looking for answershomesaudi arabiaegyptintelligence failurediscussion
interview: michael sheehan

... What happened on September 11 -- there was no expectation?

...The extent of this attack is, has clearly shocked me, and many in the community. We didn't expect an organization to have such ties within the continental United States, to have such cells operating. We knew there were sleeper cells in the U.S. But this attack, and the audacity of it, and the use of hijacked aircraft in this manner -- clearly was something we did not expect. Something like the embassies, or the USS Cole, or even something worse than that -- we were expecting that.

We didn't have any expectation of anything like this, meaning the use of airplanes as weapons, I assume?

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a hijacked aircraft has been used as a weapon. One of my nightmares as a coordinator for counterterrorism was the use of small aircraft, perhaps packed with explosives, perhaps a Cessna. But the use of a hijacked aircraft full of jet fuel was not one that I personally had contemplated, and was, indeed, shocking.

Didn't Ramzi Yousef have a plan to blow up airliners, and ... I think in the Philippines, recently, some have said that there were some documents there that indicated that they might use planes as weapons of some sort.

Yes, there were plans to blow up airlines in the sky, sort of like Pan Am 103 as a terrorist event, where you actually explode and the aircraft crashes. But I personally was not anticipating something of this magnitude.

There have been many other scenarios, actually worse than this one --chemical, biological, nuclear scenarios. But I stated many times during my tenure that I was still primarily interested in terrorist attacks with conventional explosives -- car bombs, truck bombs, boat bombs as in the Cole, or the use of the standard Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle as was the plot in Jordan. That was a plot with AK-47s where they were just going to indiscriminately shoot at civilian targets with rifles.

about michael sheehan

From 1998 to 2001, Michael Sheehan was the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State. He calls the Sept. 11 attacks a failure of intelligence and says that the scale of the attack was completely unexpected. Sheehan offers insight into the structure of Al Qaeda, as well as Osama bin Laden's relationship with the Taliban and his role as psychological leader of an international organization. This interview was conducted mid-September 2001.

How do they get this organized to do this and survive, despite the fact that we have all this eavesdropping and all this money we spend trying to find them?

The primary terrorist threat against the U.S. right now is the Al Qaeda network ... in association with other groups like the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations that is very loosely affiliated. Sometimes operations come from a central leadership, which is primarily located within Afghanistan. ...

You mean from the top down.

From the top down. Other times, it may come from a cell that's operating perhaps, say, in Nairobi, with the Nairobi bombings. Some of the initiative came from that cell itself.

You mean the people themselves, sitting around, said, "Why don't we bomb an embassy?"

Or, "We're available to conduct an operation," and then they may meet with someone - "Well, how about an embassy bombing?" So ideas come from the top and they come from the bottom. The plotters are normally in small cells operating within a country.

The cell is three, four...

Three to five, maybe -- something like that. Normally very closely knit, and normally contacting other cells very infrequently, and with certain cutouts, so that even the identity between cells is unknown.

The cutout is an intermediary?

That's right. ... Doesn't know the rest of the group, or the rest of the plot, and those intermediaries could bring the expertise to that cell. If you have a fairly unsophisticated but dedicated group of people in a cell, say, in Nairobi, and you're able to bring them the technical expertise and the explosives to create a truck bomb, then all that cell has to do is drive the vehicle to the embassy at the point, appoint a time. And you have to realize that they hit our embassies within five minutes of each other.

[In 1998] they hit [a U.S.] embassy in Nairobi and one in Dar es Salaam within five minutes. So there had to be some overall coordination.

Exactly, which shows that there is a degree of sophistication coming from the top down. But we also know there was quite a deal of independence in the cell itself in terms of how it organizes its attack. Now, again, in the attack on September 11, we see very closely knit in-source cells operating, but obviously a coordination from above that synchronized the attacks.

... [So] it comes from the top and the bottom. ... But as for organizing it or giving the order that this should be the target, no one seems to think [Osama bin Laden] did that.

