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Interview with Former Knesset Member and ROPES Executive Director Ksenia Svetlova; Interview with Alliance for Middle East Peace Regional Chief of Staff Nivine Sandouka; Interview with "Cassandro" Actor Gael Garcia Bernal; Interview with The Washington Post Video Forensics Reporter Samuel Oakford, Interview with The Washington Post Intelligence and National Security Reporter Shane Harris. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired December 15, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Amanpour. Here's what's coming up.
The U.S. ups its pressure on Israel to protect civilian lives. I get a report on the growing despair in Gaza. And talk to an Israeli analyst and
Palestinian activists about the hard work of making peace.
Then, "Cassandro," Award winning actor Gael Garcia Bernal joins me on his transformation to the gay wrestler who changed Lucha Libre.
Plus, "The Discord Leaks" Washington Post reporters Samuel Oakford and Shane Harris talked to Hari Sreenivasan about one of the most significant
intelligence leaks in recent U.S. history.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
I want them to be more careful, President Joe Biden's latest message to Prime Minister Netanyahu, a clear sign that he's growing more and more
vocal about Israel's offensive in Gaza and the mounting civilian death toll.
To drive home the urgency, the U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was dispatched to the region, tasked with walking that tricky line of
supporting its ally Israel, but also trying to rein it in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are now in the middle of a high intensity phase with ongoing ground operations, military operations
in both the northern half and the southern half of Gaza.
But there will be a transition to another phase of this war, one that is focused in more precise ways on targeting the leadership. We're not here to
tell anybody, you must do X, you must do Y. We're here to say, this is our perspective, as your partner, as your friend, this is what we believe is
the best way to achieve both your tactical and strategic goals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Well, while Washington is eager to see a new, more precise phase of the war, there's no telling when that could be.
In Gaza, sheer agony and hopelessness are bursting into plain view as parents struggle to take care of their children. Jomana Karadsheh brings us
this report. And a warning, some of these images are graphic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the desperate cries of a father left with nothing but his voice, the father who can no
longer protect his three vulnerable children.
I can't survive. They destroyed my house, Abu Mohammed (ph) says, I can't get food. I have no one to support me. I spent the night moving from tent
For more than 60 days, he's tried to stay strong, until he could no more. His disabled children, homeless, hungry, hurting from Gaza's war.
What do you do when your child needs you, but you've got nothing left to give?
Have mercy on us, Abu Mohammed (ph) says.
No mercy for the people of this besieged land it seems. Rain a blessing, they used to say. Now, it only brings more despair. For those forced out of
their homes, life has become this miserable existence as rains flood their makeshift camps, it's a harsh winter that's only just beginning.
Om Ali (ph) shows us the tiny tent she lives in with 11 others, her two daughters and grandchildren. She spent the night trying to catch the rain
that dripped through the roof of their flimsy shelter.
This is humiliation, Om Ali (ph) says. I have these children without a father. I can't take it anymore. Even children now hate life, she says.
It's just too much for parents to bear when you can't even keep your children dry, warm and clean as diseases start to spread and the aid they
so badly need now a weapon in this war.
I want to protect my children, this mother says. The bombings and destruction are not enough. On top of that, now we have the rain, cold and
To be a parent in Gaza is a blessing turned into torture for those who no longer wonder if but how they and their children will die.
Abu Mohammed (ph) says he was sitting thinking of how he'll feed his children when an airstrike hit.
Where do I take my Children? He says. I fled and came here to die. I gave my children my everything. Who will take care of them if I die?
Like many in Gaza, it's not only Israel they blame. They want Hamas to stop a war for which they pay the price. Abandoned, alone, as the world won't
stop their pain.
Six-year-old Lana (ph) was under the rubble of her home for three days. Mommy and Daddy are underneath it, she says.
I just want mama. I want baba. I want my family, Lana (ph) cries.
To be a parent in Gaza is to live in the fear of this, that you no longer are there when they need you the most.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It's so difficult to watch. Well, as fighting continues in Gaza, the ultimate impact of the war on Middle East politics is unclear. The
failures of current leaders are manifest. Will there be a change of the old guard?
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is losing popularity. And in the West Bank, according to PSR polling, public opinion is turning sharply
against Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. And support for Hamas meantime is surging. Gaza residents who live with Hamas are more
So, how will the leadership crisis be resolved? And what impact would new leadership have on efforts to make peace? Nivine Sandouka, Regional Chief
of Staff with the Alliance for Middle East Peace, says peace won't come from the top down. Joining her is Former Knesset Member Ksenia Svetlova,
who leads an organization which is a member of Nivine's alliance.
Welcome both of you. And I'm so glad to see you sitting there together talking to us about this really critical moment in the region during this
war as you see Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, meeting with Israeli officials yesterday in the West Bank today.
Ksenia, let me ask you first. What is the reaction in Israel of what appears to be a growing rift between Israel and its closest ally, the
United States, not on the context of going after Hamas, but how it's being pursued and more specifically what the day after looks like?
KSENIA SVETLOVA, FORMER KNESSET MEMBER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ROPES: Well, Bianna, I can tell you that, first of all, there is a realization that
Israel will have to end the active phase off its military operation in Gaza in a few weeks' time. I cannot tell you whether it's four weeks or six
weeks, but the clock is ticking and it's clear to just about everyone.
