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THE SITUATION ROOM
The Obama Doctrine; Obama Lays Out Postwar Foreign Policy; Report: 'Numerous Allegations' of V.A. Mismanagement
Aired May 28, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.
Happening now, the Obama Doctrine -- after 13 years of war, the president unveils his vision for a new foreign policy, telling West Point cadets and his own critics that America must always lead, but doesn't always need to use military force.
I'll speak with the president's national security adviser, Susan Rice.
When spies get outed -- I'll talk about the White House's exposing of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan with former CIA officer, Valerie Plame, whose own career cover was blown by the Bush administration.
And back to square one -- we're getting stunning new information from the U.S. Navy that raises fresh doubts about the underwater pings that guided the hunt for Flight 370.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
After more than a decade of conflict overseas, the president goes before graduating cadets at West Point to lay out his vision of a postwar foreign policy. A day after outlining an end to America's military role in Afghanistan, the commander-in-chief makes it clear he doesn't view military force as the key to American leadership in the world.
I'll speak with the president's national security adviser, Susan Rice.
And our correspondents and analysts standing by to bring you the kind of coverage only CNN can deliver.
Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, HOST: Wolf, President Obama has wanted to answer his foreign policy critics for weeks. And today, he did just that, making the case that caution in the 21st century can be muscular, too.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At the West Point Military Academy, it was a 45 minute lecture on the Obama Doctrine, as the president laid out his vision for U.S. leadership in a war weary world.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.
ACOSTA: Taking note of the two wars he's ended, all while killing Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama fired back at accusations he's been too hesitant on the global stage, reminding his critics of the lessons of going it alone.
OBAMA: Some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.
ACOSTA: Instead, the president wants more international cooperation, so he's proposing a $5 billion fund to help other nations train in counterterrorism and more assistance for rebels in Syria's civil war.
But he was short on details.
OBAMA: I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.
ACOSTA: Republicans argue it's the president's Syria policy that's at fault.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When he told the world that they had crossed a red line that the president had set and then didn't do it, it reverberated throughout the entire world -- we are unreliable. And all of our allies and our enemies believe that.
ACOSTA: But the president argued there are tools besides military might, like the sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
OBAMA: Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.
ACOSTA: Mr. Obama told the West Point graduates they may never be called to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. To a generation that hardly knows what peace looks like, that resonates.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's sort of a relief, for -- we've been at war for a decade so far.
ACOSTA: The president recalled how he came to West Point five years ago to announce a surge in Afghanistan, an escalation that went on to claim the lives of four cadets who heard the speech.
OBAMA: I believe America's security demanded those deployments, but I am haunted but those deaths.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: And after days of hints from this White House that the president is ready to authorize military training for the Syrian rebels, all aides will say at this point is that the assistance to those rebels will continue and that if the U.S. wants to start training rebels, they'll have to go through Congress first -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks.
And President Obama's National Security Agency, Susan Rice, is joining us from the White House.
Susan, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's talk about the president's speech at West Point today.
A lot of us were expecting he would make a dramatic announcement that the U.S. was starting to train moderate Syrian rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad's regime.
I didn't hear that in the speech.
Is he still planning on doing that?
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, Wolf, this speech was a broad explication of U.S. interests in the world and U.S. foreign policy. And what it said was that the United States must -- must be and will remain, in every instance, the world's number one leader and will do what it takes to defend and advance our interests, including where it's necessary to defend our core interests, to use force unilaterally, if necessary, but that when it is not something that affects our fundamental national security, our economic well-being or the security of our allies, that we want to work cooperatively with other nations, to the greatest extent possible, to tackle global problems.
Now, Syria is such a global problem, where there's enormous humanitarian suffering, there's spillover affecting the regional states and there's a growing terrorist concern about which the president spoke at some length.
In his speech, he said that he was going to work with Congress to establish a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund of up to $5 billion. And as part of that, he said we want to work with Congress to increase our support for the moderate vetted opposition in Syria, as well as for Syria's neighboring states, our friends like Jordan, like Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
So very much a part of our approach to Syria has been support for the moderate opposition. And we're saying that we want to do more. That support, as we have been very clear in saying, has taken various forms, including support for the armed opposition. And we want to step that up, in partnership with Congress.
BLITZER: Does that mean training them, providing them weapons?
