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The Pegasus Threat; Lessons on COVID From Israel; Interview With London Mayor Sadiq Khan; Interview with Michael Pollan. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired July 19, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a little bit nervous about the whole thing coming to an end.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): England marks Freedom Day, with COVID cases rising and a prime minister in isolation.
I talk to the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, about the wisdom of lifting all restrictions now and what comes next.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The virus won't stop. It is evolving. It is nature. Israeli doctors on the front lines of the battle between vaccines and
variants. Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash joins me with lessons from his highly vaccinated country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They can get your location. They can get all your e- mails. They can get all of your social media. They can get all your pictures. They can get all of your video. They can turn on your microphone.
AMANPOUR: A global spyware scandal. We go inside a chilling you report that reveals sophisticated smartphone attacks on journalists, activists and
two women linked to Jamal Khashoggi.
MICHAEL POLLAN, AUTHOR,"THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS": So I think the voters have had it with the drug war and realize it's been a failure.
AMANPOUR: Acclaimed author Michael Pollan talks to Walter Isaacson about rethinking drug laws and his new thought-provoking book,"This Is Your Mind
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
They're calling it Freedom Day here in England. Nearly all COVID restrictions are lifted now. Nightclubs are open, no more mandatory mask
wearing. And you can meet up with as many people as you like.
But due to the Delta variant, cases are the highest level since the winter wave. And, incredibly, the nation's most senior officials are in isolation,
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with his treasury and health secretaries.
Here is Johnson addressing the country earlier from his country residents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If we don't open up now, then we face a risk of even tougher conditions in the colder months, when the virus
has a natural advantage, and we lose that firebreak of the school holidays.
And there comes a point, after so many have been vaccinated, when further restrictions no longer prevent hospitalizations and deaths, but simply
delay the inevitable. And so we have to ask ourselves the question, if not now, when?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But a group of global health experts warn that Britain could become a COVID breeding ground, and they say lifting most restrictions here
is a threat to the world.
Now, Sadiq Khan is the mayor of London and he has authority over the public transport system. He says masks must still be worn while traveling. And
he's joining me now from London.
Mayor Khan, welcome to the program.
It really does seem quite confusing. On the one hand, you have the prime minister saying, let's take advantage of the best natural situation, the
warmer months, the high vaccinations. If not now, when? On the other hand, we're hearing his latest -- his latest speech talking about increasing
cases, even hospitalizations.
How do you connect those two on a practical level?
SADIQ KHAN, MAYOR OF LONDON: Well, look, we support, generally speaking, restrictions being eased.
What I don't support is this being called Freedom Day, because it gives the impression we're somehow liberated from this virus, when we know the virus
is still here. We also know, in London, we're getting, on average, 4,000 new courses -- new cases a day across the country, around 32,000 cases
during the course of a day.
That's why it's really important for people to be aware that the virus still with us. The big game-changer, though, is the vaccine rollout. So,
just in London alone, more than 10 million doses have been administered. More than eight out of 10 Londoners have had at least one dose.
And those aged above 40, now almost 80 percent have had both doses. So we know that the increased success of the vaccine rollout, but also the
weakening between the virus and serious illnesses, give us as an opportunity to try and reopen our economy, particularly hospitality,
culture, the nighttime economy, and retail.
AMANPOUR: You say that, and you obviously support some reasonable lifting of restrictions, and it can't go on like this forever, as the prime
minister and others say.
However, you have also taken a stand, because you're saying that not on my public transport systems. TFL, Transport For London, is going to have
mandatory mask-wearing and the like.
How do you plan to roll that out? It is rolled out, but to manage it, to make it adhered to? Do you think you will get pushback?
KHAN: Well, I have examined the evidence from experts used by the government -- it's called SAGE, the Scientific Advisory Group of Experts --
the evidence from the World Health Organization, but also the evidence from experts like the Centers for Disease in the USA.
And what they say, broadly speaking, is, indoors, where you can't keep your social distance, wearing a face covering reduces the chances of
transmission. It makes other safe if you were a face mask. And I think it can keep you safe as well, even when you have had two doses.
So, as an additional layer of protection, as an additional layer of reassurance, I'm saying, when you're using public transport in London,
because it's indoors, there are lots of people, and you often can't keep your social distance, you're required to wear a face covering.
AMANPOUR: And you talked about London and the uptake in vaccine, but, actually, the figures, I'd like you to tell me about them, because quite a
lot of people, about 55 percent, have not had their second dose.
There are lots of pop-up clinics. The city obviously has a youngest population. What is your reading as to why so many people have not had
their second dose, despite you trying to get them to do it and offering it?
KHAN: Well, the great news is, they're going up every day.
And we have got challenges, as a global city, like other global cities, like New York and so forth, which is, we have a younger population, they're
more mobile, they're more diverse, fewer are registered with general practitioners or the authorities.