And while the rift between the U.S. and Israel is widening, I think that the camp off those in Israel who were critical, you know, before the war in
Gaza off the Prime Minister Netanyahu and the decisions that he makes, they become impatient and there is growing anger against him because, you know,
the United States right now, it's the only country that openly supports and supports in every international organization of Israel and the continuation
of this unfortunately needed military operation.
So, in this regard, I think that we will see mounting pressure on Netanyahu, not only from his -- you know, from people who usually criticize
him from the camp of those who protested against him for the last year and even more but also from people who are very realistic about everything from
his own camp, from the Likud Party.
We still do not hear the voices out loud, but there is a lot of dissent and understanding that Netanyahu is ruining, he is ruining Israel for his own
good, for his own narrow political interest.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we are hearing from war cabinet members, like Benny Gantz, who spoke out this week against Netanyahu and said, "There are those who
are engaged in creating fake disputes in the nation and harming the important relations with the United States, suggesting that Netanyahu is
more focused on his political future than the future and wellbeing of the country.
Naveed, let me ask you about the meetings today between Jake Sullivan and the leadership of the P.A., because as noted in the introduction, support
for Mahmoud Abbas has sharply declined, not only due to the Israeli government's attempts to keep them that way and to lower their, their hold
over the region, but also internally amongst those in the West Bank who say they have lost faith with their leadership, that there needs to be a
changing of the guard.
So, with that in mind, do you see any productive news, possibly, or headlines coming out of the meeting with Jake Sullivan and current
leadership of the P.A.?
NIVINE SANDOUKA, REGIONAL CHIEF OF STAFF, MIDDLE EAST PEACE: I think there is -- both the P.A, Mahmoud Abbas, and Jake Sullivan, and the American
administration in general, all of them agree that the P.A., the Palestinian Authority, needs to be revived. The big question is how is it going to be
revived and who is the next Palestinian president?
And the good thing is that since there is this agreement, both within the Palestinian Authority and the American administration, it kind of gives
hope to the Palestinian amid all of this despair that we are feeling and living as Palestinians these days, the collective punishment, the lack of
economic sources for the Palestinians, what is happening in Gaza as well. So, all of those give us a lot of despair. But if the Palestinian authority
will actually be willing to revive and, you know, at least nominate another leader, that is going to give us hope for a negotiated agreement afterwards
with the Israelis.
GOLODRYGA: And that is a big if, Ksenia. We saw Jake Sullivan give an interview with Channel 12's Yonit Levi yesterday, and quite using, you
know, the diplomatic speak, when asked directly about the disagreements between what the day after looks like with Netanyahu publicly declaring
that it won't include Fatah, and the United States saying that it sees leadership of both the West Bank and Gaza under pressure the P.A. He talks
about this in without directly going after Netanyahu. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULLIVAN: Well, look, I can't obviously speak for the prime minister. What I can do is, on behalf of President Biden, lay out how we look at this
issue. The way we look at it is that, ultimately, governance of the West Bank and Gaza needs to be connected and it needs to be connected under a
revamped and revitalize Palestinian Authority.
YONIT LEVI, CHANNEL 12 ANCHOR: What does that mean exactly?
SULLIVAN: Well, that's a good question. And that's something that requires intensive consultations with the Palestinians first, as well as with the
Israeli government. But it will require reform. It will require an updating of how the Palestinian Authority approaches governance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, that sounds quite ambitious at this point. Ksenia, is this something that can be achieved with the current government in place,
Netanyahu, perhaps him saying something publicly and acting differently behind closed doors given the U.S. pressure or will it require a new
Israeli government to really see some of this implemented?
SVETLOVA: Bianna, this radical ultra-right-wing government will not allow any space for Netanyahu for any kind of consultations, negotiations, the
deliberations, you know, all of this is irrelevant to the extreme partners that Netanyahu decided to build a government with.
And again, so he repeats this mantra that there will be no Palestinian Authority, there will be no Fatah. And again, I'm telling you that this is
-- it's a daydream that he tries to sell to some people in his camp that are naive enough perhaps to believe that there could be some kind of
solution that will exclude the authentic leadership of the Palestinian people who -- that is recognized by the whole world, and which is, of
course, the Palestinian Authority.
Anybody who will now -- right now to try to imagine some foreign form of leadership government whatsoever, peacekeeping force that will, you know,
just land from -- I don't know, from outer space and will govern this place that nobody really wants but the Palestinians themselves. He's daydreaming
and he's lying. He's lying to the Israelis, first of all.
It's time, and I think, you know, these words were actually uttered by the adviser of national security to the government, Tzachi Hanegbi, in -- as
late as, I think it was beginning of November. He said, in his own words, they'll need -- there is a need for Palestinian Authority to be reinstated
in Gaza Strip. We'll know that it has issues. But there is no other way.
With this government, I do not see any way to move forward. And again, this government is unable to give the adequate response to the great challenges
of this war, of the dangers, you know, of the State of Israel. I think it's quite clear, the people do not believe anymore. The head of state and his
GOLODRYGA: Nivine, I'm sure you've seen this new poll that's getting a lot of attention by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research
showing that a strong majority believe that Hamas was correct to launch the October 7th attacks, that's 72 percent, a portion of people who support the
armed struggle as most effective means against the occupation rose 10 percent from September to now 63 percent. And most interestingly enough and
alarming is that support for Hamas has increased significantly, especially in the West Bank, not as much in the Gaza Strip, given what we're seeing
What do you read into this information in this polling?
