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Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador To Russia John Sullivan; Interview With Women To Women International Staff Member And Afghan NGO Worker Sara; Interview With Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland; Interview With "G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover And The Making Of The American Century" Author Beverly Gage. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired January 04, 2023 - 13:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here is what's coming up.

Russia mourns the soldiers killed in one of the deadliest strikes on its own forces since the invasion. While Ukraine's President says, the Kremlin

is planning for the long haul. I get details from my guest, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan. Plus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We call on the Taliban to urgently reverse this harmful decision.


AMANPOUR: The United States joins the course of condemnation after the Taliban bars women from working at NGOs in Afghanistan. Inside, the latest

crackdown on the rights of women and girls, and what it reveals about the bitter power struggle inside of that country. Then.


BEVERLY GAGE, AUTHOR, "G-MAN: J. EDGAR HOOVER AND THE MAKING OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY": He built the security agency and then he used it to

really police the boundaries of what he thought was legitimate in American democracy.


AMANPOUR: The controversial legacy of J. Edgar Hoover. Yale history professor, Beverley Gage, explains why the former FBI chief is targeted

everyone, from Martin Luther King Jr. to the Ku Klux Klan.

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

Can he get the votes? That is the big question today on Capitol Hill as Kevin McCarthy tries again to rebound after hemorrhaging support in his bid

to become House speaker. The deadlock has ground the gears of government to a halt. But President Biden wants to show that government can actually

work. And today, he is in Kentucky, touting last year's massive infrastructure bill. Alongside, the Senate Republican Leader, Mitch


Now, it is that kind of bipartisanship that's necessary to support another democracy, that's the one in Ukraine. Its foreign minister said today that

preparations are underway to receive America's Patriot air defense system. This, after Washington pledged another $45 billion in emergency assistance

over the holidays. And every day, that aid becomes more critical as President Zelenskyy says that Russia is digging in for the long haul.

Including the bombing of cities and crucial infrastructure.

My first guest tonight is deeply familiar with the dynamics at play. For almost three years, John Sullivan served as U.S. ambassador to Russia. He

was there when Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. And he's now joining me from Washington.

Ambassador Sullivan, welcome back to our program. Can I ask you first and foremost, you were in Washington where this chaos is erupting in Congress

as we speak. I guess I want to ask you, does this threaten America's standing abroad, particularly, what message does it gave when, you know,

U.S. is trying to project strength in its support of Ukraine and against, you know, Russia.

JOHN SULLIVAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, it's great to be with you, Christiane. Thank you very much.

And it's a very important question and one I'd struggled with when I was the ambassador in Moscow. For example, the events on January 6th were like

catnip for the Russian propaganda's inside and outside the Kremlin. They pay very close attention to what was happening in Washington. They used the

George Floyd protest to their advantage, January 6th.

I'm not sure that the votes for speaker rise to that level. But it's certainly something that the Russians play very close attention to when

their propagandists use against us at every opportunity.

AMANPOUR: I mean, the $45 billion in aid is pretty much secure, right? Because that doesn't expire or it does not need another, sort of, mandate

until September.

SULLIVAN: That is right.


SULLIVAN: That is right. And we've got the commitment by the president to spend it appropriately, which is terrific.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you now to really put your specialist hat on and take us into the Kremlin. You were there in Moscow as ambassador, February

24th of last. Obviously, American intelligence had been predicting for a long time that the Russians were going to invade. Were you seeing that?

Were you feeling that? Were you also feeling that back to the U.S. from Russia?


SULLIVAN: Absolutely. From my perspective, Christiane, not only the intelligence that I was receiving, but there is this probable feel in

meeting with Russian officials that they were confident about how they were handling this problem they have in Ukraine which they -- we think is a

matter of foreign policy. They would, I think, view it more as a matter of domestic policy for them. Part of their idea of this Trion ruse (ph)

Russian imperial entity that they're cultivating.

But absolutely. I was convinced to my core before February 24th, that Vladimir Putin was going to launch a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. And I

said that publicly at any every opportunity.

AMANPOUR: And are you convinced to your core of what President Zelenskyy is now telling the world? He came to Washington. He addressed a joint

meeting of Congress. Asking for more help because they believe, the Ukrainians are saying, that they think Russia has not given up despite

battlefield losses on its big project, not just holding onto the east but - - and defending what it has. But still, maybe, wanting another go at Kyiv and elsewhere.

Do you think, given what has happened over the last, you know, 10 months of this war, that Vladimir Putin still holds those ambitions?

SULLIVAN: Absolutely. They only question is whether he has the wherewithal to -- whether with all to achieve it. He has absolutely the same ambition

that it has been long stated by him. It's held -- it's a passion of his. It goes to his whole idea of his role as the gatherer of Russian lands. Of

course, this is still his ambition.