Right. Bin Laden is a symbol, but he's more important than a symbol. He is the psychological leader, the spiritual leader of sorts for these people. I wouldn't characterize them as religious. I consider it a distortion of Islam, these attacks. But he also is important in terms of financing and providing a sanctuary for them in Afghanistan, where they're able to organize themselves, train, and also flee, too, after an attack -- which has often been the pattern in the past for those who are not involved in the suicide part of the operation. Those other intermediaries often flee back to Afghanistan after the attack.


You've said that you don't agree a lot of times with the U.S. government's response to the events, let's say, the events of September 11. Why is that? You were the U.S. government, really.

No. I think so far, particularly Secretary of State Colin Powell has sent the right message, the right tone, regarding how to respond to this. He's talking about building an international coalition. In my view, that is not an option. It's the only way to proceed.

If we were to do this unilaterally, I think, at best, we would only be marginally affected. The terrorists that attack us generally operate on soils outside of the U.S. That's where their support comes from, that's what they come from. The actual arrests and identifications are going to be done primarily by our friends and allies abroad. We have to have an international coalition to do this, and I've been heartened by the message that's coming from him.

But I'm concerned that the strategy must remain primarily political and diplomatic. The primary focus of the strategy should be to "drain the swamp," which I often refer to.

What do you mean, "drain the swamp?"

Draining the swamp means you have to get at the sanctuary of a terrorist. If ... you can continue to swat the mosquitoes out of a swamp, you can identify them, swat them all night long. But unless you drain the swamp, the source of where they come from, they will eventually get through your defenses and attack you successfully.

So you have to go at the source, not only at the source of where they train and operate, but also the sources where they transit through, where they get funding from, and where they operate their cells out of. And you have to attack the people of the cells. I think that is where the focus must remain. ...

... But what creates the swamp?

This is where I believe the strategy must be political first. In the past ten or twelve years, the strategy has evolved much to a law enforcement and intelligence strategy in the U.S. It really started around the time of the crash or the tragic bombing of Pan Am 103. We decided to take an approach that was primarily legalistic, that we built a case against Qaddafi and Libya in the courts, and used sanctions to punish him. And that worked, because it was targeted at a state. I think, over time, Qaddafi felt it was too expensive, too costly, in terms of politically and economically, for him to support terrorism. Over the years, he's gradually gotten out of the business.

So we stuck to a legal chain of evidence around the Lockerbie bombing, we want these suspects, we want to put them on trial.

... I think President Bush, George Bush, Sr., decided after the bombing of Pan Am 103 -- it was during the transition between Reagan and Bush administrations -- I think he and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, decided to take a different approach. And I think it worked.

They decided we won't get in a tit-for-tat bombing campaign with Libya. We're going take them to international court and we're going to put them through a series of sanctions, which is going to punish them, economically, and isolate them politically. And over time, I think that that strategy worked.

But this is a different kind of situation. ...

Now we have non-state-sponsored terrorism, and I believe, from my experience, in talking to some of my friends still working on this issue, these groups are not closely linked to any states. We do not see any evidence of that.

As of today, a few weeks ... after the World Trade Center incident of September 11, there's no hard evidence of state sponsorship or support, meaning, most people would say, the Iraqis, or the Iranians, or any other government.

Obviously, I'm not reading intelligence like I did when I was in the government. But during my time there, I saw very little direct state sponsorship for these organizations that were attacking us.

What is direct state versus indirect state sponsorship?

Direct funding from a state government, assistance from their intelligence operations, political guidance from those, from their government -- that I did not see from some states. They operated generally on their own, with their own agenda.

The Taliban did give them sanctuary. But even in their case, I didn't see any direct link between the Taliban and the terrorist activity of bin Laden an Al Qaeda.

There were various reports in the time that bin Laden was in the Sudan, that Iraqi intelligence people went to the Sudan, both to work with the government there, and may have had contact with him and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. There are reports that we have been given that he has met in Afghanistan with Iraqi ambassadors, and who are apparently also security or intelligence officers in Saddam's government. Is that just acquaintances having a cup of tea, or is that indications of liaison?

