Skip to main content

tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  December 7, 2021 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

3:00 pm
captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: tense talks. president biden holds a virtual meeting with vladimir putin, amid rising fears over a potential russian invasion of ukraine. then, investigating the insurrection. the inquiry into the january 6 attack on the capitol intensifies as more trump officials refuse to cooperate. and, a history of discrimination. many black farmers still struggle to receive compensation after being excluded from federal government agriculture programs. >> we weren't able to pass on wealth, we weren't able to pass on a farm. and so, to look at it and say, "now, your field is level?" no! >> woodruff: all that and more,
3:01 pm
on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ ♪ >> pediatric surgeon. volunteer. topiary artist. a raymond james financial advisor tailors advice to help you live your life. life, welllanned. >> for 25 years, consumer cellular's goal has been to provide wireless svice that helps people communicate and connect. we offer a variety of no-contract plans, and our u.s.-based customer service team can help find one that fits you. to learn more, visit >> johnson & johnson. >> bnsf railway. >> fidelity wealth management.
3:02 pm
>> the john s. and james l. knight foundation. fostering informed and engaged communities. more at >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and individuals. >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: president biden has put russian president vladimir putin on notice tonight, that the u.s. will impose strong new sanctions if
3:03 pm
russia invades ukraine. the two men held a two-hour virtual summit today. it came as russian troops have been building up along the ukrainian border. we will focus on that high-stakes meeting, right after the news summary. china issued its own warning today-- that the u.s. will "pay a price" for a diplomatic boycott of the winter olympics in beijing. the chinese gave no specifics, but they said the move violates the olympic spirit, and that there could be fallout. >> ( translated ): the united states should stop bringing politics into sports, and stop interfering in the beijing winter olympics with hurtful words and actions. otherwise, it could harm a series of important bilateral dialogues and cooperation for international and regional issues. >> woodruff: under the boycott, u.s. officials will not attend the games in february, but american athletes will still compete. there is word that french authorities have arrested one of the suspected killers
3:04 pm
of saudi arabian journalist jamal khashoggi.ccnts today saya former member of the saudi royal guard was detained at an airport near paris. it's believed that khashoggi was murdered at the saudi consulate in istanbul, turkey in 2018. the u.s. house of representatives moved this evening to clear the way for raising the national debt ceiling. the legislation provides for a simple majority vote in the evenly-divided senate on raising the government's borrowing limit. senate leaders in both parties agreed on the need to act, to prevent a national default. >> we want a simple majority, without a convoluted, risky, lengthy process, and it looks like the republicans will help us facilitate that. so we feel very good about where we are headed on debt ceiling. it's not done till it's done, but the idea of letting democrats carry it ourselves is what we've always said.
3:05 pm
>> i believe we've reached here a solution to the debt ceiling issue that's consistent with republican views of raising the debt ceiling, for this amount, at this particular time, and allows the democrats to proudly own it, which they are happy to do. >> woodruff: and we'll get more of the details on this, later in the program. former trump white house chief of staff mark meadows has reversed himself and now says he will not give testimony about the u.s. capitol assault last january. his attorney complains that a congressional panel wants to ask about matters covered by mr. trump's claim of executive privilege. hawaii is under a state of emergency, as a major storm stalls over the islands, dumping more than a foot of rain and touching off floods. the rain has poured down cliffs onto highways, and crews have labored to restore power knocked out by 50-mile-an-hour winds. still, pearl harbor today marked
3:06 pm
the 80th anniversary of the japanese attack that brought the u.s. into world war ii. about 30 elderly survivors attended. rohingya refugees from myanmar are suing facebook's parent company, meta, for more than $150 billion. the suit was filed in california. it alleges that posts on facebook incited violence against the muslim rohingyas in mostly-buddhist myanmar. a major outage at amazon web services disrupted access to a number of sites today. the problem was mainly focused on cloud computing services in the eastern u.s. it affected everything from delta air lines, to netflix, to the associated press. workers at kellogg cereal plants have rejected a five-year contract. that announcement today means a two-month strike continues. the company says it will now hire permanent replacement workers. on wall street, stocks surged again, led by tech companies.
3:07 pm
the dow jones industrial average gained 492 points to close at 35,719. the nasdaq rose 461 points-- 3%. the s&p 500 jumped 2%. and, the u.s. formally returned a 3,500-year-old clay tablet to iraq today, after it and thousands of other antiquities were looted during the 1991 gulf war. it bears part of the "epic of gilgamesh," from the ancient sumerian civilization. the artifact was put on display in baghdad, at the foreign ministry, along with many other returned treasures. still to come on the newshour: a hawaii military community seeks answers on how its water was contaminated with petroleum. a new film details the detention and torture of an alleged al qaeda mastermind. and, much more.