The only question in my mind is whether, given all of these significant losses they've suffered, and the inability of their military and security

services to launch the type of military campaign that they sought, whether they can do it. I'd sum it up this way, his ambition to take over Ukraine,

he would if he could.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you also then, you obviously dealt a lot with the foreign ministry given your, you know, opposition as ambassador. It's been

portrayed that pretty much Putin has no dissent. That pretty much, he has got the support of everyone in the, sort of, you know, Russian sphere. Did

you find that when you spoke with your interlocutors at the foreign ministry? Did you think they were full square even after all these losses?

SULLIVAN: Well, I -- what I'd say, Christiane, is obviously, publicly they were in their engagements and what they said to me they were. But their

body language, at least for some of them, the body language for some of them indicated to me that there were significant doubts. Officials who were

reading from their low notes, sort of, looking down at their shoes as we were, you know, reviewing the bidding of what we thought they were going to

do in the Ukraine.

So, as convinced as I am of Putin's ambition for Ukraine, I'm equally convinced that there are senior people in the Russian government today,

both from before the invasion and probably more significantly after the invasion. We think it was a bad idea. Whether that will amount to what

change in Russian policy, I doubt it. It certainly won't change Putin's ambition.

AMANPOUR: So, let us talk a little bit about next steps then. I want to play this excerpt from Putin's New Year's speech. It was different. It

departed from his tradition and that this one was held with a backdrop of the military. He went to a military emplacement. And he said this. And this

is -- I want to ask you about this because this goes to the heart of competing messages. Here's what he said.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The west lied about peace that I was preparing for aggression. And today, they openly

admit it without shame. And they cynically use Ukraine and its people to weaken and split Russia. We have never allowed and never will allow anyone

to do this.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador, clearly that is not what's happening. The west is not attacking Russia. It is not interested in regime change. And -- but

yet, would you say it's a failure of western diplomacy and messaging that so much of the world, particularly the global south, is in Putin's camp.

And also, the Russians are, they believe they're under attack.

SULLIVAN: Well, it's certainly disappointing to me, Christiane, that more countries haven't devoted with us in the U.N. General Assembly, right. 141

countries voted in the general assembly. In the language of the resolution, there are actually two of them, is quite strong.


It deplores what the Russians have done. It demands that they remove their military from Ukraine. But the continued support in commercial engagement

with Russia, by other countries, particularly democracies, is disappointing. Because this is a moment in history, I believe, Christiane,

as significant as September 1, 1939 was.

People may scuff. But the last time we heard a European leader used that type of bogus language, nationalist rhetoric to justify an aggressive war

was when Adolf Hitler, after September 1, 1939, justified his invasion of Poland by deploring Polish barbarism against Germans -- ethnic Germans in

Poland behind a phony border that Hitler did not respect that was drawn out of Versailles. It's the identical nationalist language. It is shocking. And

it's a -- it's now -- he's used it to justify a war, the likes of which hasn't been seen on European continent in 77 years.

AMANPOUR: OK. I want to go to a few issues that have been raised, particularly by an expert at the IISS here in the U.K. about next step.

Basically, one of them involves messaging. But I want to go through a few others. So, do you think that the west and the United States is still

playing within Putin's, you know, terms, what they imagine to be his red line.

For instance, the administration keeps publicly saying what it will not provide to Ukraine. How far it will not go, you know. Do you think that

just emboldens Putin? That this is just a sign of unilateral restraint when he's not being restrained and he's busy attacking cities.

SULLIVAN: Well, the caveat to that, it's a powerful argument and I am sympathetic to it. Strategic ambiguity, I think, would be more useful for

the United States in this circumstance and others. But here's the rub, we're dealing with the only other nuclear superpower on Earth.

So, the president has been cautious. Putin himself has been cautious. Putin has signaled, threatened the use of weapons of mass destruction, he hasn't.

He hasn't attacked areas outside of Ukraine to the West. Putin himself has showed restrained. Biden -- President Biden has drawn some red lines, too.

As is President Xi.

You know, the Russian and the Chinese always talk about their, you know, their unlimited partnership and how they're -- that, you know, the sky is

the limit on Russia and China. Well, not so. President Xi has made quite clear that the use of nuclear weapons but the Russian Federation, by

President Putin would be a nonstarter from his perspective. So, even there, Putin has heard from his dear friend, his comrade, President Xi, no nukes.

AMANPOUR: Well, interestingly because apparently, Putin has announced that, you know, he expects to host President Xi in the coming months. China

has not responded to that. What do you think? Do you think Xi will want to go to meet Putin at this time in Russia given the state of play?