Over the years, there's been some anecdotal evidence of some contacts. But in my judgment, while I was in the government, and, again, from my friends who are working on it now, there's no conclusive evidence that I know of that links these networks to any state, including Iraq.

So this is purely, in a sense, entrepreneurial terrorism?

Up until this point. I wouldn't rule it out. Again, all the information is still being developed. But in my view, these cells are operating with their own agenda.

That's these independent cells in, as I understand it, as many as 60 countries [around the world]?

That's right. ...

And then there's another layer of organization that is a support layer, or a kind of logistical and technical support organizations?

Right. I think it's hard to define it. They don't have a wiring diagram like IBM, or the Pentagon. But I think, yes, there's tactical, operational cells operating in-country. There seems to be some intermediary cells that control some of the movement of specialists, equipment, explosives, and then of course the headquarters, which is primarily in the camps in Afghanistan.

And there are two names--Mr. Zawahiri and a Mr. Atta who are mentioned as, in a sense, the actual field generals in what's going on. Egyptian -- yes?

Right. Both of them are Egyptians. Zawahiri is a former head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the EIJ, has been in Afghanistan with bin Laden for quite a long time, indicating that the close relationship of those two groups. Many describe the EIJ as sort of affiliate of Al Qaeda, or the bin Laden organization.

And many of the people, as I recall, who were fugitives in the Nairobi U.S. embassy bombing indictment, as well as many of the people in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, [were] Egyptians. Why so many Egyptians?

Oh, I wouldn't characterize the Egyptians as major players here in terms of nationality. I think the nationality spreads throughout the world, actually, and I wouldn't say any one country has more than another. They come from all countries, and this latest attack actually questions the generally known profile before, which was a young, disgruntled, angry male with not much of a future. Now we're seeing people that have lived in the United States for several years, some were married, with children, had jobs, had things in life. They weren't the desperate angry young males. So even now, I think we're relooking ... at the profile

Engineers ... coming from upper middle-class families.

Again, I think we're not sure, exactly, about all these perpetrators, right now, because some of them may have been carrying false identifications. I still think they're sorting that out. But of the information that is coming through ... it's adjusting the thinking on what the typical profile of these terrorists are.--people that are desperate, and something ... or maybe young, and being able to be misguided to a greater life in paradise after the suicide bombing. But these are people that are older, supposedly less susceptible to that type of brainwashing, or that type of influence. ...

... [You] made mention before, early in the interview, to "sleeper cells." What does that mean?

Sleeper cells are cells of terrorists that are keeping a low profile in the country, waiting to be activated, perhaps sitting around, making general plots, or preparing themselves to make attacks, and then waiting for the instructions or the materials, or the exact plan to be formulated before they activate. Those are cells that we have to get better at penetrating, here in the United States and abroad. And that's really a job for human intelligence. So there is a huge...

... Human intelligence means human beings, spies, snitches, informants.

Human intelligence refers to making personal contact with groups, and being penetrating groups with people that are undercover, making personal contact with them, as opposed to relying on perhaps imagery from satellites or from airplanes, or listening to a wiretap.

Or having someone else report things to you from another intelligence agency.

Human could also be described as having it from another agency. But I think we have to become much more extensive and rely on penetrating these cells. We have not been very good at that in the past, both domestically, obviously, and internationally.

In your opinion, has the U.S. response -- at least until now, in terms of approaching other governments -- had enough political heft behind it to get them to do what we need them to do?

I believe that the counterterrorism strategy much be refocused at the political level, and maintained at the political level.

That means at the political leadership of other countries.

Yes. In the past, as I said, we were shifting our strategy towards enhanced cooperation, law enforcement, intelligence. This, of course, is very, very important. But without a political commitment of the leadership of the countries that we're working with to go after the terrorists that are operating within their country, fund-raising, cells, transit points -- unless there's a full commitment on them, then the liaison, the coordination we do, the cooperation, training, equipment, will not be very effective.

