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Interview With Former U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator Dennis Ross; U.S. Cybersecurity And Infrastructure Security Agency Former Director Chris Krebs; Interview With Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Sims Brown. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired July 19, 2023 - 13:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: Thank you, dear members of Congress, for your support of Israel throughout history and at this critical moment in



GOLODRYGA: Israel's president addresses the United States Congress. But as some lawmakers boycott and with tensions simmering over democracy in

Israel, we take a temperature check on this important diplomatic relationship with Dennis Ross, former special Middle East coordinator under

President Clinton.

Then, U.S. China relations again in focus after a recent spate of high- profile hacks, we hone in on cyberattacks and the threat posed by China with Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure

Security Agency.

And --


PRISCILLA SIMS BROWN, CEO, AMALGAMATED BANK: I think it is incumbent upon us in the banking industry to be focused on the wealth gap. And that wealth

gap for black and brown people is way too huge.


GOLODRYGA: -- banking with a conscience. Plus, are things looking up for the U.S. economy? Walter Isaacson speaks to industry leader, Priscilla Sims

Brown, CEO of Amalgamated Bank.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

Ironclad, that is how Israel's president, Isaac Herzog, is describing the relationship between his country and the United States. Today, he addressed

a joint meeting of Congress, just the second Israeli president in history to do so. He attempted to affirm the importance of the Israeli U.S.

friendship despite recent fissures. He was received with strong bipartisan support in the chamber, even as a handful of Democratic lawmakers boycotted

today's address.

Tensions have been growing over the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu's government, including its creeping up occupation of the West Bank and the

divisive push to overhaul the court system, which many see as an attack on democracy.

Let's get into all of this now with Dennis Ross, he was the special Middle East coordinator under President Clinton. Dennis, it's always good to have

you under the program.

So, this was a historic speech before Congress for the President Herzog. He was only the second Israeli president to do so, the first being his father.

His position, we should note, is largely ceremonial, but he is no novice when it comes to Israeli politics. He has served in a number of governments

and was actually a candidate some years back for the Labor Party. For our viewers who are not familiar with him, tell us more about this man.

DENNIS ROSS, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL MIDDLE EAST COORDINATOR: Well, I think you gave a good thumbnail sketch to begin with. He's a pretty seasoned

politician. He was a member of the Labor Party. His father was the president of Israel, was formerly the head of military intelligence, was

one of the great commentators during the Israeli wars.

And he was also seen as kind of a nonpartisan person. He wasn't really political the same way that Isaac Herzog is. He ran, as you pointed out, to

be prime minister. Actually, came fairly close. The Labor Party, when he ran, actually got 24 mandates. To give you an idea of the difference,

today, the Labor Party has five mandates.

So, when he was running, he made the Labor Party actually a very significant political force. As the president, it is a ceremonial position,

but I would just note for your viewers, the president actually has an important position from several practical standpoints.

Number one, after an election, it's the president who makes the decision to ask a leader of a party to form a government. Meaning, even though you

would think that whoever comes in as the head of a party with a large number of votes, he would automatically ask them to form a government. The

fact is, if the president thinks that that person may not be able to form a government, he can go to someone else. So, that's one power he has.

Another power he has is, he has the power to grant a pardon. Nobody else in Israel can grant pardons. There are those who sometimes talk -- given Prime

Minister Netanyahu's legal troubles, sometimes they talk about plea deals, but in the back of the mind of some, it could be that a pardon could be

significant at a certain point.


In addition to that, because he assumes the position of being above politics at a time when there's such great polarization within Israel

because he has the imagery of being above politics, he may be the one figure who can actually bring people together. He actually has presented

that because the discussions to try to come to an understanding on the whole question of how you reform or overhaul the judicial system, they --

there have been a set of discussions that have taken place under his auspices.

Now, those discussions have been suspended for the time being. He, again, is making the case, look -- and I heard in the speech today, he made a

special plea for producing a change but doing it on the basis of a very broad consensus, which by the way, is very much what President Biden has

been talking about.

GOLODRYGA: And this has been a thin line that he has been walking, as you said, this is a ceremonial role that he is in now as president, and not

political. But he has played the mediator in terms of trying to find some resolution in these judicial reforms and to thus far, no avail. He briefly

addressed the current crisis in Israel right now, and the concerns about the future of democracy of that state before Congress. Here's what he said.


ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI PRESIDENT: I'm well aware of the imperfection of Israeli democracy. And I'm conscious of the questions posed by our greatest

of friends. The momentous debate in Israel is painful and deeply unnerving because it highlights the cracks in the whole -- within the entire whole.

And as president of Israel, I'm here to tell the American people and each of you that I have great confidence in Israeli democracy.


GOLODRYGA: How do you think he handled that moment right there? Because he was speaking not only for a U.S. audience, but I would say arguably, more

importantly, for an Israeli audience closely watching the speech back at home.