3:08 pm
>> woodruff: president biden, meeting today via videoconference with russian president vladimir putin, was the fourth time the leaders have spoken or met this year. russia now has more than 100,000 troops stationed on the border of ukraine, and mr. biden gave putin a "crystal clear" message, that is according to white house aides, that russia faces significant economic reprisals if it were to invade. here's nick schifrin. >> good to see you again? >> reporter: in a virtual meeting over a real life standoff, president's biden and putin started with smiles, but jake sullivan said biden delivered a firm warning. >> no finger wagging but the president was crystal career on
3:09 pm
where the united states stands on the issues. >> reporter: senior congressional officials tell "pbs newshour" the administration is threatening economic sanctions including removing russia from the international swift banking system freezing russia's assets and blocking international transactions. the u.s. hinted any russian invasion could threaten russia's in order stream two pipeline disigned to deliver natural gas to europe. biden today told putin the u.s. would increase military support to ukraine just as ukraine recently deployed hundreds of american made javelin missiles and turkish made drones that can target russian tanks. the administration also said president biden told putin n.a.t.o.'s eastern allies would receive more u.s. troops and training similar to these 2016 exercises. for weeks, russian military drills and regular deployment signal they're ready for escalation. satellite images show a massive
3:10 pm
buildup along the russian-ukraine border and u.s. intelligence shows a map of five tactical groups near ukraine, two off the ukraine's east bored and two more off the southeast where russia invaded in the past and additional tanks in crimea for a potential of 175,000 forces. inside eastern ukraine, russian's back separatists maintain control of terrorist and vow to fight for world war i style trenches. president va len ski tried to reassure front line troops he has their backs. zelensky said the country faced an existential threat from a single enemy. >> freedom is the greatest value for us. it is a symbol of our country. all of ukraine, the servicemen of the armed forces of ukraine who continue to fill the most important mission to defend the freedom and sovereignty of the state from the russian aggressor. >> reporter: the kremlin said
3:11 pm
today putin demanded legally fixed guarantees ukraine never hoist u.s. missiles or join n.a.t.o. as he said recently. >> just look how close to russian borders is the military infrastructure of the north american alliance. we take it more than seriously. >> reporter: today sullivan said biden rejects that request. >> he made no such commitments or concessions. he stands by the propositions countries should be freel able to choose who they associate with. >> reporter: to deter rusa, last night and today called counterparts in the united kingdom, france, germany and italy, to present a united front. >> just like everyone in europe and the united states we are worried about the troop movements on the border with ukraine which is why it must be absolutely clear it would be an unacceptable situation if ukraine was threatened. >> reporter: we turn to victoria nuland, joining me from capitol hilly she was testifying
3:12 pm
today. welcome back to the "newshour". let's start by talking about the path to diplomacy that president biden laid out today. what is is the off ramp that president putin was offered? >> as you recall, with regard to russia's invasion of eastern ukraine, there is a set of agreements on the table for deescalation called the minsk agreements which essentially involves giving a special status for dan bass, having elections for russia pulling out forces and returning the sovereign border to ukraine. so those talks which were pretty active in '15 and '16 have gone steal, so the u.s. is offering to play a diplomatic role in getting those reinvigorated. president putin has concerns he likes to voice about the actions of n.a.t.o. being destabilizing to russia, were obviously
3:13 pm
prepared as the president said to president putin and as his national security security advisor sullivan said publicly, to have a conversation with russia along with allies and partners about any strategic concerns that they have, but th's a different matter than whether russia gets a veto over ukraine's future, which it does not. >> reporter: the first aspect of that, the minsk agreement signed in 2015 and 2014 calls on kiev to allow occupied territory, donetsk and w luhans, some autonomy. will you push kiev to follow through on the promises it's made? >> again, these were agreements entered into by both ukraine and russia under the auspices of france and germany, and they call for donbass to be deoccupied for all to have the foreign forces and mercenaries to come out and for russia to
3:14 pm
return control of the border and, in the process, for ukraine to grant more self-governance to donbass. now, since then, ukraine has offered a high degree of self-governance to all of its other provinces, so donbass would in effect have to catch up and there could conceivably be some additional things, but those would have to be subject to negotiation, and it would be kiev's sovereign decision what level of special status to offer donbass. >> reporter: and on n.a.t.o. which you referred to, why not consider preventing ukraine from joining n.a.t.o. since there is no momentum right now for ukraine to gain membership? >> first of all, the n.a.t.o. charter signed in 1949 says that the alliance is open to any european democracy that can meet the standards of membership. franklysh that would be an option for russia, too, if it were to change manifestly, which
3:15 pm
it has not expressed an interest in doing, but we are not going to change n.a.t.o.'s open door policy or more than 70 years of policy, and we are not going to give russia a veto over the alliances of a sovereign country. we are -- those are decisions for ukraine to make and for n.a.t.o. to make, not for the kremlin to make. >> reporter: are you willing to provide guarantees or assurances missiles won't be based on ukraine as the kremlin is asking? >> you know, in 1998 and again in 2003, in the context of n.a.t.o. negotiating its partnership agreement with russia and then renewing it again, n.a.t.o. made certain assurances that we would not station substantial combat forces along russia's borders. n.a.t.o. has lived up to those