They will cooperate with us, a case-by-case basis. We provide them information on a certain name or a certain bank account, and they'll work very closely with us to disrupt that. But we need more than that. We need a full political commitment from their leadership, that they're actively going to go out and pursue these cells, because we can't possibly do it within their own turf. Sometimes we find out anecdotal information we find through our sources that something's going on. But we need their full commitment.

So you would agree with the efforts that, let's say, former FBI Director Louis Freeh attempted to do, which were to raise the issue of terrorism, let's say, in Saudi Arabia, to a higher political level than it had been?

Yes, I do, and I appreciate the efforts that, that he made to do that. But I think, actually, the political message must come from the president, from the secretary of state -- that it must be moved up on the political agenda. ...

... [We] interviewed the assistant to the blind sheik, who says to us on camera, "If you want to know why we hate you, we Egyptians, Egyptian fundamentalists, it's because you support Mubarak." Mubarak he calls "the pharaoh." "They torture us, they repress us, they keep our people in poverty, and when we turn around, it's United States who keeps him in power." Now, in fact, he's been very successful in forcing these kinds of people out of the country -- here.

The arguments that come from terrorists, that they're against the United States because we support regimes in the Middle East that are friendly to us, I find to be completely nonsense. These are not democrats that are expressing a frustration with the regimes. These are people with a very radical political agenda. So I don't give that much credence.

Obviously, there are certain issues we have with governments around the world regarding their democracy, their political institutions ... the way they organize their economies, corruption, or distortions in wealth, and we work on those issues with countries around the world all the time. But that's not to say that our relationship with a country would then give a terrorist reason to attack the United States.

Well, I'm not saying that it's rational, or that it's justifiable. But when we read bin Laden's pronouncements, or when we listen to this associate of the blind sheik, in a sense, what he's saying is that we are supplying the water in the swamp that helps create them, and breed them, and give them a reason to be doing these things to us.

Do you take that into consideration when assessing what to do?

I think in the longer term -- and again going back to my previous issue, that the strategy must be political -- we have to be sensitive to the perceptions that fuel the flames of hatred in some of these areas, that pour water back into the swamp. Whether or not they're legitimate or not, we have to understand them. Some understand the concerns that people in these parts of the world have about U.S. policy, whether it be about the Middle East conflicts, the Iraq war, the situation in Kashmir, or other areas where they perceive that Islam is under attack from the West -- that Islamic people are being crushed by the strength and power of the West, whether it be cultural, militarily, or with alliances with other countries.

We have to understand that, and factor that into our political strategy as we move forward, because the alliances that we make with the countries that are going to join us in the attack do live in that world, and live with that reality. And we have to better understand that, and how all those other foreign policy actions affect our counterterrorism strategy.

But bin Laden, again ... and the Saudi opposition people we've spoken with say that the corruption of the regime is something that is universally hated -- not just by the fundamentalist community, and it gives, again, water to the swamp -- and the Americans, the pictures of our leaders with the royal family, with people who they know are not of, let's say, the highest rectitude, makes us appear to be the allies of their oppressors, if you will.

I understand that line of reasoning. But I wouldn't take it much farther than I did previously, because if you do, you'll give credence and credibility to the use of terrorism because of a grievance against a government, which I completely reject. ...

... As I think you agree, there is, in a sense, an undercurrent of support on the street in the Islamic world for bin Laden, some of his allies, some of the local groups. Yes?

Clearly, there is an undercurrent of support in many sectors, in parts of the world. And this is why ... we have to understand that, and this is why we have to work very closely with our allies on this fight against terrorism.