ROSS: You know, again, I think you put your finger on something. He was not addressing only an American audience. And what he said there, of course,

when he talked about the imperfections, here he was addressing more the American audience and the Israeli ones. But what he talked about his faith

in democracy, in a sense, what he was saying, we are demonstrating that faith in our commitment to democracy and the depths of our ethos in this


Because look at the demonstrations, we're now in the 29th week of demonstrations in Israel that totaled almost on a weekly basis, anywhere

from three to four percent of the total population. I think, very much, what's been going on with him when he makes this statement in talking about

while this is painful, he's also saying this is a manifestation of our democracy because the grassroots in Israel have produced this movement.

This wasn't created by the political heads of the opposition. This was created by those who pretty much represent the grassroots of the country.

GOLODRYGA: And it could very well be -- I mean, if you follow rumors in Israel, once his term is up as president, there's speculation that he may

run again for prime minister of the country. He also addressed the simmering tension while he was welcomed broadly from both sides there in

that chamber.

There were a handful of progressive Democrats who sat this out, and there has been a week of headlines here in the United States in anticipation of

this speech where you actually have the progressive chair, the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party, Congresswoman Jayapal, call Israel a racist

state. She then walked those words back, but clearly that was seen as an opening for Republicans to quickly hold a vote in support of Israel and

that got overwhelming support.

You saw him address some of these issues and say, it is reasonable to question some of the Israeli government's policies and to disagree with

them, but to draw a distinction between what he viewed as antisemitism and Israel's right to existence. He went on to say, the bond between these two

countries is strong, though challenged, and yet unbreakable.

What do you make of what is happening now, particularly in the Democratic Party, even if it's a fringe, is that more in terms of what's happening in

Washington, in the divisions there, or does this speak to a greater issue about the relationship between these two countries?

ROSS: Well, I do think there are questions about the relationship that we haven't seen before, especially within the Democratic Party. Now, there's a

split within the Democratic Party on this. The Progressive Caucus has 98 members, so it's not -- they're not a fringe. There are elements within the

Progressive Caucus that I would suggest are a fringe.

And in a sense, I think President Herzog was trying to get a distinction of criticism of Israeli policy, which is completely legitimate.


Versus questioning of whether or not Israel has the right to exist at all, which is not. For those who say that Israel doesn't have the right to

exist, what they're basically saying is the Jewish people don't have a right to self-determination. The Jewish people don't have a right to a home

now -- homeland, and therefore there is no such thing as a legitimacy of a Jewish state.

Now, a fringe takes that position. I think there is, among progressives in the country, and certainly the younger demographic, there are those who are

questioning of Israeli policies in a way maybe that they hadn't been before. And they are more sympathetic to the Palestinians than we've seen

in the past.

So, you have less sympathy for the Israeli position, and more sympathy for the Palestinian position in a segment of the Democratic Party. I think that

is new. I think it is something that has evolved over the last several years. In some ways it makes it easier for those who are more tough on the

Israelis when there is the Israeli government that has extreme ministers like Ben Gvir and Smotrich.


ROSS: They send a message. When Smotrich gets up and says there's no such thing as the Palestinian people, that obviously gives a lot of ammunition.

It creates a lot of fuel for those who are critics, not just of Israel, but those who actually want -- basically want to question whether Israel has a

right to exist. But President Herzog was saying, criticism is understandable. It's fair game. That's a part of any democracy. Look at

Israel, you see how much we're prepared to criticize ourselves.

So, when there's criticism, we can accept that. But when you say we don't have a right to exist, or you say we don't have a right to defend

ourselves, that's -- that is when you cross the line. Then it becomes a question, you're saying the Jewish people don't have a right to a state.

That really does move you into an antisemitic posture, not just a critical position of Israel.

GOLODRYGA: Dennis, hanging over all of this, sort of, the elephant in the room, was whether or not we would see unofficial invitation by President

Biden to Prime Minister Netanyahu for a visit to the United States, namely for a visit to the White House. I think to, sort of, lower the temperature.

We saw a phone call between the two on the eve of President Herzog's arrival, but there's still some debate as to the wording and whether an

official invitation was offered and what that date would be.

And it centered around some of the tensions between these two administrations. President Biden to CNN just last week said that this was

the most extreme government he had seen in his history, and in the last 50 years. And two huge issues, as you noted, Hoover over this government and

in Israel right now. We'll talk in a moment about the judicial reforms, but specifically the extreme fringes of this government that, on top of the

raid -- the recent raid in Jenin, continued pushing for settlement expansion.

There are some inside of Israel itself who are calling for this administration to do more and to pressure the Netanyahu government more. Do

you think that is the right call, and how would you assess how President Biden is handling it?

ROSS: Well, I think he is trying to walk a line. I think he is trying to strike a balance. In a sense, when you have the president of Israel

commensalism (ph) and the president of Israel speaks to the entire Congress -- -- Joint Houses of Congress. In a sense what you're seeing is, there is

an embrace of Israel. Now, what you're seeing with the president's he's saying, look, I am a believer in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. This is the

only president I'm aware of who was ever referred to himself as a Zionist, meaning he thinks that the Jewish people have a right to a state, and he's

an intuitive and instinctive emotional supporter of that.