3:16 pm
agreements. i can't say russia has gived up to its side -- lived up to its side to have the agreements, but that would obviously continue to pertain as long as russia was prepared honor its side of the pact. >> reporter: we've talked about carrots, let's talk about the sticks. how specific did president biden get today in threatening further action such as removing russia from the swift banking system, freezing russian bank's assets and blocking russian banks' assets to international markets? >> the president was crystal clear about what russia and the kremlin will confront if they move aggressively on ukraine, again, and about the impact on the russian economy and on its status in the global economic system. >> reporter: another one of the sticks you said today that germany is prepared to "suspend nortstream2 in the invasion. that is -- do you think
3:17 pm
president putin considers that important enough? >> it is very hard to imagine that in the context of russia moving aggressively on ukraine that europe would want to increase its dependency on russian energy. >> reporter: are you considering targeting president putin's personal assets and/or his most senior advisors? >> i'm not going to get into specifics here or negotiate this in public, nick, but we have not been shy in the past about our sanctions with regard to focus close to president putin and to things that matter to him. >> reporter: on bolstering ukraine's military, i've spoken to senior republican officials who say the administration isn't moving fast enough, specifically on the delivery of weapons. so can you believe you need to send more and do so more quickly? >> so this year alone, the united states has provided more
3:18 pm
than $450 million in security assistance to ukraine, and we are obviously open to doing more if the situation requires. >> reporter: and does that mean that the administration is committed to increasing the speed with which those defensive weapons would be delivered? >> again, there are a number of things already delivered to ukraine that they need to be thinking about how to use in the context of self-defense, and we are talking to them about that, and we are open to other things that they may need. >> reporter: and finally today, you said this, you said this is a moment of testing autocrats and our friends will watch closely what we do. why is this moment so important? >> because president putin may be aspiring once again to change global geography by force, to violate the sovereignty of independent -- of an independent nation. and if the democracies stand by and allow that to happen, it
3:19 pm
will embolden autocrats everywhere. >> victoria nuland, thank you very much. >> thank you, nick. >> woodruff: the clock has been ticking on the next potential fiscal crisis for the u.s. government. the nation's debt ceiling could be reached-- and government might not have the funds to pay its bill-- as soon as next week. but as we reported, today, a breakthrough between republicans and democrats means they may have found a way out. for more on this, i'm joined by our congressional correspondent, lisa desjardins. lisa, here we go again. so for a long time, for the last many months, there was a lot of bitter division over this issue of the debt ceiling. what's happened? >> this was the problem a lot of us on capitol hill were the most worried about i'm going to take you through what's happened today and i'm going to start first with the policy. let me explain. it'sen unusual solution our
3:20 pm
leaders have come up with today. here's what they want to do. first craft a bill that would include a block on medicare cuts that would automatically happen without congressional action and, with that, it would also create almost a new rule allowing for a simple majority in the senate to pass a debt increase. that bill is now in the house. what would happen next is that path-clearing bill, as i call it, would need to get 60 votes in the senate. we expect that to happen this week. that would then free up the ability of the senate to pass a debt increase with a simple majority vote, and it would be a political way of saving face for everyone, especially senate minority leader, the republican leader mitch mcconnell, who you remember well, said democrats will have to do this on their own, we will t help them raise the debt ceiling. and he said he wanted them to do this through reconciliation. democrats say it's a reversal on
3:21 pm
his part. it's at least a five-point turn. politics were on democrats' side. they stuck it out together. chuck schumer had his first staredown with senator mconly over this and pulled out a win. i also want to talk a little bit about how this actually came about because you and i have talked so many nights about all the game clock, fifty -- gridlock, 5050 senate. the senators chuck schumer and mcdonald talked to each other and senator chuck schumer said senator mcconnell boxed himself in. the republicans were very unhappy. they wanted a showdown. they think the debt ceiling was one of the few pieces of leg they could use to have spending caps or make a bigger statement. they think this was a mistake but now senator mcconnell has to get ten republicans to vote with him to clear the path for this
3:22 pm
debt ceiling. we'll watch that closely. it feels likely he will get those votes. i expect him to be one of them. >> woodruff: very very interesting what is taking place. the ice seems to be cracking. >> reporter: that's right. for now our lawmakers are speaking with each other ant important things. that is good. >> woodruff: lisa desjardins, thank you once again. >> reporter: you're welcome. ? >> woodruff: also at the capitol, new headwinds for the select committee in the house of representatives charged with investigating january 6. it has been 11 months since the attack on the capitol, and since then, the house committee has issued more than 40 subpoenas. a number of those subpoenas are aimed at former trump administration officials and allies. and today, we got new details about who is cooperating, and who is fighting back. josh gerstein joins me now to bring us up to speed. he is the senior legal affairs reporter for politico. josh gerstein, thank you very much for being with us again. i think the main information we got today has to do with mark