Probably our most important ally in this fight will be Pakistan. Pakistan itself is threatened by this terrorist activity and the instability it causes within their country. We have to understand the currents of hatred and misunderstanding and resentment that do exist within sectors of their society, and work with the leadership of Pakistan, so they can deal with that reality while assisting us in the fight against terrorism. This a very complicated strategy that we're going to have to put together. It's subtle. It's going to be long term. It's going to require a political engagement, an investment of resources, as well as further cooperation on intelligence and law enforcement. ...

... [Were] the events of September 11 an intelligence failure?

Clearly, there was an intelligence failure in the United States and possibly externally as well. Clearly ... that catastrophic event was a failure of intelligence; no question.

And in your years there, running counterterrorism for the State Department, you couldn't have imagined this happening?

This is a surprise, the extent of this operation. As I said, we knew there were sleeper cells in the U.S., we knew there was some terrorist activity in the U.S., we knew that this organization was continuing its threats against the United States. There were warnings as to that extent, fairly recently, this year. But the audacity, the cruelty of this attack was ... surprised me.

After Pearl Harbor, the admiral in the Pacific who was in charge in Hawaii was demoted. He never had a combat command. Neither did General Short, who was also in Hawaii during the war. There doesn't seem to be that kind of reaction to this event in the U.S.

No, I don't think so. Probably the lead counterterrorism official, Richard Clark from the NSC, certainly was one voice for many years warning of this type of attack, although I wouldn't speak for him. I don't know if he was surprised, again, by the extent of this. So the counterterrorism officials knew that this type of activity was being contemplated and were trying to ratchet up the strategy to counter this type of a threat. And a lot of money was spent within the intelligence and law enforcement side.

I think, now, we have to shift it to the political and move it up on the political agenda to ensure that those states that may not be direct sponsors of terrorism have to do more to shut down those activities within their states that are threatening us.

So other foreign policy or economic questions -- oil in Saudi Arabia, or similarly, in the Persian Gulf...


... have to take a second seat now...

Yes. For instance, in Pakistan, I argued for a much closer engagement with Pakistan, for years. Unfortunately, because of the nuclear tests they made in response to the India nuclear blast, and the coup d'etat of General Musharraf -- those issues of democracy, of nuclear testing, which are very important to U.S. foreign policy, complicated our ability to engage more closely with them on issues of security and counterterrorism. Now I think is a time we're going to have to review that. And I understand we are reviewing lifting sanctions related to Pakistan regarding democracy, the coup, and also nuclear sanctions on them. We need to fully engage with Pakistan and help them help us, and help them with their own challenges in their country.

But many people would say that we allowed the "politics of oil," if you will, take precedence over our willingness to pressure governments in the Gulf, for example, to do something about money laundering, about the presence of terrorist groups or individuals in their countries, and, similarly, to allow Saudi charities, or other individuals in Saudi Arabia to funnel support to people like bin Laden.

It's more complicated than just oil. There are other issues. Many of the moderate regimes in the Middle East are very important for us for major other issues -- security as well as the support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, our coalition against Iraq, and other interests that are important to the U.S., as well as trying to help them through periods of instability within their own borders.

So I wouldn't sit here and say, blindly criticize our officials for not always having counterterrorism as the number one issue of our foreign policy. It certainly always wasn't. It was high up on the list ... and probably should have been higher over the years. But now, clearly, it must be moved up on the agenda to the top. ...

... DEA people say that before they left Pakistan, they offered their network of informants to the Central Intelligence Agency, and they were told they weren't interested. Is that part of the interagency problem? ...

... [We] sometimes have some "turf issues" between some of the agencies overseas. When I worked in the counternarcotics business in the Bush White House in 1989 and 1991, I saw some of the competition between some agencies. But my experience in counterterrorism was much better than my experience in counternarcotics.

I found the cooperation among agencies to be much better. And over the years, especially between the FBI and the CIA, the cooperation was extraordinarily good. With DEA, it wasn't as extensive, so may have been room for improvement there. But, again, I'd like to underscore that on counterterrorism, the cooperation among agencies was pretty good. ...

