Combating Global Terrorism: Sharpening Definitions, Missions and Roles
Talk featuring CIA Officer Stephen John Nicgorski.
Talk Transcript Below. (Not performed by Cryptocomb)
VIDEO BEGINS This is not a movement that is going to leave the field any time in the next five or ten or perhaps not in the next fifteen or twenty years. Their attacks challenged the nature of our society, the structure of our government and the conventions of armed conflict. To combat terrorist attacks successfully around the globe we urgently need to clarify our objectives by sharpening definitions, missions and roles. What is our mission in this conflict? How can we best achieve the outcome that we seek? We cannot win this war militarily. We cannot vanquish this opponent by finally making them so afraid of our tanks and Bradley vehicles and our Humvees that they say oh, oh, let’s go back to our local village and leave peacefully. The key concept that Americans need to grab on to in the 21st Century is that we are our brother’s keeper. What should our priorities be? Are we putting our resources in the right places in order to maximize our safety and foil our enemy’s plans? There are 440 nuclear power plants in the world, each of which causes as much long-lived radiation as that believed by the explosion of a thousand Hiroshima type bombs. Very easy to fly a light plane in front of those and you would have an absolute catastrophe. Of 40 million people that visit the United States every year, a million of them come in under the cover of darkness undocumented. This is a kind of vulnerability that we need to counteract. If you look at the government, it’s focused on prevention as opposed to a recognition that you can’t prevent everything, that we have to learn how to defend, cope and recover from bad events in our country. How should we assign roles nationally and internationally to create the most effective system for preventing terrorism? Terrorists, they don’t have a government you can go and get. So you have to handle them individually or by the groups that they’re involved with. And that is a much more difficult operation, and that is why we have to rethink how we’re structured to do it. The United States should act as if the world were multi polar and work with other countries in order to win and be successful in a complex conflict like the War on Terror. How we define and approach today’s struggle may determine the future of many generations to come. VIDEO ENDS
>>ANNOUNCER Ladies and Gentlemen, Brigadier General Kevin Ryan.
>>BRIGADIER GENERAL KEVIN T. RYAN Thank you. Our next panel is Combating Global Terrorism: Sharpening Definitions, Missions and Roles. And to introduce the moderator, I’d like to invite Brigadier General Robert L. Caslen Jr., the Deputy Director for the War on Terrorism, Joint Staff Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate.
>> BRIGADIER GENERAL ROBERT L.CASLEN JR. Thank you very much, General Ryan. Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen, it really is a honor for me to be able to introduce our moderator, who will subsequently introduce our panel. I just want to say right up front that in the role that I have as the Deputy Director for the War on Terrorism, we work issues for the chairman in his role of providing military advice for the President and the Secretary of Defense, which deal with the military strategy for the War on Terrorism, and also the related policies. So therefore to be asked to introduce this particular panel, the Combating Global Terrorism: Sharpening Definitions, Missions and Roles, is really an honor. Because it’s something that we in the Deputy Director and J5 for the War on Terrorism we do all the time. We deal with these sort of things. I remember years ago when I first went to the combat training centers we were drilled into our minds there as commanders that intelligence drives operations. So as we in our government and we in our coalition of partners try to deal with the nature of the enemy and the nature of the conflict, it resonates back to my training center days where who is the enemy. Because intelligence drives operations and as such as we define our enemy, we’ll develop the strategies and the ways and means of that strategy to effectively deal with that particular enemy. Heading up this panel is a very distinguished Army officer, Colonel Mike Meese, from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, New York. And I just want to take a second to talk about this distinguished center that West Point stood up just a couple years ago. Outstanding initiative, because it dialogues and stimulates discussion as we try to make sense of these terrorist threats, the ideology that drives these men and women to do what they do, and how to succeed in an increasingly complex and global environment. And as this West Point Combating Terrorism Center not only deals with the private sector and the academic sector and also the military sector, more importantly, it’s taking these young future leaders that are coming out of the military academy, developing them and teaching them how to survive, how to be successful in this increasingly complex environment. Colonel Mike Meese is currently a professor at the United States Military Academy and is the Deputy Head of the Department Of Social Sciences. In this capacity he teaches microeconomics and defense economics courses, and leads the 62 military and civilian faculty members who teach in the Social Science Department. His previous assignment was as the United States military Academy Fellow at the National War College. And during this particular year, this past year, he was asked by our Army to go to Iraq to serve with General Patreaus in the 101st Airborne Division as an economic and political advisor to the work that he was doing up in Mosul. Very successful, as you know, the esteemed reputation that the 101st established for themselves in accomplishing the mission up there in Mosul. Mike also has experience as an executive officer to the assistant chief of staff in Bosnia, conducting peacekeeping and counter terrorism operations there. Mike is a field artillery officer, he served outstanding career pattern in the great Army divisions like the Seventh Infantry Division, the Third Armored Division and the First Calvary Division. He is also a graduate of the National War College; he’s got two masters and a doctorate from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Please join me in a warm welcome for Colonel Michael Meese. (Applause)
>>COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Thank you very much, General Caslen. I think the only other time in your military career where you’re introduced by your superior is at your court marshal. So I hope that this is not a bad omen. On behalf of the superintendent at the United States Military Academy Lieutenant General Bill Lennox, I want to thank the Eisenhower Series for putting together such an outstanding conference and for including the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point as a co sponsor on this panel on combating global terrorism. This is a very appropriate week to be discussing terrorism. Almost exactly three years after 9/11. Since that time, the United States has been continuously struggling to develop and execute a cohesive picture of the threat and the requirements and responses needed to combat that threat. The success that the United States has had on the Global War on Terror and that it will have in the future is due to two great national assets. First, we have operational capabilities that are the best in the world. On the other hand, we also have intellectual capacity that is the best in the world. But given the challenges of today, it’s no longer possible for the operator to function entirely compartmentalized or for the intellectual to deal with the aspects of terrorism at a safe theoretical distance undisturbed by the facts of the day. The world’s first historian, Thucydides, wrote that the nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have it’s thinking done by cowards and it’s fighting done by fools. In the war on terrorism, it is vital for us to link the scholars and the warriors, the intellectuals and the operators. And that’s the purpose of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which leverages itself as both the United States Military Academy being a first rate university as well as being a military academy to capture the synergy of both aspects of the institution to contribute to the fight against terror. That’s also the purpose of our panel today. And I would say of the entire Eisenhower series – to link the exceptional operational capabilities with the exceptional intellectual capacity that you see around the room today. In other words, what we’re doing at Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and what we’ve been doing for the last two days here, is to bring the operator out from behind the green door and bring the intellectual down from the ivory tower. The synergy that results between the linkage of the best operators in the world and the best intellectuals of the world is truly awesome. And is a vital part of our eventual victory on the Global War on Terror. Our panel today is extremely well qualified and is a great mix of both operators and intellectuals. And I would ask them to join me here on stage. The format that we’re going to take is that I’ll introduce each panelist briefly, you see their extensive bios already in your packets, and they’ll each speak for ten to fifteen minutes. And then we’ll leave plenty of time for questions at the end. Defining the scope of the terrorist threat is extremely challenging and it’s important to take a step back to look at the strategic nature of the threat. To understand the underlying trends that shape the overall threats that we can begin to move ahead of the curve and determine the full extent of the real threat to our security. To address this part of the problem we’ve asked Matt Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy to assess some of the key factors shaping the terrorist threat including who the key players are, how they operate, and how this may change in the future. Mr. Levitt has not only served in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, but has previously served as an analyst for the FBI and is one of the most well noted commentators here in Washington. He holds a master’s degree from Fletcher, soon to be a Ph.D. from Fletcher and has a forthcoming book that will be done next year on Hamas. Mr. Levitt.