3:23 pm
meadows, the former white house chief of staff to former president trump. after initially saying he wouldn't cooperate, then last week he said he would, now again he is saying he will not cooperate, not in a live interview. what's the significance of this? >> well, it's definitely a setback for the committee because the fact that meadows had agreed to cooperate, at least partially cooperate, served as a signal for people down the line from the trump white house and in the trump orbit that maybe it would be okay to cooperate with the committee, there would be no terrible repercussions. but then, really, within a matter of days, to have meadows reverse himself and say he wouldn't testify, it's a problem for the committee because people are looking for signals by indicting steve bannon for not cooperating. the committee was hoping to send a signal and now they've got sort of a confusing set of messages going out to potential
3:24 pm
witnesses. >> woodruff: what do you make of what his attorney is saying? among other things, he's saying the committee doesn't appear to accept former president trump's assertion of executive privilege. he's saying the committee is asking for what he calls intensely personal communications? >> yeah, i mean, i don't know how meadows' lawyers could be surprised by the fact that the committee doesn't respect former president trump's assertion of executive privilege. they've said as much and they've gone to court to essentially fight back against that privilege. so i'm not really surprised by that. i think what might have happened here is a change of heart on meadows party, you know, when he decided to cooperate, it was pretty clear trump was not happy with that decision and then we had some conflict between them about meadows book that recently came out and unflattering stories about president trump that are in there and in particular his handling of his
3:25 pm
covid diagnosis during last year's political campaign season. it wouldn't surprise me that meadows said inact there's no way to cooperate with the committee and remain in trump's good graces and now he's looking for a reason to do an about face. >> woodruff:is attorney is saying he may be prepared to answer questions in writing, and potentially provide documents. he's already provided some. what does that mean? how different would it be if he's saying i'll answer questions in writing versus doing it in person? >> i think it would be very different and i would be surprised to see the committee take him up on that option. generally, investigators like to have a live witness in front of them and to be able to go back and forth and do follow-up. what usually comes out, if you have written questions, is actually the person's attorneys' response to the questions rather than the person themselves and oftentimes sort of all the detail and anything that might in fact be interesting is kind of ironed out of the stament
3:26 pm
before it makes it to the committee. like i said, i would be surprised if they thought that was an adequate substitute for being in-person live testimony. >> woodruff: josh gerstein, what do we know if anything about the documents he has already turned over and what more the committee wants in the way of written records? >> well, it's a little bit unclear because, you know, the committee is trying to also get trump white house records directly from the national archives that has custody of those records and, in fact, one of the complaints meadows lawyers has put forward about why they no longer think he should be testifying is that there's been an effort to secure meadows-phone records directly from telephone companies. there may have been efforts to secure people's email records or other forms of corns, correspondence and that's one to have the explanations they're giving about why they don't want to operate. i think they could be surprised at a potential deposition about
3:27 pm
things they haven't seen or haven't expected. so i'm curious about how that will eventually be resolved. i think the simplest way would be for him to try not to testify but, of course, that risks criminal prosecution just like steve bannon is currently being prosecuted. >> woodruff: has the committee's recourse, that is something they can do if they choose. we receive word today that the former vice president mike pence's chief of staff mark short is saying that he will cooperate with the committee and how do you read that? >> well, you know, mark short, i put in a somewhat different category from a lot of other trump officials. he was already someone that had been critical of president trump's response to the events on january 6th. he is someone seen more as being in vice president pence's camp. the fact he would cooperate won't really be taken as a signal by other trump allies they should go one way tore the
3:28 pm
other. i view it as a unique circumstance and given mark short's track record and position and allegiances to pence, i'm not surprised he would step forward and say i will cooperate with the committee. in fact, he's told a lot of this publicly already. >> woodruff: that's a reminder vice president pence was the subject of much of what the mob that attacked the capitol was there looking for. josh gerstein with politico, thank you very much. >> thank you, judy. take care. >> woodruff: for decades, black farmers have been excluded from federal farm programs, a systematic pattern of discrimination that the u.s. department of agriculture acknowledged decades ago. yet, proposals to compensate
3:29 pm
