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Interview With Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh; Interview With Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya; Interview with Disinformation Governance Board Former Executive Director Nina Jankowcz. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 24, 2022 - 13:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe what Putin is attempting to do is eliminate the identity of Ukraine.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Three months into Putin's unprovoked war, will Russia pay? What lies ahead for Ukraine? And what more can the world do?

I'm joined by the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N., Sergiy Kyslytsya.

Then: Palestinians, still reeling from the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, ask the ICC to investigate. I will speak to Palestinian Prime

Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh amid heightened tensions with Israel.


NINA JANKOWICZ, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DISINFORMATION GOVERNANCE BOARD: It was death threats almost every day for over three weeks against me and

my family.

AMANPOUR: How the Department of Homeland Security's Disinformation Board fell victim to itself. The board's former leader, Nina Jankowicz, speaks to

Michel Martin about her own harrowing experience.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

A dark hour in our shared history, President Biden's words to the world as the war in Ukraine enters its fourth month. He spoke while meeting with the

leaders of India, Japan and Australia. The American president described the war as a global issue and underscored the vital importance of defending the

international order, which he said Vladimir Putin is intent on ripping up.

And Ukraine's president told the annual gathering at Davos that he feels the world is losing interest, that momentum behind Ukraine is fading, and

he appealed not to lose this feeling of unity.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the same forum that sanctions are draining Putin's war machine, but she also said

they must do whatever it takes to help defeat Russia.

Now, Sergiy Kyslytsya is Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations. He spent the last three months since the invasion driving home the horror of

this war, unafraid to take on his Russian counterparts.

And he joined me from New York for an exclusive interview.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Kyslytsya, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Can I ask you straight off, because it's latest news? Your foreign minister in -- has been speaking to Antony Blinken, the U.S.

secretary of state, about the -- what he calls the stealing of Ukrainian grain by what he calls Russian thieves.

And let me just read to you what the president of the European Commission said in Davos today: "Russia is weaponizing the food and energy sector, and

Russian army is confiscating grain suppliers and machinery in parts of the Ukraine, blocking export from ports on the Black Sea."

So the world seems to accept what's going on. What do you think can be done to unblock this?

KYSLYTSYA: Well, I cannot agree more with both my minister and with the president of the European Commission.

In fact, I had a chance this Sunday to spend a good part of the morning with her here in New York. And I totally support what she says concerning

the weaponizing of foods. And it's clearly a very informed, conscious decision of Putin and his henchmen. And it's very unfortunate, because...

AMANPOUR: What did you think it's for?

Sorry to interrupt.

Why -- what is the point of this?

KYSLYTSYA: The point of it is to make the best in the circumstances where his military campaign is failing, and that's obvious, and that he is not

able to achieve even the margin of his initial plans.

So, he desperately tries to use the toolkit that becomes uglier and uglier, and putting a significant part of the world, and especially those in Africa

and in Asia under the threat of starvation that will result in thousands, if not millions of people who will be devastated by hunger. And that's the

clear case.

If immediate actions are not taken, we will see the worst of the tragedy in two months from now.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, let's get back to the battlefield and to your president, who addressed the Davos World Economic Forum,.

He expressed worry that Ukraine might get less and less support as this war drags on. Do you really think that's the case? Because, from our

perspective, there's just so much support going from the United States, from all over NATO to Ukraine.

KYSLYTSYA: I would not argue and I should not argue with my president, because I agree with him.

And the reason is that we have seen, looking at many conflicts in the past how, after the initial wave of support, the news about war in Syria, in

Yemen, in Sudan all of a sudden disappeared from the front pages.

But I think that the global nature and the impact that goes beyond Europe of war of Russia against Ukraine will certainly keep it on the agenda. It's

another thing that the sustainability and the volume of support may vary, depending on the priorities of the major partners, including the United


But I think that the bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress is fundamentally important, even beyond the November elections in this


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, we can see that there appears to be a stalemate.

NATO analyzes that Ukraine has the momentum, but there seems to be a stalemate in the Donbass region. As you have said, Russia hasn't even --

hasn't even managed to win its even reduced goals. But your president said, eventually, this is going to have to be worked out around a negotiating


Let me just play what he said about this.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The daughter squad now the victory will be extremely difficult too. It will be

a bloody victory in the battle.

However, the end will definitely be in diplomacy. I'm convinced, because there are some things which we would not be able to end without a

negotiation table, because we want to take back everything, but the Russian Federation doesn't want to return anything.


AMANPOUR: So, Ambassador, that seems to me to be key: We want to take back and win back all our territory.

That interview was to mark his third anniversary as president. And we have heard since that the president and his aides say there will be no

concession on territory.

So where do you see any room for any negotiation?

KYSLYTSYA: Well, there is the consistent position of my president and of my government.