So, on the one hand, he's conveying that message. On the other hand, he's saying as a friend of Israel, as someone who believes in Israel, as someone

who's committed to the U.S.-Israeli relationship, I understand that shared values is a pillar of that relationship. And if it looks like you're

carrying out a change in the balance of institutions in a way that would deny the independents of the judiciary, you're calling into question those

shared values.

And I think what he's saying is, look, I'm not going to tell you what your judicial reform should look like. But I am going to suggest as a friend

that the way you produced something as fundamental as that needs to be based on broad consensus. So, that's part of what we're seeing from

President Biden.

The other part is, look, the position of his administration is we can't produce two states between Israelis and Palestinians today. I mean, look,

you look at the dysfunction on the Palestinian side, if you actually had a Palestinian state today, it would be a failed state. The politics in Israel

make it difficult. The politics on the Palestinian side make it impossible as well.

So, you got to focus on what can you do. And one of the things he's trying to do with the Israelis is don't take steps that make it impossible to ever

have a two-state outcome.


So, here he's trying to, I think, strike a balance of support for Israel on the one hand, but also calling attention to those issues that he thinks

ultimately the U.S. also has stake in. We have a stake in a strong relationship with Israel. When Israel is in -- pursuing this kind of a

judicial process that is creating such tremendous turmoil within Israel, that's not enhancing Israel's strength. And that's important to the United


When Israel is taking steps that he believes make it impossible to ever get to two states, here again he thinks that's not serving Israeli interest,

and it's not serving American interests.


ROSS: So, he's trying to, in a sense, make it clear we're a friend of Israel, but being a friend of Israel, we also have a right to express these

kinds of opinions.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, at least a short-term outlook looks bleak in terms of any end resolution on a two-state solution. You're right to say that there is a

vacuum in leadership on the Palestinian front. And also, as you noted earlier these members -- the extreme members of Prime Minister Netanyahu's

government saying things like Palestinians should be erased, and having to walk things back like that obviously aren't very helpful.

Let's talk about the judicial reforms in the final minutes that we have. As you noted know, you've seen nearly 30 weeks of protests. We're expecting to

have a second and third reading of what is called the reasonable standard, and that's expected this week. You know, there are concerns that we are

heading into uncharted territory if this actually passes. Can you talk about -- and I know you just returned from the country, talk about what the

biggest concerns are among Israelis, if this goes through?

ROSS: I think the biggest concern, if this -- if the reasonable standard is revoked, the court today has the ability to say if there's an appointment

that basically strains the bounds of credibility or reasonability, meaning you appoint someone to a position who has absolutely no capability or

someone who has been convicted of crimes, and you're putting them in a ministry opposition, that really crosses a line of what's reasonable.

And I think the concern on the part of those who are opposed to this is that this means that there is no break. Anybody can be appointed to any

position even if it makes little sense, or even if this is someone who is - - has a track record of corruption.

So, they're suggesting you can't lose that ability to create that kind of a restraint. It does seem to me that there were those even in the

negotiations representing the opposition at the president's house, between the government and the opposition, who are saying maybe the concept of the

reasonable has been applied too liberal leads (ph), it's too elastic, it's too open-ended. So, there could be some definition or some ground rules,

some criteria for reasonableness. Right now, there really isn't.

So, the truth is, there is some room for compromise on that issue. The legislation that's being adopted doesn't seem to provide very much room for

any some compromise. The question will be, will a second and third reading go through without any readiness to walk that back? We're seeing that many

members of the military reservist are saying, they're not going to report - -

GOLODRYGA: Report for duty.

ROSS: -- for voluntary --


ROSS: -- service if this goes through. That's right. So --


ROSS: -- it's really having a profound effect on the military.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, as many as 160 of reserve officers had threatened that they won't report for duty. And even Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said that

if this goes through, the country would turn into a dictatorship. These are really stunning words. This is a story, obviously, we will be continuing to

follow it very closely. Dennis Ross, thank you, as always, for your expertise.

Well next to the massive migrant crisis facing Tunisia. Migrants from sub- Saharan Africa who traveled to Tunisia hoping to take a bout to Europe often fall victim to smugglers and human traffickers. Over the weekend,

leaders from Tunisia and Europe -- the European Union signed a historic deal. Europe pledged more than $1billion dollars in aid to the country to

help a deal with the migration crisis, as well as a battered economy.

Now, it comes as Tunisia faces international criticism of its treatment of migrants and asylum seekers. Correspondent Nada Bashir has this report.


NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Beaten, injured, and abandoned. These are just some of what Human Rights Watch estimates to be hundreds of

refugees and migrants recently expelled from Tunisia. They say, they have been stranded for weeks in no man's land, here at the country's eastern

border with Libya, closely watched by armed border guards. Many are wounded. They say, at the hands of the Tunisian national guard.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They beat all the women, even the children. I've got children myself. They wanted to hit my little boy, but I

protected him. I took all the blows. Some of the women and boys have broken skulls. They beat everyone.

BASHIR (voiceover): In videos, Human Rights Watch shared with CNN, migrants described the horrors they have faced. There is no shelter from the

sweltering dessert sun and no food. Some have even resorted to drinking sea water to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We need your help. Please, we need your help. You have to come and help us. There are babies. We have no

food. We need your help.