SULLIVAN: I'm not sure about that. I don't think -- I think Xi views Putin as -- I think he likes him personally from what I've seen. I don't -- I

have not been involved in their personal conversations but we understand that there's a close personal relationship between the two of them. But I

think as a statesman, as the leader of China, I think he views Putin as a useful partner, but a junior partner.

And when he looks across the table, he doesn't look across the table as an equal. He looks across the table as, in some ways, a supplicant --


SULLIVAN: -- who's looking for his report. So, will Xi go to Moscow? You know, Putin went to Beijing, nominally for the Olympics. I don't know

whether Xi would go to Moscow.

AMANPOUR: I want to play you a little piece of an interview I did with the -- with both Zelenskyys in Ukraine in November. And this was about what we

were talking about earlier, poking the bear. Trying, you know, the idea of how far one should go. And this is what Mrs. Zelenskyy said about,

basically, being in the fight of their lives.



OLENA ZELENSKA, UKRAINIAN FIRST LADY: We've suffered so much for them that if we don't put an end to this right now, there may be no chance in the

future. This is our last stand. And when it is the last stand, we've seen it in the movies, there's only one winner. And of course, our sole desire

is to be that winner.


AMANPOUR: So, that seems to be an immovable fact. The Ukrainians and the Russians are not talking about any negotiations right now. And the

Americans don't seem to be pushing them towards it. So, in the how do you end this with all sides retrenching, some have also suggested that, you

know, just like in the missile crisis of 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. should make it clear to Putin that it would be much safer for him

that he will survive if he makes an orderly exit. And again, this gets to messaging. What do you think?

SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, I think what you heard the first lady of the Ukraine say is reflected across the country of Ukraine. What -- again, an

example of the strategic failure of Putin's aggressive war. He is driven 44 million Ukrainians into a corner. And I read quotes and I speak to -- and I

read quotes in the media and speak to Ukrainians all the time. Russian speakers who have relatives in Russia, who should be well disposed to their

Slavic sisters and brothers who hate Russia now.

And that's what Putin has done. He has created an implacable enemy of the Ukrainian people. Even if President Biden, even if the United States, even

if NATO put pressure on Ukraine to capitulate or to make concessions, geographic concessions, sure, it would be extremely difficult for them to

continue the military campaign. But Ukraine would be a festering sore on the continent of Europe on a much larger scale, Christiane, than for

example, Belfast has been, was four decades in late 20th century with violence, the troubles.

What would happen -- what's happening in Ukraine, if arms stopped going to the Ukrainian military from the west, would make the troubles in Northern

Ireland look like child's play. So, I don't -- I'm very pessimistic about the path forward, at least in the short term, even this calendar year for

negotiations. What would drive negotiations is if Putin were in a place, where as I said before, he simply did not have the wherewithal to continue

his military campaign.

I'm asked frequently, you know, what's the off ramp for Putin? And I said this to Secretary Blinken, it's the first time I said, it was last summer,

we were talking about the question that he and I - he as secretary and I as ambassador get all the time. What's the off ramp? And I said -- my response

is, he doesn't want an off ramp. He won't take one if offered.

But if we want to use a turnpike or highway analogy, he'll take a rest. You know, like on the New Jersey Turnpike, he'd like the Vladimir Vladimirovich

rest area to regroup and reequip. Reequip is forces that may take a while. But he has ultimately got in his heart. This ambition, this imperial

ambition to bring Ukraine, to regather this Russian land. And he can't tolerate an independent globally admired president of Ukraine like

Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Unacceptable to him.

AMANPOUR: Well, we'll see where that takes him. Ambassador John Sullivan, thank you so much indeed for joining much us.

And of course, Russia's war on Ukraine is worsening the global food crisis, especially for Afghanistan. Poverty and hunger stalked that country. But

once again, the Taliban is complicating matters. It's ban on women working at NGOs, humanitarian organizations, has drawn condemnation and it's

disrupted critical aid efforts.

And it follows another crackdown on the education of women and girls, for instance. All of this despite the promises leaders made when they return to

power in 2021. Here's what the acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, told me just last May about secondary schooling for girls.


SIRAJUDDIN HAQQANI, ACTING AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTER (through translator): There is no one who opposes education for women. And already, girls are

allowed to go to school up to grade six and above that grade. The work is continuing on a mechanism. You may have heard that this is not opposed at

the level of leadership or the cabinet. But the issue has been postponed until further notice.


AMANPOUR: Could you tell us when you think that will happen? I know there has been a big meeting in Kandahar with your supreme leader, Akhundzada.

HAQQANI (through translator): What I am saying to you is that very soon you will hear very good news about this issue. God willing.


AMANPOUR: And we hear from many, many sources that these hardline edicts actually are coming from Kandahar. Now, first let me talk by phone inside

Afghanistan to an aid worker with Women for Women International. She is using the name Sara to protect her safety.