farmers for past wrongs have languished in controversy and red tape. the most recent include the biden administration's efforts to earmark such funds in its america rescue plan, and now, build back better. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro begins his report in northwest kansas, as part of our ongoing series, "race matters." >> reporter: walking down this dirt road brings bernard bates back to the highest-- and lowest-- points of his 84 years. this land behind you goes back generations in your family? >> yes, mm-hmm. it goes back to slavery in the beginning. homesteaded. >> dad was a good farmer. they say that he was one of the best ones in graham county. >> reporter: dating way back to the '40s, karla bates adams says her father was a prolific producer here in nicodemus, kansas, a rare enclave of black farmers whose ancestors settled here after they were freed from slavery. so, there was more land-- you ned different chunks of land? >> 80 acres, and then north of
3:30 pm
the cemery, there's another 80 acres. >> reporter: in the early 1980s, amid the historic agricultural recession and crop disasters that hit the midwest, many farmers fell behind on their loan payments, including bernard bates. >> bugs, hail, wind and rain, freeze, and everything. three, four years in a row. >> reporter: when he approached the u.s. department of agriculture for relief, karla bates-adams says, not for the first time, he was treated differently. >> we know that the white farmers were getting the assistance, and the black farmers were not. >> they were getting all kinds of loans. >> reporter: the bates then witnessed-- and even photographed-- the dismantling of their livelihood, in foreclosure. that must have been very painful to witness. >> tell me about it. >> they truly took our livelihood and left my parents to have to go on food stamps. >> reporter: their land was subsequently sold off, to white farmers. the bates farmstead is among millions of acres of land
3:31 pm
that black farmers have lost over the decades. in the 1920s, 14% of all farmers in the united states were african american. that number is down to less than 1.5% today. >> there are men like bernard that would still be farming, because that's what he loves and that's what he wanted to do. >> reporter: nicodemus resident johnella holmes is a retired professor, and director of the kansas black farmers association. for decades, she says, they've been excluded from federal agriculture programs, like price subsidies, disaster relief, and especially loans, the financial backbone of american agriculture. >> they're absolutely vital to their survival. the equipment is so expensive anymore that one single farmer, especially the small farmers, they can't afford that equipment. >> reporter: in 1999, and again in 2010, black farmers were offered limited compensation, after a class action suit. but the settlement was marred by
3:32 pm
allegations of fraudulent claims on one hand and the exclusion of possibly thousands of legitimate claimants on the other. bernard bates was a plaintiff. >> i myself haven't got one dime. not a dime. >> reporter: the biden administration has included several billion dollars in loan forgiveness and other relief for distressed and disadvantaged farmers in its build back better plan. >> we know for a fact that socially-disadvantaged producers were discriminated against by the united states department of agriculture. we know this. >> reporter: earlier this year, agriculture secretary tom vilsack unveiled a similar $4 billion relief plan for minority farmers, in the american rescue plan. that triggered several lawsuits on behalf of white farmers, claiming reverse discrimination, which succeeded in suspending the program, pending the outcome of the litigation. >> if-- if a black farmer lived across the road, and this bill
3:33 pm
went through, i see him get his mortgage paid off. it ticks me off, because that was money stolen from me. given to him. >> reporter: jon stevens is a fifth-generation farmer in pine county, minnesota, and is a well-known advocate of the environmentally-friendlier regenerative farming. do you think that discrimination exists today against black farmers? >> as a federal system? i would say no. now, when you go to your local office, sure. and that would go anyway, whether it's-- it's white to black; black to white. i, yep. there's racist people all over this country. >> reporter: what are these plaintiffs not understanding? >> oh, i think they understand, i think they just don't want to acknowledge the history. >> reporter: professor holmes says that history of discrimination has taken an enormous toll on black farm families that is still felt today. >> we weren't able to pass on wealth. we weren't able to pass on a farm. and so, to look at it and say, "now, your field is level"?
3:34 pm
no! bernard bates' family, where-- they were denied the opportunity to continue to farm. that didn't level the field. >> reporter: jon stevens says white farmers are as likely today to face rejection at the u.s.d.a. or at private lenders. he says the key is to persevere. >> i don't want to hear your victim story. so what if i-- what if i discriminated against you on something? is that going to stop you? >> reporter: if you're the government, possibly, or you're the banker. >> go to another bank. just pick your bootstraps up and forget the rest of the world and do what you need to do. >> well, i made my own straps and my own boots, and i'm pulling them up. >> reporter: angela dawson farms just a few miles north of stevens. four years ago, she moved here in a career switch back to a family tradition that ended when her grandfather lost his farm. >> i found that you have to have
3:35 pm
at least 1,000, maybe 2,000, 10,000 acres, in order to really be a sustainable farm, right. and that's something that i definitely didn't have access to. >> reporter: so she tried to join the booming business of organic farming, whose humanely-raised meat commands higher prices and therefore is feasible on a small farm. but when dawson, who has a degree in business administration, presented her business plan, with her loan application, she says, the u.s.d.a. agent was not convinced. >> i was really enthusiastic about the pigs, and she said, "what are you doing here?" >> reporter: what do you think they were really asking you? >> i felt like they were asking me, what makes me think i could do this? >> reporter: despite an appeal, her application was rejected, in a process that took 18 months, she says. u.s.d.a. loans are usually processed in about 30 days. agriculture department officials declined to comment specifically on this case. dawson found a new passion-- as lucrative as it is controversial.