BASHIR (voiceover): The vast majority, according to Human Rights Watch, are believed to be from West Africa. They say, they were arrested in mass raids

near the port city of Sfax, then bussed more than 300 kilometers to the east, unaware of where they were being taken. Now, many of them are still

trapped in a militarized buffer zone that separates Tunisia and Libya.

LAUREN SEIBERT, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: I don't know what the government expects could possibly happen other than what is happening, which is people

walking for days in the desert, being pushed back and forth by both sides with nowhere to go. And then, some individuals reportedly dying.

BASHIR (voiceover): The crisis comes as tensions grow between Tunisian citizens and migrants. With the country's president, Kais Saied, fanning

racism and xenophobia against black Africans. In February, Saied made claims that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were threatened to change the

Democratic make-up of Tunisia and bring violence and crime to the country.

Words which fueled anti-immigrant sentiments across the country, but also sparked backlash. Now, the president is insisting that all migrants are

treated well in Tunisia.

KAIS SAIED, TUNISIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The Tunisian people have provided these migrants with everything possible, with unlimited


BASHIR (voiceover): Comments made as Tunisia and the European Union finalized a deal worth more than a billion U.S. dollars. Aimed at boosting

trade relations and crucially curbing irregular migration across the Mediterranean.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: And we agreed that we will cooperate on border management.

BASHIR (voiceover): The deal is set to commit more than a hundred million dollars towards securing Tunisians borders, supporting search and rescue

operations, and bolstering the country's anti-smuggling measures. But critics accused the E.U. of legitimizing Tunisia's hardline tactics in an

effort to make it more difficult for people to reach Europe's shores from Africa.

AHLAM CHEMLALI, VISITING SCHOLAR, YALE UNIVERSITY: They have ignored the fact that Tunisia doesn't have any infrastructure in place or resources, or

even political will to govern migrants and asylum seekers on their territory.

BASHIR (voiceover): According to Human Rights Watch, some migrants abandoned that Tunisia's eastern border have now been relocated to in

country facilities. Meanwhile, authorities in neighboring Libya say they have rescued dozens of migrants from the border, and are providing them

with urgent care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in a foreign language).

BASHIR (voiceover): But there remains concern that further expulsions could still be ongoing. With many still believed to be stranded at the border.

And as the bodies of refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean continue to wash up on Tunisia's shores, there are also fears

that others could be left to die in the desert.


GOLODRYGA: Really sobering and important reporting there from Nada Bashir.

Well, Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry is the latest U.S. official to visit China. His message, that the climate crisis must be separated from

politics. It is one of a host of issues that the two -- the world's two largest economies have been at odds over. And cybersecurity, in particular,

is becoming a big problem. Just last week, it was reported that China-based hackers gained access to the e-mail accounts of some 25 U.S. organizations,

including government agencies. And it seems to be part of a larger pattern.

Joining me now to discuss is Chris Krebs, a former director of cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency. Chris, always good to see

you. So, among those organizations that we now know were hacked, were the State Department and Commerce secretary. And the Commerce Secretary, Gina

Raimondo, personally.

According to U.S. officials, the breaches gave the Chinese government, "Insights about the U.S. thinking heading into Secretary of State, Antony

Blinken's visit. What do you make of the timing and the specifics of these breaches?


recent visits. As I look at the activities of the Chinese actors, it seems that they were contractors for the ministry of state security, which is one

of their main security services.

But the timing of it just -- it lines up for me as classic espionage. It was very narrowly targeted against diplomatic and commercial and economic

related issues, potentially looking for information on sanctions, some trade deals, other diplomatic negotiations.


So, it does seem like it was very narrowly targeted, this was not necessarily some disruptive or disruptive attack, or a you know, out of

bounds otherwise, like some of their other activities. So, it's what you would expect. And I think it was quite -- it shows a great deal of

capability on behalf of the Chinese cyber actors.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, I was going to ask, do you think this was more a sign of weakness and oversight on the part of the U.S. and of Microsoft perhaps, or

do you think this is a sign of growing sophistication on the part of the Chinese?

KREBS: It certainly shows a growing sophistication on behalf of the Chinese. I think it also highlights our increasing dependence, at least

from the government and significant critical infrastructure players, on third-party technology companies like Microsoft and Google and Amazon. And

it also shows that as we make this full-fledged shift into Cloud-based services, whether it's e-mail or other business operations, that the Cloud

itself is incredibly complex and there's not a great deal of transparency into how Cloud is managed.

And that is one of the top takeaways that I understand the U.S. federal government has, is the lack of transparency into how these Cloud systems

are managed and what the threat activity is happening on what's known as the back plane, or the actual systems that these tech companies manage on a

daily basis, that due to the Fourth Amendment and other constitutional protections, that the intelligence services here in the U.S. cannot look

into on a regular basis.

GOLODRYGA: So, do you view that some of these rules and laws need to be changed?

KREBS: I don't think so. I think what needs to happen is a greater degree of transparency from the tech companies. And they're working on that, I

think. But also, greater partnerships. And just this morning, CISA, the agency that I used to run in partnership with Microsoft, announced that

they were going to start making some really critical forensic logs available to lower tier licenses that they make available to commercial and

government clients.