Now, Sara, can you tell me what you are seeing and what you are feeling with this ban on the ability of women to work in the aid area?

"SARA", STAFF MEMBER, WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL AND AFGHAN NGO WORKER: First of all, I want to talk about the banning of women from higher

education and their work. I am, as an employee of Women for Women International, we are banned from working. We are stayed at home. And this

destroys the women rights completely in Afghanistan. Thousands of women are affected by this decision.


"SARA": The de facto government --

AMANPOUR: -- and Sara, let me ask you, thousands, in fact millions of women are affected. Millions of girls are affected. But what about when it

comes to the poverty, and the hunger, and trying to help the people of Afghanistan? What happens if women are not allowed to do that work?

"SARA": It completely destroyed the women's right all over the world, not only in Afghanistan. But in Afghanistan, millions of women are affected by

this decision. They must reconsider their decision regarding this. Their higher educations are banned. Their works are banned. All women are

responsible for their families as the world knows that we have lost our fathers. Many female --

AMANPOUR: And Sara, what kind of hope do you have for the Taliban to change this decision? Can the world put pressure on them?

OK. We have -- actually, sorry to say, lost our audio connection with Afghanistan.

But let's get more on this and we turn now to Jan Egeland. He leads the Norwegian Refugee Council which has suspended its programs in Afghanistan

following the Taliban's ban on their female staff. He's joining me now from Oslo.

Mr. Egeland, welcome back to the program. You have also now decided with a whole group of NGOs simply not to work if -- unless the Taliban changes its

edict. I mean -- OK. What do you think that that's going to do? Surely it's punishing so many innocent Afghans for something that is not in their


JAN EGELAND, SECRETARY GENERAL, NORWEGIAN REFUGEE COUNCIL: It was with a heavy heart, really, that we on the 25th of December, the first day of

Christmas. The day after we heard of the ban on our female employees, we stopped all work. And indeed millions, millions will suffer. This is a

place where millions are hungry. Millions are freezing. Millions are out in the open. Millions are displaced.

But there's two reasons for this. Number one, we cannot do our work without our female colleagues. It would not be quality services. We could not even

deliver direct aid to single mother-led households. Men are not allowed to give aid to women.


EGELAND: The other reason is, we would disintegrate as principal employers if we would staff with male only operations in Afghanistan, we would lose

credibility everywhere. So, this is a battle we cannot lose. We have to have a reversal of his ban on female employees.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, meantime, 95 percent of Afghans, according to the United Nations are living below the poverty line. So, this is a matter of urgency.

What leverage do you have? I mean, what hope do you have that they will reverse as the U.N. and the rest of the world is calling on?

EGELAND: Well, I'm going this weekend to Afghanistan and meet the Taliban in Kabul, and I hope also in Kandahar. And I will explain to them that

millions of their people will suffer unnecessarily because of this edict that is paralyzing --


-- our work. It's not us stopping our work. It's them forcing us to stop our work. We're ready to start resume work tomorrow for millions and we

will abide by the dress code, hijab and the like. We will separate females and males in the workplace as we have done so far. We're even respecting

the mahram, the male chaperone or guardian to travel with female staff over longer travel. We've done all of that. So, it's not true that we have

violated traditional codes here. It's them coming with something out of the blue.

AMANPOUR: Well, you say, out of the blue. I've been told by many, including international officials and indeed Taliban officials, that this

is in fact coming from Kandahar, from the hardline religious leadership down there. That it's not the people who you all deal with, like,

Sirajuddin Haqqani, and the others. Can you confirm that?

EGELAND: Yes -- well, we've been told, yes, that it comes from the emir himself, the supreme leader, or the people around him. And the ministers

that we are dealing with say, it's not us. We got it from there, from Kandahar indeed. Which means that they need to tell these people that

millions and millions are suffering here.

We -- there is the -- the explanation is that some organizations have not respected the hijab code. Well, give a warning to those organizations and

they will dress up. It's as easy as that.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but you know -- yes.

EGELAND: We will continue to work but we cannot do it with a ban on us.

AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, you don't really take that seriously, do you because that came after the ban on girls' education, even universities and

more strictures in the workplace. And I just want to play a little bit -- I don't know whether you can see it but hopefully you can hear it. There is a

professor of university, a male professor, who went on Afghan television and made a very dramatic gesture to protest this idea of a ban on all

women's activity, practically. Let's just play it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As a lecture, I have brought my master and doctorate diplomas. Here it is. Cameraman friends, capture this.

It is all original documents. From today on, these are useless for me. This country is not for education. Here I have documents from Mandsaur

University, India. I don't need these diplomas anymore. Today, if my sister and mother can't study, then I don't need this education. Here, I tear the

document. It is original.


AMANPOUR: Wow. I mean, that is really dramatic.

