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Violent Protests in Turkey

Aired June 11, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening to our viewers here and watching around the world on CNN International right now.

We start with the breaking news, obviously, the police crackdown on protesters picking up again over the last several hours in Turkey's biggest city, Istanbul, and now spreading to Turkey's capital, Ankara, as well.

You're looking at Taksim Square in the middle of Istanbul. What began late last month as a protest against bulldozing a park nearby has evolved into something bigger focusing against the government itself at times and the policies of Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan.

What you're seeing has ebbed and flowed throughout the evening, police moving in, then regrouping, many protesters leaving, some digging in. The situation heating up again within the past hour or so and as we said there are now reports of unrest on the streets of Ankara, police in the Turkish capital firing tear gas overnight toward apparent protesters as armored vehicles cleared makeshift barricades along the streets.

Meantime, this latest chapter here Taksim Square is still unfolding. Minute by minute, it seems to change, began over the span of several intense hours tonight when police moved into the square. Some of what you will see and hear in the video we're about to show you are not gunshots, but protesters setting off small fireworks and also the sound of tear gas canisters firing. Much of what you will see and here I chaos with correspondents right in the middle of it.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those rounds are being shot directly into Gezi Park. There were thousands, tens of thousands of demonstrators who were peaceful. Again, we were standing right here when something like an altercation seemed to have broke out.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We don't know what sparked this police move. But then I could say there was some sort of altercation. They have been seeing that though all day, so no specific reason why that itself would cause a trigger to such an enormous response by police.

I will just let you see the fireworks going off behind me now. It's unclear if they are celebratory or just seeing earlier on today being fired at the police as part of the protests. We're seeing people run away now again scattering. It's not quite clear why we're haven't heard the familiar crack of tear gas again. But they are moving. There we are. So much of the danger for people in these situations of course is that fear of mass panic where people run in an unknown direction for unknown reasons. Here is the banging again.

DAMON: We're right now in the very front of the park. You can see people trying to help us out because of the tear gas. The entire front part of the park right now has been cleared out because of the intensity of what was just fired in.

People are incredibly angry, infuriated as to the way the government has been handling all of this.

But it's become a bit of a routine. Tear gas is fired in, people clear out and then they move right back in.

WALSH: Just a couple of -- 10 seconds ago, a minute, a massive volley of tear gas from the police in that direction and now one, two, three -- I'm going to have put this gas mask on, I'm afraid.


COOPER: As we said, this has been going on for hours. The situation continues to unfold at this moment.

Arwa Damon, Nick Paton Walsh are still out there, still on the scenes, on the front lines. they join us now, along with chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, host of "AMANPOUR" on CNN International. She recently interviewed Turkey's prime minister, and here in New York, Ivan Watson, who lives in straight ahead, reports on Turkey regularly for us.

Nick, first of all, explain your vantage point, where you are in relation to where Arwa is and what is happening right now.

WALSH: Right me behind, Anderson, just as you started talking, we're seeing fireworks.

And we have seen these fired towards police for much of the last 19 hours I have been standing here. It seems to be the weapon of choice. We will give you a moment to listen to this. It appears to be the weapon of choice of protesters.

Now, it's a confusing situation down the street closest to me. Let me explain. We're talking about a square here, the park. Arwa, when you saw her footage earlier on, was on the far side. I'm on the near side towards me. Down the left, police earlier on this evening made a substantial foray. They pushed a lot of armored trucks, water cannons, bulldozers, clearing barricades, pushing everybody back.

I can't see the entirety of the road where I'm standing, but in the last half-hour protesters seemed to have crept back up that road. That I think is where those fireworks were fired from. So it begs the question, what is the police strategy here? How do they intend to retain control of the territory they push forward and take?

And we have been asking this question for much of the night. Hard to really understand exactly what their final game plan is. Tear gas now being released in that area, that is the standard tactic when they see opposition. They fire these enormous volleys of tear gas cannons.

They drift across the square, often blowing with the prevailing winds into our live position here. I'm hearing the shouts of protesters right now behind me down that road. We had thought that much of that protest had been pushed back, but we saw some of the armored water cannon trucks move in, in fact, fire water cannons into Gezi Park itself.

And we're just now having seen for about two hours pretty much calm in this larger part of Taksim Square as the police went about their business, using bulldozers, collecting the debris, the barricades, the leftovers, and ferrying them off. Things appeared to have been under control to a degree, but now we saw those fireworks. So, it's clearly a bit of fight left in the protests now.