All along, we always believed that the negotiation table is the best way and the most humane way to deal with the situation. Unfortunately, Putin

had other vision. And he decided to launch this ugly invasion.

But, by the end of the day, he has no other option than to sit down with the Ukrainians and to have a meaningful conversation. It is clear that

these -- he has not yet reached that point of realization that he has no way and means to achieve military victory.

Unfortunately, all of us have to pay the ultimate price of lives of the Ukrainian soldiers and civilians for that, but there is no other way for

him to sit down and to have face-to-face conversation with President Zelenskyy, for the sake of even his own nation that will continue to suffer

if he doesn't change his position.

AMANPOUR: Well, to that end, I want to ask you what you make of a Russian diplomat, quite a senior Russian diplomat based in Geneva. He was the U.N.


He said he was ashamed of what his country was doing. And he wrote: "Those who conceived this war want only one thing, to remain in power forever, to

live in pompous, tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete

impunity. To achieve that, they're willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for


Just your reaction to that really intense criticism of his own country on this?

KYSLYTSYA: Well, what can I say?

On the one hand, I can say that it was a very courageous act. On the other hand, I would say that I'm disappointed, and as well as many colleagues of

mine here in New York. We are very much disappointed that, in the course of three months, and given the numbers of Russian Foreign Service, there is

only one known case of a person who has dignity and moral standards to speak out against the evil.


I have to face Russian diplomats every week, at least once or twice, in the Security Council. And it is so difficult, because you can't believe it that

people can dribble this (INAUDIBLE) those lies so bluntly.

But as I said, in one of the first meetings, lying, and lying and keeping lying, but basically ensuring that they have secured the best place, if I

may, in hell for them. And that's basically their choice.

And I think that everything they say in the Security Council may and will be used in a tribunal that will be established. There is no end to this

story until all of them, including the Russian diplomats, are hold to account. And when Ribbentrop was denying his knowledge of concentration

camps, by the end of the day, he was convicted, and we all know what happened to him.

AMANPOUR: So, let me play, because you have become...

KYSLYTSYA: The same story, the same...

AMANPOUR: Sorry to interrupt.

KYSLYTSYA: Go ahead.

AMANPOUR: But you have become pretty famous for your sharp repartee, witty, but pointed, in the Security Council to your Russian counterparts.

I'm just going to play a mash-up that you know very well, because you said it. And it was on the day that Putin essentially declared war.


KYSLYTSYA: The Russian president declared the war on the record. Should I play the video of your president?

Ambassador, shall I do that right now? You can confirm it. Do not interrupt me, please. Thank you.

VASSILY NEBENZIA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Then don't ask me questions when you are speaking. Proceed with your -- proceed with your


KYSLYTSYA: Anyway, you declared the war. It is the responsibility of these body to stop the war.

There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, Ambassador.


AMANPOUR: Well, that's it at the Security Council. And there's been many more.

Do you have any expectation that actually the body that you represent for your country, the U.N., can actually make any meaningful difference to

what's going on?

KYSLYTSYA: Well, unfortunately, the Security Council is the product of three fathers, one of whom was actually the son of evil, Joseph Stalin.

As we all remember, they decided to establish the United Nations in 1945. They immediately decided how to protect their powers in the Security

Council with the veto right. So it is not perfect.

But you do not change the traffic rules in your state if there is just one driver who is not willing to abide with the traffic rules. So, basically,

the whole design of the Security Council is not as bad as we unfortunately see it now.

The problem is that we have a country who believes that they are a permanent member of the Security Council, and they violate all possible

rules that we can imagine. The thing is that we have to look several steps ahead of us.

And when Russia will have a new political regime, when we have a new Lavrov, new Nebenzia, they will arrive to New York. They will sit down at

the Security Council. They will claim that they represent new Russia. So we will need immediately to ask them, what is their position on

accountability, for example? And if they will block the action Security Council on accountability for war crimes, we will immediately tell them

that you are not representing the new Russia.

So, the Security Council has a role to play. And even the fact that, basically, the Security Council is the only global platform where every

person on Earth, except in North Korea and in Russia, can live see what is going on in the Security Council and how Russia is isolated in the Security

Council, it's powerful by itself.

So we should not really underestimate the role of this body.

AMANPOUR: So let me ask you, because there seems to be a little bit of a tide turning inside Russia itself, at least beginning to.


We see a lot of very pro-war Russians, bloggers, military bloggers, analysts on television get very sharp, very angry about the way this war is


Now, I'm not saying they don't support the war, but they are pouring scorn over there military and I presume their president for the running of the

war. And they mention this fiasco for them of the convoy of military vehicles and troops trying to cross the Donets River, which was blown up by

the Ukrainian artillery, I mean, hundreds of Russian troops, dozens of vehicles lost.

And we know also, on another issue, the young 21-year-old Russian soldier who was convicted in a Ukraine court, but who apologized for what he had


There seems to be a mood shifting in Russia. How do you read it?