RICE: Wolf, it means supporting them through the various means available to us, consistent with our law. I think you know that the United States has already made meaningful contributions of various forms to the moderate vetted Syrian opposition. We're interested in working with Congress to -- and the neighbors of Syria who are our partners -- to do that and more.
BLITZER: When you say and more, I assume that means actually providing weapons and actually training them.
Am I -- am I right?
RICE: Well, Wolf, to do that, we will need the authority and -- and the blessing of Congress and the resources of Congress to do that through the -- the Defense Department and -- and other means. So that's part of what the president said, we want to work with Congress on that.
And, indeed, there's legislation that has been introduced on the Hill that -- that we find attractive and we're eager to work with Congress to see if we can bring that to fruition.
In the meantime, we'll continue the support that we're providing and we'll look for ways, with countries in the region who are our partners, with our European partners and with the Syrians themselves, to do more, because our interest is twofold.
It is, one, to see Bashar al-Assad stop killing his people and creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.
And secondly, to prevent Syria from becoming an ever more serious safe haven for terrorists and extremists who threaten Syria's neighbors and potentially threaten countries like the United States, as well.
BLITZER: We know the situation in Syria is very, very complex. We're hearing now that an American, a U.S. person, as it's called, was involved -- carried out a suicide bombing in Syria.
What can you tell us about that?
RICE: Wolf, I've seen those reports. I can't confirm them independently. But obviously, we are concerned about the flow of foreigners into Syria from Europe, from North Africa, from the -- the other parts of the Arab world, and indeed, in -- in some small numbers from the United States and Canada.
That inflow is part of what makes the Syrian conflict increasingly dangerous and an ever higher priority for the United States, as the president articulated today.
BLITZER: The reports you've seen, would that person be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. resident?
Can you share that with us?
RICE: I can't -- I can't confirm those reports. I -- I really -- I've read them in the press, but I -- I have no independent information to -- to offer you from those.
BLITZER: Because we've heard there are Americans who have gone to Syria working with Al-Nusra and al Qaeda-related terror organizations.
Do you have any idea how many Americans are now training inside Syria?
RICE: We don't know precisely, Wolf. We don't think the numbers of Americans are particularly high. But there are -- we have reports that there are, indeed, some. But in -- but even more voluminous are the numbers going from various European countries and various countries in North Africa and the Arab world.
So the inflow of foreign fighters, not only from traditional places, such as Pakistan and elsewhere, but from Europe and -- and from North America, is something that we are monitoring with -- with grave concern. And it's one of the reasons why we are ramping up our efforts to counter the threat that -- that is emanating from Syria in the form of terrorism, but also the threat that the -- Bashar al-Assad poses, because it's his conflict, his prosecution of this war against his own people that has created an environment in which terrorism can thrive.
BLITZER: On Ukraine, now that the administration has declared that the elections over the weekend were largely fair, does that mean no more sanctions will be imposed, at least for now, against Russia?
RICE: Well, first of all, Wolf, as -- as you well know, we have imposed already very significant sanctions on Russia, in partnership with our European allies. Those sanctions have targeted individuals, government officials and companies, as well as elements of the high tech defense sector that are very significant to Russia. And those sanctions, we believe, have had an impact on Russia's decision-making to date, including its readiness to accept the results of the election and perhaps the decision to pull back forces from the border.
But we've also been very clear that we're going to continue to monitor very carefully what Russia is doing. And should it take steps that we and our European partners deem destabilizing or escalatory, the threat of additional sanctions remains on the table.
BLITZER: Finally, on Edward Snowden, he's now saying he was an undercover clandestine officer working as a highly trained spy for the United States.
Is that true?
BLITZER: What can you tell us?
What -- what was he doing when he was overseas?
RICE: Edward Snowden was a contractor working for the NSA and other elements of the intelligence community. Obviously, he is accused of sharing and disclosing illegally some of the most sensitive information of the United States government, allegedly. And our strong view is that rather than give television interviews, he ought to come home and -- and have his day in court, where he will be treated with all the protections and fairness that our judicial system allows.
BLITZER: Susan Rice is the president's national security adviser.
Susan, thanks for joining us.
RICE: Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll dig deeper on the Obama Doctrine with our panel of experts.
Does this represent an historic shift for the United States?
Also coming up, we have stunning new fallout in the Veterans Affairs scandal. Senator John McCain tells me it's now time for the V.A. Secretary, Eric Shinseki, to move on.