EGELAND: Yes, it is.

AMANPOUR: It's really hard to get your papers and he has torn them up. I want to ask you what some are saying that maybe this idea of today's social

media pressure and protest in Afghanistan, that is different than Taliban, you know, 1.0 in the '90s. Do you have any hope that local protests like

that will have any sway?

EGELAND: I do. I do. This -- what happened, what you portrayed there, happened on TOLOnews. I -- we had an interview to them. Also, we've been in

Afghan media all of the time. I think it's sinking in, really, that it's a dramatic, dramatic thing that has happened. Humanitarians cannot work.

Females cannot be educated. It will be the downfall of Afghan society.

I hope that comes to the elderly men that are doing these edicts and that they understand that they have -- it has to be reversed. We will work to

that. We will respect all traditional values of Afghanistan. But as I've said, myself. to the Taliban leadership many times, we also have values. We

come from a broad -- a solid -- an act of solidarity. Also, respect our values and one of those values is the complete equality between males and

females, between the sexes.

AMANPOUR: Well, in the meantime, the very real poverty and hunger, as we've said, are stalking the land. There's been a report, this one was on

the BBC, over the last several weeks that Afghans are, some of them, giving their children medicines in order to stop them from crying and to ward off,

you know, to sedate them into trying to ignore their own hunger pains. Now, we haven't confirmed that.


But I -- and others who are selling their daughters, we know that. We've had that confirmed. And others are selling their organs just to be able to

live. What can you tell us about the desperate measures?

EGELAND: It is like that, really. I saw it when I came there just one month after the Taliban came and took over. Even at that point, the

desperation was complete, really. Among the poorest. Among the displaced. Since that time, it's become even much, much worse.

And some of that is really all of these edicts. The way that the Taliban has been leading the country. But some is also the withdrawal of massive

international development systems. There is even the -- as you know, the money of the Afghan National Bank is frozen in the United States. We have

still problems in even transferring money to Afghanistan through the international banks. So, there's also that aspect.

But now, it is the Taliban ban on female employees and on education for women that we need to win, really. So, this is a battle of values. And I

hope and pray that we will win.

AMANPOUR: I want to -- well, I'm going to ask you how you can transfer hope into a reality. But first, I want to just play a little bit of some of

the conversations I had with young girls before this draconian extra ban. But they were still then banned from public high schools. So, I went to

this place where they were getting an alternative education. And this is what some of them told me.


AMANPOUR (voiceover): This fashion studio has become an alternate education facility since the Taliban stopped girls from attending

government high schools. 17-year-old Rokhsar wanted to be a doctor. Now she's learning to be a dressmaker.

We're feeling very bad, she tells us. Girls are not able to go to school, staying home, doing nothing. We hope that this will change our life, so we

can be self-sufficient, have a profession, learn, earn money to support ourselves and our families.

Neda wanted to be a professional soccer player.

AMANPOUR (on camera): You're 17. You have never known the Taliban government. Did you ever imagine that this would happen to you, that you

would be prevented from going to school?

AMANPOUR (voiceover): No, never. We tried our best for our future. But it's a dark one now, because we're kept away from our schools.


AMANPOUR (on camera): And other girls have told other reporters that they don't even have the motivation to survive. I mean, some of them are really,

you know -- and some have taken their own lives, as you know. When you -- you know, we talked to you, Jan Egeland, right after this -- whatever you

want to call it, the handover from the west back to the Taliban. And you were slightly more optimistic then. Do you think that optimism was

misplaced? Did you ever imagine it would get to this stage so quickly?

EGELAND: No, we were optimistic in the beginning. And actually, we were able to come to provinces and districts which we couldn't reach because

there was utter war for years before the Taliban took Kabul.

But they -- actually, Christiane, they lied to you, they lied to me, they lied to all of us, or in the sense, those we spoke to probably believed it

when they said there will be education for all girls and women. There will be no problems for your female employees. These were the issues we brought

up with them. I did to the foreign minister, Mr. Muttaqi. I think he's number five or six in the Taliban hierarchy.

They came to us around the allegation and we spoke to them. There were new promises. But we didn't speak to Kandahar. And we probably should have done

more of that in the beginning. Now, it seems they are prevailing. But this can be reversed. There is an internal debate in the Taliban.

AMANPOUR: Well, you're going there, you just told me. What do you think you can -- what message can you take to Kandahar from the International

Community? Again, what leverage do you have? They don't care. The Kandaharis don't care, clearly, do they? They don't care about travel bans.

They don't care about any of these sanctions. They're sanctioned up the wazoo (ph) and they're still doing this.