>>MATTHEW LEVITT Thank you very much. It’s a tremendous pleasure to be here with such an auspicious audience on such an important topic, and as you said, at such a telling time. I looked at the calendar the other day and saw it was 9/11 and it was just a tremendous flashback. I led the analytical team for Flight 175, working the 9/11 threat. And it’s amazing to think that we’re three years down the road and still have so far to go even as we have accomplished so much. And we have. But I think that one of the questions that we still misunderstand is the key question that was posed at the beginning of our introductions here. Who is our enemy? Is it al Qaeda? Is it terrorism in general? Who are the actors? And so I would like to share with you some thoughts on a more strategic level about who we are trying to deal with? Who is this threat? Because there are some very, very important, not only strategic, but tactical implications for how we understand our adversary. And I think that if we look at the three main issues that we are facing today, in this area, the Global War on Terrorism, the war in Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the latter two mainly used as factors, manipulated by terrorist for recruitment purposes, very successfully, we can see that this distinction is very, very telling. The basic theme I want to share with you is that the time when we could look at terrorist groups individually, in pretty little square boxes, is long past. It’s no longer sufficient to think about al Qaeda as distinct from Hamas or other groups, even though Hamas has nothing to do with al Qaeda. Hamas is not one of the al Qaeda affiliates. Hamas is not directly funded by al Qaeda. And yet thinking about them in entirely separate boxes is misleading, at the very least. The same goes for Hezbollah and other groups, and I’ll tell you why. The bottom line is this: even for those groups, among which there is no operational cross over, among which there is no direct financing of one another’s operations, there is tremendous crossover at an individual level, relationships between members of different groups, cutting across all of these different organizations. And so if we still insist on using this diagram of the pretty square boxes we at least need to have them overlap and that gets very complicated because the overlapping is significant. And I think that this makes it important when we can think about this, this cross over, because the area where it’s most dominant is in the logistical and financial support infrastructures. When you get out of the Middle East in particular, when you get into the Diaspora, when Middle Eastern terrorists are operating in Europe or the United States or South America, they are even more likely to work with one another. Jihadists, from whatever cause, will work with one another, for a variety of reasons. First ideology; second, the old boy’s network that comes out of the al Qaeda and other training camps. You know when I walk around Washington there are Fletcher graduates all over the place I’m sure there are several in this room. And that’s a similar kind of network, and even before the al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, there’s the Muslim brotherhood network. And all of these facilitate interactions and connectivity, where someone in Madrid can be plotting an attack can reach out to an al Qaeda affiliate for assistance and be told that he won’t get direct assistance but talk to this guy. And that happens a lot. We saw this on September 11. We saw this in Madrid. We have seen it many other times. And I’m reminded back to the comment of a Palestinian general I interviewed for this dissertation that, “Insha-Allah” will please be done soon. Brigadier General Nizar Imar told me several years ago, I won’t tell you how many, that the difference between the political and social and military wings of Hamas is a fiction. The people that we see and describe today as political leaders, tomorrow morning we find are involved in an attack. And much far beyond the specific group of Hamas, we see this very, very frequently. What we need to do is to constrict the operating environment. We need law enforcement, we need intelligence, we need military operations, all because what we need to do is make it more difficult for this network to be able to do what it needs to do at every level, from procuring bullets and explosives to false documents and traveling and connectivity, communications, because all too often we don’t find the links between individuals until the day after. And if you think about some of the more well known examples of such links that we have uncovered in the course of the past few years, you’ll see this over and over again. Consider, for example, the Bank al Taqwa network, which was designated as a terrorist front for its activities in support of al Qaeda, that we now also was used for the preferred means for transferring $60 million for Hamas in the mid-90s, that has linked to other Palestinian groups, Algerian groups, and others in North Africa and is very, very closely affiliated with central figures in the Muslim Brotherhood. Consider examples here in the United States. We don’t need to look abroad. Consider the case of American Muslims in Portland associated with al Qaeda, who tried to enter Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against U.S. forces. They were radicalized and recruited by two individuals here in the United States. One of them was a co founder of the Global Relief Foundation, an al Qaeda front organization. The other is an individual who is jailed on fraud charges related to gun possession and other things, who had gone through Palestinian training camps in southern Lebanon and was closely identified with Hamas. There are many other examples like this. Does this mean that this individual is Hamas? Does it mean that he’s al Qaeda? One can put an individual in the sphere of al Qaeda and still recognize the links that he or she has to other groups, and that’s important. The network of front organizations just five miles from here in northern Virginia is perhaps the most prominent case where, to be honest and I can say this as a former FBI person, I believe the reason we didn’t crack this case earlier was in large part because the way FBI units were organized was such that there were units that worked on Palestinian groups and units that worked on al Qaeda and other radical groups, and those units didn’t necessarily hold regular meetings and so with one unit was looking at this network in northern Virginia from a purely Palestinian angle, they wouldn’t necessarily know about all the angles to al Qaeda. After the passage of the Patriot Act, when U.S. attorneys were not only given the authority, but required to look across all these cases they were the ones who drew these lines. And then when you put all this together and see that there are al Qaeda links and Palestinian Islamic Jihad links, and Hamas links, in this one address, you’re able to put together a case that you couldn’t before. There are many examples of this phenomenon in the war in Iraq; obviously the most prominent is Abu Mussab al-Zakawi. I enjoyed giving that example before he was on everybody’s plate. Now that he is, I don’t enjoy giving him as an example so much because it’s not so insightful. But just earlier this week, in courts in Turkey, the court system there identified on trial several individuals involved in the Istanbul attacks. One guy got up there and said I’m not al Qaeda, although we were funded by al Qaeda. Then one of his associates got up the next day and with a long drawn out speech said, we are al Qaeda, we are al Qaeda in Turkey, and we’re here. How are we to understand this? And the answer is that it’s the pretty little box theory. You can call yourself al Qaeda if you think of yourself as al Qaeda. These are people who went through the camps. These are people who were directly funded by senior bin Laden lieutenants. So whether you consider yourself al Qaeda by virtue of having sworn a pledge of allegiance to bin Laden, by virtue of having spent more time in the camps, it really doesn’t make a difference. If we think of it therefore combating terrorism by group we are going to have a problem. And we’ve seen this many times before. In 2002, we sent a senior delegation to Europe asking the Europeans to help us to combat terrorist financing. And we sent officials to Europe with a lot of information about specific individuals and our financing of al Qaeda and Hamas. Because of the nature of information we were sharing with them, most of the information about financing al Qaeda could not be shared publicly. But because in the Middle East financing Hamas is not necessarily considered a bad thing, a lot of that was more open source, less sensitive and that was information they could share with the public. Unfortunately, the answer they gave us at the time in 2002 was that, if all you can give us to use publicly is that these individuals are financing Hamas, we can’t help you. And nothing happened. And we found out later, for example, that the Tawheed network associated with Zarqawi and others, was bringing people out of Afghanistan, out of the Middle East and infiltrating them into Europe. And again, because they are seen only as a front, only as logistical supporters, not as operatives, they were not trigger-pullers, they were facilitators, nothing was done until the Germans got information that they were actually planning attacks in Germany. But by that time, we really don’t know how many al Qaeda operatives were infiltrated into Europe. So this has very operational