KYSLYTSYA: To understand what's going on in Russia, we have to roll back and we have to look what happened in Nazi Germany and how the entirety,

almost entirety of the German population was rallying behind Hitler and supporting his policy.

It's not exactly the same, but it's very close, in terms of social psychology and the attitude of the majority of the Russians. Their brains

have been washed for at least the last two decades, if not more. People are not given an alternative. People are indoctrinated from the primary care,

probably from preschool.

So I don't really buy this narrative that Russians do not have access to information, because you -- even if the Internet is censored or blocked,

you still can have access through VPN. You have relatives. People are still traveling. So they have information.

They are not willing or not taught how to digest information in a meaningful, critical way. And it will take ages, ages, literally ages, to

transform Russia after Putin in something that will allow us to develop, all of us, develop a normal relationship with Russia, unlike Germany that

underwent denazification after the World War II.

And Germany was occupied. We all remember the denazification took place under occupation. Russia would never be occupied. And Russia may be

militarily defeated, but not occupied. Therefore, it is a particular burden on the Russians themselves how they will turn their country back on the

path of developing a democratic society.

They abandoned that path in the middle of the Chechen wars in the '90s. They had everything they needed to have to build a prosperous democratic

nation. They decided to follow a different step.

And it's a challenge, as I say. If Russia does not turn back on the path of democracy, if the world will be satisfied with just military defeat of

Russia, in five or seven years from now, Russia will rebuild its strengths, reform its army, and Russia will hit again. And then the price we will pay

-- we will need to pay will be tripled compared to what we are paying right now.

AMANPOUR: And, finally, I know you're a diplomat and not a military analyst, but it seems that Mariupol has been lost. You have -- your forces

have surrendered.

And the Russians in Donbass area say they're putting these soldiers in a tribunal. I just wondered what your assessment of the battlefield in the

east is.

KYSLYTSYA: It's a tragedy of a scale that, in some cases, surpassed the tragedy of the World War II.

Like, if I'm not mistaken -- correct me if I'm wrong -- during the World War II, the Nazis killed 10,000 civilians in Mariupol. And the Russians

killed more than 20,000 of civilians in Mariupol. So you see the scale of the tragedy and trauma.

It's unfortunate that Mariupol is destroyed. It is unfortunate that our defenders cannot defend it anymore. But let me remind you, Ukraine was

occupied almost entirely in the -- during the World War II. And then we regained the control and the spirit of Ukrainian people. Now they're free,

unlike during the World War II. So we will not surrender.


The latest poll I saw about the -- that situation that indicates that at least 80, 83 percent of Ukrainians stand behind the armed forces, behind

the president and the government. And they not ready to make any concessions when it comes to the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, thank you for joining us from New York today.

KYSLYTSYA: Well, thank you.


AMANPOUR: Now, at Davos, Arab leaders called on the world to focus as much on Palestinian statehood as they are focusing on Ukraine's territorial

integrity and its sovereignty.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has announced it's formally asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the killing of Al-Jazeera

journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The veteran Palestinian-American correspondent was killed on May 11 covering an Israeli military raid in the

occupied West Bank.

Al-Jazeera has accused Israel of targeting her. Israel's military prosecutor has called on the army to investigate. And the fallout from

Shireen's killing continues to reverberate, igniting this tinderbox, horrifying scenes of Israeli police beating mourners at Shireen's funeral.

Police say they were being pelted with stones.

It comes at a time of already heightened tensions.

And the Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, joined me for this exclusive interview from Davos.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister's Shtayyeh, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, we have just been talking about the death of the wonderful Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

And we know that the Palestinian Authority is referring the case to the International Criminal Court. Why do you think it needs to get to that

level? And do you believe that it will be taken up and justice will be served?

SHTAYYEH: By all means. The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh has been really a criminal act by the Israeli army. We all know that.

On the other hand, the file has been decided to be referred to the ICC, International Criminal Court, simply because we want to hold Israel

responsible for all the criminal acts that it has been doing against our people.

Israel has been taken to the court by us on three different files, the issue that has to do with attacks on Gaza 2014, Israeli settlements that

has been constructed illegally, illegitimately on the Palestinian land and Palestinian territory, and also the third file has to do with Palestinian


So this issue of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, we wanted really an international forum, an international court to really say the final thing

and hold Israel responsible for the killing of the wonderful, professional, beloved journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, by not only the Palestinians, but by

the rest of the world.

AMANPOUR: Well, as you know, Israel denies having killed her, much less deliberately. And they called for a joint investigation into her death.

But the Palestinian Authority has rejected that. Can you explain why?

SHTAYYEH: Very simple, because we don't trust them.

There is no way that Israel can be trusted to investigate the killing by its own army. We have seen it before. Any investigation by the Israeli army

either leads to removing somebody from one office to the other or replacing him by another.