...You were saying earlier ... you do not believe, and as of this day, that there is substantive information that this was state-sponsored, what happened on September 11 or any of these other events that have been attributed to bin Laden's network. But at the same time, you're talking about pressuring states.

That's right.

Seems like a contradiction.

That's right. Really, over the past ten years, most of the blatant state sponsors have generally moved out of the business of terrorism. The two most active ones that the CIA and others, and as well as myself have talked about, are Iran and Syria. But even there, support for terrorism is very, very restricted primarily to groups operating within the Middle East and primarily against Israeli interests. That is wrong, and should be condemned, and we do that -- vigorously and continuously.

However, those groups that are attacking us, the network of networks, the bin Laden Al Qaeda, EIJ networks, those groups do not, to my knowledge, have active support from states. However, they do have to operate within states, and they have their primary sanctuary in Afghanistan. But they move through, they collect money, they operate in other countries. And it's those states that we ... that have to make political decisions to go after this threat much more vigorously. Before, for many of their own reasons, they straddled the fence. If we went to them on a specific case to cooperate, they would cooperate.

Who's "they?"

Well, I wouldn't want to get into a long laundry list of countries.

It's a long laundry list.

I would include most countries in the world, as a matter of fact, need to step up their work on this. There's a few that I would give A-pluses to in their cooperation. ...

Well, you gave an A-plus to Egypt and to Jordan.

I give them very high grades.

I assume the Israelis?


OK. The Saudis?

I don't want get into a grading system here. ... You can read the State Department's annual report, and in its own diplomatic subtle languages, reports on how countries are doing in terms of cooperating with the U.S. in counterterrorism. But I think, now, we have to become much more explicit in that, both privately and publicly, to hold them accountable for becoming much more aggressive in their attack against counterterrorism. ...

... If you're the 100 million people in Pakistan who are living below anything that we would consider to be the poverty line, and the tens of millions more throughout the Islamic world, why should we care about what happens? And if I'm one of them, why should we care about what happens to the United States? You obviously don't care about us.

I think they need to understand that the threat, that many of them have been ignoring for years, also threatens them. I think one of the reasons that Jordan and Egypt are such good allies on this, because the threat directly threatens them as well. So they have their own interest in breaking up these cells, and chasing them out of their country, and disrupting them.

Well, the regime in power does.

That's right.

But the regime in power is sitting on top of this, if you will, "seething mass," that from what I've seen anyway in Muslim communities, in the poorer Muslim communities in the region, his picture's in the window -- bin Laden. He's a hero.

I think we have to understand that dynamic around different parts of the Islamic world, but be careful not to hook our strategy to that. Because if you do that, you may legitimize terrorist action, because people may be living in poor and desperate conditions. I wouldn't link the two. ...

...You're saying that we need to have more political pressure, basically, priority, internationally 60 countries are involved, and this was number five on the priority list until very recently -- terrorism.

For some countries.

So because it wasn't such a high priority and because you couldn't make it that, what happened? [Did] someone get away? Did something happen as a result of that?

I think on several incidents I can remember over the years, that because countries weren't fully committed and were perhaps a little bit antsy about alienating certain pockets of their population, certain people may have slipped through their grasp or their fingers.

Because we didn't push those countries. ...

Perhaps we could a pushed them harder, right -- held them more accountable for their lack of aggressiveness in capturing certain individuals that we were tracking. Yes.

Al Qaeda people?

Yes, and others, other organizations as well.

So you can't share with us an incident where someone got away, had our policy been...

I wouldn't be able to share that. Those are classified issues and discussions we had with countries and some of those are still active cases of people we're still looking for.

For example, many of these people, we know, have traveled through Germany and have been in Hamburg. Is it both European countries as well as countries in the Middle East, and Islamic countries?

I would say the geography knows no bounds to a lack of will in countering terrorism around the world.

And because...?

It's inconvenient for many countries. Some of them are afraid; they're intimidated by these groups. Others are afraid of the political repercussions within their own countries or don't want to get dragged into an issue that's seen largely as an issue between the United States and these groups.