COOPER: So, Nick, explain this, because we have been watching bulldozers move in, as well as those water cannons, as well as columns of police. So, are they not occupying and holding territory, the police, once they have taken it? Or are they -- you say protesters in some cases are moving back. How is that possible?

WALSH: Well, if you can imagine a square that is the park, on one side of the square closest towards the main streets of this massive Turkish city, they're clearing away the debris in between that and Istiklal, the main street in straight ahead here.

The two side roads that go down the sides of that particular park, they still seem to be contested. I don't know what's happening in the one further away from me. That's where Arwa was earlier on. What is closer to me here, there are still protesters there. I believe -- I believe at this point they are small in number.

It's hard to see the scale of them, but I'm seeing flags again near the barricades, too. So, yes, as you point out, Anderson, the confusing thing has been the absence of a police strategy to retain control of territory. Now, it may they're lacking in numbers. It may be that by doing that, they would end up in continued confrontation with protesters.

A loud bang behind me here. Sometimes, that is police stun grenades, sometimes tear gas. That did sound more like a firework. Hard to tell at this particular point, but continued clashing. There seems to be firing, my calling tells me, down the far road away from me here on the other side of the park. Police, you can now see moving in down that far road.

I have been down there last night. There were buses in the way before, barricades. It heads down to one of the main hotels here in this upscale part of Istanbul. But after those moments of calm, again, we're hearing blasts here in the very heart of Istanbul, 19 hours now of this.

Hard to understand why police would want it to go on this long, unless they are encountering more resistance than they expected, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, and extraordinary images to watch when you know what Turkey is normally like at 3:07, 3:08 a.m. Turkey time in the morning. This has been going on. As Nick said, he's been standing there for 18, 19 hours.

I want to check in with Arwa Damon, who I believe is still on the other side of the square.

Arwa, explain where you are in relation to Nick and what you're seeing now.

DAMON: I am actually exactly on the other side of the square from where Nick is.

And we're holed up inside a hotel that has kindly opened its doors to us. And dozens of other demonstrators have even set up a makeshift field clinic and near the street outside (INAUDIBLE) I can barely see Gezi Park that is less than 20 feet across the street from me because the smoke from the tear gas is so thick at this point in time.

Now, similar to the street -- and Nick has a vantage point on this also near the street that the demonstrators had been occupying -- they were clashing with the riot police down one end of the street and then there was this intense, intense volley of tear gas that effectively cleared all of it of the demonstrators, a lot of that tear gas falling in Gezi Park itself, causing complete chaos, pandemonium, people running into this hotel.

Then we saw the riot police with armored vehicles driving down the street pushing all of the barricades away. They then -- there were a handful of demonstrators that went back out and then now -- right now, the tear gas is starting up once again. People in this hotel have towels shoved underneath the door.

They aren't letting anyone out, although they do open it for whenever anyone wants to come back in. And they have dimmed the lights.


DAMON: ... try not to draw too much attention.

COOPER: I want to show our viewers what you experienced and the people around you experienced just a few moments ago before we went on air. Let's take a look at that.


DAMON: People here are really rallying around one another as well. You will see a lot of them pouring this white liquid into each other's eyes. That's actually an anti-acid that they mix with water that helps ease the sting, ease the burn.

Remember, the government had promised to allow the Gezi Park demonstration itself continue. And whilst the riot police have not entered the park itself, the tear gas is now landing inside the park.

This is another -- if I just move around here forward, the street right below here is where those clashes were taking place in between the demonstrators and the riot police. (INAUDIBLE) the riot police managing to move forward.

Some of the demonstrators trying to push their way forward right now -- they will run forward sometimes and grab those tear gas canisters and lob them right back at the riot police (INAUDIBLE) they are both screaming be careful to one another.

And when you see what is happening, also, you (INAUDIBLE) that people that will try to calm those inside the camp down because it's so densely populated here that when -- don't even -- that so densely populated here that when the tear gas canisters do -- sorry. I can't really see where I'm going.

I think we're in a pretty OK position. What you can see in front of our cameras right now is some of the demonstrators are trying to collect bits of stones.


COOPER: So, Arwa, in terms of what we're looking at -- I want to continue just looking at this video -- let's look at it full screen. You don't need to see me.

