listen in to their discussions.

One might recall that the United States refused to move into its new embassy in Moscow for exactly the same reason. The Russians were attempting to monitor our conversations in the embassy. So this sort of tit for tat thing has gone on for centuries. It's expected and it really isn't a very big deal except, perhaps, in this case because of the size of the expulsions.

COSSACK: Oleg, could the argument be made or is it just totally off base that, in fact, spying is a valve, is a pressure valve that in some way lets each side know what the other side is doing and in some way in that sense keeps the pressure down?

KALUGIN: Well, intelligence has a positive role, though we may denounce and do not agree with what has been going on between our two countries. If we recall the Penkovsky affair, one of the CIA spies in Russia, he helped the United States to understand better the Khrushchev's position on the Cuban missile crisis and, in fact, helped avoid a major military confrontation between the two powers.

So spies may help in international relations however despicable their actions and however nasty they may be as characters.

COSSACK: David, the notion of this tit for tat that we're talking about, the idea that Hanssen is discovered and then suddenly Russians and Americans are forced to leave the country, is that a game? Is that a dance that we play?

MAJOR: It's far more sophisticated than a game. This is only the second time in American history there's ever been a mass expulsion. In the wake of the Ames case, there was one intelligence officer from the SVR here in Washington was sent back. That serves no useful purpose other than sending a message, but a very low level message. Nothing really happens.

But when you have a mass expulsion, what you do is you really cripple the intelligence capability of the country that loses the most intelligence officers. Now, there's a lot of debate about, you know, does this help us or hurt us the most when we also lose people in Moscow? We had this exact same debate when I was at the White House and the Reagan administration expelled 80 intelligence officers and the United States lost 10 people in Moscow and only five of those were intelligence personnel.

The fact of the matter is if you have more intelligence officers, you have more to lose if you lose those officers.

COSSACK: But aren't they just replaced by someone else?

MAJOR: There's the big difference. If you lose 50 intelligence officers, let's say, here in the United States and we lose five in Moscow, it's easier to reconstitute five than it is 50 and you have to have special type of officers. You have to have good ones who speak English and to get 50 people to come in who may not be known by Western intelligence, the FBI may not know who they are, it takes a lot longer for them to reconstitute that capability.

Everybody has some intelligence officers but when you flood the zone, what it does is it cripples the American -- the capability of American counterintelligence to deal with it.

COSSACK: Oleg, why wasn't the FBI able to catch Robert Phillip Hanssen?

KALUGIN: Well, I think the reason is clear, they found a mole or recruited someone inside the Russian intelligence service and that mole just simply betrayed Hanssen and we shall hear more about it. When the trial comes around, we'll know probably the real source. But it's obviously sources, a human source inside the Russian intelligence service.

COSSACK: All right, and David, you actually supervised Mr. Hanssen for a few years. There was a time when he was, there was a suspect, he was -- or not he was suspected, but there was a suspect of having a mole, a Russian mole, and he actually ended up doing the investigation.

MAJOR: That's true.

COSSACK: Tell us about that.

MAJOR: I've known Bob since 1981 and from 1988 to 1990 he was my subordinate's subordinate. So he was two levels away from me. I dealt with Bob every single day and we think that you can tell somebody who might be betraying you based on their personality. It's not true with Bob Hanssen. He was like John LeCarre, "The Perfect Spy," and he was so good as an analyst and at supervising other cases that he was at that one level that everybody has to have in counterintelligence and he actually was given the assignment in 1988 to write a study about leads that had come indicating the FBI had been penetrated.

It was a very closely held report and when I read that in the affidavit, that here's this top secret report, I mean why did, you said why couldn't we catch Bob Hanssen? And all of the FBI, there were just a handful of people who have to know everything and he was like that cream. He was not too senior, which meant he wouldn't know because he was running the organization. And he wasn't too junior that he was compartmented out, right man, right place. He knew where all the parts were and therefore he could beat it.

COSSACK: All right, more on intelligence and counterintelligence when we return.

Excuse me, we just got some information. We're going to toss it to Lou Waters in Atlanta -- Lou?

(INTERRUPTED FOR A LIVE EVENT)

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