So the normal ways of contacting patients isn't there. We have also got a large number of migrants who haven't got confidence in giving their details
to the authorities to receive the jab. But the good news is, because we have had-pop up clinics in the Tate, the world's finest contemporary
gallery, football stadiums like Chelsea and Spurs, cricket stadiums like The Oval, the science museum, and so forth, we're increasing everyday the
numbers of younger people with the jab.
The good news is, those aged between 18 and 30 now, we have given a million jobs. The key thing, though, is to make sure people realize the jab, the
vaccine, that's the game-changer. That's why it's really important for as many people as possible to receive the jab.
AMANPOUR: But what do you say to people who are truly confused?
And even listening to the latest health briefing from Downing Street, including with the scientific offices, they say that even people who are
double-jabbed are cropping up now with positive COVID results. What in there is -- where in there is there any light? Is it because they may not
be as serious cases?
Is it because, as the prime minister and indeed the Israeli officials have said, we're going to have to live with COVID, it's not going away, we have
got to figure out how to actually live with this? What gives you hope amid lifting restrictions, at the same time that these infections are rising?
KHAN: Well, what I would say is, the virus is a killer. The vaccine doesn't break the link between the virus and serious illness or death. What
it does is weaken the link between catching the virus and serious consequences.
So, in London, for example, every day, we're having more than 4,000 new cases of people catching the virus. Bad news. The good news is, what we're
not seeing is a proportionate number of people in hospitals, in ICU, or losing their lives, thankfully. And that's because record numbers of
Londoners have received the jab.
And that's why the jab, the vaccine, is so important, because it weakens the link between the virus and serious illness. That's why it's so
important as many of us as possible, received not just one dose of the vaccine, but both doses. And once we have done that, later on this year, in
winter, we may we will need to give booster jabs as well, because we're afraid this virus is with us for the foreseeable future.
AMANPOUR: Absolutely. The booster question is on the agenda. And I will be discussing that next.
But I want to know what you think, as a human being who sees people, for instance, last night, raving, going into nightclubs or jammed cheek by jowl
celebrating this Freedom Day, so to speak.
That seems -- that -- I mean, it's a bit frightening, that, seeing everybody together inside. Do you have any ability to control that in
London or not?
KHAN: No, we don't, because the legislation from the government is national legislation.
Our key message is to make sure people understand the consequences of spending time indoors for long periods where you can't keep a social
distance, particularly if you have not received one dose or two doses of the vaccine.
What we do know is what we see in our hospitals is far greater numbers of younger people than were in the first wave or the second wave. And the
reason is very simple. Younger people haven't received both doses.
That's why it's so important. If you are going to go to a club, live music venue, or spend a long period of time indoors without keeping social
distance, you have got to make sure you receive both doses, but also, where you can't keep your social distance, wear a face mask, do all the things
you have learned over the last 16 months to reduce the chances of you either catching the virus or the consequences being really serious.
AMANPOUR: So, what do you say your major message is to young people?
Because I'm just looking at Israel or the Netherlands, where they also had lifting of lockdowns, and certainly in the Netherlands over the last couple
of weeks they had a massive spike. The prime minister had to apologize for an error in judgment.
But it seemed to be from a lot of young people going out, whatever, to parties, gatherings, clubs. Is that your main message?
KHAN: Yes, the main message is to get the jab. It's really important that you understand the vaccine is a game-changer.
We have got to park the anti-vaxxers, we've got to park the COVID conspiracy theorists, and just address those younger people in particular
who aren't quite aware of how deadly this virus is going to be. Look, we have all been young once. We think we're immune, we're bulletproof, nothing
can harm us.
But, actually, the bad news is, this virus can harm you. So the first message is, please make sure you have received at least one jab as soon as
possible, so you can receive the second jab. And, by the way, your route back to normality, international holidays, being able to go to nightclubs
in the future will be limited if you not received both jabs.
But at the same time, it is possible, I believe, to come to the West End, to go to live music, to go to the theater, to go to great, great clubs
safely, if you take a number of safeguards. And one of those is to make sure you realize that you have got to regularly and thoroughly wash your
hands. You have got to carry hand sanitizer with you.
I think it's possible to enjoy yourselves. Do it safely.
AMANPOUR: And keep up the honor code.
Let me just ask you finally, because you personally, your father was a bus driver. You're now in charge of the London transport. It's a huge pressure
on all these people who are trying to keep it going for everybody. Just personally, how do you feel?
KHAN: It's heartbreaking when you hear about not just commuters who are worried about using public transport, but we know, I'm afraid, in London,
we have lost a number of our brave transport workers, including bus drivers, because of this pandemic.
The main time was during the first wave March, April last year because of community transmissions. That's why the vaccine, the jab is a real game-
changer. One of the reasons why I felt so strongly about the need to wear face masks in public transport because we don't just want to keep our
commuters, the public, safe. We want to give keep our workers safe as well.