And, always, soldiers are replaced by what they do against our people. So, therefore, there it was not possible under any circumstances that we accept

a joint investigation by the Israeli army. It's a matter of trust, and we don't trust them.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, she was obviously a person of great power in terms of her journalism. And she was deeply beloved all over the region,

especially in Palestine.

And she was a particular symbol to Palestinian nationalists. Do you think that her death, her killing will do anything to push this stalled peace

process, the idea of Palestinian statehood, the idea of negotiations with Israel on this final situation?

Do you see any fallout, positive fallout, in that regard?

SHTAYYEH: Yes, I mean, look, the international condemnation and the international solidarity with her family, it was really something


It was -- I haven't seen something similar to what has happened with Shireen. Those who did condemn her killing are the ones who were supporting

the right of Palestinians to independence, to sovereignty, to end of occupation, to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its


I have seen it here in Davos, where people spoke about Palestine in the same way that they are speaking about Ukraine. So the issue of even Ukraine

has brought Palestine closer. And Shireen Abu Akleh's killing has also brought Palestine closer.


So, the solidarity, the sympathy, the support that we have seen by states, by officials, by non-officials, by journalists, by women, by young people,

the way people did mourn Shireen Abu Akleh in all capitals.

And thanks to you, the journalists who really gave Shireen its justice. And I think justice will be fulfilled the moment we take Israel to

international court, and we hold Israel responsible for killing Shireen Abu Akleh and for killing innocent Palestinians, young people, old people,

women, and so on and so forth.

Unfortunately, today, the Israeli army is implementing a shoot-to kill policy. And we have seen it every day. And we see it every day in the

Palestinian Authority. It is something that should stop. And I think the international community that is making its voice loud and clear when it

comes to applicability of international law, human rights, protection and so on, Palestine deserves international protection, because we are people

who are simply calling for our right to end of occupation, to sovereignty, to an independent sovereign state, like any other nation in the world.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister...

SHTAYYEH: So, Shireen Abu Akleh's killing has brought Palestine closer to people's hearts.

AMANPOUR: And she was killed in Jenin, which has been the site of a lot of disturbance. And the Israelis were in there.

And, of course, we also know that several of those who have killed Israelis inside Israel recently, Palestinians, did come from Jenin.

So the question is, is Jenin becoming an area of resistance that could trigger yet another full-scale conflict with Israel? And is that something

that would serve you at all? Would you support that?

SHTAYYEH: Well, my dear friend, look, we know that Israel exports its own problems. When Israel is in crisis, they always export their problems to


What has happened in Jenin was a politically designed killing of not only Shireen, but the people before. So it is an action and the reaction. That

is exactly what has -- happening. We wanted a situation in which that people who are extremely frustrated by double standards, by the

aggressions, by settler killings, by incursions into the mosques, Palestinians are angry, and Palestinians are frustrated.

And I think what Israel is doing is just simply putting fuel in an already inflamed situation. And I think it is in the hands of the Israelis to calm

the situation or to inflame the situation. Obviously, the Israelis politically have decided to make the situation in Jenin untolerable for the

lives of the people.

And I think that Israel should send a message of hope to the Palestinian people that Israel is ready to end this aggression on one hand, to end the

occupation on the other. Palestinians have been for 74 years waiting for a political solution that didn't arrive.

And I am here in Davos. Everybody speaks about Ukraine, and so on and so forth, at a time when we wanted an implementation of United Nations

resolution, we wanted the implementation of international law. So, Jenin is a model of injustice, where Palestinian -- poor Palestinians -- the refugee

camp of Jenin has been really hit hard for so many years.


SHTAYYEH: Young people -- we need to regenerate hope in the hearts of people in order for us to put things in order.

AMANPOUR: Well, I spoke about exactly a lot of these issues that you're raising when I interviewed the Israeli prime minister, your counterpart,

several weeks ago.

And I asked him about all of this. And I also asked him about the idea of a Palestinian state, the two-state solution, and opening up negotiations. He

replied to be that he was rejecting, as you know, land for peace. He calls it experimenting. This is what he told me.


NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I'm not in the business of playing experiments on the Israeli people.

What I will do and I am doing is people-to-people peace, bottom up, getting more jobs for Palestinians, better-paid jobs, improving the economy. That's

what I believe in. And I have to say that Palestinians are experiencing unprecedented prosperity.


AMANPOUR: So, Prime Minister Shtayyeh, that was Naftali Bennett talking about improving the economic situation for Palestinians and believing that

the solution lies in bottom-up interaction and improving people's lives.

What do you say to that effort?

SHTAYYEH: I say to that, that Palestinians are simply calling and looking for freedom.

Palestinians are looking for independence. Palestinians are looking for sovereignty again and again. The issue for us is not having a five-stars

occupation or a deluxe occupation. That is not what we are looking for.