SANDOUKA: Well, first of all, let's remember that the 7th of October events didn't happen in vacuum. It happened because of more than 50 years of
occupation. It happened for more than 15 years of siege. And the Palestinians, all this time, especially --
GOLODRYGA: But that doesn't excuse it.
SANDOUKA: -- the Palestinian Authority was actually -- no, I'm not excusing it. Of course, it is atrocities and it should like be held -- the people
who committed it should be held responsible as well.
But if we read right now into these statistics that you rightly mentioned, if you think why are the Palestinians in the West Bank have a high
percentage of supporting Hamas, it doesn't necessarily mean that they want the government of -- or an Islamic State to be the future Palestinian
You need to read into the psychology of the Palestinian people at this stage. The psychology is basically saying that what is happening in Gaza
with all these calls for displacement and becoming refugees actually brings back to the psychology of the Palestinian, the Nakba, or the catastrophe of
And if you say that, and if you look at who is actually right now defending the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority is helpless. It is talking in
the United Nations. It is talking to other governments. Nobody is trying -- is stopping the offensive in Gaza.
And it seems for the Palestinian, the only party that is actually defending and, and preventing another Nakba from happening is Hamas. That is why the
psychology of a Palestinian in the West Bank is, yes, let us support them because they represent these days resistance to the occupation.
That does not necessarily mean that they want Islamic government. Just let me read into just one more statistic that is important. If Marwan al
Barghouti runs against Ismail Haniyeh, which means Marwan representing Fatah, and Ismail Haniyeh Hamas, actually Marwan al Barghouti will win,
which shows that we actually want a moderate Palestinian State to be in place rather than an Islamic State.
GOLODRYGA: There was an analysis trying to break down the rationale behind some of this polling, and it suggested that, like in Israel, where you're
not seeing as many of the images of the devastation and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as we're seeing the rest of the world, that the same images
as to what happened, the tragedy and horrors of what happened on October 7th, were not resonating and playing in the West Bank.
Do you think that that had an impact on the poll numbers, because, as you know, Hamas has seen a rise in popularity, but not among those in Gaza?
SANDOUKA: Yes. Because I think in Gaza right now, they are paying the highest price. We are talking about civilians. We just saw the report as
well. And the International Community and neither is Hamas or Fatah is able to protect the people in Gaza. And therefore, there is a drop in the
support for Hamas.
But if you look at the West Bank specifically again, as I mentioned, the helplessness, the level of helplessness that is increasing, that is one
reason for the support for Hamas' increased popularity.
GOLODRYGA: Ksenia, just from a psychological standpoint, you see just the trauma that Israel is still dealing with. I touched on this earlier about
just not seeing the images of what's happening in Gaza the way the rest of the world is seeing because Israel is still dealing with its own shock and
its own trauma, hostages over a hundred still remaining there.
I'm just wondering, is it constructive at all, to be quite blunt, to be having these conversations with Palestinians, with Israelis, at a moment
when there still is so much emotion? Because that is one argument I'm hearing too.
SVETLOVA: Well, unfortunately, tomorrow that everybody is discussing, it's today. There is no time. And in this -- you know, I can tell you that the
question of who will run Gaza, it's not a theoretical question that addresses to some remote future, two years, five years, and so on. This is
next month. This is today. The distribution of humanitarian aid, the sewage, the education, the relief for the refugees, the, you know,
rebuilding of Gaza. This is something that we cannot postpone, unfortunately. That's the problem.
And if you allow -- you know, I will bring in the regional perspective in the organization that I lead, the Regional Organization for Peace,
Economics and Security. We strongly believe, you know, that the Israelis and the Palestinians, they have tried for years unsuccessfully to reach
some kind of solution. And we believe that only integration in our region, in the Middle East, which we are part of, and both of the nations were
secluded for this region for various reasons in the past, but there is no place for this today.
Today, the conversation should be led by the region itself, by the constructive powers in this region. And we just heard this -- you know,
this week in "The Wall Street Journal," the Emirati minister who said that there is absolutely no way that countries like Saudi Arabia and the
Emirates will be involved if there will be no Israeli obligation to the two-state solution.
It means that, you know, there is a trilateral discussion that should be held, of course, with the support and help of the Americans and the
Europeans, but there is just no way to leave it in the bilateral level today.
SVETLOVA: And again -- you know, and there is also no luxury of having to deal with this tomorrow when we will feel better. Yes, we are traumatized.
And after that, we will be feel -- you know, suffering from post-trauma like we did after the Second Intifada. But it doesn't mean that we can
just, you know, forget about it and just right now, concentrate on the pain.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. The consensus appears to be that there will be no peace, there will be no solution until both Israelis and Palestinians have homes
of their own side by side in peace. Ksenia Svetlova and Nivine Sandouka, thank you so much for joining us and thanks for everything that you're
doing during these very turbulent times and maintaining your work together as well. I know it's very important.