consequences. And it has consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too. Next month we will on October 15th, will be the first anniversary of the attack on convoy from our embassy in Gaza. Most Palestinian groups traditionally do not target the United States. But we are quite confident that, unfortunately, this was a very specific targeting of the U.S. embassy convoy. In fact this was not the first time – about a month earlier a group targeted a similar convoy and just failed – the explosive just didn’t happen to go off. Here, too, we’re dealing with a group that has links to several entities, to Hamas, to Islamic Jihad, to some of the Palestinian intelligence services – trying to pinpoint this group in one little box is very difficult. And finally sometimes there even are operational links crossovers between disparate groups. There is a case of a Hamas operative, five actually, who went to Pakistan and were spotted and recruited to go into Afghan training camps, first to fight in Kashmir, and then into the mainstream al Qaeda camps. Some were then sent back home to Gaza to conduct operations there. One of them, Nabil Aqal, hosted Richard Reid the now infamous shoe bomber, when he traveled through Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Sheik Yassin, the since assassinated head of Hamas, spiritual leader of Hamas, gave this Hamas-al Qaeda crossover network, this small little cell, $10 thousand to facilitate it’s operations, knowing full well that they had just come back from the training camps in Afghanistan. Is Nabil Aqal al Qaeda? Is he Hamas? It really doesn’t make a difference. We need to understand the crossover. We need to understand that if we only look at al Qaeda, or we only look at other groups we’re going to miss a lot of activity. So if we come back to our original question of who is the enemy? The enemy is anybody who is facilitating this type of activity. If 9/11 taught us anything it should be that you don’t have to be a trigger puller, you don’t have be the one detonating the bomb or crashing the airplane to be considered a terrorist. Ramzi bin al-Shib is a very bad man. And he didn’t pull a trigger. And we need to take this attitude and apply it across the War on Terror. We need to understand that terrorism is a form of violence. Violence is a part of human nature in a sense that will always be here. But we can constrict the environment. We can win this war and bring violence, including terrorism, down to tolerable levels where, based on intelligence, we are able to thwart the activities of those who are trying to do us harm. And in order to do that we just need to have a broader understanding of the nature of the relationships, the matrix of relationships between terrorist groups, even terrorist groups that are disparate, that haven’t trained together in that official capacity. The relationships between individuals is what is driving the terrorist threat today specifically since we’ve cracked down so successfully since 9/11. It’s no longer a headquarters-to-headquarters issue. It is a relationship-based issue between people who know each other or are put in touch with each other. Thank you.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Matt, for that insightful and sobering view of the threat. It’s clear that we face an asymmetric threat, and arguably a global insurgency that requires us to counter that threat in unconventional ways. One of the most important aspects of that is the integration of intelligence. To address this we have asked Colonel Mike Nagata of the Command Support Branch of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence to comment on these operational and strategic issues. I invite you to read Colonel Nagata’s impressive bio in the conference packet, but I’ll sum it up in the words of my boss, Colonel Russ Howard, who when he commanded Mike Nagata, when he was the commander of First Group at Fort Lewis told me that he was the best officer that ever worked for him, which is a rare and exceptional compliment indeed. Mike is a career Special Forces officer who truly understands the value of intelligence and operations. Colonel Nagata.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL K. NAGATA Thank you. Colonel Howard doesn’t have particularly high standards. (Laughter) As you’ve already heard I’m here from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, which for those of you that you don’t know is a fairly new organization. Dr. Steven Cambone, the Under Secretary formed the staff of USDI only a little over a year ago. So we are some kind of in the mode where we are doing everything for the first time. I work specifically for Lieutenant General Boykin who is the Deputy Undersecretary for War Fighting Support and I run most of his War on Terrorism issues, which fundamentally in our office boil down to Intel policy, resources, and oversight issues. I’m going to focus my initial comments simply on DoD intelligence issues that we are currently thinking about and working on. I can certainly entertain questions when we get to the Q&A about broader topics if you’re interested in that. The reform of the national intelligence community has been much in the news lately, as I’m sure all of you know. For the Department of Defense, one of our principal challenges, and it’s not just the Department of Defense, but it’s also the broader intelligence community, one of our principal challenges is grappling with the fact, and we believe it is a fact, that the principal difficulty we have now operationally is not so much in finishing this enemy, in either kinetic or non-kinetic ways, but it is finding the enemy. I’m not trying to make light of the courage and dedication and effort that is required to finish this foe, but the real challenge for us has been in finding him. Because fundamentally, the Department of Defense is still in a state where it is most optimally configured to take on a nation state’s armed forces. And that is not what we are fighting today, as all of you know. We are still wrestling with how to change the way the Department of Defense operates, so that if required we can still deal swiftly and decisively with a nation state’s armed forces, but in the meantime, successfully prosecute and win a Global War on Terrorism. At a very fundamental level, what that means mechanically for the Department of Defense, is we are trying to wage a global campaign, if you will, inside the territory of nation states with whom we are not at war. But there are bad actors, there are networks, there are capabilities within those nation states that we have decided, that the President has decided, we are at war against. That is a very, very difficult challenge for the Department of Defense. It is really unlike anything we’ve ever tried to wrestle with before. Now, on the intelligence side, if you break the finding role of the Department of Defense into its component pieces, they fundamentally all are intelligence activities, or at least intelligence-related activities. And that leads me to where I’ll try to finish up which is what our perspective is, what our view is in USDI about the Department of Defense’s role in doing intelligence, both traditionally and into the future, which we think is going to look a lot different. We are certainly trying to change it. By law, and by policy, the Secretary of Defense is responsible for providing intelligence support to three broad groups across the United States government. One, obvious group is our combatant commanders, their tactical war fighting needs, and I must say, and this is probably self evident to all of you, and for those of you who have been deployed it is something you dealt with first hand, DoD tactical intelligence requirements have gone up exponentially since 9/11. I mean it is unprecedented the level of demand on the collection and analysis and production capabilities of the Intel community at large and the piece of the Intel community that resides in DoD. Let me also add a footnote, for those of you who do not know, depending on how you count assets, somewhere between 75 to 80 percent of all of the intelligence capability in the United States government today resides inside the Department of Defense. Now, that is a subject of much debate in the larger national Intel reform debate that is occurring across this country. But today, the vast majority of it is inside the Department of Defense and is under the authority, direction and control of the Secretary. The second group, which doesn’t get a lot of attention, but is by volume an enormous demand on the intelligence community, is support to the services. A good example of that is a service working on a new weapons system or a new capability – knowing how fast a jet should be able to fly, knowing what kind or how thick or how good the armor on a vehicle needs to be. These are questions that can only be answered by the intelligence community, because it depends on what kind of capability we’re going against, or we think we’re going against. Someone has to gather that intelligence, someone has to analyze that intelligence, someone has to produce a product to support the people that are building a capability, writing doctrine, establishing training curricula in our various military school systems, and these are all intelligence requirements that underpin the work they do. And for those of you that do not know, we put people in harm’s way in order to gather information that is necessary to do what, at least on the face of it, sounds like very mundane tasks. But these are enormous intelligence requirements across the department. Finally, and just as importantly, by law, the