3:36 pm
>> reporter: hemp. the plant is now legal to grow in all states; its extracts sold for medicinal use. >> my decision to go into hemp was driven by economics. for c.b.d. hemp, the average farmer makes about $50,000 per acre. >> reporter: dawson's farm is now the home base of a 33-member co-operative of minority-owned farms across the u.s. the co-op guides members growing hemp on how to monitor the crop so it meets licensing standards. >> we use regenerative practices, but we also use technology, and we don't want people to get into farming to be poor. >> reporter: business has been great, she says, but that raised a red flag at one local bank, which closed her accounts. >> the bank said that they thought i could be trafficking. so, the criminal image that's associated with hemp and black people is really difficult for
3:37 pm
me to overcome. so, it's ever after. but we're still working on the“ happily” part. >> reporter: also waiting for happily ever after? the bates family, hoping by legal action or reparation to buy back the land and legacy that they say was unjustly confiscated. for the pbs newshour, i'm fred de sam lazaro in nicodemus, kansas. >> woodruff: fred's reporting is in partnership with the under-told stories project at the university of st. thomas in minnesota. >> woodruff: u.s. military families stationed in hawaii
3:38 pm
and others working in and around the base there, are dealing with tap water contaminated with petroleum. the cause is unknown, but investigators say a leak from a nearby fuel storage facility, operated by the navy, may be to blame. on monday, secretary of the navy carlos del toro issued an apology. but, as stephanie sy reports, there were warning signs. >> sy: for days, active duty soldiers at joint base pearl harbor-hickam in hawaii have been distributing water to their own-- thousands of military families without clean drinking water, due to fuel contamination. >> i am a single, active-duty mom to two special needs kids. >> sy: at several town halls in the last week, resident after resident reported harrowing medical problems-- in their children... >> on sunday, my children took a bath, and for 45 minutes after they complained of burning skin. >> sy: ...and in their pets... >> we made the heart-breaking choice to put my beloved dog down after a mysterious illness. >> sy: the navy-run water system serves some 93,000 people. about 1,000 households reported smelling fuel in the water
3:39 pm
starting in late november. it took the navy almost a week to acknowledge the problem. residents like audrey lamagna had been smelling the fuel for days. >> i decided, let me just fill up a cup, like a plastic cup, full of water. and, what do you know? that cup smelled like fuel. >> sy: lamagna, a military spouse, has a baby and a seven-year-old. what went through your mind, when you tested the water and you realized you had been bathing your childn in it, and that there was signs of fuel in it? >> "now i'm poisoning them, and i didn't even know. like, how sad is that?" >> sy: the contamination was found in the navy-run red hill well, which sits close to an underground fuel storage facility built during world war ii. the facility has had a history of leaks ding back to 1949, with 27,000 gallons of jet fuel accidentally released in 2014.
3:40 pm
just two months ago, hawaii's department of health fined the navy $325,000 for violations at the facility, including failure to “maintain corrosion protection” of the metal tanks and piping. the 20 tanks have the capacity to hold 250 million gallons of fuel, and they sit above the island's most important aquifer which supplies groundwater to 20% of honolulu residents. as a precaution, civilian water authorities shut down a shaft near red hill that serves customers in honolulu. governor david ige issued an emergency order requesting the navy come up with a plan to empty the fuel tanks, but it's unclear he has any enforcement authority. navy secretary carlos del toro apologized on monday, during a visit to the base, and announced operations were suspended at red hill. >> as long as i'm secretary of the navy, i pledge to you that we will address all the issues that you just mentioned with
3:41 pm
sincerity, transparency, and the complete dedication to try to fix this problem. >> sy: for now, many families are finding alternate housing-- including audrey lamagna's. they've moved to a hotel, which the navy says they'll pay for... later. does that work for you? >> no, it does not. because we live paycheck-to- paycheck. we're on a single income. >> sy: the navy says it is flushing clean water through its system, which can take up to ten days. >> even if they were to give us the "all clear," quite frankly, i don't trust what the navy has to say anymore. >> sy: joining me now to discuss the wider implications of the water contamination is the manager and chief engineer of honolulu's water supply board, ernest lau. mr. lau, awho ha and thank you for joining the "newshour". when did the navy notify you about the contamination at the red hill shaft and what was your reaction? >> the navy did not notify us about the drinking water
3:42 pm
contamination. our state department of health notified us sunday evening, sunday after thanksgiving. but we actually got no official notification from the navy. >> reporter: you shut down the halawa shaft which serves 20% of honolulu's water customers. why did you do that? did you find contamination in water in that well? >> just to be clear, stef phi, we have not found contamination by fuel in our drinking water in the halawa shaft. it represents 20% of our supply capacity. we took the precaution of shutting it down because we saw what happened to the navy. at red hill shaft they pumped water into their system and delivered it to their customers. as a precaution, and i do not want to put our water customers from the board of water supply
3:43 pm