BLITZER: Getting back to our top story. President Obama laying out his vision for a postwar foreign policy. Let's dig a little bit deeper. Joining us, CNN's Fareed Zakaria; CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen; our foreign affairs reporter Elise Labatt; and our CNN political commentator, Peter Beinart, contributing editor of Atlantic Media.
Elise, your sources, what are they saying? Why wasn't the president more specific on what the U.S. will do to help those moderate Syrian opposition rebels?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they say, Wolf, there's still a debate ongoing within the administration about the logistics of such a mission, the legality of such a mission, where it would take place, how it would go.
But I mean, you really did expect something from the president and also from the national security adviser, Wolf. I think it's great anytime a cabinet secretary or national security adviser is on our air, but I don't understand why they felt it was compelled to put these officials forward to make a defense of the speech when the speech itself was a defense of foreign policy.
Look, Wolf, the president treated Syria as a counterterrorism issue mostly in the speech. He kind of glossed over the year-long political efforts to bring the opposition and the regime to a negotiated settlement. And I think that's one of the frustrations of the allies, not that the Americans are weak, but that they're unfocused and take their eye off the ball.
If you look at crises like Libya, where the U.S. was involved military; Iraq, the first war that the president brought to a close, these countries are now in the throes of political chaos. And while the U.S. has reduced the military footprint, if you will, it hasn't accompanied that with the high-level intense and sustained political engagement that's necessary to make sure these countries don't remain in conflict. And I think that's where the president gave short shrift by looking at these countries through a counterterrorism lens.
BLITZER: Peter Beinart, you wrote today after the president's speech you saw this as the new Obama doctrine. Explain what you meant.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, in the post-war world of Afghan war winding down, Iraq war is winding down, what kind of doctrine should we have? And I think the president tried to square a certain circle, which is there's a natural tendency in America of to isolationism -- isolationism. There's also a natural tendency toward interventionism.
And I think he was trying to lay out something that made the best of both possible approaches, ignoring some of the weaknesses in both approaches. You know, it's not something that is going to lend itself to a bumper sticker or easily to engage in emotional rhetoric about, but I think it was a realistic assessment of how the United States should proceed.
BLITZER: Is it too early, Fareed, to assess how historians will view the president's foreign policy?
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": No, I think you see the basic outlines. More than any other president, I think Obama follows in Dwight Eisenhower's mode. He is very restrained and disciplined about the use of force.
There's one line in that speech where he says, "If you look back historically, the United States' greatest errors in its foreign policy have not been from an excessive use of restraint but from overreactions." I think he's thinking of Vietnam or Iraq, which get us into trouble and then weaken our credibility and our resolve.
And that I think more than anything is his guiding idea, which is be very careful. Measure twice before you cut once, and if you look at Iraq, you look at Afghanistan, you look at Syria, even in Libya, where he did intervene, these are all measured, restrained efforts.
Now, when you look at nonmilitary part, I think he would argue, there's been considerable political, diplomatic kind of intervention, though I think Elise is right. There are some people who wish that that part of it was a little bit more turbocharged. I certainly know people in Asia feel they love the idea of the pivot to Asia, but they wish there were more energy behind it.
But the overall idea, I think, is very much one of restraint and discipline.
BLITZER: You know, Peter Beinart, the president famously said a few weeks ago, when it comes to foreign policy, he said sometimes you hit singles, you hit doubles. Sometimes you hit a home run. What do you think he hit today?
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it was -- it was a single. It was in keeping with his general view of foreign policy, which I think Fareed is exactly right about.
Barack Obama is not interested in creating a heroic foreign policy. Barack Obama is interested in, first of all, a Hippocratic foreign policy and the Hippocratic oath, first, do no harm. A lot of -- and I think there's there's a lot to be said for that.
A lot of the foreign policy discourse that takes place in Washington instead pretends as if nothing before 20009 happened. We are still trying to dig our way out of incredibly costly, brutally harmful, disastrous wars and a financial crisis that has undermined our economic and political model in the world.
I think Barack Obama, who said he's haunted by the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeps that front and center in a way that a lot of his critics don't.
BLITZER: You know, earlier, after the killing of bin Laden, Peter, there was a sense that al Qaeda was dead, decimated and all of this. Today the president comes out and says the No. 1 national security threat to the United States is terrorists.
