Al-Qaeda Today- 11/19/19


# # We are deeply grateful
for our panelists this evening: Peter Bergen, Mary Galligan,
Bruce Hoffman, and Mark Stout, who are not only valued advisers in the exhibition
I just mentioned, but all are friends
of the Memorial & Museum. Over the past several years,
they’ve worked closely with our curatorial
and exhibition staff, generously sharing their time,
insights, and expertise to ensure–
I just got louder– to ensure
that this landmark exhibition would present its
compelling historical narrative with absolute fidelity
to truth and fact. Based on unprecedented access
to the agencies and individuals
who conducted the hunt, “Revealed”
presents materials never before
seen by the public, and provides
an insider perspective on the coordinated intelligence,
law enforcement, and military activities
that ultimately led to that compound in
Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden
was killed nearly ten years after 9/11. Following the years-long search
for the leader of al-Qaeda, the story in the exhibition
opens with the pre-9/11 attacks
on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,
and on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. It continues through bin Laden’s
disappearance in Afghanistan in the Tora Bora mountains
after 9/11 and culminates
in the Navy SEAL raid on his hideout in Abbottabad. “Revealed” opened to the public
just last week, and I strongly encourage you
to go see it. We all think we know this story. We certainly know how it ended,
but I can assure you, learning what it took
to get there will astonish you. For the duration
of the exhibition, the museum will be
presenting public programs to complement
and further explore the themes and ideas
presented in “Revealed.” This evening,
our advisers are gracing us with another favor by
participating in this program, which will examine
the current status of al-Qaeda within the context of
the wider jihadist movement. Unlike ISIS,
whose strategy has been to dominate the headlines and attract as many followers
as possible, al-Qaeda is understood
to be playing a long game. Earlier this year,
the U.S. State Department declared al-Qaeda to be
as great a threat to the U.S. as it has ever been, and some experts have speculated
that what hurts ISIS, such as the recent death
of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may in turn help al-Qaeda. We’ll certainly learn
more about that tonight. I would like to begin
by introducing our panelists, and you’ll forgive me, we have four
very accomplished people, and they deserve all of
the biographical information I can provide. So, among other accolades,
Peter Bergen is considered one of the nation’s leading
authorities on al-Qaeda. In 1997, he produced
the first television interview with Osama bin Laden. That interview,
which aired on CNN, marked the first time
that bin Laden openly declared war
against the United States to a Western audience. Peter wears many hats. He’s a journalist,
a documentary film producer, vice president for
Global Studies and Fellows at the think tank
New America, a national security analyst
for CNN, and professor of practice in the School of
Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University, where he also co-directs
the Center on the Future of War. When he’s not doing
all of that, somehow, he finds time
to write highly acclaimed books. He is the author or editor
of seven books, three of which were
“New York Times” bestsellers, and four of which were named among the best nonfiction books
of the year by “The Washington Post.” In addition,
documentaries based on his books have been nominated
for two Emmys and also won the Emmy
for best documentary. And that’s just
our first person. (laughter) Our next guest
is Mary Galligan, whose service
at the FBI spanned 25 years. Initially, she was assigned
to the New York division, where she handled
terrorism investigations and intelligence gathering. In 1998,
Mary traveled to Tanzania to work on the
U.S. Embassy bombing case, and subsequently was one of
the on-scene commanders in Yemen to investigate the October 2000
attack on the U.S.S. Cole. After the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, she supervised PENTTBOM, the FBI’s investigation
of the attacks. She reported
to FBI headquarters and oversaw
the entire investigation and a team of 75 people. In this role,
she briefed the FBI director, the Senate and House
intelligence committees, the 9/11 Commission
and its staff, members of
the National Security Council, the media, the U.S. military,
and families of 9/11 victims. She knows very little
about the subject matter. (laughter) In July 2010, then-director
Robert S. Mueller III– we’ve never heard of him,
either– named Mary the first female
special agent in charge of Cyber/Special Operations
for the FBI’s New York division. She retired
from the bureau in 2013 and joined
Deloitte and Touche, now known as Deloitte, as managing director
of cyber risk services. We’re thrilled that she’s here. Dr. Bruce Hoffman,
our third guest this evening, has been studying terrorism
and insurgency for four decades. He is currently a professor
at Georgetown University and the Shelby Cullom and
Kathryn W. Davis Senior Fellow for counterterrorism
and homeland security at the
Council on Foreign Relations. In addition, Bruce serves as visiting professor
of terrorism studies at St. Andrews University
in Scotland, where he was
also the founding director of the Center for the Study
of Terrorism and Political Violence. He previously held
the corporate chair in counterterrorism
and counterinsurgency at the RAND Corporation,
and was also director of RAND’s
Washington, DC, office and its vice president
for external affairs. Appointed by the U.S. Congress
to serve as a commissioner on the independent commission to review the FBI’s
post-9/11 response to terrorism
and radicalization, otherwise known as
the 9/11 Review Commission, Bruce was a lead author of
the commission’s final report. He was scholar-in-residence
for counterterrorism at the C.I.A.