EGELAND: Well, the difference now from before is that they are in charge now for 40 million people who -- whom rely on them. Their grandmothers, and

grandfathers, and nieces, and nephews, all over in the Pashtun heartland, but also in all the other regions. And they will tell them that the country

is actually reliant on this international assistance that is now being paralyzed.


There are some organizations that have not been affected by this ban because they are under the ministry of foreign affairs. The most of us are

under the ministry of the economy. And they were directed from Kandahar. I think little by little, it's spreading across the humanitarian world that

we cannot work without our female colleagues. And that, I think, will force them to reconsider. There is already some indications that there is a very

lively internal debate on this. I hope sense and humanity will prevail.

AMANPOUR: Well, we hope you're come back to use when you've been to Kandahar and give us the full debrief. We wish you good luck --

EGELAND: I will call you.

AMANPOUR: -- because it's for the people of Afghanistan. It's a real tragedy. Jan Egeland, thank you so much, indeed.

Next, J. Edgar Hoover wielded an iron hand on the power -- on the levers of power during his nearly 50 years as FBI director. He once was popular but

Hoover's legacy has become more and more controversial. He was considered an early seeder of modern conservatism. The Yale historian, Beverly Gage,

examines his dominance in a new biography which she discusses now with Michel Martin.


MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Professor Beverly Gage, thank you so much for talking with us.


MARTIN: You know, it's remarkable that J. Edgar Hoover had such an enormous footprint in American life in the 20th century. I mean, you just -

- you know, his name is literally on the door of the FBI headquarters. And yet, yours is the first, kind of, major biography of him in decades. I was

just wondering, you know, why is that?

GAGE: Well, the divide is actually a part of what drew me to want to write the biography in the first place. Because, on the one hand, as you say,

he's this huge household name. We're still getting Hollywood movies and all sorts of depictions of him in popular culture. And then on the other hand,

I thought we didn't have a very, you know, up to date historical examination of who he was for that amazing span of 48 years that he spent

as director of the FBI.

MARTIN: Your biography, really -- I don't know, it's such a cliche, but it -- I can't help but use it. It really complicates the picture that we have

of him. You know, on the one hand -- as one of the reviewers of the books said, on the one hand, you know, we see him as this kind of red baby, anti-

communist racist which, you know, he was.

On the other hand, this kind of stalwart law and order person who really professionalized the FBI. Who really believed in standards. What was the

soil that created this person? And how did he become the person that he became?

GAGE: Yes, I think, you really hit on the political puzzle of the book which is that on the one hand, Hoover came out of this, kind of,

progressive good government tradition. That was about modernizing and professionalizing. It was about expertise. It was about, you know, building

up the federal government and creating nonpartisan career civil servants, right?

All of these things that we tend to associate with are kind of liberal or progressive faith in the federal government and federal power. And on the

other hand, he was this devout and extremely outspoken etiological conservative his whole like on race, on religion, on anti-communism, on law

and order.

And so, that was just a really fascinating combination to me because we don't see those things put together all that often in our own time and day.

But I think in Hoover's period it is more common but also just something that made, sort of, the secret of his longevity and his success in the

government. He could be lots of things to lots of people.

MARTIN: What was it that formed his view, his, sort of, virulent anti- communist view?

GAGE: Yes, I think it's the big central theme of his life. The struggle between communism and anti-communism. And he came to it very early, as a

young man. He was born in Washington D.C. and grew up there. And partly as a result of that, he graduated from law school in D.C. in 1917 and moved

very quickly into the government. And 1917 is the year of the Bolshevik Revolution.

And so, from his first moment that he enters the Justice Department, he's interested in these issues. As a very young man. He becomes head of

something known as the radical division which is basically the federal government's first attempt to kind of conduct peacetime surveillance of

left-wingers, communists in particular. And then he holds on to that for much of the rest of his life.

MARTIN: Well, the other thing, of course, is that many people subsequently have observed is his obsession with Martin Luther King Jr. And the civil

rights movement writ -- you know, writ large.


There is this episode that you write about in the book, which other people have known about but you really amplify where he made a point of trying to

let Martin Luther King's family and inner circle know about his extramarital affairs and sent this letter. He didn't personally send it,

but he allowed it to be sent. A letter basically urging King to kill himself. And his wife, Coretta Scott King, found this package. They seem to

have known immediately that it came from the FBI. What was that about?

GAGE: The King story, I think, is really one of the saddest and cruelest parts of Hoover's history, I Mean, without question. And it is -- it was

outrageous and disheartening to read about it. And as you say, to get some of the new details that are now available. For instance, that anonymous

letter that they sent this kind of faked up letter that went with real recordings they had made in King's hotel room of his extramarital sex life.

You know, when I was doing research in the archives, I came across the first unredacted version of that letter, and it really was, you know, just

kind of shocking and in many ways, quite horrifying to read in its totality. But, you know, I think for Hoover, King came to represent a whole

constellation of things that he had long despised, had a lot of animosity towards. I mean, he had always been conducting surveillance of black

leaders, civil rights leaders.