BERGEN: Yes, well, I mean, that's still obviously a threat to the United States. I mean that may be a tribute to the fact that there aren't many threats to the United States. It's not like we're going to have a conventional war with China or Russia anytime soon.
The president is rightly concerned about the security of the United States and possibility of al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attacking the United States, but that doesn't require some massive military response. That requires other kinds of responses.
BLITZER: What do you think about that?
ZAKARIA: I think that, you know, part of this debate that we've been having in Washington about Obama's foreign policy is really a debate about which direction history is moving.
Are we in a world in which Russia is rising, a deep, dark autocracy that's taking over parts of its neighborhood and thus undermining the international system? China is doing the same in Asia. As a result, we're seeing world order spiral.
Or, are we generally seeing a worldwide movement toward more freedom, a greater degree of economic openness? And yes, there are some rear- guard actions, and there are some cautions that we have to be concerned about? I think Obama very much feels that history is on our side. If you look at the transformation of continents like Latin America or Africa, 30 years ago entirely ruled by mostly anti-western dictators, now in a very different place.
I think he feels like, you know, things are going generally well. Don't screw things up. Make sure you don't make big mistakes and deal with the real threats we face like terrorists.
BLITZER: Peter Bergen, thanks very much.
Fareed, of course, thanks to you.
Peter Beinart and Elise Labatt, guys, thanks very much.
By the way, don't miss "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," Sundays 10 a.m. Eastern. Ten a.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday, only here on CNN.
Just ahead, the growing scandal surrounding the V.A. and now Senator john McCain weighs in for the first time in an interview with me on what he thinks should happen to the secretary of veteran affairs, Eric Shinseki.
Plus, a stunning, new report just released about the facility in the middle of the firestorm. Our own Drew Griffin was the first to report the story. He's standing by to join us live.
BLITZER: Dramatic new fallout in the growing scandal surrounding the V.A.'s treatment of veterans. The leading Republican senator, John McCain, for the first time today in an interview with me, calling for the veterans affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, to step down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I haven't said this before, but I think it's time for general Shinseki to move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator McCain went on to tell me he now also believes the FBI should get involved in this investigation, as a criminal activity could be involved.
All of this comes with the release of a disturbing new report on the V.A. facility right in the middle of this entire firestorm. Our CNN senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, was the first to report on this story. He's here with the latest details.
It gets worse and worse. What's going on?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It really does. We should point out, this is the interim report. This is just the quickie report that they've done in the last couple of weeks.
The biggest thing they found, the Office of Inspector General identifies an additional 1,700 veterans waiting for care, waiting for primary appointments but not on anybody's list, Wolf. These are 1,700 veterans waiting for care right now. And they think they have an appointment; they don't.
They've also found big mismanagement problems; sexual harassment problems. And then a scheme -- four schemes, actually -- to manipulate the numbers. A sampling of 200 Phoenix veterans went through the administration there. they were reporting that these people were being seen within 24 days. That's what the administration out there in Phoenix was saying. In reality, 115 days were the wait times. And this report points out four different schemes, Wolf, as to how they were manipulating these numbers.
And we've also got confirmation of a nationwide problem, the Office of Inspector General looking at 42 medical facilities. The bottom line, the OIG has confirmation inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic throughout the V.A. system.
BLITZER: What do you -- what are you hearing about the deaths that have been tied to these delays?
GRIFFIN: This is what I mentioned about the interim report. The OIG says, "Look, we need time to investigate the autopsies, the medical records in the V.A. and private hospitals to determine if any of the delays in care, which are quite obvious now, actually led to the deaths.
We've been reporting it could be as many as 40. That's what our sources are still sticking with. But the OIG saying, "We need more time to determine who died, why, and whether it was caused by a delay."
BLITZER: Did the office of the inspector general make any initial recommendations?
TODD: You know, the same recommendation that anybody reading this would say, and the president said today through Jay Carney, let's get these 1700 guys doctor's appointments right away, also calling for a national review of every VA scheduling policy. So just an expansion of what we already know to be a pretty damning report.
BLITZER: And the Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado also calling out for Shinseki to step down.
All right, thanks. I know you'll stay on top of this story for us.
When we come back, one of most famous U.S. spies to be outed weighing in on the White House's exposing of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan. My interview with Valerie Plame coming up next.
BLITZER: The White House is now investigating the clumsy accidental outing of the a CIA station chief in Afghanistan. His cover was blown during President Obama's visit with the troops in the warzone. The fallout is considerable.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns has been looking into that.