And that is something that the government has been asking for, for quite some time, for many, many years. And it's great to see that Microsoft is

opening up the ability of a broader range of organization to be able to take a look at what's happening across their networks to detect any sort of

anomalous activity. Because the real takeaway here is that you're going to have a bad day. There will be a cyber event. There will be more cyber

events at Microsoft. There will be more cyber incidents in the federal government.

The key is to be able to detect them quickly and ensure that effectively the blast radius or the amount of systems and users that are impacted is as

small as possible. And you catch it, and you stomp it out quickly, and you keep moving forward.

GOLODRYGA: And it's coming as cyber experts are warning of an unprecedented level of espionage. I want to play a sound for you from James Andrew Lewis

who a cybersecurity expert, and here's what he said on this front.


JAMES ANDREW LEWIS, CHINESE CYBERESPIONAGE EXPERT: We're seeing China exploit the deep technological interconnections that have been built up

over the last 30 years. And it sounds grim, but we are in, really, what you could call a cyber crisis. I -- it's like, everyone has cyber (INAUDIBLE).

But the level of Chinese espionage has exceeded anything we saw in the cold war before. And the U.S. needs to think of a good way to deal with that.


GOLODRYGA: So, do you agree with what he just warned, and should we be alarmed that it appears that the U.S. has not yet figured out a -- an

effective way of dealing with it?

KREBS: Well, Jim's absolutely right. The level of threat activity, particularly out of China, is on the rise. The threat intelligence company

Mandiant, that's now owned by Google released a report earlier this week that talked about this growing sophistication of Chinese actors. And what

the Chinese government is doing is they're using their system of laws to improve their capabilities. And it's kind of an end run or a bank shot to

improve their capabilities.

And one of the things they've done is introduce a vulnerability disclosure law that says that any Chinese security researchers, or bug bounty hunters,

or you know, hackers that just go out there and kind of beat up on systems and find flaws. Under Chinese law, these Chinese researchers have to report

that vulnerability to the Chinese government before notifying the vendor or the operator of that system.

And what that does is it gives the security services in China an advantage. They can take a look at those vulnerabilities that have not been seen

before, and do not have patches available, and they can figure out how to exploit them. And it's quite possible that that's what happened here with

the Microsoft hack last week.


But anyway, you cut it -- the statistic support that -- what's known as a Zero-Day Attack or a Zero-Day Exploit, which takes advantage of those

unknown vulnerabilities, are on the rise and the Chinese have increased the use of those over the last several years. And the, you know, the takeaway

here is that that vulnerability disclosure requirement by the Chinese government is increasing their capabilities. That's something we need to

keep an eye on, obviously.

GOLODRYGA: Can the U.S. --

KREBS: From a government --

GOLODRYGA: Go ahead.

KREBS: Go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: No, if -- I hear --

KREBS: Well, I was going to say, from the U.S. government perspective, I think what we have to do is continue working with our private sector

partners, the technology providers, and ensure that they are being -- they're taking the appropriate security measures to the best of their

abilities. And if they underperform here effectively, that there has to be some sort of recourse.

And the U.S. government under the Biden administration in the recent national strategy is taking a hard look at software liability. Software

liability is not a thing that's really existed where you can hold these software providers liable for some sort of previous flaw. But the

government is taking a harder look at that now and likely will have some sort of framework coming out in the coming -- next year or so. That will

lay out a path forward that you can hold some software companies accountable if they're not taking the appropriate steps to secure their


GOLODRYGA: I mean, you know, the U.S. would be fortunate if it was only China that they were focused on in this issue. Obviously, there are threats

coming from Russia, from Iran, from North Korea. How did the recent spate of attacks from China compared to what we saw with the SolarWinds attacks

in 2019 and 2020 from Russian intelligence?

KREBS: Well, there are a number of similarities, for sure. One of them is that it is a credential or authentication-based attack. And that's what I

saw last week with this Chinese hack, that it's the same or a similar sort of using a token to be able to authorize access to accounts that you

shouldn't have otherwise have access to.

But what it also shows is that these sophisticated actors, whether they're Russia or China, are starting to target some of the, kind of, aggravation

points or concentrated risk points in internet and technology provided services. So, rather than knocking on the front door of the state

department and trying to hack directly in, they can go to a -- of that point of aggregation or a service provider and, kind of, tunnel up. But not

just hit one agency or organization, they can hit multiple organizations with the same technique, and that's something, I think, we have to expect

will increase going forward.

But to your earlier point about how it's not just Russia and it's not just China, as I see it, over the course of the next three to four years, just

about every country on the face of the earth will develop some sort of offensive cyber capability, because the barriers to entry on the thresholds

to developing capabilities are radically dropping on a regular basis. And even with the advent of things like generative A.I., it is going to help

previously locked out bad actors the ability to be more efficient, more productive, and faster.

So, we're going to have to use those same tools, generative A.I., to improve our defenses so it really does become a bit of an arms race here.