And we have in London TFL, Transport For London, world-class enhanced cleaning. We're using hospital-style hospital-quality disinfectant. We have
got U.V. light making sure escalators are safe. We have got more than 1,000 hand sanitizers given free, hospital-quality disinfection, but also we have
asked Imperial College, a world-leading university, to make sure our public transport is safe.
It is safe. But an additional layer of protection is to wear a face mask when you use public transport in our city. It keeps you safe, your family
safe, your community safe, but also out transportation workers safe as well.
AMANPOUR: And often how the capital goes, goes the rest of the country.
So, Mayor Khan, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, it is hard to predict the future when it comes to COVID, of course, but as we were just discussing, many are looking at the data from Israel
for clues. The country started lifting restrictions back in March, after an early drive saw over 60 percent of its people get at least one vaccination.
However, cases are spiking again there too. And officials are now offering a third Pfizer booster shot to those with weakened immune systems.
Nachman Ash is Israel's Health Ministry director-general. And he's joining me now from Airport City there.
Nachman Ash, welcome to the program.
You just heard the mayor of London. You have your own issues. The Netherlands do. The U.S. do. What is your feeling right now, as you see
Britain declare Freedom Day, knowing that you have had to sort of take a few steps back? So has Holland.
What would you advise Britain right now, if you would, at this time?
NACHMAN ASH, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, ISRAELI HEALTH MINISTRY: Good evening, Christiane. It's a pleasure to be here.
Well, as you said, we have lifted restrictions a few months ago. And since the Delta variant entered Israel, we have a rise in cases for the last few
So, we are going a little bit back very easily, trying to keep up on with life. But we know that we have to fight the virus, not only with the
vaccines, but also with some restrictions.
So, when I look at England, actually, it's very interesting to see what will be going on in England. But I believe they should be acting safely in
order to fight this rise of cases in Britain.
AMANPOUR: So, apparently, it's about 90 percent of the cases in Israel are the Delta variant right now.
AMANPOUR: What actual practical measures is Israel taking, whether it's in restaurants or nightclubs or on beaches or whatever, to have some kind of -
- I think the government has called it a soft suppression?
What are you trying to get people to do in their behavior to deal with this current outbreak?
ASH: OK, so the first thing is, masks. Use masks. We lifted masks a few -- about two months ago, and now a few weeks ago we returned using them inside
And so we want people to keep using them. Then, right now, we are trying to get back the green pass that we used back a few weeks ago. And actually we
are getting it into mass events, people more than -- events with more than 100 people, like weddings and so on.
So the green pass means that only vaccinated and people with negative PCR tests can enter the event. And, for the future, we are looking for a
putting this green pass for even more events, like theaters and cinemas and so on.
AMANPOUR: So, Nachman Ash, it's a little sort of one step forward, one step back.
France is talking about bringing certain passes in as well. Do you see that as how one is going to have to live with COVID? How do you see, as a health
professional, living with this virus for who knows how long from now? We can even talk about booster shots, but, first, passes, masks, is that it
for the foreseeable future?
ASH: Well, I believe it's going to be for the next day, maybe longer that we need to live with a virus that goes up and down. And when it goes down,
we can ease the restrictions. And when it goes up, we can -- we need to put on more restrictions.
And I think we should live with that. So, masks, yes, I believe we will use masks for the next year, maybe more. And I believe that we will have to be
vaccinated every maybe year, maybe even less than that.
And we might have -- we might live with a green pass or something like that, that we should keep places with many people as safe as possible, like
having a negative test.
AMANPOUR: Do you think cases will rise in countries or areas that keep insisting on not wearing masks? This hostility to so much of the
restriction is growing in some areas.
ASH: Well, in places where many people are not vaccinated, yes, I believe that the disease will rise when you don't use masks.
So, in places like schools, where there are children that are not vaccinated, I think masks is mandatory right now, when the virus is rising.
So, masks are an easy thing to use. And we're trying to keep our people to use it, especially inside places where many people are all together.
AMANPOUR: So, now I want to get your assessment of the vaccination program, because I think a lot of ordinary people are alarmed when they see
that certainly the Delta variant has infected those who are even double vaccinated, certainly here in the U.K. and elsewhere.
How alarming is that? And how confident are you in the current -- the current ability for vaccines to keep the severity of disease down?
ASH: Well, we are confident that the vaccination is the solution for this pandemic.
So, as we had the Alpha variant a few months ago, 60 percent of population was enough. But when the Delta virus is more contagious, we need more
people to be vaccinated. So, I -- we still believe that even though the vaccine may be a little bit less effective for the Delta virus, we need --
the only solution is people to be vaccinated.
And so we need more people. In Israel, we want to go to up to 80 percent of the population to be vaccinated in order to fight this virus these days.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, the talk about boosters, I think Israel is the first country to talk about actually giving boosters to those who are
We have heard from the NIH in the United States today that Pfizer may have -- quote -- "got ahead of its skis" a little bit by applying for the
licenses for boosters. Where do you stand on that? Is it something that you see you need to implement in your country now? Do you think boosters are
going to happen pretty soon elsewhere?