the public at risk by pumping fuel into their drinking water system, so we shut town the shaft before we detected any amounts of fuel in the water. >> reporter: you have been looking at this issue, i understand, since 2014, ernie, when there was a massive leak of 27,000 gallons of fuel from one of the tanks. does it frustrate you that not more has been done to secure this water source? >> we have been working for eight years to ring the alarm bells that this facility needs to be addressed, it needs to be either upgraded to double tanks or completely removed. be uh for the last eight years, our voices haven't been heard. we've urged the regulators, the department of health and the usap and the navy to take action to prevent a disaster that would impact heavily our drinking water resource. >> the navy now has stopped
3:44 pm
operations at the red hill fuel storage tanks, which is what you had been calling for. the hawaii congressional delegation had been calling for that, governor egay says he wants to see the tanks emptied of fuel. is that satisfactory to you? >> this gives us hope that suddenly the key decision-makers are voicing their concerns about the facility. what remains, though, stephanie, is actual implementation. are they going to carry through, is the emergency order issued by the health director for the state of hawaii going to be enforced strictly and hold the navy accountable? we've seen in the past letters strongly worded letters sent from our department of health and e.p.a. to the navy, but we haven't really seen the follow-through and those regulators holding the navy accountable. so now is the time to not do that anymore. we really need to get this thing
3:45 pm
addressed right away as soon as possible, and for the board of water supply, immediate removal to have the fuel out of red hill is the only real way to reduce this risk -- massive risk to our drinking water aquifer. the navy is experiencing it firsthand right now and that's very unfortunate answer. i feel so terrible for their customers having to endure this and, you know, drink the fuel-contaminated water. i do not want that to be repeated with the general public. the almost over 400,000 people that we serve water in the city of honolulu itself, we cannot let that happen. so i need the regulators to hold the navy accountable. i need the navy to step forward and not fight us anymore. we have been fighting with them for eight years to do the right thing, to protect the water resource. we've always said to them, you also depend on the resource
3:46 pm
itself for joint base pearl harbor hickam, and they've told us red hill shaft supplies 24% of their supply for their base. now, unfortunately, we see firsthand how important clean drinking water is to our community and to the base itself. >> reporter: earnest lau, chief engineer with honolulu's water supply board. thank you for joining us on the "newshour". mahalo. >> woodruff: a new hbo documentary that debuted this week tells the story of a man once thought to be a top al qaeda operative, and of u.s. attempts to justify torture in the name of protecting americans. amna nawaz recently sat down with the filmmaker, alex gibney. it is part of our arts and culture series, "canvas."
3:47 pm
>> nawaz: abu zubaydah was the first high-value detainee subjected to the c.i.a.'s program of enhanced interrogation techniques-- practices denounced as torture both here in the u.s. and around the world-- after being captured in a firefight in pakistan in 2002. zubaydah was shuttled among so-called black sites, secret prisons run by the c.i.a. all over the world. he has never been charged with a crime, but for the past 20 years has remained imprisoned, mostly at guantanamo bay. while a team of lawyers fights for his release. a new hbo documentary, called "the forever prisoner," explores the story of abu zubaydah and u.s. actions in the name of national security. the filmmaker behind it is academy award-winner alex gibney, and he joins me now. welcome to the newshour. thanks for being here. >> glad to be here. >> nawaz: abu zubaydah is considered a high value detainee to the u.s. tell us a little bit about him. what did the u.s. believe that he knew, that made him high-value? >> well, certain members of the c.i.a. believed that he was the
3:48 pm
number three in al qaeda. that made him a high-value detainee. other members of the c.i.a. actually felt he was more of a kind of independent facilitator, which is actually what he was. he was flown to a secret site, which we now know was in thailand, northern thailand. and he was interrogated. at first by f.b.i. agents, and then later by a group from the c.i.a., ultimately by a gentleman named james mitchell, >> nawaz: when the f.b.i.'s leading the questioning, is he offering them any information that's helpful? >> he offered the f.b.i. information that was helpful almost immediately, and it was about an impending attack, in this case, on israel, funded by people in saudi arabia. and the c.i.a. was able to prevent that attack. so, immediately, he was offering valuable, actionable intelligence, through traditional rapport-building
3:49 pm
techniques, which had nothing to do with torture. >> nawaz: then the c.i.a. remains convinced he's withholding information. we don't exactly understand why, but they decide to ramp up the pressure. this man that you mentioned, james mitchell, becomes much more central to this operation. i just want to play a quick clip here. here is how you introduce him in the film. >> mitchell was the inventor of the acronym for what the c.i.a. called enhanced interrogation techniques and what the rest of the world called torture. >> if my boss tells me it's illegal, especially if the president has approved it, i'm not going to get into the nuances about what some guy in the basement or what some journalist thinks about it, because they're free to trade places with me anytime they think they can do a better job of protecting americans. >> nawaz: alex, how does that man-- how does james mitchell end up at the black site run by the c.i.a., where abu zubaydah is being interrogated? what's his background in interrogations? >> that's a really good question. he had absolutely zero background in interrogation. none.