GOLODRYGA: Are you confident that the U.S. government, in particular, has enough technology and insight to deal with the widely expanding industry of

A.I. and quickly evolving on this specific issue of cybersecurity?

KREBS: Well, you know, Jim talked about a -- Jim Lewis talked about a cyber pearl harbor, a cyber 9/11, we've been hearing about these sorts of

catastrophic events now for 20, 30 years. And yet, we haven't seen one. So, that tells me something is working, at least up to date. And I think what

we saw certainly in Ukraine with the invasion by Russia, is that resilience and preparing for that bad day really does put you in a position to be able

to take a punch and keep moving forward.

Specific to cyber, specific to A.I. related cyber activities, I know based on conversations I've had out here in Aspen, at the Aspen Security Forum,

and with some of my government partners, that this is a top priority. The National Security Council and the operational agencies are working on a

regular basis with the A.I. model, the foundational model developers, and some of the tools to make sure that their systems are protected, that they

see the threats incoming and are able to defend against them.

So, I think we're at best position as, frankly, any other country on the face of the Earth. But this really does continue to be, are we integrating

these technologies in a responsible, thoughtful way, and that we're anticipating the various sorts of risks that we're introducing into our

organizations? And I think that's probably where we're going to see a number of different events or incidents as companies race to integrate A.I.

into their products, into their business processes.


That they're going to slip up and they're going to be data breaches and intellectual property spills and things of that nature.

GOLODRYGA: Chris, you're one of the few people who can claim that you got fired for doing your job, and doing it very well as the head of CISA and

the Trump administration's top security official. You famously declared that the 2020 election was the most secure in U.S. history, you are

subsequently fired for that. There are some legal ramifications and things that are continually ongoing right now that will have you back on for,

perhaps, on another day to talk about. But looking ahead to 2024, how confident are you that that election will be just as secure if not more

than 2020?

KREBS: So, I was asked this question a few days ago and the same thing that happened in that interview just happened. The hair on my neck stands up a

little bit. As I think about the threat actors that we had to deal with and we were worried about in 2020, and it's the same old players of Russia,

China, Iran, and a handful of others. I think their motivations have shifted dramatically since 2020.

Back then, I think the Russians and the Chinese were probably happy to just kind of let the election play out. That we were going to tear each other

apart, and that, you know, they could just sit there and watch from the sidelines. This time around, I think their motivations are significantly

different. I think as you look at what Russia is attempting to accomplish in Ukraine, and that we continue to provide support to the Ukrainians and

that sees battlefield defeat by the Russians, I think it's possible that Putin may change his calculus a little bit and actually try to influence

and interfere in the 2024 election. Same goes with China.

Last night in one of the opening sessions, Admiral Aquilino from INDOPACOM, the commander of INDOPACOM was talking about preparing for a Russian --

Chinese, rather, invasion of Taiwan. And if that -- if President Xi has ordered his military to be ready for that by 2027, then we need to be ready

for it now.

And part of my calculus or my thinking is that one way to undermine our preparation to help defend Taiwan is to throw our political apparatus into

total chaos, and so that we're more worried about what's happening here.


KREBS: So, I do think that there are some motivations from China and Russia and others that will copy prior playbooks and mess around in the 2024

election. Not to mention domestic actors that may get involved and move to the left or move earlier in the election to disrupt the process.

GOLODRYGA: Well, alarming warnings, but I guess it is somewhat reassuring when you say that the experts are on top of this and prepared for anything.

Chris Krebs, always great to see you. Thanks again.

KREBS: Thanks, Bianna. Great to see you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is rejecting recession fears, pointing to the strong labor market and easing inflation.

Priscilla Sims Brown is the CEO of Amalgamated Bank, one of the only unionized banks in the United States. And she joined Walter Isaacson to

discuss its commitment to social and economic justice, and the state of the economy.


WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And Priscilla Brown, welcome to the show.

BROWN: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

ISAACSON: We've been spending these past few months worrying about a recession, about hard landings, everything else. And last week, we got some

great economic news. Inflation is pretty far down. Unemployment is down. As somebody who runs a great community bank, do you think we're in for a soft

landing in the safe economy now?

BROWN: Well, I won't hazard a guess, Walter. Many have done it. But I will say that the indicators are good, not only those that you referenced, but

also anecdotally what we're seeing with our own customers.

ISAACSON: What do you say with your own customers? How are deposits going?

BROWN: Deposits are going well. We're basically flat on the quarter, which in this environment is a good thing. But more importantly, we're also

seeing real encouragement among our own customers, a level of confidence that gives me hope.

ISAACSON: Do you think that they have the confidence to, like, take out loans, start businesses grow again?

BROWN: Yes, I do. I think -- you know, in the case of our customers, we're talking about changemakers, people who are doing good in the world. And

whether that be related to climate or affordable housing, these are things -- these are projects that are really critically important to our society,

and our customers are as enthusiastic as ever about getting those things done.

ISAACSON: You're talking about your customers being change makers, doing good, doing great projects. You're 100-year-old bank and yet you're a bank

with a purpose. In fact, you're a banker with a purpose. I've followed your career. Tell me why Amalgamated is different?