What do you think? Because the supply is not great, is it, all over the world right now.
ASH: Yes, so we are discussing these issues right now these days. And, actually, we want to have some more data in order to decide on this.
So we want to have more data, but this -- but security of this third dose, whether it's going to be hazardous still to people, and also on the
effectiveness of the third those, we don't have this data yet, so we can decide on that.
I believe we will need a third dose, a booster dose. But it's not going to be a very soon, because we want to know about this data. And maybe we will
do it in research a using the third vaccine or people who want to get it and agree to get it, and then decide by the results of this research.
Currently, we don't have enough data to decide on that.
AMANPOUR: So many questions still after, I don't know, 16 months of this.
Nachman Ash, thank you so much, director-general of Israel's Health Ministry. Thanks for being with us.
And as Israel fights to suppress this virus, we turn now to a chilling new report that says a software produced by an Israeli company and sold to
governments to track down terrorists and serious criminals is actually being used also by its clients to target activists, politicians and
"The Washington Post," in coordination with 16 media partners, including PBS, reports that 37 smartphones were successfully hacked by a program
What's more, some word no click attacks, meaning the phones were compromised without their owners even clicking on anything. The Israeli
company denies the allegations.
Here with more is one of the reporters covering this story. She is Dana Priest of"The Washington Post."
Dana, welcome to the program.
DANA PRIEST,"THE WASHINGTON POST": Thank you.
AMANPOUR: This seems to be a continuum of the story that started with Edward Snowden, really, of how invasive these operations have become, and
how our privacy is so compromised.
First, tell me how significant this piece of the story is that you're broadcasting and publishing now.
PRIEST: Well, there have been stories about NSO and Pegasus before, but we feel like this one is the first one to give you really the details that you
haven't seen before.
Who exactly was targeted among the group that we dove deeply in? And what does it mean to their lives? So we have the examples of the two women
closest to Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi columnist for "The Washington Post."
And we have indications that Pegasus tried to hack the phone of his wife before his murder, and they succeeded in hacking the phone of his fiancee
just several days after the murder. So we can get have you kind of the intimate details about people's lives, especially journalists and human
rights actors around the world who were kind enough and courageous enough actually to give us their cell phones in order to analyze them.
And that's the best way we found to confirm what we saw in our records.
AMANPOUR: So what precisely did you find about the two women? For instance, it was Khashoggi's wife and his fiancee.
What did you find that was frightening, disturbing or out of the usual?
PRIEST: Well, we found that, for his wife, Hanan El-Atr, her phone was hacked -- sorry -- it was attempted to hack as far back as six months
before his murder.
The reason we couldn't tell whether it was penetrated or not was only because she has a certain kind of phone that's difficult to analyze for
Amnesty International's Security Lab, which is who did the forensics.
But it's clear that they tried over and over again, which could mean that they didn't succeed at first, or it could mean that they were in there for
a short amount of time. But really what that means that means, they could get her contacts. That means they could turn on the microphone.
And, as she told us, sometimes -- often, she had her phone in the living room when Jamal Khashoggi was there calling friends overseas. So really,
these -- the -- breaking into the phone allows the surveiller to get a network of friends and colleagues from that phone in which they can use --
what they can use to spy on other phones.
So they could surround somebody like Khashoggi. We don't know that they did. But the significance is, they could surround friends of Khashoggi, so
that they get a view of what he's doing during the day. He was very, very nimble on social media and on apps. He changed apps all the time, because
he felt like he was being surveilled.
On the fiancee in Turkey, what we think what that was all about, because she was not the only one that was targeted -- it was also some friends of
Khashoggi who were high-profile after the murder, and also Turkish intelligence officials and the prosecutor who were doing the investigation.
We think that probably the Saudis, although we don't know that it was the Saudis -- could have been a proxy for them -- was trying to figure out,
what's the game plan here? What do we need to get ready for? What are they actually finding? And what are they going to say publicly?
So it's giving them an advantage that others didn't have.
So let me put this to you. CNN, of course, has not independently confirmed these findings, but the company NSO, which uses Pegasus, is denying these
claims, basically, it says. And we know that it was a French organization that also collaborated with you.
"The report by Forbidden Stories," a Paris-based nonprofit,"is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts
about the reliability and interests of the sources. It seems like the unidentified sources have supplied information that has no factual basis
and are far from reality. After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report."
But NSO won't reveal its clients. And it says its technologies are used to stop things that you would want to stop, sex trafficking, drug trafficking,
locating missing children, terrorism and all the rest of it.
What do we know about NSO? Who licenses them? Who gives them permission to sell that technology, let's say, from Israel to Saudi or wherever? What is
the -- what is that part of it?