Secretary of Defense must provide intelligence support to the Director of Central Intelligence and the rest of the national intelligence community. So whether it’s the Department of State needing to know something about Haitian boat refugees or it’s the Department of Justice needing to know something to support the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, because he has the lion’s share of the capability, must always provide intelligence support to all of those various partners. Now having said all that, I’ll close with just three things. There are things that color much of the work we do in USDI. And I’m going to talk to them in terms of three kind-of myths we think we need to dispel inside the Department of Defense. The first myth is that and I’ll say it in the first person since I’m not an intelligence officer, and I’m a Special Forces officer, in my case, I don’t have a role, I have no responsibility for gathering intelligence. That’s a myth. But there are many people in the Department of Defense military and nonmilitary, who believe that. If you’re not an Intel guy or gal, you don’t have a role. That is something we must dispel inside the Department of Defense. This is an intelligence-driven war. And if we don’t have every single Soldier, sailor, airman and Marine gathering intelligence for a variety of purposes, we are likely to miss something critical – and we have already seen examples of that. Second myth. Actionable intelligence. Intelligence you can actually base an operation on, that a commander is confident in, to accept risk, put people in harm’s way and conduct an operation. Actionable intelligence is the responsibility of the intelligence officer. It’s his job and I, the operator, I may have the best trained force in the world, but I’m going to wait until the Intel guy gives me my actionable intelligence and I have no responsibility to take action until I get that actionable intelligence. We think that’s a myth as well. We think the best way of getting actionable intelligence is to take action first. If left to his own devices, this enemy will not operate in ways that we can detect, identify, track and target. We have to force him out of his comfort zone. Make him operate in ways that we can actually detect. And you don’t do that by sitting back and waiting for the Intel guy or gal to deliver a magic box with actionable intelligence in it. Final myth is that the Department of Defense only collects intelligence in a declared combat zone, only collects intelligence against an army, or a navy, or an air force. That’s not what the law says, that’s not what the definition of military intelligence is. The Secretary of Defense must, by law, gather intelligence, national intelligence, foreign intelligence, and military intelligence, to support those three categories that I talked about before to establish DoD policy, to build DoD capabilities, and conduct DoD operations. It’s not constrained to whether or not we have a declared combat zone, whether or not it’s a nation state army or not. But hopefully you understand, and I’ll stop on this, that until we change this mindset inside the Department of Defense, it’s going to be very difficult for us to get inside a clandestine, networked, highly agile and adaptive enemy, because they will always turn inside our decision loop until we dispel these myths. And that with I’ll stop.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Thank you very much, Colonel Nagata. And for those insights on the operational and strategic issues of the intelligence system, focusing on defense, it’s important for us to view this in a broader context, which is the perspective of the entire intelligence community. As Ambassador Mike Sheehan highlighted this morning, one of the most important outstanding issues is the overall intelligence management. That’s the why it’s therefore especially appropriate that we have with us one of the senior managers from the Director of Central Intelligence’s Counterterrorism Center. Steve Nicgorski is senior manager and has been with the CIA for over fifteen years. Prior to his current assignment, he worked on the President’s daily briefing staff; he holds a master’s degree from USC and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Political Science from Notre Dame. Steve.
>>STEVE NICGORSKI Thank you very much. And I appreciate the opportunity to come and speak to this distinguished audience. I would just say to start off, I underscore what has been already said by our two previous panelists. I think they’ve hit the mark dead on. I think a lot of things we’re talking about on a more global scale, we’re trying to accomplish on a more micro scale within the CIA, within the Counterterrorism Center. I lead an analytical unit that focuses on al Qaeda. We focus on their plans, intentions and their leaders. We are co located with the main operational arm of the CIA that targets those leaders. We have representatives in the same vault from DoD, FBI, Customs and Borders, DHS. And the synergy that is created by that kind of co location, that kind of sharing of intelligence, is invaluable. And I think it speaks to many of the successes we’ve had to this point. With that, I think what I would like to do is give you a sense of where I think we’ve come from as a backdrop and then move on to where we’re headed and what we still need to do. As I said, our focus, the way we interpret or look at this strategically sometimes, is try to break it down into phases. Phase one, for us, was a very clear mission. It was to destroy those who were most responsible for the attack on 11 September. Al Qaeda still exists, but it is no longer the same organization that attacked us on 11 September. Before that time, al Qaeda was a hierarchal organization that used the Taliban’s protection, to plot in safety, recruit and train new members, and run an international infrastructure. Bin Laden and his two deputies, al-Zawahiri, the late Abu Mohammed al-Masri, were intimately involved in the administration of the organization and directly managed multiple terrorist operations around the world. Since then, al Qaeda has decentralized, not by choice, but because it was forced to do so. It has changed because of the loss of Afghanistan, the manhunt that has driven bin Laden and Zawahiri deep underground, the arrest of many of al Qaeda’s most capable leaders during crackdowns in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, other places, even like Iran. Some of these changes have been in our favor. The disruption operations of the past years, as well as our much greater understanding of how al Qaeda conceptualizes and executes attacks, have made it tougher for it to pool resources for complex operations like 9/11, though they still aim to match that attack. The lack of reliable safe havens means more attention has to be focused on day to day survival, rather than operations. And we’re better off with many of the group’s highly capable planners, like KSM [Kalied Sheik Muhhamed][, the architect of 9/11, and others off the street. And we have matched this disruption in al Qaeda’s Afghan safe haven with a dogged campaign against the group’s leaders abroad. One of the advantages we’ve found through these three years of progress is that the new operators do not have the skills, leadership and experience of their predecessors. Detained terrorist planners, like KSM and others, are smart and, in some cases, extremely smart. They are driven and they are ruthless. Some of those who have replaced them lack their abilities and their authority. Now one senior detainee talked of KSM’s arrest as a melting of an iceberg, an indication of how he was revered in the organization. I would say if we had known the depth of the global terrorist infrastructure that Matt so eloquently spoke to, that we face when we started down this path, we would have been daunted. But those who say we are losing ground, that the time and effort we have invested is wasted, forget where we started and how far we have come. Working with the worldwide coalition of partners and the global behind-the-scenes war of unprecedented proportions, we have taken down thousands of al Qaeda terrorists, their supporters and affiliates. These actions have delayed or disrupted plots that would have killed hundreds, maybe thousands, including second wave aircraft attacks against the east and west coast of the United States, attacks in the U.K. and more conventional truck vehicle bombs, attacks in places like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Jordan. In Saudi Arabia, in particular, since the 12 May bombing in Riyadh, 12 May, 2003, Saudi authorities have detained or killed all six of the known al Qaeda cell leaders in the Kingdom as well as over 200 foot solders. The Saudis also have captured thousands of pounds of explosives, much of it in the form of fully-assembled bombs ready for use. The crackdown in Saudi Arabia also has reduced the financial resources al Qaeda has at its disposal. The Saudis have arrested several al Qaeda financial figures and killed the organization’s leading financial fundraiser and propagandist. Al Qaeda leaders in South Asia currently are suffering from shortages of funds because many of their lines of contact to operatives in Saudi Arabia have been cut. Many of the group’s traditional donors are afraid to give money to al Qaeda, or are instead backing more vibrant groups now in Iraq, or elsewhere. But we should not dwell on these successes because our progress will mean nothing if we back off any aspect of this war, the offensive dimension that the colonel so eloquently talked about in a second. While