Well, up next, to bridge building of another sort. In Mexico, Lucha Libre, homegrown professional wrestling, is widely popular. Luchadores are
superstars, macho, menacing masters of the ring. Well, enter Cassandro, a flamboyantly gay wrestler who takes the sport by storm. Cassandro, whose
real name is Saul Armendariz, takes on the role of an exotico, a character who performs in drag. In doing so, the liberace of Lucha Libre rises to
international stardom, breaking cultural taboos every step of the way.
Since bursting on the scene two decades ago with back-to-back breakout roles in "Amores Perros Y Tu Mama Tambien," actor Gael Garcia Bernal has
racked up a long list of leading roles. I spoke with Bernal in New York about capturing the athleticism and the complex inner life of "Cassandro"
in a new film for Amazon Prime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Gael, thank you so much for joining us.
GAEL GARCIA BERNAL, ACTOR, "CASSANDRO": Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: The movie, "Cassandro," I've learned so much. First, tell us about the world of Lucha Libre.
BERNAL: Yes. Well, Lucha Libre became a phenomenon in Mexico in the 20th century, but it goes back to the 19th century. So, I grew up with a kind of
a revamping of the Lucha Libre because it started to get televised again in Mexico.
And when I was a kid, I was -- I grew up with Atlantis, Octagon, El Hijo del Santo, El Rayo de Jalisco, El Perro Aguayo, you know, like these
amazing wrestlers, and I used to love watching that, you know, watching the Lucha Libre, yes.
GOLODRYGA: So, we learned about Lucha Libre, and we learned another element --
GOLODRYGA: -- Exotico element.
BERNAL: Yes, yes.
GOLODRYGA: Walk us through that.
BERNAL: The exoticos have been there for a long, long time. But it was in the '90s that Cassandro and as well as Pimpinela and Rudy Reyna and other
exoticos, they kind of subverted -- or accompanied, you know, or were the catalysts of a change that already society was going through that, you
know, made a kind of -- incorporated the exoticos into the main sort of -- the main titles of the Lucha Libre, no?
And so, they started to win, they started to become, like, very prominent, and people started to love watching the exoticos wrestle.
GOLODRYGA: And they were cheering for them.
BERNAL: Yes, yes, yes.
GOLODRYGA: These were the people that people were hoping to win and were aiming for.
BERNAL: Yes, as well. Yes, yes.
GOLODRYGA: And your character, at the beginning, El Topo, the mole, right?
GOLODRYGA: How does he evolve --
GOLODRYGA: -- into Cassandro?
BERNAL: Well, that's something that all wrestlers go through, and maybe it's like a little bit like (INAUDIBLE), like play about characters finding
themselves, you know, because all wrestlers start out with a kind of a concept. They play it out. And most of the time, it doesn't work at the
first time, you know.
And so, my character, like the one I interpret, Saul, you know, kind comes up with this character called El Topo, you know, in order to wrestle. And
this must be the fourth or fifth time that he's trying different characters, you know, and nothing works, nothing kind of puts it together.
We came up with that idea, you know, like El Topo, let's call it -- let's call this guy the mole. And it's -- afterwards that he like kind of goes
into -- like, incorporates an exotical persona that is incredibly flamboyant and tries out through that character to find himself in the
world of Lucha Libre, you know, to find the character that connects with people, and it does.
GOLODRYGA: And we'll talk about Saul's relationship with both his mother and his father.
BERNAL: Yes, yes, yes.
GOLODRYGA: His relationship with his mother in particular is quite beautiful, but let's take a look. We have a clip of Cassandro's debut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, this is really a life and career changing moment, like a light bulb goes off as soon as Cassandro sees not only what he can do, but
also the spectator's response to the performance.
BERNAL: Yes. Yes. I mean, a lot changed. They were the participants of this kind of change of paradigm, you know, like the -- people started to -- you
know, Lucha Libre became a sport, a contact sport, and perhaps the only one that I can think of. And maybe, like, I'm here to be corrected wrong also,
but I can't think of another sport that has openly gay athletes competing.
BERNAL: And so, Lucha Libre, because of its theatrical nature as well, was able to not -- you know, to not sustain those, like, maybe sometimes
superficial definitions of what is, you know, sexuality or sexual orientation, you know, it kind of like started to incorporate them with a
much more easiness. And then, flow and also caring for that as well, you know, taking everyone into consideration.
So, yes. After this movie, I'm even more proud of Lucha Libre and Lucha Libre in Mexico because it's a great show, you know.
GOLODRYGA: Well, you address so many facets. His own relationship with his sexuality and with another man who he can't fully call his own, who has a
separate life. Talk about the challenges in giving enough attention and enough depth to all of these different relationships while also telling the
viewers about this sport.
BERNAL: In the case of the mother, the relationship with the mother and his lover, boyfriend was more like a secret. You know, they are the secret, you
know. And so, in the film you can see that there's like certain -- several dualities that are being played as well, which, coincidentally, happens in
the border as well, where you have to play that kind of -- or sort of you're in touch with that duality constantly because you're crossing the
border all the time and that creates a very particular culture, a very particular cosmovision as well.
GOLODRYGA: Your character is from El Paso?
BERNAL: Is from El Paso, but, you know --
GOLODRYGA: He goes, crosses the border.