Of course, I want to see the lives of the Palestinians in the best shape possible, improved.


But the question is, under what conditions? We do not want to improve the living conditions of our people under independent sovereign state not under


So, we -- it is not possible to replace a political horizon, a political solution with some sort of economic measures here and there.


SHTAYYEH: Of course, economic measures are needed because our people are poor and are people who are unemployed and Gaza is under siege and there

are so many (INAUDIBLE) problems. And Israel is building settlements. And according to the World Bank, we are losing billions of dollars because we

don't control our resources.

So, the issue even economic problems that we do face has to do with the fact that we are under occupation. So, in order for us to solve our

problems, we need, really, to end occupation and give Palestinians a margin or maneuvering, control of borders, sovereignty and also, to have the right

to live in their territory with all freedom and with dignity.

So, the issue is not about really improving living conditions here and there. The issue for us is that end of occupation, which is the cause of

all of every misery that has been -- unfortunately, Prime Minister Bennett, he didn't want to respond positively to any initiative.


SHTAYYEH: You know, he kept with -- he knows no to talk negotiations to our president, no negotiations with the Palestinians and no to two-states.

AMANPOUR: OK. Mr. Prime Minister, I need to step in. I'm sorry.

SHTAYYEH: -- destroying our future possibility of an independent Palestinian State.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you because that also requires elections on your side. As you know, you have no elections for many, many years now. And

the figures are not looking good for you, the Palestinian authority. Recent student elections in your former university, BSA, saw Hamas trounced the

Fatah Party. The -- you know, and there -- you know, polls show that 80 percent of Palestinians want your president, Mahmoud Abbas, to resign. 84

percent believe there is corruption within the Palestinian authority.

I mean, the question to you also is, without elections and representation, what is the legitimacy of your authority?

SHTAYYEH: Well, look, I mean, legitimacy of the Palestinian authority and leadership comes from the people. And it comes also from the legitimacy of

the Palestinian Liberalization Organization. We had the Palestine Central Council that has voted for a new executive committee of the (INAUDIBLE), it

was elected.

Remember one thing, it is true that we lost elections in Birzeit. But I want to remind you and the audience that we have won most of the municipal

elections in the (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Yes. But, Mr. Prime Minister, you just said legitimacy comes from the people -- you've just said legitimacy comes from the people and I

just read your poll which says that 80 percent of the Palestinian people want the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, to resign. So, that's pretty clear.

SHTAYYEH: I think -- I do question this -- no, my dear, I do question this. I will tell you one important thing. We have won every single

municipality in the West Bank. And Hamas only won two municipalities, Tulkarm and Dalbire (ph). So, therefore, we don't take an elite university

as a model and generalize it.

We -- what we should generalize is that all municipalities have been won by our party and our people. The legitimacy of our president comes from the

fact that he is the chairman of the PLO, one. The other important issue, President Abbas has issued a date for elections, which was supposed to take

place on the 22nd of May. 2021.

It was very unfortunate that Israel has violated all the agreements that we have signed with them, which does enable Palestinian from East Jerusalem to

be voters and to be candidates. That is the agreement, Palestinians in East Jerusalem have voted in 2000 -- in 1996 elections, 2005 elections, 2006

elections. This time, Israel used a veto over our democracy. Did not allow us to have our own elections. And I hope that President Biden, when he

comes to visit the region, next month, he will push hard for allowing Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote.

And I think -- and I want to assure you that our president, all of us, we are so keen that Palestinian society to be as democratic as it should be.

We are not hoping to see a Palestine as an authoritarian regime or a police state. That is now we are for. What do we do fight for is freedom and

democracy for Palestine and dignity for the Palestinian people. That is when we are. I have opinion polls that shows you also that Palestinians

want end of occupation. That Palestinians want democracy. That Palestinians want to have elections. And so on and so forth.


SHTAYYEH: So, the problem is that when we are trapped between damn if you do and damn if you don't. That is where the problem that we live in. It is

that Israel is using a veto on our democracy. And I think that the free world and democratic world should not allow Israel to continue with these

aggressive measures against our people, against our land, against our territory, against her children, against our women, and against our

democracy and against our elections.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, thank you so much for joining us from Davos.


SHTAYYEH: Thank you so much for having me.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

Now, the flow of misinformation also heightens tensions in places like the West Bank and Ukraine and, of course, in the United States. But Homeland

Security's newly launched Disinformation Governance Board has lasted only a few weeks in the face of intense criticism. Its leader, Nina Jankowcz has

resigned. She's a renowned expert on countering disinformation. And has been speaking to Michel Martin about her experience under attack online.


MICHEL MARTIN, CNNI CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Nina Jankowcz, thanks so much for talking to us.


MARTIN: What was the idea behind the Biden administration's Disinformation Project? What was the goal?