What are you finding out, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the White House chief of staff has asked the White House counsel Neil Eggleston to look into what happened and make recommendations on how the administration can make sure something like this does not happen again.
JOHNS (voice-over): Sources say the review will focus on how, just after the president arrived at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the system to protect the identity of its top spy there broke down, allowing the name of the CIA station chief to be distributed to a pool report and then to 6,000 other journalists by e-mail. Tonight intelligence sources say the CIA operative who CNN is not naming is now a marked man and that foreign intelligence services are most likely looking into his professional history to see who he's come into contact with.
ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He served in other places presumably, Europe, East Asia, you don't know where, and he served under cover. So all those cover positions that he served under are blown. He might have one extension in an office and five other people are on it and they're all blown, too.
JOHNS: Spycraft overseas is extraordinarily dangerous work. In 2009 in Khost, Afghanistan, seven CIA agents including the chief of base, Jennifer Matthews, were killed by a suicide bomber after he was allowed to meet with the agents on base. In Pakistan, in 2010, 2011, and again last year, three CIA station chiefs had their identities revealed.
And in perhaps the most public case, Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative during the Bush administration, was intentionally outed, her name was leaked to newspaper reporters by members of the administration who were unhappy with her diplomat husband's opposition to the war in Iraq. Her career as a spy was ruined.
Tonight experts say while circumstances in this case may be different, this latest disclosure will likely end with similar results.
BAER: The effect is, you know, to destroy a career basically. Valerie Plame left the CIA. This guy is going to be, you know, put out to pasture into management.
JOHNS: No comment so far from the government about the status of the station chief and whether he's being recalled or reassigned. The administration, though, has sent the message on and off the record that concerns for this official's safety are getting the highest priority. It's being treated as a serious mistake -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe, thanks very much.
Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer, the author of "Blowback," is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us now.
Valerie, thanks very much for coming in.
VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA OFFICER, AUTHOR, "BLOWBACK": Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: When you heard that the name of the CIA station chief was disclosed, what went through your mind?
PLAME: Well, it was colossally stupid, of course. What an error of huge proportions with tremendous consequences. But no way is it equivalent to what happened to me, the leaking of my name.
BLITZER: Why is that?
PLAME: It's a false equivalency that's being put out there. And what -- it all comes down to intent. What happened with me, I -- my name was intended to be leaked in retaliation against my husband, who was a fierce critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq war.
BLITZER: When Richard Armitage, was he -- he was the one who initially leaked your name. He was the deputy Secretary of State. Was he in -- deliberately wanted to blow your cover, is that what you're saying?
PLAME: He wasn't the only one of course.
BLITZER: I knew he wasn't the only one.
BLITZER: But he was the first.
PLAME: Yes, he was. And he apologized publicly, saying it was very foolish for him to have done so. He has been around Washington long enough to completely understand the implications of -- even if you don't know someone's cover status, if they are somehow affiliated with the CIA, it's best not to gossip about it with other journalists.
BLITZER: Yes. So that was obviously a blunder. But here, there was a blunder, too. Some -- apparently some low-level either military and diplomatic officials put the name down on this list that was given to a reporter who submitted it as a pool report.
PLAME: That's right. From what the reporting is and what I understand, it was on a list drawn up by the military. I'm sure everyone was breathless with the president coming. It was a surprise visit for Memorial Day. And it was a -- just a really stupid error.
BLITZER: Because we know the White House legal counsel is investigating now to see if any crimes were committed, if anyone should be fired. What do you think?
PLAME: I don't know what his investigation will show, but I think that it will show that it was just an error.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Spycraft for a moment. You were a clandestine officer. You worked undercover. You went out there to try to recruit spies to help the United States. That's different than a station chief, a CIA station chief, who's known to the host country intelligence chief, who works with them on a daily basis, right?
PLAME: That's correct. A chief of station is the head of all intelligence operations in any given country. And he is declared to what we say liaison --
BLITZER: Right. The Afghan government would know that this is the CIA station chief?
PLAME: That's correct. But take the Afghan government is, as you know, been eroded and is probably infiltrated by those who seek us to do us harm. And so the consequences in this case are pretty severe. I doubt he had a -- his family with him in country because it is so dangerous. But the -- the implications of having his name out there, there'd be plenty of al Qaeda and Taliban supporters would be happy to see him killed.