PRIEST: It's a very important part, because it is considered a cyber weapon by Israel, but it has to do with their national security.
So the Ministry of Defense in Israel is the only way -- their approval is the only way they can sell to each country. So they approve it. We'd like
to know whether they have a backdoor. I don't think we know that yet firmly. And NSO cannot -- NSO says all sorts of things. They say it's
wrong, but we can't tell you why. They say, we check, but actually we don't have access to checking.
Well, they say we don't have access to the data. So how do they check? How do they monitor human rights abuses? They are not transparent. They are
secretive. That's what they do. They're former intelligence officials from the cyber unit of the Israeli government, and they use the skills they
learned there to bring to the private industry -- to bring to private industry, to make a lot of money, and to have -- this is really important -
- to have relationships in the Middle East through trade that could not be successfully made in diplomacy.
PRIEST: And that's why the Israeli government, including Bibi Netanyahu was promoting NSO throughout the world really but also in the Gulf States,
and I find that fascinating.
AMANPOUR: Well, fascinating because now they have an Abraham Accord with the Gulf States but they have no such accord with Saudi Arabia and you say
that there's a link there.
Do you think that the new Israeli government and particularly their muting -- potentially somewhat direction in foreign policy on some of these
issues, do you think this might change? Do you think -- you know, well, do you think it might change this?
PRIEST: Well, that is on our front burner right now to figure out what their reaction would be. Because we've seen negative reaction all over the
world. The Israeli government has only said what you would expect them to say so far, which is, we can't comment on national security secrets. You
know, we take our own national security into consideration when we do this. And they have stuck with the NSO line that this is only used on terrorists
So, we are proving that to be incorrect. Will they open up at all, will they try to be more transparent and put more regulations? This is a symbol
of a booming private security, private surveillance industry all over the world that is unregulated in most countries. So, this this is just one
group. It's a prominent group. It's an aggressive group. It's just one group out there that can potentially be doing the same types of things in
an unregulated environment.
AMANPOUR: I want to put to you a little bit of an interview I did with Bryan Fogel who did "The Dissident," the film, the documentary on the life
and death of Jamal Khashoggi. And he spoke to me a while about the power of NSO. Let's just run this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN FOGEL, DIRECTOR, "THE DISSIDENT": If you research NSO, you will see multiple cases, not just in Saudi Arabia, out of Africa, out of Mexico and
many, many other countries around the world that have had, you know, dictatorships, autocratic regimes where they have sold this technology and
this technology has been used to go after dissidents or go after political opponents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, again, this is really interesting. Because, you know, we're journalists. Others are activists who have been targeted. They are
politicians. I mean, people whose jobs are to look into the dark side of the world and try to reveal what's going on. Why is NSO targeting
journalists and activists and, you know, people in undemocratic countries? Why would Israel have sold tech spy ware to that kind of operation?
PRIEST: Well, first to be clear, it is not NSO that is doing to the targeting, it's the client country doing the targeting. NSO gives them a
package and then they operate it.
There -- they say that there are national security reasons that they have these strategic alliances in places like India, Hungary and Mexico, all
democracies but all really struggling democracies and we found there that this is where a lot of hacking of -- or attempted hacking of I would call
them civilian, people who are not involved in criminal activity. And I think that's their rationale. Again, they won't admit that any of this is
going on. And I think until they do, then things will not change.
AMANPOUR: You know, it does seem that quite a lot of it is directed in increasing the authoritarian nations that don't want to see dissent or
dissidents in their nations. And I wonder, it is really interesting that we said, you know, this collaboration involves you and some 17 other media
organizations. Is there safety in numbers? I guess, what is your -- you know, the group's desire in terms of being present to try to keep this
under control? Can you?
PRIEST: Well, that is a great point. Because we came together in part because it is such a big problem all over the world and no one organization
could hope to do interviews in so many countries. But also, for the protection of our colleagues. Not our colleagues in the United States. We
and the Europeans have a fair amount of protection as you know. But the colleagues in other parts of the world, I'll just give you one example,
Azerbaijan is a family kleptocracy and they sell this to Azerbaijan and it has targeted many journalists who have ended up in prison or fleeing the
country. But Azerbaijan has a long reach. They can reach over the borders with their allies and they can snatch people up. They can extradite them
and they do. Extradite. So, we look looking out for anybody in any country who is retaliated against because their names were in the media coverage.
And I think we all have pledged to report that out as well.
And this did happen once before when we wrote about a Moroccan called Omar Radi who was the victim of a Pegasus hack. He was also -- and then he ended
up in prison. So, you know, we've done our best to write about it. But Morocco, to this day, refuses to acknowledge that it has bought Pegasus.
And the Moroccan story is quite extensive. There use -- not just in Morocco but also -- but in Morocco against many journalists and many human rights
actors, especially those concerned with the long-time simmering conflict in the Sahara Desert with the Sahara ring (ph).