He believed that King, I think rightly and wrongly, had a couple of very close advisers who had been close to the communist party. So, that was

another strike against him. King criticized the FBI, which was just about the worst thing you could do to J. Edgar Hoover.

And then finally, as you say, as this surveillance, the wiretaps, the bugs expanded, he got really deeply interested and almost obsessed with the

King's sex life. In part because, you know, he felt King was presenting himself as this great moral figure, a Baptist minister, but had this whole

secret life that no one was talking about. Put those things together and Hoover put this massive security bureaucracy really at work to destroy King

in pretty explicit ways.

MARTIN: Did he just have a world view that black people are supposed to be sort of a permanent servant class and that anybody who challenge that was

wrong? Like what was the origin of -- what really does seem like an obsession?

GAGE: Looking back to his early life, I think there were a couple of things. One was, in fact, Washington D.C. itself, which was a city that was

undergoing segregation, pretty explicit racial segregation during the years that he was coming of age, beginning in the 1890s. And he was shaped by

that process.

And then, the other thing that really came to fascinate to me was his college fraternity, which was a fraternity called Kappa Alpha, which was an

explicitly southern, explicitly segregationist fraternity that had some of the countries sort of most famous segregationists among its alums. Thomas

Dickson who wrote the novels that became the basis for the "Birth of a Nation" was one of the most famous Kappa Alphas, and he was sort of in

Hoover's orbit, a lot of Southern Democrats.

And so, I think you can see sort of the origins of his racist worldview emerging during those very early years and he carried the mom for a long


MARTIN: I think this will be very interesting to people who have been interested in the contemporary FBI and the way it has addressed or not

address kind of white supremacist movements in the United States in the current moment, right? He didn't like the Klan much either. Hoover did not

like the Ku Klux Klan. And really did want to disrupt their sort of efforts. Tell me a little bit more about that and why he felt that way.

GAGE: There are really two things that tended to draw Hoover in. One was the use of violence. So, he did not like groups of any sort that kind of

took the law into their own hands and attempted to use extra-legal violence to enforce their point of view, and that was certainly the Ku Klux Klan.

And then, he also saw the Klan, in particular, as kind of defying federal authority, right? So, particularly once the civil rights act is passed, if

you allow that to go on, it's a big, you know, kind of a lot thumbing your nose at the FBI itself. And so, I think he thought that the legitimacy of

the federal government, the legitimacy of the FBI was at stake in containing groups like the Klan.

And the really interesting thing is that many of the previous extreme in underhanded tactics that he used against King in that same moment he is

also deploying against the Klan. Anonymous letters, fake newspaper articles. Informants going into disrupt meetings, et cetera.


MARTIN: The other complicating issue that I was fascinated by, I have no idea of this before, as you point out, he was alone among prominent federal

officials in opposing the interment of the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Tell me more about that. Like why is that?

GAGE: This is another one of those really counterintuitive movements for Hoover but it is true that he opposed, and in fact, was one of the few

federal officials who did oppose mass Japanese incarceration and interment in beginning in 1942. And I think that was a combination of a genuine, you

know, kind of belief in certain ideas about what was constitutional and what was not.

He really did genuinely think that you could not do this, in particular, to American citizens. That it was unconstitutional. It wasn't going to stand

up in court in particular. And then, he also had a certain amount of self- interest in the whole thing because the FBI have launched its own much more limited interment program that was aimed, in part, at very particular

Japanese people that the FBI had determined to be disloyal or dangerous right by their own standards. But also, Germans, Italians, other citizens

of belligerent nations.

And so, his view was, we've already told you who's dangerous. We'll intern those people but you don't need to intern everyone in the way that the

Japanese internment ultimately did.

MARTIN: How did he stay in power so long?

GAGE: That, in many ways, is the great question of Hoover's career. So, he became head of the bureau in 1924 under Calvin Coolidge and he stayed there

until he died in his job in 1972 under Richard Nixon. So, it was a total of eight presidents. Four of them were Republicans. Four of them were

Democrats. And that alone seems unthinkable in our own moment.

But I think there were a combination of things that produced that. One was, it was kind of a luck at the moment. He happened to be there on the ground

floor when suddenly the federal government began to expand so dramatically in the '30s and '40s and there just weren't a lot of safeguards or

mechanisms of accountability in place. You know, there were no congressional intelligence committees. There were no limits on the FBI

director's tenure. These things that we now have, the clause of Hoover, none of those were in place.