What is going on? Because you're wearing -- at that point, you're wearing the gas mask so it's a little hard to understand what you're saying. Explain exactly where that street is and then what happens in this video.


So that particular video that you were just watching, that is actually the same street that Nick has the vantage point on. I am currently on the other side of the park.


COOPER: And then what happened?


COOPER: We just saw video of a guy -- Arwa, we just saw video of a guy dropping to the ground.

DAMON: ... intense. And we had to move back. And then we were unable -- we were unable to move back adequately enough. We ended up evacuating the park with a bunch of the demonstrators.

It was complete and total chaos, coming to the other side of the park, the other street on the completely separate direction. And that area too commanded a phenomenally intense volley of tear gas. So, as I was saying, right now, we're inside this hotel right next to them. I can see the tear gas billowing over Gezi Park itself right now.


DAMON: The police are trying to clear these streets running alongside us.

COOPER: Arwa, we see protesters in this video because we're still watching the video from moments ago. It looks like a protester was -- drops to the ground. They look like they are picking up tear gas canisters, throwing it back at the police. Has that area now been cleared?

DAMON: We actually moved away from that area into another part. It was very difficult to tell, though.

What seems to happen is that the protesters clear out when the tear gas gets fired, and then they slowly trickle back. That's what we're seeing happening in the area that we're in right now.


DAMON: And then that, of course, has elicited yet another heavy bombardment of tear gas.


DAMON: A lot of these protesters, Anderson, we were speaking with them throughout the day, and they really came up just wanting to highlight one thing, that they would consider themselves up until now as being apolitical, but because of the situation, being how much it's escalated, they feel as if they do have to go out and stand with the others that are in the Gezi Park themselves.

Most of them are people -- and they are professionals. They go to work during the day and then they come and they demonstrate at night. And everyone around us is just so shocked and angry at how the government is handling all of this.

COOPER: That was Arwa Damon.

We have to take a short break. We are going to be joined by Christian in just a moment, also Professor Fouad Ajami, all our correspondents in the region.

We are going to take a short break. We will be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. You're looking at Taksim Square in the middle of Istanbul as police moved in with tear gas and water cannons, this obviously earlier today. Protesters retreated, but have trickled back in, in some spots. In just the last few minutes, we began seeing armored trucks pushing people back, police tear gassed, protesters launching fireworks in return.

Back with us, Arwa Damon, Nick Paton Walsh on the ground, on the front lines, Christiane Amanpour, Ivan Watson here in New York. Joining us now also is Professor Fouad Ajami, senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Christiane, what do you make of it? You have been talking to Turkish officials all day? What do you make of what you're seeing?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is obviously one huge question, to state the obvious, how is this going to end?

All sides now have got their backs to the wall, and there is no sense of how there is going to be any kind of common ground reached. Prime Minister Erdogan started all of this by calling -- not started all of this, but once it started, started to call them louts and riffraff.

Now he's been trying to sort of make a distinction between what he calls legitimate protesters and vandals, extremists, terrorists even. How is this going to end? There is allegedly going to be a meeting tomorrow between the prime minister and what we were told were a delegation of protesters.

But now what I'm told by a newspaper editor there, that this is going to be a singer, an artist and an actor, people who are close to the governing party and the government, got nothing to do with the protesters. The protesters aren't going. So how is that going to change?

What I was also told by a chief adviser to Prime Minister Erdogan this evening is that there are designated areas for protests. That's what their strategy seems to be.

Gezi Park, which Arwa has been reporting from and where the tent city is and where people are, I was told, is going to remain a protest zone.

COOPER: Gezi Park, steps away from Taksim Square.

AMANPOUR: Yes, just a little bit above Taksim Square, a few steps up there.

And the police are not meant to enter there, according to the prime minister's people. What we saw in Taksim Square was also announced by the mayor tonight, who said, people, stay away for your own safety. We are going to clear the square. The police will use unremitting efforts day and night to clear the square. That's what we're seeing. COOPER: Ivan, you live there. You have been covering this. What is this about and what do you make of this?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the biggest civil disobedience we have seen in Istanbul and in Turkey in a generation.

And there are a few fringe groups, communists, socialists that have Molotov cocktails and that have been fighting with the police with slingshots and things like that, but for the most part, this is a young generation of Turks who were apolitical.