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, it's really chilling especially the no click hack (INAUDIBLE) there because, you know, you're told not to click on but this
doesn't seem to particularly protect you. But your colleagues are reporting now that one of the phone numbers that has been revealed is belonging to
Rob Malley, he's obviously the Biden's administration Iran envoy. I want to know what you'd make of the significance of that? But also, what other
things you might be revealing in the next few days as this unfolds?
PRIEST: Good try. Good try. Well, Malley was the negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal. When his phone was attempted or I'm not sure if they
penetrated it, I don't think so or I don't think we know. And so, the significance is, we're going to make some inferences here, Israel has
always been anti-nuclear deal. And NSO is a company that gets its license from Israel. Now -- so, it could be something related to that.
I have to say that he is an outlier. Because his number is a plus one U.S. number, he is an outlier. We did not find many of those. But, you know,
we're very interested to know what happened. Because Israel's NSO says that they have an automatic shutoff switch for plus one numbers.
And you have to -- you kind of have to ask yourself why. Why are the Americans an exception? Or maybe the Americans know a lot more about this
than they are telling us and, you know, that was part of the deal. They also say that recently they put Britain on that list. So again, you have to
say OK. What do our own countries know about NSO?
AMANPOUR: Well, we hope to get some answers from you.
Dana Priest, thank you very much for continuing this e investigation trying to keep us safe.
Now, we are talk the drug policy, which is another area of potential government overreach into our private lives. So, even as the legal cannabis
industry is booming, there were still more than a million marijuana arrests across the United States in 2019. In his new book, "This Is Your Mind on
Plants," author Michael Pollan, challenges the way we think about all drugs from psychedelics and opioids to tea and coffee. And here he is talking to
Walter Isaacson, exploring the many ways we let plants affect our behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christian. And Michael Pollan, welcome to the show.
MICHAEL POLLAN, AUTHOR, "THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS": Thank you, Walter. Good to be here.
ISAACSON: Your great book, which I love, which is "How to Change a Mind" was about psychedelics. Now, you have got a new one, which is "This is Your
Mind on Plants." And in many ways, it's reshaped the way we think of drugs, especially mind-enhancing or altering drugs. Do you think the war on drugs
might be ending because of these new feelings we have?
POLLAN: I think there is a lot of evidence that it is fading. If not, ending right away. The voters have spoken. And they are suing for peace.
You know, we saw last fall five traditionally red states voted to legalize marijuana. In the State of Oregon, they voted to decriminalize all drugs,
which is remarkable. And specifically, to legalize therapy with psilocybin. And then you have this decriminalized nature about propositions and city
council resolutions going through that would legalize what they call plant medicines or antiagens (ph). In other words, for psychedelics, it stresses
their spiritual qualities.
So, I think the voters have had it with the drug war and realize it's been a failure. And, you know, I think the politicians will be catching up
ISAACSON: What will peace and the war on drugs look like?
POLLAN: It is a really good question. Because, you know, in a way, things were simpler when a drug was either legal or illegal. But as soon as you
decriminalize it or legalize it, the culture has to figure out what is the safest way to fold it into our lives. And that is not at all obvious.
In the case of the psychedelics, we have this medical path that we're on. You know, the FDA is now considering approving psilocybin and MBMA or
ecstasy. And pretty soon, like within the next five years, both those drugs formally illicit will be available to people with a prescription from a
doctor. Although, you won't go to the CVS to get them. It will be part of a treatment package with preparation and guiding and integration afterwards.
But what about people who aren't mentally ill, who don't have a psychiatric diagnosis? How will they have access to these drugs? And that's going to be
very interesting to watch. I don't know the answer. There are people who are dreaming of setting up these psychedelic clinics. Where you will go. It
will be like a spa experience and there will be a doctor there to write the prescription, but it won't be a medical procedure. And that may be in our
ISAACSON: Well, let's move on to opium-based drugs. How do you think they should be treated?
POLLAN: Well, they are a hard case because they have created such a tremendous problem. You know, we just saw a record overdoses in the last
year, during the COVID year. More people died from opiate overdose than died from alcohol, which is not usually the case.
But we also know that making them illegal has not worked it. It has not stemmed use or overdoses. And we have to understand that many of the harms
we associate with opiates are the result of the fact that they are illegal. Overdoses are often the result of the fact that they are laced with
fentanyl. You don't know what you are getting in a street drug. The sharing of needles leads to disease because of the contamination. The crime that
has occurred to get ahold of these drugs.
So, I don't know exactly how to deal with it. But I think we have to look at other countries that are experimenting with novel approaches. In
Switzerland, for example, if you are an opiate addict, a heroin addict, they actually write you a prescription for heroin.
They give you pure heroin in a proper dose so you won't die from it. And then they go to work fixing your life. They work on your housing. Do you
have good housing? Do you have a good job? Do you have therapeutic support? And once they have solved those issues, with heavy government support, then
you get off the drug. And it is much easier.