You mean allies, NATO allies, and others have simply said, "Look, this is not our fight?"

No, no one would ever say that. No one was ever that blunt, in saying, "No, we're not going to help cooperate with you." And, generally, when you come with a specific case, a specific individual, a bank account, you generally get good cooperation. Only a few instances I can see that people slipped through.

What I'm more interested in is, rather than them waiting for us to come with a specific case, that they get much more aggressive in uncovering these people operating within their territory, and not sitting back and waiting for us to come with a list of bank accounts or name and an address of an individual.

But I could see them saying we want the ETA, in Spain, we've got some people we'd like you guys to grab in the United States. You won't do it because ... we can't prove, under your law, that they did anything illegal on a standard that you might use. So it's tit for tat.

That's a legitimate complaint. And we're going to have to rework our laws, conspiracy laws, that will enable countries like us, and other countries in the West and others, to take, to be more aggressive in arresting or ejecting people that are involved in terrorist conspiracies. Right now, I think in some cases, the legal bar may be too high. In the United States, I'm aware of many times countries have come to us with lists of people that they want, and we are often unable to turn them over because the bar of justice in the United States is quite high. ...

... Can we get foreign intelligence services to really cooperate in counterterrorism? Or, as the FBI has indicated, on occasion, they're really reluctant to share information. They don't trust them. ... Like the Egyptians, for instance, there's a distrust, apparently. ... Can we get foreign intelligence services to cooperate fully with us? Are they trustworthy?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, on some issues, they will cooperate; others, they won't. Almost always, they won't want that relationship to be known publicly, because it can cause them problems if seen as lackeys of the Americans, or puppets of American interests, and that can be politically sensitive to some.

But most of them will work with us on a case-by-case basis, and some are even more aggressive than that. It varies from country to country, and even within the services. Some of the intelligence services have those elements that we can work with and trust, but they may have other elements of that service who may be hostile to our interests. ...

... In a sense, is Islamic fundamentalism replacing communism in our international policy as a threat?

I think this is a broad international threat that we're facing. In some ways, we could take lessons from our struggle against communism in how we respond. It's a broad-based approach. We're going to have to invest resources with countries as we did during the Cold War, massive programs like the Marshall Plan to infuse enormous amounts of resources into countries to help them fight communism. And they're the ones who fought ... who defeated communism, country by country, and we helped them. We were a major leader in the fight against communism. But it's done country by country.

In that regard, there's some analogies to our struggle against totalitarianism and communism -- that it's going to be a long-term major effort, that's going to require enormous investment by the U.S. in partners that are going to have to work with us to defeat this scourge.

So people who expect this all to be gone because "we're going to "nuke 'em" got the wrong idea?

That's right. In my view, these are going to be a series of small battles, as the president said, fought sometimes on television screens, often we'll never even hear [about], even about the successes. It's going to be a long-term effort, and we have to dig in. But we will persevere against this threat. ...

... Is what happened on September 11, in some ways, the nightmare underside of globalization?

I think, to a certain extent, globalization brings with it certain threats. The world is a smaller place, whether it be the spread of disease, whether it be the movement of narcotics, criminal gangs, and yes, indeed, terrorists --threats that can affect us in other parts of the world, that rapidly could come to the United States. In that regard, there are parts of globalization that bring some serious challenges.

But, overall, globalization is a positive force. It's an inevitable force of modernization, and a good force. But there are some challenges involved in it that we're going to have to address. I think it remains to be seen how terrorism evolves over the months and years ahead. Clearly, September 11 is a turning point in the war against terrorism. I hope, and I'm confident, that from now on, we will steadily start to defeat these cells. ...

home +  introduction +  saudi arabia +  egypt +  intelligence failure +  islamic terrorism
reporting from the ny times +  interviews +  video +  discussion
tapes & transcripts +  press +  credits
frontline privacy policy +  FRONTLINE +  pbs online +  wgbh

photo copyright © afp/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation