Hurt us is one thing. But this is in a qualitatively different. ...
Not really. In fact, if I may say so, I'm delighted it wasn't worse. We predict
in our report that in this period of time we're talking about -- the early part
of this century -- that there are two types of weapons that we have to be very
concerned about, not from governments but from terrorist organizations: weapons
of mass destruction -- nuclear, biological and chemical. And we spoke of
weapons of mass disruption -- high explosives, incendiary devices -- that
could inflict damage on large numbers of American citizens. Those are exact
quotes from our report.
... [We spend] $10 billion a year or so on the
counterterrorism budget. [It] didn't stop anything.
I'm not sure you'll ever stop it all. But you've got to find a way to stop some
of it, and you've got to find a way to respond to it in a better way than we
normally do. Although, quite frankly, what happened in New York, I'm not sure
any response would have saved any life. People probably died in the early
minutes of that conflagration.
But we have to be able to respond to other kinds of things that could happen in
this country, in places that are not as well equipped as New York, to handle
these things. And it is a serious problem. There are three aspects of this.
There is prevention; there is protection; and there's response.
But isn't that what the CIA, for instance, or our intelligence apparatus is
supposed to do -- prevent, predict? ...
Well, Lowell, you're old enough to remember a few items in history, and let me
just point a few things out to you.
The U.S. intelligence service, the German intelligence service, the KGB, the
Japanese intelligence -- all intelligence organizations, for many years, have
been very good at two things: assessing threats, and assigning the capacity or
the capability, if you will, of those threats to inflict damage on you.
They have all been very bad at predicting, with certainty, what will happen,
based on intelligence. There are successes, and you never hear about those
successes. But, unfortunately, this is kind of a zero-sum game. If there are
10 attacks planned and you thwart seven, and three work, you lost.
And anybody who believes that intelligence, even with beefing up human
intelligence, will be good enough to predict that, [and] these shadowy organizations can be penetrated in a way that we will be able to, with impunity, determine
what they're going to do and where and when they're going to do it -- they're
just whistling in the cemetery. That is not going to happen. That is not the
solution to this problem.
If there is a solution to the problem, the solution is as President Bush talked
about it in his speech to the Congress. It's to go after these people and their
hosts, and to eliminate these threats in any way that you can. We're going to
have to do that -- eliminate them.
It sure is.
And part of war is also understanding who your enemy is.
Well, in the streets of some places in the Middle East, this has not been
greeted, necessarily, as something to be ashamed of.
Not surprising. Look, the fundamental question is, why did this happen? The
American people, I think, now understand what we've written about in our
report. There are large numbers of people in this world who don't like us, who
would like to hurt us, who don't like our culture, don't like our freedom,
don't like our kind of government, don't like our foreign policy, don't like us
at all -- and given the chance to hurt us, they will. Those are the plain,
unvarnished, unhappy facts.
We have interviewed some of those people and what they say is that in their
countries, Egypt as an example, we have an oppressive government that has left
the people in poverty. You, the United States, have given them -- I believe the
figure is close to $50 billion since Camp David -- mostly military assistance.
So you are the friend of our enemy -- our government. Is this a policy
Well, of course, but that's their point of view. There's been a reason for
America's policy towards many countries. It's been in our own enlightened
self-interest to have strong allies in the Middle East besides Israel. It's
important that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, and the United Arab
Emirates, and others, are friendly to us. And that doesn't mean we sign on to
everything they do. But the world isn't very pretty out there.
But these terrorists are more than just people who disagree with our policies.
These are fundamentally very, very sick people, who believe it is all right to
take thousands of lives because they believe that their basic beliefs and
geopolitical views are not being observed by the United States government.
Well, I might say that about Osama bin Laden, or this gentleman, [Imad] Mughniyah in Hezbollah, or Hamas.
Or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. [Or] Islamic Jihad.
But [the leadership] aren't the suicide bombers. The people who are piloting
the airlines, the people who are blowing themselves up -- they believe that we
are the enemy. Are they just insane? Are you saying we just have a bunch of
insane people out there?
Oh, I think they are essentially borderline insane; absolutely. To do what they
did? Of course they are.
We can't institutionalize them. We're going to have to eliminate
That's the difference now. We've gone from law enforcement, if you
This is no longer a law enforcement [problem]. Twenty people die; it's law
enforcement. Six thousand die; it's war.
OK. You're [chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board]. So you
see everything that goes on in the U.S. intelligence community.
Well, pretty much.
We have talked with people in the FBI and other agencies who say that in the six months leading up to this event, there had been a struggle going on here in Washington, related to the ... wiretap situation. ... [Some say] that that system ... resulted in a decrease in our electronic surveillance of these groups.
Yes. Well, I'm not going to corroborate that, confirm it tonight. I'll make an
Are we wrong?
I'm not going to comment. I believe that we have to take a strong look at some
of the protections that we've built into the system in case of foreign
intelligence and foreign operatives. ... We're a great, open country, and our Constitution applies
to everyone, whether they're a citizen or not.
But I think there are some instances with foreign agents and whatnot where we need wiretap information, and we're going to have to change the rules. And I
say that as someone who is very, very concerned about issues of privacy.
We've talked to people in the [Drug Enforcement Administration] who have experience in Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and so on, in the late 1990s. Many people, including some CIA people,
say these people know more on the ground, actually, than our own intelligence
people because they're looking for drugs and they have informants. They say
they had a number of opportunities, one involving Mr. bin Laden's dialysis
treatments, where they could have eliminated him. But they were told, through
the CIA and the U.S. Embassy, not to do it.