They understand something really important about addiction. Which is that addiction is not a disease. An addiction is, in most cases, an adaptation
to the conditions of your life.
ISAACSON: In your new book, you know, the first start of it, you start off on poppies and opiates that you actually grew in your garden. And it is an
old essay you wrote, and I think, in the 1990s for Harpers (ph), but you reprinted it with some of the stuff that you had left out for legal
ISAACSON: You may say so though, back then, you kind of miss what was actually happening at the time which was oxycontin was coming along and
Purdue Pharmacy was doing. So, tell me about why it was so illegal to grow poppies in your backyard and yet, we were allowing this to happen by
POLLAN: Yes. Well, I didn't just miss it. I mean, I missed it as a journalist. It was a great case of why we need history not just journalism
because there are all these things going on in any given moment that are invisible us to.
And at the late 90s, at the height of the drug war under Clinton administration, the government was tracking down and arresting people in
great numbers and including for the growing of opium poppies, which by the way, many, many people have in their gardens. They're illegal to grow
unless you have the knowledge, mens rea, that they are a scheduled substance.
In fact, I have some right here. These are the heads of poppies that I'm growing. Perfectly legal. Until I -- unless the government can prove I have
the intent of turning them into opium. I have no such intent. So, it is a very --
ISAACSON: Well, (INAUDIBLE) Michelle are very glad that you are not doing anything illegal on this show.
POLLAN: So, the government was cracking down on people making opium at home and growing opium because it is actually remarkably easy but they did
it in this very quiet way. And I got tangled up in this campaign in the late '90s and wrote a piece. But on the advice of lawyers, I cut out two
sections. One where I actually made poppy tea, which is this mild narcotic. I mean, very mild. And the other is, you know, the recipe for doing and it
what it is like to take it. And I had to remove that, which I always felt bad, that act of self-censorship.
So, now that the drug war is fading, I hope, I felt comfortable reprinting it with the missing pages. And also, I wanted to surround the piece with
some context that I didn't know then, which is, just as you say, the very summer, I was growing opium poppies in 1996 and getting tangled up in this
crazy DEA campaign. I was never arrested, but people close to me were. They were -- Purdue Pharma was introducing oxycontin and really launching the
biggest public health crisis related to drugs during the drug war. Which is to say FDA approved drugs.
And in a way, that irony, if we can call it that, has -- I think has removed a lot of the authority of the drug war, that the biggest public
health problem related to drugs came out of an FDA-approved substance being sold by a pharmaceutical company, not the elicit market. There were only
5,000 opiate addicts in 1996. There are hundreds of them thousands now. And most of them appear to start with a prescription for legal opiates.
So, yes. We missed the boat. We completely missed the boat there. I did and certainly the government did.
ISAACSON: When against a really hard opium-based drugs like heroin, why in the world would we even want to allow anybody to use them?
POLLAN: Well, people are going to use it regardless of whether we allow them to or not. And so, the challenge is to make that as safe as possible.
The approach is known as harm reduction. You look at how do you limit the harm to individuals and to society. And prohibition isn't necessarily the
best path to reducing harms, as we've seen.
I don't -- I'm not arguing for legalization of heroin and certainly not commercialization. I don't want to see a situation, as we have with
cannabis, where you have capitalism pushing these drugs on people. But I'm really talking about taking away the criminal penalties, funneling people
into drug treatment where appropriate and dealing with the conditions of their lives that are causing them to become dictated.
There's is a lot of mental health issues too with people who become addicted. A very high percentage of addicts have suffered trauma in their
lives. That comes up over and over and over again. And so, you see the need for psychotherapy is really important. And, you know, it is just a
different way of thinking about addiction.
For me, the thing that opened my eyes about this is something called the rat park experiments. You know, much of what we know or think we know about
addictive drugs comes from these experiments we've all heard about, where you put a rat in a cage and they have two levers. And one administers
cocaine or morphine to their veins and the other administers sugar water, and they go for the cocaine or morphine until they are addicted or dead.
And so, we assume that exposure to this chemical makes you an addict. It's a disease you catch from a dangerous chemical. But then this psychologist
in British Columbia named Bruce Alexander tested this idea. He created -- he thought, maybe the problem is the cage.
And so, he created a beautiful cage for rats that had lots of space, that had toys and that had good food and other rats to play with or have sex
with. And he found in that situation, they did not choose the morphine over and over and over again. They sampled it but they stuck with their water.
And the need to become addicted, he decided, was an adaptation to their conditions. So, we have to look at the conditions of the cage, not just the
ISAACSON: But aren't there certain things in the chemical that cause it to be addictive?
POLLAN: Yes, there are. These chemicals have cooks in them. And if you take something that's, you know, continually releasing dopamine into your
system, overtime, you are likely -- you are more likely to get addicted than you would be if you didn't have it. But what's odd and interesting is
the overwhelming majority of people, even who use hard drugs don't become addicted. So, it is not all the chemical.