Guys I know like a rock guitarist who just smoked pot all day who is out -- been mobilized somehow, grassroots just out of nowhere out of frustration at their prime minister and his lecturing for more than a decade and telling them how to live their lives.

COOPER: So you're saying something is changing in Turkey?

WATSON: Something has snapped in this society. And what is making it worse and what is astounding is the insults that have been hurled by this prime minister against these young people, who really never cared about politics before and are really frustrated and want to be heard, and just feel so -- I'm hearing some people -- they are being pushed to the fringes now.

COOPER: What I don't understand, though, and just from the images, you would think Istanbul is aflame. How much widespread support do the people in that square have?

WATSON: Entire neighborhoods at 9:00 at night -- and granted they tend to be more middle-class, wealthier, and secular -- ring out with the banging of pots and pans at 9:00 every night.

And that's going on for more than a week. I have never seen behavior like that in Turkey in the more than 10 years that I have lived there.

COOPER: We just got video from Ankara, I'm told, so let's take a look at that. You will be seeing it just as I am seeing it, for the first time.

Police responding again with tear gas, some water cannons to protesters in Ankara.

Fouad Ajami is also joining us.

Fouad, obviously, a lot of people seeing this, they're going to think back to Tahrir Square. Is this completely different than that?

FOUAD AJAMI, HOOVER INSTITUTION: You know, Anderson, I really believe it's different, it's very different in many ways. And Ivan Watson knows Turkey much better than I could.

I was just there and had the chance. It was just by accident -- I was coming back from Iraqi Kurdistan -- that I witnessed some of the upheaval in Turkey. This is a moment of truth for Prime Minister Erdogan, obviously, and the circumstances under which leaders lose the mandate of heaven are always mysterious.

A society can put up with a leader for many years, it can turn to him, it can need him, it can tolerate his eccentricity, and then something snaps. And it's really about that. Is it like the Tahrir Square? I don't think so. The Turks are very earnest. They're very law-abiding.

When you look at Tahrir Square and what happened in Egypt -- and you were there -- you were in the middle of it -- something like 800 Egyptians fell in that protest. This is nothing like that.

And let's give -- let's give Erdogan his due. He had come to power through the ballot box. He has won three elections since 2002. He is not Hosni Mubarak. He's a man brought to power by the ballot box who acts in very undemocratic ways sometimes. And it's really about temperament, his own character.

He's a very stubborn man. He has the character of the neighborhood in Istanbul he comes from, Kasimpasa. He's a tough guy. And this is -- there are circumstances when toughness just isn't good enough.

COOPER: Christiane, you're saying he's a fighter?

AMANPOUR: Well, I just that Professor Ajami is actually absolutely right in terms of his particular character.

And he's known as a fighter. Kasimpasa is an area where he came from. Remember, he was the major of Istanbul before this. Just this evening, an official told me, look, everybody is wondering about Erdogan. This is Erdogan who we have known for a long time and Erdogan himself says, I'm not going to change.

Now, is this going to be the moment of truth? And how is this all going to fall out? But what we also need to remember is that, according to, let's say, the former foreign minister of England today said to me, if this had happened before Erdogan under different regimes, there would be no protests for 12 days. This would have been brutally and bloodily crushed immediately.

So there are protests. That's a good thing. It's being allowed to happen. On the other hand, he's done an enormous amount of good for Turkey, but as people are now saying -- and Ivan knows and he's been watching it, and Fouad Ajami knows and everybody does -- people say that Erdogan has developed an authoritarian streak. He doesn't brook dissent. He doesn't brook criticism.

I interviewed him a few months ago and I asked him, is the prime minister off-limits when it comes to criticism? And he said no, no, I'm criticized all the time, but I just make a -- I draw a line between being insulted.

Well, I'm not quite sure exactly what that difference is.

COOPER: What that line is, yes.

AMANPOUR: And, you know, they have put a huge number of journalists in jail. There's very little space for political dissent.

And after three terms -- he's in his third term -- people are becoming sort of angry.

COOPER: Ivan, you were saying during the breaks that he is calling some of these protesters terrorists. And, in Turkey, terrorists -- you can get jailed.

WATSON: There are really broad definitions of terrorism in Turkey, according to their constitution. And it's deeply problematic, because it means somebody can write something and they get detained and wait for a year for prison.