JANKOWCZ: Sure. So, I was contacted to lead the Disinformation Governance Board, which is kind of the scary sounding name. But the intention behind

the project was at the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate this massive department which has many, many different equities and, you know,

disaster management, border patrol, you know, things like election security and critical infrastructure, and to take all of the various bits and bobs

of counter disinformation work that the department was doing and really join them up, to harmonize them, to make them more efficient.

And, you know, we hadn't really done too much as a government in dealing with disinformation that affected the homeland where people were

encountering disinformation that could make them less safe or deal with their, you know, access to things like voting or other critical

infrastructure. And the idea there was that bring me in as an expert to support these missions and coordinate, that was the whole idea behind the

Disinformation Governance Board. It wasn't governing the entire internet, it was governing the work that was happening at the Department of Homeland


MARTIN: This project was attacked -- viciously attacked from the beginning. And I'm going to ask you if you could sort of take this piece by

piece, for example. First of all, what did they do and how did they do this, the attacking? And then, I'm going to ask you to tell me why you

think they did this?

JANKOWCZ: Sure. So, I think it's important to start with some blame on the department. Because when the project was announced about a month ago, the

department left out some key examples, like the fact that this board was set up to protect civil rights and civil liberties. That it wasn't going to

be monitoring Americans. That it was an internal governance group.

And because of that informational vacuum, conservatives jumped at the chance to fill in the blanks. They said that this board would be policing

the internet. They said that I was, you know, commissar or information and attacked, you know, my scholarship and my record. And I think it's, you

know, a really important point because it shows how disinformation works, when we lack information there are these informational vacuums that get

filled. And if we don't respond quickly enough, that's the narrative that sticks.

MARTIN: So, talk about the dimensions of what this, it's like smears against you personally?

JANKOWCZ: Sure. So, beyond the baseless attacks about what the board was going to be doing, that informational vacuum also led to a lot of attacks

on me and my family, as you've said. So, it was not just about my record, my tweets and previous statements being cherrypicked and taken absolutely

out of context and, you know, stripped of all nuance but it was gendered and sexualize attacks against me. It was, you know, death threats almost

every day for over three weeks against me and my family. It was doxing of me and my family and our personal information.

And frankly, you know, I think it's OK for government officials to be criticize and we should be held to account and criticized, but these

attacks of a personal nature were meant to silence me, frankly. They were meant to push me out of the job, to make me toxic to the Biden

administration and to silence me and they've continued even after I've resigned from the job, which wasn't because of the attacks, it was because

the lack of clarity about the future of the board within the administration. And frankly, you know, I've received continued attacks from

sitting U.S. senators and representatives who just seem to want to make me the main character of their pre-election, you know, push here in the United

States ahead of the midterms.

And I'm just a person, right? I'm 39 weeks pregnant right now. Not that saves me from criticism. But, you know, I would wish that we had a little

bit more humanity in our politics right now. And that these attacks would stop because the clear indication is that the folks who are in power are --

even though they're not saying it overtly, tacitly endorsing these types of attacks that my family and I have received. They know that this is how

their supporters act online.


And frankly, you know, it's a scary indication of where our politics have gotten to, that something that should be substantively debated, that

Americans are going to have concerns about, and I understand those concerns, that's all been pushed to the side. Our national security

concerns have been pushed the side for this vitriolic childish attack on a single person who frankly didn't have the much power within the department


MARTIN: It's depressing and disturbing enough for these far-right trolls to be putting your personal information out there. Basically, encouraging

people to harm you. That's with that is, that's with us for. But to have elected officials, you know, why do you think this approach was the

approach that they took? And why do you think -- and frankly, it has to be asked, why do you think the department was caught so flat-footed?

JANKOWCZ: Yes. Well, on the case of the officials, this is just the way that our politics has become. It's become extremely personalized as you

noted, Michel. And I think I'm a great main character for them. I have been opinionated, I'm a young woman, I have expressed myself online

authentically, including, you know, posting videos, singing and things like that. It's easy for them to attack me and to belittle me and to make fun of


And in the absence of information that the department did not put out about what the board was going to do, it was easy to whip up that outrage against

me personally and again, make me the main character of the campaign. It was just too easy for them. Where there was a lack of information elsewhere.

And the department, you know, it's a very large department, 250,000 people work at the Department Homeland Security. It has many different priorities

and equities, as I mentioned before. And I think as the rollout was happening, there were other priorities.

And then, in responding to these attacks, it's kind of a delicate dance, right? You don't want to give too much credence to the absurd things that

people are saying, especially when they're completely false. But you do need to respond rapidly and provide information where it's being requested.

And the department was unable to do that.

So, I think what we see here is the desire on the behalf of the government to fight disinformation but a misunderstanding of, you know, the nuts and

bolts of how to do it. You cannot just put out a fact sheet and especially when there this, you know, huge distrust between Americans and the

government right now. Hope that Americans are going to buy into everything that's in that fact sheet. You need to tell a better story, you need to do

it quickly, rapidly, openly and transparently.

MARTIN: But I guess I still I'm curious of this question of why was the administration's response so flat-footed as -- because, you know, you are

the expert in this, you are one of the country's if not the world's leading experts in this. You wrote a whole book about "How to Lose the Information

War" and How to be a Woman Online," which is your latest book. And yet, you are the target of all the strategies that you wrote about. And I just have

to ask, I don't understand that, do you?

JONES: No, frankly, Michel, I don't. I had tried throughout my time at the department, which was almost three months, sometime before the rollout

happened to guide the rollout in a way that I thought would be most effective. And even after these attacks started, I had given the department

guidance about how to deal with them. And unfortunately, the guidance wasn't heeded.

And this, again, speaks into the disproportionate nature of the attacks against me, seeing me as this kind of a huge figure head in the department.

When in reality, I was, you know, a high-ranking civil servant but not somebody who had been Senate confirmed. There are many levels of decision-

makers above me, and the decisions got made above my pay grade, frankly. And, you know, I ended up being collateral. I would've been happy to

continue to take those attacks if I felt that the administration were invested in this fight. But I don't necessarily feel that anymore.

MARTIN: Talk about the connection to national security. So, why do you say that addressing this and coming in -- developing an all-government response

is a matter of national security?

JANKOWCZ: Well, I think you can look at any of the three countries I've mentioned already, Russia, China, or Iran, and look at their campaigns and

see how they use our political polarization to further their own ends.

So, we saw in 2016, of course, Russia manipulating fissures in our society from racism to economic inequality to gender inequality, all to push

Russian foreign policy goals and make us more polarized, right? That benefits Russia because when we're fighting amongst ourselves, we're paying

a lot less attention to what Russia is doing abroad, whether that's in Ukraine and Syria and Venezuela and Central African Republic.

China and Iran also know that. In 2020, we saw Iran also trying to meddle in the presidential election by pushing fake e-mails to Democratic voters

to discourage them to stay home from the polls. China decided not to meddle in the 2020 election but has certainly been involved in influencing our

political discourse particularly all-round COVID-19.

So, these are all issues that affect American's democratic participation, which is a matter of national security. And everybody should care about, we

should only want Americans dealing in our elections, right? Those are the people that have the right to vote.


But also, you know, our health and our public safety. We see violent events like the insurrection on January 6th or some of the protests that happened

during the Black Lives Matter movement or any other violent event, even some of the shootings that we've seen being manipulated by foreign actors.

So, all of this is extremely important. And then, at the Department of Homeland Security we were dealing again, Michel, with things that affected

American safety.

So, if there were disinformation about a gas pipeline or a natural disaster law, that's the sort of stuff that were looking to combat, to keep

Americans safe and secure. And I think every elected representative should want that for the country. It was nothing to do with policing American

speech, but really making Americans aware that we are being manipulated, again, by people who are sharing disinformation for power and for profit.

MARTIN: You would think that elected officials in this country would be concerned about that. And I'm just --- this maybe beyond your wheel house,

but why do you think they are not?

JANKOWCZ: Well, Michel, I have done a number of hearings on Capitol Hill, serving as both Republican and Democratic witness, ironically some of the

very folks who have attacked me have supported my work in the past when I've been testifying before them. And I have always been dismayed to see

the partisanship on this issue.

There are many Republicans on Capitol Hill that are happy to talk about disinformation behind closed doors. But when it comes to hearings, they'll

stay for opening statements and not engage in discussion afterward or they just won't show up for hearings, point blank. I have had one hearing where

there has been equal Democratic and Republican representation at that hearing.

And it's because this issue has become such a political kind of firebrand, it is not something that Republicans want to be seen by their base as

supporting and addressing. And that is extremely upsetting. And I think Republicans recognize that it really fires up their base to say that people

are trampling on First Amendment rights when there are ways to address disinformation without trampling on First Amendment rights.

MARTIN: We have seen a recent real-time example when Ukrainians successfully got out in front of disinformation campaigns that were clearly

being planned by the Russians to justify their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. And Americans, it is my understanding, it seems to me that the

Biden administration and the military were effective in supporting that effort by strategically releasing intelligence information that supported

the fact basis of what the Ukrainians were saying, right?

You're wondering what it is that they could not do when it came to Americans interests. I'm guessing that -- has that question occurred to


JANKOWCZ: Oh, absolutely. You know, I think Ukraine has learned a lot over the past eight years and they have paid for it with Ukrainian lives, right?

They understand that this is an issue that does have a material and human effect on people. They recognize that Russian disinformation has led two

lives lost in their country.

Now, when we are talking about disinformation here, I think we can point to a couple of examples. COVID, for instance, the violent insurrection of the

capital on January 6th, the number of other violent events that have occurred, that been spawned by disinformation. But we haven't had this

national reckoning yet, that this is something that really does put people in danger.