between 2004 and 2006; an adviser on counterterrorism to the Office of
National Security Affairs, Coalition Provisional Authority
in Baghdad in 2004; and from 2004 to 2005, was
an adviser on counterinsurgency to the Strategy, Plans,
and Analysis Office at Multinational Forces-Iraq
headquarters, also in Baghdad. Do you believe we have
these people as advisers? I mean, it’s, it’s stunning. And finally,
I get to welcome Mark Stout, Dr. Mark Stout, who,
prior to entering academia, worked for 13 years
as an intelligence analyst, first with
the State Department’s Bureau of
Intelligence and Research and later with the C.I.A. He also worked at the
Institute for Defense Analyses doing research for
the U.S. Defense Department. Currently,
Mark is a senior lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, where he also serves
as program director of the M.A. in
Global Security Studies. His research interests include
American intelligence history, the history
of military thought, terrorism,
and irregular warfare. Mark is the co-author
or co-editor of several books and was lead author of “The Terrorist
Perspectives Project: “Strategic
and Operational Views of Al Qaida
and Associated Movements,” published in 2008
by the Naval Institute Press. He is a senior editor
at War on the Rocks and president
of the North American Society for Intelligence History. And notably,
before becoming an adviser to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum,
he was the historian at the International Spy Museum
in Washington, DC. As must be evident,
we are incredibly fortunate to have these
three esteemed panelists with us this evening, and I’d like to thank them
once again publicly for being so generous
with their time and expertise and helping us deliver
an exhibition of the quality and substance
as we have right now in “Revealed:
The Hunt for bin Laden.” With that, please join me
in welcoming Peter Bergen, Mary Galligan,
Bruce Hoffman, and Mark Stout in conversation with
our executive vice president and deputy director
for museum programs, and the project lead for “Revealed:
The Hunt for bin Laden,” Cliff Chanin. (applause)>>CHANIN:
Thank you very much, Alice. I think after all that, the only thing I could do
is announce my retirement. (laughter) You know, we’re going
to go a little bit inside the story
of the exhibition, because Alice is right. It’s really extraordinary
to have had the expertise
of these four folks here for three years as we
developed the exhibition. And what’s interesting, and I think the conversation
tonight will reflect it, is, you know, we were talking about
a particular point in time: the events that led to the raid
in Abbottabad. But what was so helpful
and so interesting about the conversations
we had with our advisers is, we went back and forth in time
in the conversations. So it wasn’t
that we were just guided by the moments we were
describing in the exhibition. We had the expertise to go into the very early period
of al-Qaeda and then into
the post-raid al-Qaeda to get a sense
of the perspective that really informed the process
of developing the exhibition. So, I think we will do
a little bit of that tonight. And then the other thing is, we are giving you
a little inside look at how we actually thought
about this and talked about this,
and we… Just another reminder
of how this all works, Bruce Hoffman is not just
a member of the advisory group, but he’s actually
a donor to the museum, and one of his donations
is actually in the exhibition downstairs,
in one of the first cases that actually references
the 9/11 attack itself. So, that said, let me start
by asking each of you to think about the impact
of this raid that kills
the leader of al-Qaeda, but al-Qaeda
is not dead with him. Al-Qaeda goes forward. How would you describe the
impact of the raid on al-Qaeda? How it changed,
whether it was badly hit or was able to recover
over the course of time. And I’ll start at the end
with Peter, working back down.>>BERGEN:
So, thank you for– Alice, and thank you, Cliff,
and it was really an honor to be involved
in this amazing exhibition. Wolf Blitzer asked me
the same question right after President Obama
finished his speech at 11:30 that night. And of course,
you’re not prepared, and I said,
“The war on terrorism is over.” And, what I,
what I didn’t mean is that terrorism is over. What I meant was… that the organizing
our national security policy entirely around terrorism
was over. At the end of the day,
bringing justice to bin Laden for the victims of 9/11
and their families was what this was
really about. And I,
you know, probably naively– in fact, very naively–
I sort of thought the death of bin Laden
and the Arab Spring, in which al-Qaeda played a role, and in fact was kind of
a liberal impulse– and bin Laden, by the way, we know from the documents
recovered in Abbottabad, was very concerned
about the Arab Spring, because here is exactly
what he wanted, which was potentially
regime change in the Middle East. But it was exactly
the wrong kind of people who were on the barricades