BLITZER: So your recommendation is that this guy get out of there?
PLAME: Oh, I hope he was on Air Force One going back to the States with the president.
BLITZER: Because if he stayed in country, that would be --
PLAME: His covert career, as mine was, is finished.
BLITZER: What if he comes back here, though? Is his covert career finished? Can he go anyplace else, now that so many people know his identity?
PLAME: Not in any covert capacity. I don't know what his career plans are. I don't even know the name of the chief of station, except that he will have to figure out, does he want to stay? I mean for me, I thought I had the best job in the world. I loved what I did. And when I could no longer have that covert cover to travel around the world, I worked especially on -- nuclear counter proliferation issues, I didn't want to stay.
BLITZER: Do you think his life is now in danger even if he leaves Afghanistan, comes back to the United States?
PLAME: Listen, any time you're a poster child for the CIA, there are a lot of people that are -- either have ideological or they are mentally unbalanced, that are going to try to find you and perhaps cause you harm.
BLITZER: Is there any way to prevent these kinds of disclosures down the road?
PLAME: Well, it speaks to a broader issue. I mean that -- I think what happened in the case of the COS Kabul was really just stupid. But it speaks to the broader issue of how many people have security clearances. I've heard at least over -- up to a million have top secret clearances in this country and five million people have some sort of clearance. When you have that many, is it any wonder that you have what's happened with Snowden or any of the other leaks? I'm surprised we haven't had more.
BLITZER: You know, this case of Ryan Fogle -- you remember that case -- accused by the Russians of working for the CIA. They had video of him disguised in a wig and glasses. What was that all about? Do more changes have to be made? Because that looked sort of, I mean, almost ridiculous.
PLAME: You know, the CIA, as usual, has been turned -- it's been highly politicized ever since the Iraq war. Presidents can't help but realize once they get into office that, gee, they have this entire intelligence service at their disposal and how it can be used. Right now I think that there's serious reforms that need to be put into place across the board, starting at the director of National Intelligence, there's too many stupid things that are happening.
BLITZER: Do you believe Edward Snowden when he says he was really a covert operative, a clandestine officer trained by the CIA, trained by the NSA, the DIA, he was really working undercover, they gave him a false name as he was overseas? You -- this is what he's now suggesting.
PLAME: What little I have seen of his interview is that he said he was trained as a spy. What could -- what is true, I know, that anyone who goes overseas in any sort of undercover capacity does have some basic training. He was not an operations officer. He did not work in human -- human intelligence, as I did. His training in that regard, I think, was probably rather superficial, how to maintain his cover, how to move around, if he -- that sort of thing. His claims, I think, are a little beyond what the reality is.
BLITZER: You worked in the intelligence community for a long time. How much damage do you think he did to the United States?
PLAME: I have no way of knowing. But I -- I don't like it when the conversation centers on him and you get into that didactic of traitor or patriot, because that's just going down a rabbit hole. What he has done is brought up significant issues in how robust and how substantial the NSA's warrantless surveillance has been and is it in direct conflict with our constitutional values? Those are the issues we really need to continue to discuss.
BLITZER: So how is life after the CIA?
PLAME: I miss my job, but I'm hard at work on my second spy thriller, called "Burn." It will come out in October. And so you can take some of the stories and fascinating characters I met along the way and you fictionalize them and that's what I'm working on now.
BLITZER: Well, I recommended "Blowback." It was an excellent, excellent read.
Valerie, thanks, as usual, for coming in.
PLAME: Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up, the new information about those underwater pings believed to be coming from the missing plane.
Also, why is a U.S. senator running away from our own Dana Bash? You're going to find out. And tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, the premiere of CNN's "THE SIXTIES." Look at this "SIXTIES" minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many things happened in the '60s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been an attempt on the life of President Kennedy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has been hit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And everyone was (INAUDIBLE) dropping out and doing god knows what else, and I wasn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were legends in their own time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there was tremendous anxiety and fear.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, U.S. PRESIDENT: Whatever must be done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever the president does he risks nuclear war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 330 Americans were killed in combat last week in Vietnam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let freedom ring.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire culture changed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "THE SIXTIES" series tomorrow night at 9:00 on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Turning now to the political battle for 2014 and what's quickly becoming the nastiest Senate race this year. It involves allegations of breaking and entering at a nursing home facility and innuendo about one candidate's longtime female aide.
Here's CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A conservative blogger is in jail, arrested for breaking into this Mississippi nursing home to photograph U.S. Senator Thad Cochran's ailing wife, suffering from dementia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the worst.
BASH: In a new ad, Cochran's campaign points fingers at his GOP challenger, Chris McDaniel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Posting video of Senator Thad Cochran's wife in a nursing home? Had enough?
BASH: And it gets even deeper in the Mississippi mud. Cochran supporters argue the reason the blogger took his wife's picture was to feed questions about Cochran and long-time aide Kay Webber, who's traveled extensively with the senator on the taxpayer dime. Cochran's campaign calls it part of her job and suggestions of anything untoward sexist.
This Republican primary was supposed to be about the struggle of ideas within the GOP.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris McDaniel.
BASH: A young Tea Party-backed upstart challenging a fellow Republican for being out of touch and too entrenched in Washington after 36 years in the Senate.
(On camera): Dana Bash. Pleasure to meet you.
(Voice-over): Now Chris McDaniel is fending off questions about whether his campaign had anything to do with photographing his opponent's sick wife.
CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Our campaign had absolutely no connection to that whatsoever.
BASH (on camera): You personally, when did you find out about the break-in?
MCDANIEL: Look, we're going focus on his record right now.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: God bless the Tea Party.
BASH (voice-over): McDaniel would like to be the Senate's next Ted Cruz, stick to principle, compromise be damned.
MCDANIEL: I am not going to Washington, D.C. to be a member of the cocktail circuit or to make backroom deals. I'm going up there to fight and defend the Constitution.
BASH (on camera): Talk to Mississippi Republicans and Democrats who say come on, Thad Cochran has been there a long time, but he is a good public servant. He helps people in Mississippi.
MCDANIEL: And I say come on. I say name one fight Senator Cochran has led against Barack Obama. Name one time he has raised his voice in defense of conservatism.
BASH (voice-over): For the Tea Party movement, after a string of primary losses this year, McDaniel has been their great hope, the best chance of toppling an establishment Republican in 2014, especially after this Cochran stumble.
SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: The Tea Party, you know, is something that I don't really know a lot about.
BASH: Millions of dollars pouring into Mississippi against Cochran come from a who's who of Tea Party groups nationwide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McDaniel says he is a life-long Republican.
BASH: But like other Republican incumbents, this year Cochran and his allies are fighting back, painting McDaniel as extreme and inconsistent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris McDaniel, he says one thing, his record says something else.
BASH: At this point Cochran is trying to avoid unforced errors. Going to head scratching extremes to avoid talking to us. We tried to catch Cochran after this event, but when an aide came out and saw us, they did a bait-and-switch. The car they told us Cochran was getting in screeched away without him, while he snuck out another door to a different car, leaving reporters like us in the dust. Unable to talk to the senator.
BLITZER: Dana, you know, it's not every day you see a senator running away from you. Getting a lot of publicity back in Mississippi, isn't it?
BASH: It is. And you know, one of the big local papers talked about the fact that, you know, it was sort of odd that he didn't not only talk to me but they went to such lengths for him to not get anywhere near our camera. That was on Monday. And the fact that that has gotten so much attention back home just maybe six days, five days before the primary, clearly struck a nerve with the Cochran campaign because wouldn't you know it today we were coming back here to Washington.
He had a short press conference with reporters back home and didn't ask anything that we wouldn't ask. Questions about why he feels that he is right to come back after 36 years in office. Questions about his reaction to all of the scandal that we just explained in the piece. Things like that. But they were so emphatic, clearly, about getting out there that he is talking to the press now.
But not only did they have this press conference, they tweeted pictures of it from his Twitter account. There you see one of him talking to local reporters and one of him talking to our friend, Dan Balz of the "Washington Post" who was down there. Talking to local reporters, he was talking to national reporters, but, look, the fact that, you know, we don't take it personally when politicians don't talk to us, the fact that he's not talking to us is a strategy.
They don't want to do anything at all to change the narrative which I think is hurting his Republican challenger and they don't want to do anything to rock the boat to change anything at all.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens in this Republican primary next week.
All right, Dana, thanks very much. Excellent work as usual.
Coming up, we're getting stunning new information from the U.S. Navy and it's raising fresh doubts about the underwater pings that guided the hunt for Flight 370.