BERNAL: -- (INAUDIBLE) El Paso.
BERNAL: You know, it's like people in the border like cross back and forth all the time because they have family or work or studies or whatever, you
know, in different sites and they have to ignore that stupid wall that exists there in order to be able to -- well, not ignoring ignore is the
wrong word. It's -- they have to --
GOLODRYGA: It's an obstacle.
BERNAL: -- not acknowledge the wall in order to be able to come back and forth, you know, because if you really take that wall into consideration,
if you step a little bit aside and you see that wall, you can't live like with that horrendous imposition that that exists there, you know, that --
and it's a ridiculous also because it tries to stop things from crossing from one side to the other, you know?
And anyways, so the -- Cassandro's -- Saul, the character is used to this duality, you know, to play these different roles depending on where he is.
And with his boyfriend and with his mother, he's always plays this secret life, you know. Yes, very, very, loving and very supportive, but at the
same time, it's a secret outside can -- you know, he can't be known, you know?
And so, Cassandro is the kind of the detonator for all that. He is the one that kind of like says, no, I don't want to be in the secret anymore. And
that was nice to walk that path, you know, and live that and portray that.
GOLODRYGA: And Cassandro was a real character, a real person.
GOLODRYGA: And I'm curious, you know, a biographer I interviewed once said that he'll only choose people who he could really understand at the end of
the day, what was inside their core, who they were.
GOLODRYGA: As someone who has played real-life characters in the past and other films, do you feel like you have to achieve that yourself in order to
really get this character right?
BERNAL: With Cassandro it's different because it's -- Saul, he -- you know, he created a character in order to -- you know, a character that is not
himself. And this character is very open, you know, is very -- can be whatever you want depending on the moment, you know, in a way. And so, we
did our own interpretation of Cassandro.
So, for example, that happened with -- when I played Ernesto Guevara before -- I mean, afterwards known as Che Guevara. When he was a kid, I understood
a lot of his life journey, you know, acting in it kind of allowed me to understand much more, you know, what they went through and what they saw
and what they discovered in those days.
GOLODRYGA: That was in the acclaimed "Motorcycle Diaries."
GOLODRYGA: I mean, talk about the training that went into it and the attention that you gave to the physicality of the sport, which is also, you
know, an art.
BERNAL: Yes, yes. It is. It is. It is. And also, a very highly skilled. very, very tough sports. You know, I -- so, I trained -- I mean, the first
thing I did was gain muscle and sort of strength. So, I ate a lot and did like --
GOLODRYGA: Was that was fun?
BERNAL: That was fun. That part was amazing because it was like every day exercise and having fun. So, I would eat with a lot of hunger as well and,
you know, like feeling good, you know. And then, two months before starting to shoot, we started to train the wrestling and I started to train with
real wrestlers, you know, there are -- sort of, becoming wrestlers and my teachers were Chessman (INAUDIBLE). Very prominent wrestlers nowadays.
GOLODRYGA: Had you ever wrestled before?
BERNAL: No, never. No, no, no, no. And -- but, I mean -- well, maybe as --
GOLODRYGA: As a kid --
BERNAL: -- when I was kid.
GOLODRYGA: But not -- yes. But not as a sport.
BERNAL: Not as a sport. And you have to learn all the basics, you know, like how to fall, for example, or how to use the ropes, because it is a
particular thing, you know, how to -- a lot of acrobacy as well and flexibility, you know, how to get into the ring, jumping up, you know, how
to do this and how to fall and how to do this.
It's a mix of judo and Greco Roman wrestling and acrobacies. And also, you have to perform, you know. So, that was nice also, to do the theatricality
of it, you know, the -- like you have to sell the kick that you're doing and the kick that takes you into the neck of someone, then that turns them
into a -- bang. You know, so, it's fantastic.
GOLODRYGA: And the twisting of the arm.
BERNAL: And what's nice is, I've got to say that -- I mean, we might think that wrestling is like a sport that is arranged, you know, and they have --
no. It's a complete -- it's -- you know, the comparison I give is like -- I dance salsa since I've been a kid, you know, because growing up in Mexico
and everything, but I've seen people that do not know how to dance salsa, see people dance salsa and they think, oh, these guys know each other. They
rehearsed, you know.
And no, I mean, that's the thing. Like once you learn, you know, you just improvise all the time. And wrestling is a bit like that. Lucha Libre is a
bit like that.
BERNAL: It's improvisation. A lot with those codes, with that kind of -- so, that was nice to learn and to get the hint of it, you know, as well, to
get the hang of it a little bit, it was really nice.
GOLODRYGA: My final question to you, what, also, I really appreciated in this film, and I thought worked very seamlessly, was the back and forth
between English and Spanish. And it wasn't just the concept of sticking to one language.
GOLODRYGA: Why? Why go with that decision? And how did you feel about the flexibility of going back and forth?
BERNAL: Oh, because that's how they -- the people talk in the border. That's how it is.
GOLODRYGA: We don't see that in a lot of movies though.
BERNAL: No, we don't see that. We don't see the border being portrayed at all. At all. I mean, and we don't see no one talking about the wall unless
it is to build it, you know, unless it is to create a bigger wall. And then -- but we don't see any criticism of the wall or any questioning of the
And from the Mexican side, we see very little. But from the United States side, even less, you know. And it is something that is there, is right
here, it's right here, you know, and we wanted to portray this border culture because it is fascinating for me. It is fascinating.