damaged, the remnants of al Qaeda central leadership are not destroyed or docile. Even as we meet today, they are plotting to conduct another major operation inside the United States in the coming months. Moreover, an operational infrastructure has moved in to replace that that was under KSM. Now bin Laden faces an increasingly difficult choice – hide to survive at the price of seeing al Qaeda deprived of his guidance, or risk capture by making contact with even a handful of top aids to motivate the group into action. It appears to us that he has chosen the latter. Even so, his reach no longer extends as far as it once did. Our disruption operations have degraded al Qaeda’s ability to mount the types of multi year, carefully planned operations that could earlier be orchestrated from a safe haven such as the one they had in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, al Qaeda’s new leaders, despite the relative lack of experience, are still looking at the spectacular foreign attacks as their highest goal. Though most of the attacks we’ve seen in places like Madrid have a local flavor, there are other plots that are directly connected, still, to and driven by al Qaeda central leadership. They talk about having operatives already in place for these plots. They talk about attacking the same strategic targets we have worried about for years. And most strikingly, they have talked about how they are evolving to stay ahead of us. For example, they know we have tightened visa and security procedures and are constantly looking at ways to circumvent them. By necessity, they also have passed much of the initiative to al Qaeda’s regional nodes. I’m talking about networks in Saudi Arabia, East Africa and Turkey, like the one conducted the attacks in Istanbul last fall. I’m also talking about allied organizations, such as Zarqawi’s group in Iraq, Jamal Islamia in Southeast Asia. These groups are planning their own lethal operations with only limited guidance and assistance from al Qaeda’s central leadership. As we continue to work to break the back of al Qaeda’s organization, we are witnessing the rise of a worldwide movement in Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, that may not respond to al Qaeda’s direction in formal terms but is infected by bin Laden’s ideology that only strikes against America can lead to the attainment of the network’s broader goals. Despite all of our successes in the past three years, we are still and this is important we are still witnessing a pace and intensity of extremist operations that exceeds what we saw before 11 September. Most of the significant attacks we have seen in the past few years – Madrid, Morocco, Turkey – have been carried out by people who were inspired by, and somehow connected to, al Qaeda, but these are not classic al Qaeda operations. This underscores the challenge ahead. There is no near term end to this war. And the next stages, we believe, will be more demanding than what we have already faced. For example, the tactics we have seen, we continue to see, are changing. The Madrid bombings illustrate the broader network’s ability to conduct devastating attacks with even simpler methods. In this case by using relatively small amounts of explosives hooked up to inexpensive cell phones. The lack of planning, local nature, and criminal connections of the Madrid attack all show us how rapidly our understanding of this terrorist phenomenon must change if we are to keep pace. To highlight this point, let me emphasize just one aspect of the Madrid bombing – the preparation time line. Explosives were acquired three weeks before the attacks, cell phones bought eight days before, the van stolen two weeks prior. Anyone who says major attacks require a high level of sophistication, international networks, years of advanced work and senior operatives, is it dead wrong. The fact that al Qaeda central is not orchestrating every attack does not mean that fewer people will die in terrorist attacks. In the midst of this movement toward decentralization, however, we must not lose sight of the fact that strategic attacks against us remain bin Laden’s top priority. And he is focusing his energy and remaining resources on such an attack. The discovery of specific cases and reports of U.S. targets on computers in Pakistan and the U.K. and the recent decision to raise the threat level in parts of the country to orange are stark reminders of that very fact. We also must not lose sight, as we move forward, on how chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons may play into this equation. We have consistently warned of continuing terrorist interest in CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear] weapons. This interest remains strong, and in bin Laden’s eyes, it’s a religious obligation. And the risk remains high that al Qaeda or another group will succeed in acquiring and then using CBRN material in a future attack. For example, we believe that fatwahs, such as those issued last year by radical Saudi cleric justifying the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, reflect clear operational intent, not just propaganda. From a mass casualty perspective, we judge al Qaeda’s anthrax program as one of the most immediate terrorist CBRN threats we are likely to face. Information we have indicates al Qaeda obtained the equipment and expertise necessary to produce biological agents. We are alarmed by several things – what we know the al Qaeda leadership learned from its past experience with the anthrax program, its proven ability to recruit scientists and procure necessary equipment, and the group’s ability to keep it hidden. My sense is this audience no doubt understands the scope and the urgency of the problem we face. Let me now offer five thoughts our former DCI George Tenant left us on how to interpret this threat and how to attack it. I think he was dead on. First, we must remember to maintain our edge in this war. Never forget why we are here, because the adversary will not. One senior al Qaeda detainee recently said, after months and months of detention, that if he were ever let go he would return to his mission. This adversary will never go home. We will either take them down or they will kill us. Second, we need to ensure, over time, that this war has dimensions that go well beyond taking down individual terrorists, effective of that may be. We have watched as the schools supporting Jamal Islamia and Indonesia have grown. We have listened as al Qaeda’s propaganda is released almost daily in Saudi Arabia. To win this war, over the course of months and years, we need to help prevent the rise of a generation of people who are poisoned by an ideology that endorses the murder of innocents as a means to address grievances and achieve salvation. Third, we are working with partners, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, who are at risk in this war. The aim of this adversary, as you know, is not only to kill us, but also to oust the leaders who work with us. This will become more critical in the future as the enemy becomes more dispersed, more clandestine, and burrows more deeply into our own societies. It may also become more challenging as some may see our mounting victories as a reason to ease up. We need to keep in mind through all our ups and downs and working with these partners that working with them is far easier than working without them. We must help them succeed. Their failures are our failures. Fourth, we need to evolve with the adversary. We are witnessing the democratization of the threat. Poison recipes shared over the Internet. Designs for chemical devices traded among terrorists, unanswered questions about how far al Qaeda succeeded in its goal to acquire anthrax. We need to apply a one percent standard for threats related to these types of weapons. If there’s a one percent chance the threat is accurate, that’s good enough. Living up to this standard is hard, however. We chase phantom threats every day, but that’s the price, we cannot afford a WMD attack. But it will happen if we do not track down every lead we see. Fifth, we cannot turn our backs on Iraq. The work we have remaining in Iraq is daunting, not just because we need to stabilize this country, but because we should be worried about what the foreign fighters there do after they return home. Remember what happened after the Afghan experience of the late 1980s and early ’90s. In those cases foreign fighters returned to places such as Algeria and Egypt, and challenged ruling governments. We now have a situation where Syrians, Saudis, Sudanese, Jordanians and others have gathered in Iraq and are cementing the kind of ties that we will have to break for years to come. As it stands now in Iraq, the Jihad is developing into a new draw for recruiting and fund raising that is growing increasingly complex and whose leadership espouses the same global agenda of targeting us and restoring a pan-Islamic caliphate. In closing let me summarize. We are dismantling al Qaeda, but we are also proceeding to the next phase of this war. The dismantling of the groups that believe al Qaeda showed them the way. Our mission is to halt them, never forget, and never lose that sense of urgency, and never stop.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Thank you very much, Steve, and I want to thank all the panelists both for their insights as well as sticking to their time limits. So we have plenty of time for some great questions from the audience. So if you can identify yourselves. Please identify yourselves, and I’ll bring a microphone to you so that you can get webcast. Sir, right here.
>>AUDIENCE Luis Gutirrez from Mexico, Latin American Circle for International Studies. To Mr. Levitt, and Mr. Nicgorski, what do you know about the possible contacts or relations between al Qaeda and the terrorist groups in Latin America, South America, specifically Columbia, the FARC? And second, Mr. Nicgorski, you mentioned criminal contacts by al Qaeda or the groups acting there. What kinds of contacts do you think may be have been used by al Qaeda for this purpose? Thank you.
>>MATTHEW LEVITT The strongest link is not in Columbia, but in farther south in the tri border area, where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet. There is a significant amount of activity there by a variety of groups, and it’s another great example of where a members of a variety of groups work together. Particularly Hamas, Hezbollah, very strong Hezbollah, a Lebanese Hezbollah Shia stronghold in the tri border area. But despite being Shia and Hamas and al Qaeda being Sunni there is significant cross over with Hamas activities and even with al Qaeda activists as well. There’s been a significant U.S. effort, in cooperation with allies, to deal with that threat which predates 9/11 but really was picked up significantly very significantly post 9/11, and we’ve seen some benefits there to the extent even that some senior Hezbollah members have moved on. Interestingly, some of them have moved on to Africa, and we’ve now seen some of the Mafia style shakedowns, for example, that Hezbollah was known for in Latin America happening in West Africa, in locations like Angola where we have seen some of these individuals go. It’s another good example of how terrorists are not only revolutionary, but as you heard evolutionary. And how what we’re dealing with is a global threat that will move across borders very quickly. And as the colonel said, how we will very frequently if we don’t drive them out, not be able to pick them up on the radar just by looking out the window.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Mike, do you have anything to add to that on the Latin America?
>>COLONEL MICHAEL K. NAGATA No, I completely agree. There are there clearly are connections to a variety of groups down the tri border area. From the department’s point of view it simply highlights the difficult we are having in how do we conduct even DoD intelligence operations, let alone other kinds of military operations? Those are all nation states, we’re not at war with them, we’ve got diplomatic relations, economic relations, all kinds of relationships there, to include commercial interests and how do we get in there without upsetting the apple cart and still do the things that the President and the Secretary of Defense have charged us with doing?
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Steve, on the second question.
>>STEVEN NICGORSKI Sure. On the criminal networks, I think this phenomenon is not necessarily new. Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have leveraged criminal networks in the past to provide them documents to provide them access to contraband that they may need for their operations, and a lot of those contacts remain established to this day. And one of the criminal enterprises that and this gets to the question of Latin America, that we are most interested in right now, in terms of investigating the linkages that might be there, is to the human smuggling networks, in particular in terms of threats to the homeland, and operatives that may use points south of our border to infiltrate into the U.S. And we have seen some of these linkages between those types of criminal enterprises, and groups like al Qaeda.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE The question up front here. They want it on the microphone, sir, that way you’re saved for posterity in the Eisenhower archives.
>>AUDIENCE I’m Bernard Brown from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. I have a question for Mr. Levitt and perhaps the other two. One of the controversial questions about the war in Iraq is whether there were links between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime. And some of the critics argue that the war on Iraq was a distraction from the real war on the al Qaeda, and that it simply provoked Iraqi nationalism and recruits, helps recruit more terrorists. What’s your take on this?
>>MATTHEW LEVITT Well, I’ve written for the record and feel pretty strongly that the link to al Qaeda terrorism in Iraq was weak. Was weak. If we wanted to deal with state sponsored terrorism, we have faced larger more significant state sponsored threats from Iran and Syria, which is not to say there was not links to Saddam. That was not the only, or I would argue even primary, reason for going into Iraq based on the information we had at the time. We were very concerned about WMD issues and so for the record I also supported the war and I don’t regret doing so. But I think that there have been political reasons why the terrorism link has continued to be propagated and I think that’s unfortunate. I think there is no denying and, just from my counterterrorism colleagues, those of us who especially were in and now are out of government, there is consensus across partisan lines, that it’s pretty hard to argue with the fact that we have a much larger terrorism problem in Iraq now than we did before. And that, in fact, the ability for al Qaeda and related groups to radicalize and recruit worldwide has increased since 9/11 not decreased and that’s despite tremendous success. And some of my co panelists have talked about the need for us to focus, and I completely concur, not only tactically but strategically, we are winning the war on the battlefield, and we are losing the war of ideas, which is a very, very serious problem.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Any other comments? There’s plenty of questions, so don’t feel free feel free not to comment if okay. Question in the back there. I see lots of hands and want to get to as many as we can.
>>AUDIENCE Hi, I’m Mary Gillespie with American University. This is basically directed at Mr. Levitt, but either of you. Yeah. Sorry. It’s about terrorists and the world. What about organizations, terrorists organizations, such as like the IRA or any paramilitary group in the north of Ireland, that’s really more or less dismantling at this point and they’re not really the strength that we were seeing in the early ’90s and late ’80s? Would you say that they still would have links with the Middle East and also, in regards to Northern Ireland, would you see any similarities between, more specifically, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Northern Ireland, and is there any hope to maybe using political means in addition similar to the way that they’re trying to do things in Northern Ireland at this point in time?