And after the insurrection, you know, I wrote a piece in "Foreign Affairs" asking, you know, if this was enough. Now that the internet has come for

you, Member of Congress, are we going to wake up and address this issue? And we have not been able to yet.

And I think, you know, the administration, to some extent, feels hemmed in by Congress's polarization and their lack of action on this issue is afraid

to really come out in front and pushback using executive branch powers. And there are also, you know, legitimate First Amendment concerns. But, again,

I think there are ways to fight disinformation, through public and private partnership, through, you know, putting together some really good

guardrails, which, again, the Disinformation Governance Board was meant to do in order to be able to monitor what is being said in the public sphere,

not for individual Americans, but the general narratives that are going around, and to pre bunk them, to make sure that we are keeping Americans

safe and, again, we're protecting your national security.

MARTIN: We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment knowing, obviously, that we were going to speak with you today. And this is

what they said. They said, the Board's purpose has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized. It was never about censorship or policing

speech in any manner. Quit the opposite. It was designed to assure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland while protecting who core

constitutional rights. As it's executive director, Nina Jankowcz, was subjected to unjustified and vile personal attacks and physical threats. As

the secretary has repeatedly said in Congressional hearings and media interviews, Nina is eminently qualified to do this work. We know she will

continue to be a leader in this field.


So, that is their statement, however they decided to disseminate it. What about that? I mean, what's -- does that make you -- I don't know. Maybe it

is a stupid question. Does that make you feel better?

JANKOWCZ: Well, it's what the department had been saying for the past several weeks. I wish that we were able to come out sooner and, again, more

strongly. As the attacks began, the week of April 27th when we made the announcement, and I wish we were able to provide more information more

quickly, because if that had been the case, I might still be at the department today.

But I do hope that as, again, this board is examined by the Homeland Security Advisory Committee, that the folks who are advising the department

recognize the importance of its work and go forward with it, do not succumb to these partisan attacks. And whoever they empower to lead it in the

future, I hope they are ready to support them vocally, because that person is also going to come under, you know, serious attack.

And I think it is important to recognize that, you know, I was potentially the most prepared person to deal with those sorts of attacks and it was

still quite difficult for me. And we need to think about in the internet era how, not only government agencies but media organizations, academic

institutions are willing to support the people who are out there in the public sphere, you know, doing the work as figureheads as it were. Because

this is the reality of the internet now, unfortunately. And I talk about this in my second book. Too many organizations do not recognize that and

leave their employees to just kind twist in the wind.

MARTIN: Do you believe that the Biden administration basically left you to twist in the wind?

JANKOWCZ: I would have really preferred a more forceful response that focused on my bonafide (ph) days of which there are many. I wrote two

books. I've written hundreds of pages of academic and other articles that they could have pulled from and rebooted these attacks. And frankly, I was

not allowed to speak during those three weeks when my own personal reputation was being attacked every single day.

I would have loved to have gotten out there and rebutted these attacks personally, both, you know, about my reputation and about the board, but

that wasn't something the administration was willing to do. And again, I think that created more of an informational vacuum.

And frankly, you know, I worry about the young women who are looking at my Twitter feed and I respond to a tweet or I send a tweet now and it's just

hundreds of filthy and terrible messages, some of them violent coming back at me and I wonder what they are thinking, you know, that downstream

effect. If I am offered a position in the national security apparatus, will I take it or should I, you know, look for something a little bit less

public because I don't want to deal with these attacks?

Or even worse, you know, if I want a position in national security or politics in the future, do I need to stay silent? Should I not send this

tweet? Should I not engage online? That is the silencing effect that I think these campaigns have. And I just want everyone to know that I am not

going to be silent in the future. These attacks are not going to stop me. It's going to change perhaps the way I engage online, which is a reality

for most women and especially women of color. But I am going to continue doing what I have always done and speaking out against this behavior

because I think it really is a detriment to our political discourse and our democracy.

MARTIN: Nina Jankowcz, thank you so much for talking with us today.

JANKOWCZ: My pleasure, Michel.


AMANPOUR: And Nine Jankowcz clearly will not be cowered or intimidated.

And, finally, in an era where big lies spread rapidly, it's on all of us to stand for basic truth. That is a message from Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a

recipient of this year's President John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award. Take a listen to her speech.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The question for every one of us is in this time of testing, will we do our duty? Will we defend our constitution? Will be a

stand for truth? Will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics or will we look away from danger, ignore the threats, embrace the lies, and

enable the liar?


AMANPOUR: Cheney, of course, famously voted to impeach President Trump for his role in the January 6th attacks. She lost her leadership role within

the Republican Party for doing so. But she has now gained an honor previously reserved for the likes of John Lewes, John McCain, and Kofi


That is it for now. And if you ever missed our show, you can always find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now

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Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.