Number one, I'm not sure I believe that. Even though they said it, I'm not sure
I believe it. Number two ...
Why do you say that?
Because I know a lot of people in government who make up stories about their
great exploits. That's why.
But having said that, we've had a policy for a long time about assassinations,
and I suppose the policy was put in place for a good reason. I don't think the
policy even applies in this kind of a situation. ... We're not talking about
going and eliminating a king or a prime minister. We're talking about
eliminating a terrorist. That's different.
So the gloves are off?
Well, if the president's to be believed -- and I believe him -- the gloves are
off. He said you're either [with] us, or you're with the terrorists. That's
So when your former colleague, Senator [Richard] Shelby (R-Ala.), says this was an intelligence
Well, of course it was an intelligence failure. By definition, when something
bad happens to you, and you didn't know about it, it's an intelligence failure.
The more important question is, is it something that we likely should have
found out? I say no.
Look. U.S. intelligence knew in November of 1941 that the Japanese fleet was
moving about the western Pacific. I mean, they were watching the fleet. They
couldn't quite figure out the intentions until December 7. In Europe, in
November of 1944, American intelligence and British intelligence knew the
Germans were massing forces in and around the Ardennes. They didn't know why
until the Battle of the Bulge.
In 1990, we were aware Saddam Hussein was making unusual movements of armored
forces in his country, in various places. We didn't know why until he invaded
Kuwait. Well, you know, how many times does that have to happen before you
realize that intelligence on intentions is very difficult to ascertain?
But at the time of Pearl Harbor, it was decided not to have an
investigation, not to point fingers, [to] wait till the end of the war.
That was wise.
At the end of the war, there were hearings.
As a result of those hearings, we created what?
Well, we created a whole bunch of things.
We created the Central Intelligence Agency.
... But understand the duties of intelligence agencies. We have to know about
people's capabilities. We have to know about their capacity to injure us. We
would like to know their intentions. But I will repeat to you: We do find out
intentions some of the time, but not all of the time. And in this business --
it's a zero-sum business -- if you don't find it all the time, then what
happened in New York is what will happen again, chilling as that may be.
Some would say that this is all the result of our policies -- starting in, let's say, 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union and the triumph of our system, and then our ability to conduct a war in the Persian Gulf, where we took very few casualties, and inflicted huge casualties on an Islamic population, civilian and military. [Some would say] that this is the payback, after 10 years of prosperity and dominance.
Could well be, could well be. I don't think anyone can rule out this incident
having the participation of a state sponsor. I do not believe that,
necessarily, this is just a terrorist organization, be it Osama bin Laden or
the network of other organizations that work with him. This well could have the
involvement of foreign intelligence services, and I'm sure we're looking at all
of that now.
Well, there's some indications. Israelis, in particular, although they have
some interest in this obviously, are saying now that it looks like there may be
some Hezbollah involvement, looks like there may be some Iraqi involvement, and
they're also pointing their finger at this man, Zawahiri, who's an Egyptian
ally of bin Laden's.
... Mossad [the Israeli Intelligence Service], according to the press, had told American authorities that there
were a large number of people that they believed were terrorists, who they had
information were making their way into the United States. That's very important
information. What do you do with it? Well, you try to locate these people.
We've got 3.5 million people a day crossing our borders. 380,000 vehicles. You
know, 58,000 containers on ships. It's very hard, with that kind of raw
information, to target it.
I'm not making apologies for the intelligence community. They can defend
themselves. I'm not part of the intelligence community. I'll make this
observation: If we think that intelligence is going to give us the weapon to
prevent this from happening -- all the time -- we're wrong.
That's not my question.
I know it isn't your question.
I'm not beating that question to death. I think that it's clear that they
may have an impossible assignment or expectation.
We do very well, by the way. America does very well. We thwart a lot of things
from happening, but you don't read about ...
But it's not the movies, and it's not Bruce Willis.
No, it's not.
This is a Bruce Willis movie with a bad ending.
The question is: Is there something about our policies that have been
politically untouchable? We need oil; we need to back Israel. It's hard to
raise these issues, because people want low gasoline prices, or people want
absolutely support for whatever government is in Israel. You know that on the
street, in Lebanon or Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, Sharon is seen as a mass
murderer because of Sabra and Shatila.
Are you telling me there are people who disagree totally with our foreign
policy? You bet there are. You bet there are. And is it a potential contributor
to this problem? You bet it is. Question: What do we do about it?
Do we have a debate?
Well, I'm sure, at some point, there will be, but I don't think right now. I
don't think any Americans are in the mood to discuss whether our foreign policy
should be changed so this won't happen to us again. I think they're too angry,
and with good cause. ...
Oh, there are many people who are very angry. The question is, what we do in
response to this could make things a lot worse.
Yes. With all due respect, I think if we changed our foreign policy in many
ways in the Middle East, it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. These
people hate our culture, they hate our religion, they hate our democracy. They
"These people." Who are you ...
I'm talking about the fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organizations.
I'm talking about the people ...
Well, they seem to be able to recruit the people. They got the guys to fly and
commit suicide, and they seemed to be fairly educated people. So evidently
these are fundamentalist terrorists themselves. So it's the organizations and
the members of the organizations.
But, they are getting their members from
Absolutely. Just like Adolf Hitler was able to recruit well-educated people
from great families and bring them into the SS and commit some of the most
horrible atrocities in the history of the world. Same thing. You explain it. I
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