BROWN: Well, I'm glad you asked. It's an exciting story. You're right, Amalgamated was started by a group of clothing workers. They had formed a

union that couldn't be banked. So, they decided to start their own bank, and that was 100 years ago.


And for that long, we've continued to care a lot about workers' rights, but we also care about the rights of all people who are -- put in vulnerable

positions. And so, we think about society and what's best. And as a bank, where it's appropriate as a bank, we get involved.

ISAACSON: And by getting involved, what do you mean besides traditional banking activities?

BROWN: Well, we also think about those things that financial services industry should and can do to alleviate problems in the world. And so, that

started for us with climate and, quite a lot of work. A third of our lending is climate related or sustainability related. And we'd go from that

to making sure that we are actively involved in setting the standards by which financial institutions report their activity, their past and net


We have done something similar in terms of getting involved and, sort of, punching above our weight as it relates to things like women having access

to reproductive health care, as it relates to eliminating the use of financial systems for gun crimes and other crimes. These are all things

that we think are appropriate for a bank to do and we get involved.

ISAACSON: So, you say you got involved in all these things, reproductive rights, guns, everything else. To what extent do you have to say, we're

going to take a little bit of a hit on our bottom line or the amount of interest rates we pay?

BROWN: Well, look -- you know, for us, the story is a pretty good one. 100 years, ago this was an experiment in how banking could be done well. How

you could do good and do well. Now, 100 years later, we think the experiment is proven. And it's proven for us in our earnings growth as a

bank. So, what we do for shareholders but also as a B Corp, we care as much about what we do for other stakeholders. And so, we see the success of the

strategy in the progress that our shareholder -- our stakeholders make, including all of our customers.

ISAACSON: But do you think people are attracted to the fact that you are doing good and they want to be amalgamated for that reason?

BROWN: Absolutely, absolutely. Our customers tell us, they'd like to know where their money sleeps at night. And it's -- they are happy to know that

it is sleeping in good places. They don't, again, they don't have to worry about whether we are doing something that is against their values.

This is aided by the fact that we are a subtransparent. And actually, Walter, I mean in that way, we are also -- we also enjoy a luxury that many

institutions don't have. We don't get as concerned as others may about any form of malcontent among customers because we are so transparent.

ISAACSON: There is a great book by Matthew Desmond called "Poverty, by America." And one of the things in that struck me is that black or Hispanic

families are five times more likely to be unbanked. What do you do? That's part of the mission of Amalgamated Bank, to fight racial injustice and

things like that. What are you doing in that regard?

BROWN: I am so glad you asked about that because I think it is incumbent upon us in the banking industry to be focused on the wealth gap. And that

wealth gap for black and brown people is way too huge. And there are number of banks turned a lot about it. What we're doing right now is a series of

conversations with changemakers in this space and with individuals who are affected by this space to try to find where is the wide space? What is not

being addressed?

We know that some of the institutional processes we have had in place for a long time, while perhaps not intending to be are certainly discriminatory.

And we are having a discriminatory effect, I should say. So, we want to address that. And one of the reasons, frankly, that we are reporting this

week very strong earnings and we are reporting great success is through the work that we are doing with underserved communities. Whether those be

people serving this population, or whether it's the population itself.

One example of that is some of the investing we've done with funds that are specifically set aside for black and brown communities, and for

entrepreneurs in those communities. Another thing that we think is really important is you've seen a number of larger banks and other asset managers.


Setting aside specific programs to enable those who are coming into the workforce to have access to capital. We think access to capital, both that

initial point when you try and buy your first home. And at the second point, which is when you're trying to expand your business. You have seen

success in your business in a limited way. You have lots of demands, you want to expand it. You don't have access to capital to make that happen. We

are looking at solutions to that problem.

ISAACSON: Let me read you a statistic that I find interesting which is that research shows that Americans in 2021 were charged $11 billion in overdraft

fees, and nine percent of accountable there's pay 84 percent of those fees. And those are customers who usually have balances of less than $350. That

feels like attacks on the poor. You know, how can banks make sure that there isn't attacks on being poor when you go to a bank and that the poor

don't get exploited?

BROWN: Look, I think there's a lot in that answer. One is we have to educate people in the way they're using these accounts. It's a travesty if

the fees you're being charged on an account are multiples of the balance in your account. That means that you are using this account as a way of

getting a payday loan, essentially. You are taking the money out, knowing in many cases, and we do see that there are people who do this in excessive

number of times.

So, what's happening is they need access to funds right away. They don't have another access. So, they knowingly will create a situation where they

are getting a feel for the use of that money, right? And that has to stop. We have to be able to educate people because whether you take the fee away

or not, they are still not managing very well. And we have to provide education to assist in that.

We do that not only indirectly, but we do that indirectly by supporting organizations that are providing that kind of information and education and

literacy, financial literacy to customers. That is where it starts. It also has to continue through to our policies and practices on how we charge

fees, and recognizing the problem and communicating with customers. This is another reason why community banks are so important because they know their

customers and they have the opportunity to engage where they see there are issues.