>>MATTHEW LEVITT There’s been a theme on this panel, several really, but one of them is that this is a war that is driven by intelligence and this is a good example. Intelligence will dictate the extent to which various militias and terrorist groups in Ireland or elsewhere are in fact still involved in terrorism or other forms of violence, or are not, and will verify the extent to which they are maintaining links with groups including groups in the Middle East. There have been historically, of course. links between Libya and the IRA and other links. Links to South America as well. But my impression is those are not the significant links we’re looking at today. In terms of parallels to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, yes, there are parallels. How useful they are nowadays, I think is less a factor of the utility of a political science model being applicable across geographic boundaries and more one of the realities in the Middle East today, where I would argue you have a lack of leadership on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a much more serious one on the Palestinian side. And there, I see the only real hope for progress in the near term being a pullout unilateral, if it has to be, from Gaza. I’d like to be more optimistic, but we can want peace there till we’re blue in the face, and if the leaders in the region don’t for whatever reason then we’ll just get blue in the face.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Next question right up here.
>>AUDIENCE Thank you. Philippe Errera from the Planning Staff of the French Foreign Ministry. I want to thank the members of the panel for superb presentations. I have a question more particularly for Matt Levitt, given his ideas, if any of you two other members would like to comment. You all said that we had been successful, in part due to American capabilities in part due to a strong degree of international cooperation, militarily in terms of law enforcement and so on, in killing or capturing hundreds or thousands of al Qaeda operatives. My concern is that our success, or rather our success in making the world safer, which is perhaps a more honest way of saying it than our success in getting rid of terrorism, doesn’t have to do with how many hundreds of thousands we have killed but how many hundreds, thousands or hundred thousands will be out there in the years to come who feel that Jihadist ideology speaks for them. And I think that figure is one that we don’t know, and we don’t know it not because it’s out there and our intelligence can’t get it, but because most of the people who will either act for or support these Jihadist groups two, three, five years down the road don’t necessarily know it today. And I would argue that our actions and the way we portray this fight and this war has some impact on this. And my question is, aren’t we doing, to some extent, bin Laden’s bidding for him? Aren’t we allowing him to have the cake and eat it too? That is to say to have the operational advantages, such as resiliency that you get from the decentralized network, while having the cohesiveness of single ideology, by saying we’re fighting a single enemy, or by saying that the operational links between different groups are tantamount to cohesiveness ideologically. In other words, by helping them think that al Qaeda is speaking for them when they ask themselves who is the enemy?
>>MATTHEW LEVITT You’re going to have to start asking my colleagues some questions. But you ask, and I’m sure that you guys have some input on this and it’s a very important question. I’ve said already we are not doing as good a job as we could be at winning the war of ideas. But I also think that you know significant study have demonstrated that you can look at this problem from two angles, both legitimate, but I think in this case, I think we need to focus on one, that is you can look at the root causes, what drives an individual to adhere to Jihadist ideology and beyond that, to take action on that ideology and engage in violence. And you also need to look at this kind of top down from the organizational perspective, and really, many studies have shown that it is the organization that radicalizes to the point of violence. Yes, there are root causes, but if you look, for example, in Israeli-Palestinian context, many studies have shown that without Palestinian extremist groups radicalizing society in the West Bank and Gaza and inciting them against Israel and against the United States at times, what you have are very, very angry, very, very poor individuals, who lack legitimate political outlets, and are as angry or more angry at their own leaders than they are at anybody else. What pushes them to become violent? And so what’s very important is to focus, not only on the root causes definitely, but also on the organization. Look, I often explain, put it to people like this someone has pointed a gun to our heads, we are fools if we don’t get that gun pointed down. Tactically we have to do that and if that gives them some rhetorical advantage, that’s a consequence. But we also after the gun is pointed down, need to figure out why it was pointed that gun was pointed at us in the first place so it won’t be pointed there again. The tactical answer to your counter terrorism are important, but I would not say that we are giving bin Laden any kind of advantage. The rhetoric is as much out of desperation as anything else. And because, just because people are recruitable on being incited doesn’t necessarily mean that they will, in fact, get to the point where they will conduct violence. There are opportunities in there and along that process to thwart that trend. So I think it’s a little more complicated than just are we giving bin Laden his cake and letting him eat it, too. We have to fight the fight.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Mike?
>>COLONEL MICHAEL K. NAGATA I once had a commander who told me, Nagata, never lose the opportunity to keep your mouth shut. But I’m going to violate that rule here. To echo a particular point, I think you tried to make whether or not we are doing UBL’s [Usama bin Laden] bidding or doing the bidding of the people that would do us harm, I guess I’ll betray a little bit of a military bias saying that I think the people that are in Guantanamo today, the al Qaeda operatives that are in Guantanamo, the people that we have taken on in a variety of ways, on battle fields, in a clandestine war that is being run by the CIA and many other people, I think they’d disagree with the notion they’re doing their bidding. However, I take your point. There is a consequence, predictably a consequence, to taking action against those people that are an immediate threat to us. Having said that, a thought that occurred to me through the last three questions is, much of the intellectual struggle we are having today over are we building more terrorists or not, or over whether or not there are links between al Qaeda and the former Hussein regime, whether or not non-Islamic, non-Jihadist terrorist organizations or criminal organizations are part of this global network. One of the reasons we are really struggling with that is because we don’t have a metric for measuring these things. There’s no U.S. government publication that says if you meet these following criteria, this constitutes a link between a WMD capability and a nation state or a terrorist group. There are lots of metrics, but there it depends on who you ask in this city or in the intelligence community. We have never had to do this before, I guess is the point I’m trying to make. Before 9/11, our principal challenge was, how far will that ICBM fly, and how much warning time do we have and must we build the capability for interdicting it, deterring it, what have you. Now, it is as the previous gentleman asked, wasn’t there a link between al Qaeda and the Hussein regime? Well, what constitutes a link? Case in point, and this is not classified, once we seized some documents at one point that were airline ticket stubs in Afghanistan, and they were airline tickets that showed a number of very interesting places on them, way outside of Iraq, arguably a pattern that an al Qaeda operative might be traveling on, but does that constitute a link? Well, he was a Jihadist, he has some family or personal or operational relationships with people that are either in al Qaeda or know somebody that’s in al Qaeda. So hopefully you catch what I’m saying here, just the struggle of sorting out what constitutes an action that we take, that leads to someone adopting an anti U.S. attitude is something that we don’t have a metric for measuring. The city is full of opinions on that, but they’re all different. Now that kind of sounds like an excuse for not answering your question, but it really is a struggle.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Steve, would you like to comment on that?