I don't have any family from the border. So, I don't know. I've always been interested in the -- you know, in the back and forth, you know, in the kind
of like the -- in the culture that has been growing there that is not either Mexico, not even the United States, it's a mix, you know.
And in the constant sort of angst, but also joy, or journey, rather, that that people are having there, I mean, the -- working there in the border,
in a documentary I was doing a few years ago, one of the nicest -- well, one of the most beautiful things I've -- I heard is, this was a second
generation or third generation Chicano -- Chicana. And she said she was going to Mexico, you know, and she was asking me like to go, you know, in
certain universities in Mexico City, you know, and stuff.
And she said, yes, you know, because, what I want to do is -- I mean, I feel that the United States is like the father that didn't recognize me and
Mexico is the mother that I never knew, you know
BERNAL: So, I want to get to know what's there, you know. And that I think kind of encompasses the cosmovision of the people, you know, in the border
that are, like what they say (INAUDIBLE), neither here nor there.
GOLODRYGA: Well, it's a subtle yet really effective reference to the issue that you said is not getting nearly enough attention.
GOLODRYGA: At least not in film. Gael, thank you so much for joining us.
BERNAL: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Congratulations on the film. I learned so much and it's just beautifully shot. So, thank you.
BERNAL: Oh, cook. Thank you so much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: That was such a fun interview. Well, we turn now to one of the most significant intelligence leaks in recent years. This week, the U.S.
Air National Guard took disciplinary action against 15 service members for failing to prevent 21-year-old Guardsman Jack Teixeira from allegedly
sharing hundreds of classified documents online. He's currently pleading not guilty as he awaits trial.
Well, now a new frontline documentary, "The Discord Leaks," explores how the gaming platform not only became a central -- a center for security
breaches, but for unmoderated extremism. It's a result of investigations by Washington Post reporters Samuel Oakford and Shane Harris. And they joined
Hari Sreenivasan to discuss their findings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna. Sam Oakford, Shane Harris. Thank you both for joining us.
Sam, kind of bring our audience back up to speed here. Who was the individual at the center of all this?
SAM OAKFORD, VIDEO FORENSICS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Jack Teixeira, an 21-year-old international guardsman from Massachusetts is the person
ultimately suspected of doing these leaks, right? So, we can go back to April, and Shane and I started on this story. There was intelligence
trickling out on social media. It turned out it came from Discord.
We were able to obtain several 100 images that have been tied to Teixeira and we spent the last six, eight months actually tracking down the other
people he interacted with on Discord, which is the platform where he started to share these over a year ago.
SREENIVASAN: Sam, I want to get to Discord and what that's all about in a second here. But, Shane, put this in perspective. How significant of a leak
of classified and top-secret information was this?
SHANE HARRIS, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, in terms of the quantity that was leaked, it was very
significant. It was one of the worst leaks in recent years of U.S. intelligence. What distinguish this one from other leaks was the breadth of
it, I think, and the timeliness.
So, Teixeira allegedly was taking documents from his workplace that covered just about every conceivable global hotspot you could imagine, the war in
Ukraine, things that are going on in North Korea, China, elsewhere in Russia, other parts of Asia, really kind of a global look at what the
Intelligence Community was collecting.
And it was very timely. He was sharing recent and contemporary battlefield updates about what was happening in Ukraine with his friends. So, it really
is kind of the breadth of this. It's almost kind of like a sample of everything the Intelligence Community would be looking at a given point in
SREENIVASAN: So, Sam, this individual had access to this information because of where he worked, right, and the type of job that he did. Tell us
a little bit about how he was sharing this information. How would he get these top-secret files, so to speak, out of the office and onto Discord?
And also, for people who haven't used Discord, what's so special about that platform?
OAKFORD: Yes. The Air Force released a report, the summary of a report this week, actually, which shed some more light on how he might have been
gaining access to the material. Now, he had top-secret clearance to begin with, but he was more of an I.T. worker and that didn't necessarily mean
that he needed to see all of this material.
The Air Force report determined that this base, Otis Air National Guard base in Cape Cod was actually showing people that maybe didn't need to
know, as the term says, this classified material. So, he had access in that sense, but he was really more of an I.T. worker.
Now, we don't know exactly how at all times he was bringing it home or sharing it, but it changed over time. Initially, he was posting a text. He
was sharing things kind of casualty counts related to the Ukraine war. He started to make those updates a little more elaborate. And then,
ultimately, towards the end of last year, we've been told is that he started to post images themselves.
So, clearly, he was taking these home because he was taking them actually at his house. And he was caught several times by his superiors at the base,
but that did not interrupt his leaking as it turned out.
And Discord itself is a closed platform, it's a little bit different than Facebook or Twitter, or what people might imagine. There's big chat rooms.
He actually ran a server, as they're called. It was called Thug Shaker Central, which is a pretty racist and homophobic name, and that's where he
was leaking some of these documents with this close-knit community, and he also leaked on a separate server, and neither of these were noticed by
SREENIVASAN: So, Shane, how do we get from him leaking it in this otherwise private community, as Sam was mentioning, this isn't like, you know,
posting it to Twitter or Facebook, Instagram and it going viral, how did it get from what he was sharing in that kind of chat room, if you will, to
your radar and to the world's?