3:50 pm
he had never interrogated anybody in his life. however, he did have a distinguished career as a psychologist, who had been spending time at the so-called air force sere school. sere stands for survival, evasion, resistance anescape. and those were schools where we sent some of our military to learn how to, you know, survive, so he had observed and was part of a school to learn people-- to teach people how to resist torture. but he had never himself done any interrogations. >> nawaz: despite this, mitchell submits a list to the c.i.a. these are suggested techniques that they should be considering. that list includes things like slapping detainees; walling, which is basically shoving them up against a wall; stress positions, cramped confinement, sleep deprivation, waterboarding. to most of us laymen, it sounds like torture, but of course, the u.s. is a signatory to the geneva convention against torture. d.o.j. signs off on all of this. how does that happen, huh? >> ( laughs ) well, that's part of the story of "the forever prisoner." it happens through a kind of excruciating legal exercise, in
3:51 pm
which they use the rationale or the rationalization that because we do these things to our own people, how bad could it be? how bad could it actually be? because indeed, we do waterboard some of our soldiers, to show them what might be in store for them if they're captured by a terrible regime. but those are exercises, and they have nothing to do with what would happen if you-- furthermore, these techniques almost always result, not in people telling you what is the truth, but they tell you exactly what it is that they think you want to hear. >> nawaz: so the department of justice essentially gives the green light to james mitchell and a team of c.i.a. interrogators who are holding abu zubaydah. what happens next? what does that mean for his interrogations? >> it means that they engage in these techniques, including waterboarding, and he's waterboarded 83 times in the course of a few weeks. and indeed, at one point, he dies. he literally stops breathing and
3:52 pm
has to be revived, brought back. and at one point, james mitchell, who,fter all, was kind of the architect of these techniques, even appeals to the c.i.a. and says, you know, we've-- we've waterboarded him consistently, and he's undergone enormous pain. we don't think that it's worth doing it anymore. and the c.i.a. insists they continue, and they continue to waterboard him over and over and over again. >> nawaz: you know, people will look at this story. they will have followed the news over the last 20 years. to have known about the techniques and say, in times of war, in the name of national security, the u.s. has always and probably will always do ugly and horrific things. what would you say to them? >> i would say two things. number one, these techniques are immoral. i would say, number two, they do not yield the truth. they're undependable. they tend to yield what the interrogators want to hear. the c.i.a. thought he was the number three in al qaeda, which
3:53 pm
he wasn't. but ultimately, he says, yes, i'm the number three in al qaeda. so, you don't have to ask yourself if you're in the intelligence business-- what do you want? the truth? or somebody to tell you what you want to hear? >> nawaz: meanwhile, the man at the center of all of this, abu zubaydah, we do not hear from. what does the future hold for him? >> that's a good question. he is in guantanamo. he's never been charged with a crime. he's never been permitted to challenge his detention. and one of the things we discovered, as part of doing this documentary, was a cable, or a series of cables, back and forth from the black site in thailand to the c.i.a. in langley. and the c.i.a. assures the people who are doing the interrogation, who are afraid that abu zubaydah may someday tell what happened to him-- "rest assured"-- and this is a direct quote-- "he will remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life." and so far, that's been the case, though interestingly, his name has recently surfaced in the supreme court, and a certain number of justices wondered how
3:54 pm
is it possible that somebody could be held for 20 years without the ability to challenge their detention? >> nawaz: the documentary is "the forever prisoner." it debuts on hbo and hbo max on alex gibney, thanks so much for being here. >> thank you. >> woodruff: australian government officials will not attend the winter olympic games in beijing. joining a u.s. diplomat boycott announced earlier this week. australia's prime minister says china has not responded to his country's concerns over alleged human right abuses. like american athletes, australian athletes will still compete in the games. on the "newshour" on the newshour online right now, the u.s. navy's commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the pearl harbor attack.
3:55 pm
the secretary of the navy kicked gave a key note address at the ceremony in hawaii. and separately, in washington, d.c., president joe biden observed the anniversary by visiting the world war ii memorial. all the days events on our website now, and that is the newshour for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. join us online, and again here tomorrow evening. for all of us at the pbs newshour, thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> fidelity wealth management. >> consumer cellular. >> johnson & johnson. >> financial services firm raymond james. >> bnsf railway. >> carnegie corporation of new york. supporting innovations in
3:56 pm
education, democratic engagement, and the advancement of international peace and security. at >> the target foundation, committed to advancing racial equity and creating the change required to shift systems and accelerate equitable economic opportunity. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc captioned by media access group at wgbh
3:57 pm
3:58 pm
emergency planning for kids. we can't predict when an emergency will happen. so that's why it's important to make a plan with your parents. here are a few tips to stay safe. know how to get in touch with your family. write down phone numbers for your parents, siblings and neighbors. pick a place to meet your family if you are not together and can't go home. remind your parents to pack an emergency supply kit.
3:59 pm
making a plan might feel like homework, but it will help you and your family stay safe during an emergency.
4:00 pm
♪ hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & company." here's what's coming up. >> thus far the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. >> that's the good news on omicron so far. i speak exclusively with greek prime minister kyriakos mitsotakis about his plan to find those who refuse the vaccine. and -- >> ♪ >> "raise the roof," grammy award-winning musicians alison krauss and robert plant discuss their new album and why it took 14 long years to reunite. plus -- >> are we going to with moral


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on