>>STEVEN NICGORSKI I would say, you know, winning the war of ideas is really the main objective in the following phases of the War on Terror, but the intelligence community can’t win that war alone. I mean, to win the war of ideas, that’s going to take much more than what the intelligence community can provide. That’s going to take a total USG effort, international effort, comprehensive strategy to win the war on ideas. Secondly, the idea, and I think Matt put it very well in terms of when a gun is pointed to your head; the metrics that often is used is how many have we killed or captured. And the sense that that is one of the metrics we have to gauge success, but it’s not only in terms of the numbers we captured and killed, it’s in terms of what they were doing at the time we captured and killed them. And a lot of that doesn’t make it into the press for obvious reasons. But hundreds of lives have been saved. We have to do that. And so I just wanted to make that point. I think I’ll leave it there.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Okay. Question way in the back there.
>>AUDIENCE Bill Jones from Executive Intelligence Review. One of the most devastating recent attacks that have been made and horrific attacks was in the city of Beslan with the school children. I would like whoever would like to comment on this, what is the relationship to the situation in Chechnya? How does that play a role in terms of the al Qaeda networks? And is this a part, do you see this as a part of what we have to deal with? And if so, are the Russians doing the right thing? Is there the type of cooperation that this situation be dealt with? Thank you.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL K. NAGATA I’ll give you my brief view of that. In a way I’m going to repeat what I just said. To what degree do we think there’s a relationship, to what do we think there is a cause and effect, to what degree do we think here is a question I’ve seen posed in newspapers since the story broke. You know, is this simply an extension of the secular Chechen separatist movement, or is this an extension of a more insidious, proliferating Jihadist campaign against, et cetera, et cetera? And like I said I’m repeating myself, boy, how do you measure that? You know, we even though, you know, we don’t have any direct interest in that particular activity, we have sucked up a lot of data about that, took a lot of imagery. We know certain things about what happened there and what didn’t happen there. But how do you take that data, and this is an analyst challenge, it’s a challenge we’re confronting DoD and IC [Intelligence Community] analysts with today is, okay, now, tell us, and try to answer that question, is this a extension of the secular Chechnya independence movement, or is this something else? And today, the reality is, we got a lot of different opinions. The policy problem for us is, which opinion do you use upon which to make an executive decision? This is something we are interested in; this is something we’re not interested in. This is something we’re willing to devote the capability against or it’s something we’re not.
>>STEVEN NICGORSKI I mean just in general, the challenge we face as analysts, being the chief of a group of many analysts, when dealing with the terrorism problem and having been a former analyst on the former Soviet Union. When you’re analyzing a situation in a place like Russia, the problem is bounded by geography, it’s bounded by history, and it’s bounded by the economy. We’re dealing with the terrorist phenomena. It’s boundless. It’s not bounded by geography, it’s not bounded by history, a particular history, it’s not bounded by any kind of economy. And that’s what the challenge is when we try to then answer specific questions in terms of, how does the situation in Chechnya relate to the global Jihadist movement? Certainly there are linkages. But defining exactly what those linkages are and what they mean, it’s more easy to say they’re there, we see them, to say exactly what they mean, and then try to rank order them with respect to how they compare to al Qaeda’s relationship with Jamal Islamia, or with Zarkawi’s group, or something like that is a real difficult challenge.
>> COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE We have time for one more question. Let me go right to the back there. Good. Good.
>>AUDIENCE My name is Mark Lambert. I’m from the Army’s Logistics Transformation Agency. And this has to deal with the question that you just answered. Does it matter really if there is a link between the Jihadist terrorism and the secularist terrorism? I mean this is the Global War on Terrorism, period, not the Global War on Jihadists.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE You just gave the answer that you almost gave on the last one.
>>MATTHEW LEVITT Yes and no. The question isn’t so much the question I think was is this international Jihadist terrorism linked to a secular movement that is something other than terrorism? A guerilla war that may be legal, may be not, but may be something other than terrorism. Hezbollah in Lebanon engages in terrorism and it engages in guerilla warfare. And those are different and maybe neither is acceptable, but they need to be dealt with differently. I think part of the answer to both questions is what Steve said earlier is, what is the nature of the activity that the individual was involved in, or the group was involved in? And when you mention the Chechen example, two things come to mind. And I worked 9/11 at the FBI and several, we now know from the 9/11 Commission report, several of the hijackers originally wanted to go to Chechnya. So we know that there is at least in the mind of Jihadist, a link. And that’s more operational than intangible. The Israelis just this week released on the other hand a CD of posters and incitement material that they confiscated in the West Bank from Hamas student groups, which are all about linking in picture format, Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Chechyan movement. Pictures of Yassin, bin Laden, and Katab, or others from the Chechen movement, maps of Greater Palestine with Afghanistan and Chechnya. How significant is that? It’s not operational. It’s showing a common ideology, an incitement. That’s the type of thing that we need to work out more. I was a terrorism analyst for the government. I’m now a terrorism analyst outside the government. I’m also a professor now, and so maybe I should really be the one calling for more measurement and more quantitative and qualitative analysis. But I really think that when it comes to the best counter terrorism analysis, unfortunately it’s about patterns and trends. And the whole ball game, like you heard, is about figuring out which pattern and which trend is really telling. And to do that you need to develop expertise in, not only these groups, which is the thing everybody is doing today, but as Steve said, in the area, in the politics, and the economy, you actually need to understand what the Chechen issue is all about, you have to understand why it is that a good percentage of second generation Muslims in Europe are extremely radicalized. These things aren’t happening in a vacuum.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Unless there’s any final comments
>>COLONEL MICHAEL K. NAGATA Jjust one quick comment. I think it does matter. I agree with you it is a Global War on Terrorism, as the President has defined it. However, we cannot do everything all the time. We can’t do everything simultaneously. We’ve got to pick where we’re going to fight kinetically, non-kinetically. We’ve got to figure out what the right sequence is in a campaign that is going to last, potentially, a generation in order to eventually solve this problem piece by piece, operation by operation, activity by activity. So it does matter. And whether or not, idealistically we want to take on all of terrorism, we’ve got to disassemble it at a certain pace and in a certain way because we just can’t do everything simultaneously.
>>COLONEL MICHAEL J. MEESE Mike, as we wrap up the panel I want to thank them for three things. First, you can see the great amount of intellectual insight that each of them brings in their communities, in their groups, in their organizations, and that’s great. Second, for actually taking the time to come over here each of you, I know for a fact has had over a hundred e mails that have arrived at your desk while you’ve been sitting here talking with us. And third, the easy answer when we invited the real experts in their area to come in here would have been to take the relatively easier, less risky thing, and say oh, no I’m too busy I’m going to be called in and won’t be able to do it. But to come here and put the ideas on the table is the way that we get informed, the way the ideas get sharpened and the way that eventually being able to link the operations, the intelligence and the intellectuals will be successful in winning the Global War on Terrorism. So please join me in thanking the panel for their great comments today. (Applause)
>>BRIGADIER GENERAL KEVIN T. RYAN And thank you very much, Mike, for the great moderating job you did here today. All right. We’ll take a break now, there is a break area outside the back of this Atrium area and please be back at 1500 for our closing address by the closing address by The Honorable Lee Hamilton.