So a lot of these kids who have been out saying -- criticizing their prime minister in ways that they never have before are very frightened that when he succeeds perhaps in subduing the protests in the streets, that he is going to come back, he has a reputation for being vindictive, coming back and rounding people up one by one for the things that they have written and posted.

And a number of tweeters in the port city of Izmir, more than 30, were detained and are now starting to face charges for inciting violence over social media, which Erdogan has called a menace to society.

COOPER: You're looking at live pictures right now from Istanbul

If Nick Paton Walsh is there, Nick, what are you seeing? What is going on? It looks like police moving in?

WALSH: It's hard to tell, Anderson, when you see movements of police if it's simply shift changes -- remember, police have been doing very long hours here as well -- or whether that marks some new progress on the ground.

It's been comparatively quiet for the last 10 to 15 minutes, the focus on clearing this area, but there is still that pocket of protest down the left-hand side of the park. It seems to be reasonably substantial. It's hard to tell, given the distance in the dark down there. Police are not moving against them, though.

When we first spoke to you earlier, Anderson, you saw those fireworks. They were emanating from that direction. So clearly, that's something the police will have to deal with if they want to have control of the perimeter around Gezi Park before dawn, in about two-and-a-half-hours from now.

But we are seeing continued activity in central Taksim, bulldozers moving in, collecting debris, removing those barricades. I think that's what the police want to achieve as quickly as possible, clearing the empty concrete space. But, as I say, they have still got this issue of protesters that once they push them back simply return to their original position, no matter how much damage they have done to the barricades with police bulldozers -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. And then, of course, as you said, what happens during daylight hours, which is a few hours away?

Everybody, stay with us. Our story continues to unfold even into the early hours of the morning. Still out on the streets, protesters are, in Turkey -- also, back in Washington, new reaction from the White House ahead.


COOPER: If you're just joining us, we're following the breaking news in Turkey. Police cracking down on protesters in central Istanbul. Also now, reports of violence in Ankara. Of course, reaction in Taksim Square, Istanbul. Bulldozers, armored vehicles, water cannons. This is what it looked like.




COOPER: You can hear pops of tear gas canisters being fired, police firing water cannons, stun grenades at protestors.

The clashes have ebbed and flowed throughout the evening. We're talking 18, 19 hours. What began last month as an environmental protest has grown to a much larger backlash against the prime minister, Erdogan.

The White House has urged protesters and police in Turkey to refrain from violence. Today, the National Security Council continues to follow events in Turkey with concern.

Back with our panel: Ivan Watson, Christiane Amanpour, also our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.

So Dan, how concerned is the White House? I mean, based on what they're seeing in Turkey, a key ally?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They're very concerned. I mean, the White House, as you pointed out, have been watching the developments there. They're concerned about the fact that some of these protesters have been targeted, that there has been violence there, that they have not been given the freedom of protesting with -- having the freedom of expression there in Turkey. And so there's concern about that. There's concern about the crackdown, the White House putting out a statement earlier this evening talking to that point.

But as you also pointed out, there's this -- Turkey is a key ally in the region. Very important for this administration, from an economic standpoint, but even beyond that. And so the hope is that this can be corrected through dialogue. The White House in a statement this evening talking about the importance of resolving -- resolving this through dialogue, that these protests will no longer be violent. That's the hope, at least, in the White House tonight.

COOPER: And honestly, Christiane, I mean, Turkey is a key player in the region with what's going on in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Everywhere. I mean, it's impossible to overstate the importance of Turkey for its own stake, for the region, and for the U.S. and the West. It's a clear NATO ally. It supported the United States in just about every recent military operation and peace-keeping operation, and of course regarding Syria. That's the latest.

Used to be a close ally with Israel, as well, until there was a bit of a mess over the Gaza flotilla, as we all know.

But here's an irony. Prime Minister Erdogan, along with President Obama and others, have been calling for Bashar Assad to step down. As you know, that's the policy. Step down, Mr. Assad.

Well, you can imagine the glee with which this is being used and watched in Syria. Bashar Assad and the Syrian government are playing it on television every night and saying, "Mr. Erdogan, perhaps it is time for you to step down."

So all of this is -- that might be a little amusing, but it's not amusing in the bigger picture, because this is a vital, vital cog in the stability of that region.

COOPER: Fouad Ajami is also joining us from Stanford University.