ISAACSON: You say that customers love the fact that money is sleeping in a good place. Also, I assume it's not sleeping in bad places. Let me take an

example. They may not like money going to gun manufacturers or gun transactions. Tell me what you do in that regard?

BROWN: Well, you know, it's interesting. I, like, almost every American, I have a number of legal gun owners as family members and friends and even in

my own home. And so, we don't take a position around whether or not a gun owner should be a gun owner. We think that Second Amendment is important.

What we do though is we do want to see the eradication of using financial services systems to commit gun crimes, that's the distinction that we made.

And again, we think that's the right swim lane for a bank. But right now, we have a problem in this country in that, in fact, it can happen anywhere

around the world in that illegal activity using credit cards for the purpose of buying guns to do something wrong. It's hard to identify. It's

hard for us to report this spacious activity to authorities, and so we've taken it upon ourselves to try and address that.

ISAACSON: In the past few days we've seen the earnings report from the big banks, they all come out in the past week. They did a little bit better, I

think, correct me if I'm wrong, than expectations that looked pretty good for the big banks. Over the next week or two, we're going to see community

banks reporting. Is that a trend that's going to continue or is this something special to the big banks this quarter?

BROWN: Well, it's going to be hard -- it's hard for me to answer that directly. But what I will say is that we as a -- we're a bank that's in

four major cities. So, we're considered national. But we do work all around the country. And we care lot about the smaller banks, the community banks

that we also like to support. We think that they serve a very important purpose on Main Street in America. That this is the bank that supports the

entrepreneurs, the local entrepreneurs and knows them very well.


And I think whether you are a large money center bank, whether you are mid- sized banks like us, we're 125th bank out of 4,000. Whether you are us, whether you're smaller, or whether you're larger, we need this ecosystem

financing organizations to be able to sustain the economy and important ways.

And so, we certainly hope to see very good results coming out of the community banks that will report. And you're right, it's sort of goes in

order of size. You've seen some of the big banks' report. You'll see us and others reporting now, and then you'll see the smaller banks reporting.

ISAACSON: This spring, Silicon Valley Bank, the First Republic Bank, failures, people will worry that this was going to hurt mid-sized banks and

community banks. Yet things -- have they stabilized? It seems they have.

BROWN: Well, I think what people are starting to realize is that this really is not about equating size with quality. In the case of Silicon

Valley Bank, you have a fairly large bank that was affected, $200 billion. That's not a small bank. And yet, I think initially -- the initial

reactions were that flight to quality met flight to size.

What people have come to realize, I think in the weeks and months have passed is that actually, what's important is that banks are acting

responsibly. That they're making prudent decisions to protect their policy -- I'm sorry, their shareholders and their customers. And so, that is what

I think is starting to be reflected in the results that you are seeing from banks.

ISAACSON: We heard Senator Warren say right after -- Senator Elizabeth Warren say after these problems with Silicon Valley Bank and others, that

it happened because there weren't enough correct regulations on mid-size, smaller and community banks. Is she right? Are there more regulations --

you're a mid-sized bank so you're in the middle of those two things. Do you think the regulatory regime is correct at the moment? If not, how would you

fix it?

BROWN: Look, I think the process of regulating financial institutions is always a dynamic process. There are always going to be changes in the

economy and changes all around us that will affect what is important to do from a regulatory perspective. Whether that be esoteric new instruments

coming into the marketplace which banks have to decide whether or not to participate in, whether that be economic forces both the U.S. and global

affecting the progress of a bank towards its own aspirations around risk and growth.

These things are happening all the time. And I can only tell you that we are regulated by four entities, and all four of them are quite actively

engaged in looking at how to adjust to these dynamic changes.

ISAACSON: Let me ask a personal question. Your family is from Ethiopia, I think from -- whatever I've read (ph). You grew up military -- U.S.

military bases in Germany. You really didn't spend a lot of time in the United States to come until you were about age 14. And you said, that's

when you experienced racism for the first time. Tell me about that and how that affected your career?

BROWN: Actually, the first time I understood that there was racism was when I was coming to the U.S. for summers, and I came when I was nine years old.

And I just had an experience where someone reacted to me because of my race.

How does that color my experience? Look, I think we're all acutely aware of who we are and we bring our identity into everything that we do. The way it

has colored me is that I understand that race and other artificial symbols that we carry around and are there for us don't tell the full story. And it

doesn't tell my full story, and I know it doesn't tell your full story.

So, my job is to make sure that in the role that I play every day, I'm looking beyond these things that are artificial. And it can be race, it can

be age, it can be gender, or it could just simply be the style of someone's communication.

So, I -- that is my job. My job is to make sure that I am getting past those and trying to find a way to bring people together to talk through

issues with very different perspectives. It is also color, the way that I show up. I make it a point to show up just as I am. I make it a point to

talk the way I talk, to correct myself when I find myself being a bit of a chameleon and acting like others.


I also think it's really important for me to acknowledge where these issues have impacted me and if it impacted others, and where I call it out where I

see it happening.

ISAACSON: Priscilla Brown, thank you so much for joining us.

BROWN: Thank you. It's great to be with you, Walter.


GOLODRYGA: And that is it for us for now. Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from New York.