HARRIS: Well, what we found is that, ultimately, somebody in this tight- knit circle, and we should say these are mostly teenage boys who were kind of these followers who looked up to Jack and they hung out every day in
this Discord server, one of them took a chunk of these documents, about four dozen of them and shared them to another place on Discord, where then
they are picked up by someone else and they're reposted and the spill kind of begins from there.
Now, the members of this server, several of them told us they understood there was kind of an unwritten rule, don't share this information outside
our little club. Well, this one individual apparently violates that, and that's what sets off this kind of chain reaction in late February of this
And April is when U.S. officials and others start to notice that these documents are now popping up all around the internet. And that's when
journalists like Sam and myself became aware of it and ultimately tried to figure out where these documents had come from and who had posted them.
SREENIVASAN: So, Sam, tell us a little bit about how you go about figuring out who this individual is kind of before the details are released from an
investigation or anything. And then, how do you figure out who his friends are to get them to talk with you for the story and also for this front line
OAKFORD: Yes. So, in April, there were already some clues about where this might have been from. They were popping up on Telegram, on Twitter and
other platforms like Fortune (ph), that are more fringe. But it pretty quickly became clear that they originally were coming from Discord, right?
And then we started to get clues about who his friends might be.
And ultimately, Shane and I were able to talk to some of those members of this close-knit server very early on. And we actually published something
within days before Teixeira was arrested. So, we have that in kind of with this community, which is something we've used for the past six months to
paint a picture of Teixeira.
SREENIVASAN: Did these people want to speak with you, especially in a video format?
OAKFORD: It was tricky. It could go both ways, right? These were kids that had spent a lot of the pandemic really starve for interaction and that
really played a role in the dynamic in the community that they were in with Teixeira where he took on this almost, you know, uncle like role. He was
disseminating knowledge. That was kind of how he framed this very strange situation where he's giving them classified information.
But they were eager to tell their story because I think that they, in some cases, really were trying to work through what had happened. And this
reporting may have helped them in that sense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gore was posted. You'd post videos of jihadi, you know, beheadings and things like that, or cartel killings. You'd be like, dude,
look at this guy getting his head chopped off. It was cool.
OAKFORD: What do you think about this now? We're talking about --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm definitely not proud of it at all. It's embarrassing and it's quite frankly humiliating to speak about it now, but I'm willing
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Shane, you mentioned that this was not the first time or the first instance of Teixeira getting in trouble on his job. So, I'm wondering
how many opportunities missed were there before we get to this point where all of these different secrets are out?
HARRIS: Yes. There were many missed opportunities, and that's one of the really key features, I think, of this story and where there's a lot of
accountability on the Defense Department early to answer for this.
There are at least four instances that have been documented so far by Air Force investigators of to share a being spotted by his superiors in the
secure facility where he worked at that Air National Guard base routing around and classified documents, reading classified documents, taking notes
on them in some cases, and he really was not supposed to be doing that. And he's reprimanded for that and told to stop but he keeps doing it.
And what you see is that while he's being worn and sort of scolded, no one steps in to either pull him off the line or restrict his access. And what
this new Air Force investigation has found this week is that no one in his chain of command reported him to the relevant security officials whose job
it is to step in when someone violates those rules and suspend them or restrict their access or withhold their clearance. That just never
And the Air Force investigation faulted the Air National Guard there for what they call the culture of complacency about Teixeira. And they found
other instances too, in which people were probably looking at classified information that they didn't really need to see. Now, none of those people
are accused of leaking it, we should say.
There really is an environment that seemed quite permissive where the normal rules around how you handle classified information just were not
followed by the leaders of that unit.
SREENIVASAN: So, Shane, were there other members of the military held accountable for this?
HARRIS: Well, so far, the Air Force has said that they've disciplined 15 people in connection with this incident, which is a pretty significant
number, I think. Perhaps most notably the colonel who was in command of the 102nd intelligence wing where this occurred and were Teixeira work has been
relieved of his command, which is a rather severe punishment.
So, there's definitely accountability. But so far, I have to say, it's really focused on this particular unit where this happened. I think what we
found is that the security clearance process and other mechanisms that are put in place to prevent something like this don't seem to be working and
capturing the kind of people or the red flags that might end with the next Jack Teixeira might be.
So, I think there's more broader accountability here that's not being captured simply by this one investigation at Otis International Guard Base.
SREENIVASAN: So, Sam, I understand that the Department of Defense cannot perform the type of forensic deep dive that you might have, but it is kind
of astounding to me that you were able to find so many different connections to Jack, what he's been posting, where the other platforms
where he might've been active, and the military could not.
I mean, is there something in our intake system? Is there something in our vetting process? Is there something in what gets someone clearance that is
OAKFORD: Well, as Shane alluded to, there was very little visibility about what Jack was doing on the internet, and that starts with the clearance
process, right? He went through what should be a rigorous background check for getting this top-secret security clearance. But what we confirmed in
our reporting was that the military does not really look at people's online activity in a meaningful way.