Fouad, the -- I think it was a Turkish official that Christiane interviewed earlier -- was comparing this to Occupy Wall Street and police putting down demonstrations in New York and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Is it similar to that, in this case?

FOUAD AJAMI, STANFORD UNIVERSITY (via phone): No, not at all. I think this is really just a completely different political crisis.

But I do want to say something about the statements coming out of the White House. The piety, that we're really concerned. We want peace and order in the states of Istanbul and Ankara. That's standard; it's boilerplate.

The fundamental point about the relationship between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Obama was really laid bare some fortnight ago when the prime minister of Turkey came to Washington. He came with this hope that he could convince President Obama to step into the breach on Syria. He wanted President Obama to give him cover, because the truth is, in Turkey, in Turkey, the policy of Erdogan toward Syria, the activism towards Syria is unpopular. People don't want to be involved in the Syrian crisis.

And so Erdogan came to Washington in the hope that he would have his back covered by President Obama. He got nothing of the sort. He went home, and I think that this is really -- it's really about that in terms of U.S.-Turkish relations rather than just expressing the standard concern about an underlying trouble. If he is in trouble on some policies, I think President Obama bears a fair measure of the blame for that. COOPER: Ivan Watson, what happens at dawn? What happens in the day tomorrow? I mean, these protesters, they're still out there. They haven't all been rounded up. A lot of people have been injured over the last month or so. Thousands have been injured; some of them have been killed. But what happens?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen this cycle before. Istanbul was quiet for about five or six days in between rounds of violence. And what happens is people start to go back to work. Some of these demonstrators, these protesters go back. And then by evening, the violence starts up again. And the clashes start again in the side streets.

A very important thing to note, is this is not just Istanbul, the largest city. The riot police have been gassing and spraying demonstrators in the capital, Ankara, night after night after night over the course of the past week. There have been clashes in the port city of Ismir (ph), in the area of Adona (ph) and other cities. This is much bigger, though the focal point is Istanbul. And I don't really see a way out of this impasse.

Christiane was saying both sides have their backs against the wall. The thing is the demonstrators aren't a side. They don't have a party or a movement. It is people who are -- just been driven to the point of saying, "We're kind of pissed off at the government." So there's not another side to really negotiate with.

Again, the prime minister has demonized these people again and again. He's claimed -- he's taken a page from the playbook of Middle Eastern dictators by claiming there's a conspiracy against him to overthrow him and has named eight individual companies that have expressed sympathy for the demonstrators and singled them out. There's a very...

COOPER: Is this being covered in Turkish media? Because I'm getting a lot of tweets from people saying they're showing a penguin documentary.

WATSON: My colleagues in the Turkish minister -- media are terrified of this government and of this prime minister. They're very afraid of criticizing him. They have been -- their credibility has been hurt terribly by this crisis, because there was so little coverage of this, because news channels were showing cooking shows and documentaries about penguins rather than showing what was taking place in the largest city in the country.

So there's risks, not only by putting pressure on the media; he's losing the legitimacy and credibility of other institutions in Turkey as this crisis goes on.

COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, Arwa Damon are still on both sides of that square, covering all of the conflict. We're going to continue to check in with them ad our panel. Thank you all. We're going to dig deeper and deeper into the implications for the U.S. with national security analyst Fran Townsend.


COOPER: We're following the remarkable events out of Turkey this evening at this hour. It's about 3:41 a.m. in the morning in Istanbul.

Joining me now, CNN national security analyst Fran Townsend, who's a member of the CIA external advisory board. Also on the streets of Istanbul, Nick Paton Walsh, who has been with us, really, for 18 hours.

Nick, at this point just give us a quick update on where things are in the square.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Anderson. To continue cleanup there, you can see some of the people trying to clean away the debris there. You know, the luminous uniform.

One important development here, though, on the road closest to me here, we have seen police moving in, using tear gas, water cannons to push protesters back. The police have since withdrawn, and we're now seeing a breakaway group of protesters moving up that road, chancing a few moments ago. Clearly, a standoff still in place there. A bit of energy left in the protests. And I've now been watching this now for 20 hours.

They really aren't letting up. It's going to be difficult for police to finally dislodge them on that road closest to me, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Fran, we had Professor Fouad Ajami from Stanford on a short time ago, who was critical, saying that the Obama administration's saying they're watching this with concern is sort of boilerplate. It is a difficult situation. This is a key ally for the United States in this region.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right. And Prime Minister Erdogan is actually at a critical moment. And so the administration is right. They have to signal to Turkey that they're watching.