Or look at cigarettes. You know, you would think if it was simply a nicotine addiction, that if you gave someone a patch or gum, nicotine gum,
they would be fine. But they are not. It only works on about 17 percent of people. So, there is something else going on too. And that as much as we
have to pay attention to the fact that the drug has risks and without question it has serious risks.
Another example. In Vietnam, 20 percent of American servicemen were addicted to heroin. They were using it in country. And everybody worried
when they got back after the war that we'd have this epidemic of heroin addicts on our streets. But look what happened, 95 percent of them simply
got off of it, even without treatment. It didn't matter if they had treatment or not.
What had happened? Well, the condition of their cage had changed. They were back in their old patterns of life. They were people who were not -- didn't
have the circumstances that lead to addiction anymore. And they got better. They kicked it. So, I think that that's a very strong argument that it is
ISAACSON: Let's talk about psychedelic drugs, which was the subject of your last book and the last start of your current book. What are the
benefits and then what are the downside of humans using plant-based psychedelic drugs, ranging from mushrooms to LSD, I guess?
POLLAN: Yes, and a bunch of others. Ayahuasca is another one. DMT. Well, this class of drugs, you know, was made illegal in 1970 with the Controlled
Substances Act. President Nixon really went to war on psychedelic drugs. So, after banning the drugs and stigmatizing them heavily in society, it's
been very disruptive. A group of scientists, beginning around the year 2000, have been re-examining their potential as therapeutic tools.
And they had been used that a way in the '50s with some -- with great success actually to treat the distress of people with terminal cancer
diagnoses, to treat alcoholics. And they were getting good results. But after the backlash against psychedelics, all that research stopped in the
early '70s. It was revived around 2000 in a series of experiments done at Johns Hopkins, NYU, UCLA. And they found that these are very effective
treatments for depression, for addiction, for the distress of people with a cancer diagnosis. And they got remarkable results.
And MDMA, which is not exactly a psychedelic but it is also an illicit recreational drug so-called, it is ecstasy or molly, they found -- they
have found in papers just published in the last month or two that that is very effective in treating PTSD. So, this class of drugs is undergoing this
transformation really in our understanding of them.
What's exciting about them is they don't seem to just treat symptoms of mental illness but they seem to address causes. They actually seem to lead
to cures. Now, these are only phase 2 trials. They still have to go through phase 3 trials, which are much larger, but that is under way now. And I
think we are moving to a complete reclassification of some of these drugs as potentially therapeutic aids.
ISAACSON: The most lyrical section of your new book, "This Is Your Mind on Plants," involves my favorite plant-based drug. And I saw you taking some
sips this morning as well.
POLLAN: My tea, yes.
ISAACSON: Caffeine. Why is it that caffeine is so socially acceptable where as other plant-based drugs are not?
POLLAN: Yes. So, that is a really interesting question. There seems to be this great arbitrary sense of like this drug we demonize, this one we
allow. I mean, you know, tobacco and alcohol are more dangerous than most of the illicit drugs.
I think it has to do if whether a drug is perceived as lubricating the wheels of society or mucking them up. And caffeine par excellence (ph) is
the drug that lubricates our world. Social life, capitalism, you know, you don't need any bigger explanation or argument for that. Then just look at
the institution of the coffee break. OK?
This is a situation where our employers actually give us a free drug, caffeine in the form of coffee or tea. And then they give us paid time in
which to enjoy it. Why are they doing that? They are doing it because caffeine makes us better workers. It makes us more efficient. It makes us
more focused. It gives us greater endurance.
It allows us to work long hours. It is, you know -- I think it is one of the preconditions for the industrial revolution. You needed a workforce
that was not drunk all the time. Which was -- you know, before the introduction of caffeine to Europe, which happens in the 17th century,
people drank morning, noon and night because alcohol was safer than water. Water was contaminated. And the fermentation in alcohol would kill
Coffee and tea come along, and you basically, to an extent, displace alcohol as the everyday drink. And you are giving people a drink that
allows them to work more effectively, be more rational, think in a more linear way. It actually ushers in a new form of consciousness to the west.
And that form of consciousness contributes to things like the enlightenment, the age of reason in England and the industrial revolution.
So, it is a huge deal. I mean, caffeine changed our world. And you can argue for the good or for the -- well, for the good of civilization,
certainly, our standard of living. But it also disconnected us with nature in a way. Before caffeine, we stopped work when the sun went down. You
know, our circadian rhythms were tied to that of the seasons and the nature. So, whether it was better for the species or not is a different
question but it was certainly bet for civilization.
ISAACSON: Well, Michael, stay safe, be careful and thank you for joining us.
POLLAN: Thank you, Walter. Great pleasure talking to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Fascinating stuff. That is it for now. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.