And for someone like Teixeira, a person at his age, who is the kind of person who would be populating the lower ranks of the military every day,
right, these are people who are spending their entire lives online, in some cases, if they're gamers, right, you know, outside of their jobs, and that
clearance process does not look at that.
And there were red flags in Teixeira's history going back to his high school years where he was suspended for making threat of violence and
making racist comments at school, that was overlooked, but they were aware of it appears, but they really were not aware of any of the activity that
he engaged online, which was already racist and was already involving threats of violence separate to that incident at his school.
So, that's really the origin of this total lack of visibility about what Teixeira was doing, which was then followed by, you know, a cascading
series of failures that changes described.
SREENIVASAN: Sam, without necessarily repeating some of the explicit stuff, can you give us an idea of what these communities were like on Discord
where Jac Teixeira was spreading this information?
OAKFORD: I think it's important to note that, you know, many, many people use Discord in ways that aren't like what these kids were doing. Many of
these kids also spent time on, you know, places like Fortune (ph) where the language can be really toxic, really racist, really antisemitic.
And the way Discord is structured means that you can create a community in the way that you want it to be, right. And that's some of the selling
points -- that's a selling point that they have. Another a key aspect of Discord's -- of their dynamic is that they don't really monitor what's
going on outside of very narrow cases.
So, for instance, a child sexual exploitation, right? If there's material like that, they might catch it. But if you're running a server where
you're, you know, making racist comments often or in Teixeira's case, actually posting videos where you're making comments like that, they don't
appear to be catching that all. And that's something they told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: We found Thug Shaker Central violated several other terms of services, hate speech, images of gore, threats of violence. These are all
things that we've documented in our reporting as well. Why were these particular kids allowed to continue sharing this kind of material for more
than a year?
JOHN REDGRAVE, V.P., TRUST AND SAFETY, DISCORD: This comes down to our ability to identify what's happening in these spaces. We rely on user
reports. We rely on third-parties to help us with intelligence. None of that happened here.
HARRIS: Well, none of it was likely to happen because they were all part of this community. I mean, if one of them objected to racist and antisemitic
comments being made routinely they might have flagged it, but they didn't because they were all in on that. Is -- so, is what you're saying is that
the company has no way of monitoring for that kind of content on its own?
REDGRAVE: We require that people are helping to keep Discord safe. We do scan spaces in particular for child sex abuse material. That is
unambiguously bad. But when it comes to other classes of abuse, we all need to collectively think about, are we just diving into someone's privacy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: Shane, we have just in the last 15, 20 years, lived through very high-profile leak situations, whether it's WikiLeaks or Edward Snowden
or Chelsea Manning, and oftentimes there are these after-action reports, the military says that, here's how we're going to buckle down, here's how
we're going to prevent this from happening in the future. Wishful thinking.
I mean, why are we back here? Why are we talking about another one of these? And again, this is still a year and a half, two years after the
fact, who knows what's being inappropriately shared today.
HARRIS: Yes. And I think you're right to point out those other leaks because they all have something in common with what Teixeira is alleged to
have done, which is that someone who had top-secret clearance and had access to all of this information abused the privileged access that they
And every time that this happens, the military, you're right, comes in and tries to sort of tweak the system a little bit to make it less likely that
that would happen. But fundamentally, there's not a change to the sort of the basic architecture of this system, which is that post 9/11, the
Intelligence Community, the military, the government as a whole made a decision to make classified intelligence much more widely available to a
broad variety of people who have clearances.
And there was a reason for that. I mean, before 9/11 information was siloed. It was arguably over protected and the situation we had was where,
you know, people at the FBI didn't know what the CIA knew about 19 people who were about to get on airplanes. So, they tried to correct that in the
government by spreading out that access.
What they've never done, though, is really try to regulate on an individual level who gets to see certain documents and who doesn't. We've talked to
people, including lawmakers in our reporting who said, look, there's technology available that could essentially make it so a guy like Jack
Teixeira, who is just the maintenance person, if he spotted lingering on documents, calling up documents, searching for them, that could potentially
flag someone to say, wait a second, it doesn't look like you're doing something that tracks with what your job responsibilities are. Why is that
And we just don't really have a system on a kind of a pervasive system wide level to gate that access, if you like. And why the military is not doing
it? It could be hard. It could be cumbersome. And it's kind of like, there's a level of bureaucratic inertia here, I think. This is the way
they've been doing it for 20 years.
And with every one of these leaks that really seems to be an attitude of this is kind of the cost of doing business, we're always going to have an
insider threat like this, the overwhelming majority of people don't leak information, but when they do, as we've seen, it can be incredibly
SREENIVASAN: Sam Oakford and Shane Harris, reporters from the "Washington Post", but also co-producers of the Frontline documentary called "The
Discord Leaks" that you can see at PBS, thanks so much for joining us.
HARRIS: Thank you.
OAKFORD: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, we mark the final day of Hanukkah with a little miracle to celebrate this holiday season. 99-year-old holocaust survivor,
Saul Dreier, co-founded the Holocaust Survivor Band about 10 years ago.
Well, this week, he got the gig of a lifetime, fulfilling a personal dream. Saul played at the White House Hanukkah reception with the U.S. Marine
Band. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: A little hop and a gila there to close out this year's Hanukkah. Our thanks to Saul for that performance.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.