But at this moment, Erdogan, if he oversteps his bounds, the administration has got to leave itself some room here.

I mean, look, Ivan said something very important earlier. The notion that Prime Minister Erdogan is referring to these protester as terrorists, that means something. It certainly means something inside Turkey. It means something to the security forces because of how brutally that they deal with the Kurdish movement and the terrorist movement there, and their willingness to use force.

Remember, as well, that Erdogan has had an uneven relationship with his security forces. The question is how long? As we've seen in other countries, how long will the security forces support the prime minister in this effort against the protesters and how brutal are they willing to become with them? You know, right now, we're seeing tear gas and water guns, but there's a real potential for escalation here. COOPER: And -- and, again, you can't underestimate how volatile this entire region is right now with Syria and what's happening in northern Lebanon and elsewhere.

TOWNSEND: That's right. And there's a -- Erdogan is facing something of a political fight, as you heard Fouad Ajami talk about. The prime minister's concerns that he would have expressed to President Obama during his visit. He didn't get the kind of support. In fact, quite the opposite, right?

We're seeing an escalating crisis in Syria, a sustained escalating crisis. And so that puts the prime minister, really, in a difficult position domestically.

And I'm not sure that Americans really appreciate, there -- this is a domestic political situation that we're seeing play out that has international ramifications because of the strength of this NATO ally.

COOPER: It is also interesting to see how this has escalated. It's gone from a protest over a park and the, you know, taking down of trees and putting up development in a park area, into voicing of frustrations with the leadership, voicing frustrations with the style of rule, though he has been democratically elected, you know, and it's his third term.

TOWNSEND: That's right. But it is his third term, right. And we see, whether it's American presidents -- when you're re-elected, right, and the second-term presidents make many controversial appointments, because they don't have to face reelection.

President -- Prime Minister Erdogan is a tough guy. You've heard him described as being notoriously tough. This is -- the real leadership here is can he -- does he have I don't think it's in his political interest to allow this to continue the way it is. He ought to be looking for a way out and a way to take the passion out of this thing and reduce the violence.

COOPER: Fran Townsend, appreciate you being with us. We're going to continue to update throughout -- throughout the evening on this story.

Also, late word on the Edward Snowden leak investigation. What he could be facing if and when he's found and what kind of charges a leading lawmaker says reporters should face for helping him.


COOPER: Welcome back. Edward Snowden may have dropped off the radar since leaking the existence of two top-secret U.S. intelligence- gathering operations, but the repercussions of what he did are plain to see and growing.

The American Civil Liberties Union today suing the directors of the NSA and the FBI, seeking to block the program that tracks phone data, likening it to, quote, "snatching every American's address book." Also today, several computer giants implicating the other operation, the one targeting the Internet. They are speaking out, urging the administration to let them be more transparent about the secret requests they get for data.

Each, by the way, denies providing the government direct access to their servers.

Snowden's girlfriend, meantime, says she is, in her words, "adrift in a sea of chaos. Lindsey Mills is her name. She describes herself as a pole-dancing superhero, says she's typing on a tear- streaked keyboard and, to continue the nautical theme, says, "My whole world has opened and closed at once, leaving me lost at sea without a compass." She wrote that yesterday, which is the last time anyone saw

There are already briefings in Washington, charges being considered. Let's get the latest from Miguel Marquez in Hawaii. What is the latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that there were two police officers, two law-enforcement officials that went to his House last Wednesday. We do know that one of them was a federal official. But it does not sound at this point that they knew that Snowden was the leaker at that point.

Two things happening at that point. They knew Snowden was missing, and they know somebody had leaked documents, because "The Washington Post" and "The Guardian" had gone to the feds prior to publication of those documents seeking some response from them, so they were -- that link had not been made between Snowden going missing and those documents being leaked.

COOPER: And have they gone through his belongings or had he taken them out of his House?

MARQUEZ: That is a huge question. His House was packed. His garage, at least, was packed to the very ceiling with boxes, say neighbors. And all of that disappeared, including his girlfriend.

CNN did speak to his -- her father a short time ago who says that she is holding up, says that Snowden is a deep believer and a very good guy and sends him his love, as well.