And then, he was just an incredibly good bureaucrat. I mean, you had to do favors for powerful people. He knew how to kind of build his own political

constituency. He knew how to maintain an image that was nonpartisan enough that he could make these transitions. And particularly, as you got into the

later years, he also was just lucky because the last two presidents happen to be pretty good friends of his by the time they became president, that

was Johnson and Nixon.

So, at the moment, he should have really retired. He had two pretty close pals in office who wanted to keep him around.

MARTIN: Let's talk about the fact that he never married and had a very close intimate, it seems like -- I don't -- loving. I don't know whether --

what other word to use with his chief deputy, Clyde Tolson. For years you describe in detail what his relationship with Clyde Tolson was. The fact

that they took their breakfast together every morning. The fact that they vacation together. But do we really know what their relationship was?

GAGE: They were a functioning social couple for about four decades. Restaurants, vacations, the track, you know, outings in Washington and York

and Los Angeles. And then, on the other hand, it's really difficult to get at particularly the question of whether they were involved in a sexual

relationship. I think we just don't know.

It's pretty clear that neither one of them was involved with a woman at any point in that time. But we don't know exactly the nature of their

relationship there. And then, it's a little hard to get at the kind of interior nature of their emotional relationship to each other. Though, I

think, the existing record does help us get a little closer. And as you say, it's pretty clear that they cared deeply for each other, that in many

ways, it was quite a loving and supportive relationship that lasted a lot longer than a lot of people's relationships do.


Of course, the other conundrum or paradox in there is that while they were involved in this very public relationship, they were also involved in

policing and persecuting other people based on their sexual lives and sexual identities and sexual activities. And so, all of that is just this

big stew and it all existed at the same time, and that's kind of the challenge of being a biographer is letting people be a little messy and

contradictory sometimes.

MARTIN: I like to hear from you about how Hoover shaped the country, because of his long tenure at this critical law enforcement agency. In

terms of its reach and, you know, its reach into details of American life and all the sort of major, you know, both criminal justice and social

justice kind of movements and episodes in American life, and the FBI has a big impact. I guess the question really is not just how J. Edgar Hoover

shaped the FBI but how his leadership of the FBI helped shape the country?

GAGE: With Hoover, I think, we still see in today's FBI, you know, a lot of his impact, both in, you know, real tradition of kind of professionalize

expert service. You know, he had this mission of the FBI, as you say, as kind of the model police agency for the country. And I think the FBI still

holds on to some of that identity internally. And then, it also ends up pretty deeply conservative internal culture at the FBI, which I think is

also, you know, partly a product of the Hoover era. And so, we're still living with that.

More broadly, you know, what really drew me to thinking about Hoover was not just the kind of vast swath of his career but the fact that from that

position of power, he was able to shape, and I think in many ways, contain practically every movement for social progress, you know, around race,

surround civil rights, around labor, a whole host of factors, the anti-war movement, the new left of the 1960s. You know, none of those would have

been at the same without J. Edgar Hoover at the helm.

And I think in many ways, you know, he built this security agency and then he used it to really police the boundaries of what he thought was

legitimate in American democracy.

MARTIN: One of the points that you make in the book, and I think that this is worth remembering, is that he wasn't some rogue actor. I mean, his views

were commonly held. Was he leading the country in those views or was he just a reflection? Was he mainly a reflection of the views of a lot of

people at the time and happen to have a law enforcement apparatus that kind of maintain those guardrails? What's your take on that?

GAGE: That's a great question. And in some ways, I think though I've got all sorts of really interesting details about cases and investigations,

maybe the most surprising thing in the whole book is the fact that Hoover was so popular, which is something that we tend to forget, right? We tend

to see him as this villain or this rogue actor but, in fact, he was massively popular for most of his career in public opinion polls and he was

incredibly widely supported in Washington itself. Again, among both Democrats and Republicans.

And so, when we think about his history and legacy, I think we do have to think about what that tells us about the rest of the country and not simply

say, oh, Hoover was this man who did these bad things. But in fact, he couldn't have done them without this widespread support at many different


MARTIN: Professor Beverly Gage, thank you so much for talking with us.

GAGE: Thanks a lot.


AMANPOUR: And finally, some light amid the darkness in Ukraine. On my last trip to Kyiv, I reported on the National Circus of Ukraine and the creative

escape that it provides for both civilians and soldiers. Now, the next generation are dazzling audiences in the Annual Ukrainian Youth Circus

Festival. Only it's being held in neighboring Hungary this year because of the dangerous at home.

These young acrobats had trained in bomb shelters, without power and threw air raid sirens to perfect their craft. Now, some as young as six are

performing under the big top in Budapest, flying through the air or twisting their bodies into amazing shapes. The show must go on, as they


But that's it for ours right now. And if you ever miss it, you can always find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your

screen now is a QR code and all you need to do is pick up your phone and scan it with your camera. You can also find it at and on

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Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.