But all of those belongings have gone somewhere, to a storage facility here perhaps or perhaps they've gone back home. But it's not clear that there's been a warrant served on them to get -- authorities get their hands on them.

COOPER: And "The Guardian" reported that Snowden's girlfriend was completely in the dark about his activities.

MARQUEZ: Yes. He apparently has his computers, his hard drives, all that information that the feds want to get their hands on, all of that appears to be wherever he is right now.

COOPER: Miguel Marquez, thank you very much. The beach looks very nice, I should say.

House members got a closed-door briefing today from National Security Agency. The Senate Intelligence Committee takes up the affair on Thursday. Already, battle lines are obviously being drawn.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon of Oregon, a longtime critic of government surveillance such as these, calling for hearings, saying the American people, in his words, have a right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership and doesn't think they're getting them now.

His Democratic colleague, Dianne Feinstein, continues to defend the programs as necessary and proper. Both she and Republican House Speaker John Boehner calling Edward Snowden a traitor.

So does New York Republican Congressman Peter King, who chairs the House subcommittee on counterintelligence and terrorism, I spoke with him a short time ago.


COOPER: Your colleague called this guy Snowden a traitor. Do you think that's true? Do you think he's a traitor?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I think he's either a defector or a traitor. You know, I guess take your pick. What he's done has done incredible damage to our country. It's going to put American lives at risk. I don't know how he can live with himself. And so traitor is as good as term as any. I think he's violated the Espionage Act. So in my mind, that would make him a traitor, yes.

COOPER: Can you say specifically how he has damaged national security or put the lives of Americans at risk? Because in the wake of the WikiLeaks revelations a couple of years ago, there were a lot of allegations made.

And then kind of months down the road, you know, then the secretary of defense came forward and said, "Well, actually, the damage, it was embarrassing, but there really wasn't the level of damage that we had thought."

What specifically do you think has harmed national security with these NSA revelations?

KING: Well, I can speak generally, which also is specific, I believe, is that Al Qaeda and its allies now know with great exactitude exactly what we're doing and how we're doing it. They were not aware of all the details out there. And they monitor everything we do on a day-to-day basis. They were not aware -- could not have been aware of a number of the details that come out. And that to me is certainly putting American lives at risk.

Just on this alone, by giving the enemy such detail about what we are doing, that enables them to adjust their tactics and their strategies, and that is very damaging to America. COOPER: As far as reporters who helped reveal these programs, do you believe that something should happen to them. Should they be punished, as well?

KING: Actually, if they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think action should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude. I know that the whole issue of leaks has been gone into over the last month, but I think something on this magnitude, is an obligation both moral but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security.

As a practical matter, I guess there have been, in the past several years, a number of reporters who have been prosecuted under it. So the answer is yes to your question.

COOPER: I want to play a quick exchange and hearing between Senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper. I want to play for you.


SEN. RON WYDEN: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?


WYDEN: It does not?

CLAPPER: Not wittingly.


COOPER: Do you -- is that a factual statement as far as you're concerned?

KING: Let me just say I think Director Clapper was in an unwinnable position there. No matter what he said, he would have compromised national security. If I were his lawyer right now, if I were advocating for him, I must say that we're not collecting information on individuals. We're collecting information on phone number. I realize that's the rationale that would be used.

But Anderson, this would be like asking someone on June 4 or June 5, 1944, are we planning D-Day tomorrow or in two days? Now what do you say?

And the fact that my understanding is that Senator Wyden is asking that question, knew what the answer was. This had already been discussed in a classified setting. When you are asked something in public about something which is so classified and so sensitive, it really put Director Clapper in an unwinnable position. Not just unwinnable but untenable almost.

COOPER: Congressman Peter King, appreciate your time.

KING: Anderson, thank you.

COOPER: Now, we're going to be right back with more on the latest from Turkey.


COOPER: Looking at live pictures from Taksim Square in central Istanbul. Heavy earth-moving equipment, armored vehicles, heavy police presence. It is tense, but apparently calm right now at the moment. It's been anything but for much of the day.

It's been hours of utter chaos since late afternoon when police first moved in. The violence has spread to the capital, Ankara. No real common ground or no signs of it yet between protesters and the Turkish government. It's anyone's guess what tomorrow will bring. Dawn is a couple hours from now.

We'll, of course, continue to bring you the latest throughout the day.

OK. That does it for us. Tanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.