and with nothing to do with him. And so he didn’t know
how to respond. But in fact, of course,
I was wrong, and that’s, we can
obviously get into that later in the evening. I mean, it didn’t–
it wasn’t the end of everything in this,
in this sphere at all. You know, history moved on. But at the end…
I do think that it was highly significant
for many very obvious reasons, and it marked, I think… The thing about the people
that you interviewed in this, it’s not in the exhibit,
necessarily, but, you know,
one of the things is, nobody in the White House
knew what was happening outside, and they came out
at 11:30 that night. And there were all
these crowds cheering, and they were kind of surprised, because they’ve been kind of
in the Situation Room. And that kind of just
spontaneous outpouring of emotion,
I think, was very real and represented
what Americans felt, which is,
“justice has been served.”>>CHANIN: Mary?>>GALLIGAN:
Well, I think it impact from two different ways. So, as a New Yorker
who was in the FBI at the time, I was surprised at the reaction in New York City,
in Times Square, with the fire–
firemen on the fire trucks with the banners going around, that it did, as Peter said,
mean so much to so many people, especially in New York
and Washington and elsewhere. As far as an impact
from the “war on terrorism” or the “fight on terrorism,” and I know there are
some people here today who are still involved
in that fight, I don’t think it changed
the impact to the FBI, right? The terrorists–
counterterrorism is still the FBI’s number-one priority. You had, due to the internet
and due to media, more and more shift
towards lone-wolf. So the ideology was still there. So I would echo
what Peter said, that it was an impact
that justice had been served, but there was so much more work
still to be done.>>CHANIN: Bruce, the impact
within al-Qaeda itself, how did it respond
to the killing of its leader?>>HOFFMAN:
A crushing blow, but unfortunately,
not a fatal one. That, I think,
is the problem end. Ayman al-Zawahiri,
I think, has proven himself to, you know,
more than capable leader, and move very quickly
to prevent a repeat of the Abbottabad raid. I remember
one of his first edicts as the new emir of al-Qaeda was, disperse the al-Qaeda
leadership far and wide so that it would be impervious
to any kind of decapitation. And then
I think his second big move was to recognize that
the Arab Spring presented new opportunities for al-Qaeda
to demonstrate its relevance and sort of resurrect its brand. And in that respect,
the civil– the civil war in Syria proved enormously useful
for al-Qaeda. He’s getting a toehold
that unfortunately today, they’ve been able to increase to more of a foothold
in Idlib province.>>CHANIN: Mark?>>STOUT: I don’t have
a whole lot to add here. I think I agree with everything
that everyone’s just said. I just emphasize, I think,
two things. I think
Peter’s absolutely right, that the sort of the
political valence, if you will, of the war on terrorism was fundamentally changed
when this happened. And Americans like to
personalize their wars, right? I mean, World War I
was about the Kaiser, right? And World War II
was about Hitler and Tojo. Honorable mention
for Mussolini, you know? And then we had Saddam Hussein,
and then bin Laden, right? And we like to,
we like to get rid of them, whatever that precisely means,
and tie a bow on it, and, like,
“Okay, we’re done.” And so obviously,
while terrorism, and al-Qaeda generally
and al-Qaeda specifically, continues to exist, I feel it was a turning point sort of psychologically
for the United States. And I guess the other thing
I would say is, I, I completely agree
with Bruce, and I defer
to his vastly greater expertise on this question of the,
of the impact of the death of bin Laden
on al-Qaeda itself. That said, pretty much
everybody in al-Qaeda believed that there would come a time
when bin Laden wasn’t around, because they weren’t expecting to achieve
their ultimate goals– goals which I believe,
by the way, are fundamentally
unachievable anyway; that’s a different discussion. But they weren’t expecting, short of some
catastrophic bizarre success, to get to their version
of the promised land with bin Laden still around. So in some sense, you know, he was gonna go away
at some point, and in their view,
the jihad was gonna continue.>>CHANIN: How could we describe
the role of bin Laden in hiding
for the five or six years that he was based there, and obviously, we know something
about his communications and his efforts
to maintain leadership, if not on a daily basis,
but at least in terms of the strategic guidance
of the organization. But how would you
characterize his role in hiding during those years? Let’s start with Bruce.>>HOFFMAN: I think he was
far more engaged than we had imagined he was. It was the trope that he
was hiding in a cave somewhere, completely isolated
from his followers. But we found out
that he was fully engaged, he was– I mean,
that was his undoing. He was using couriers to communicate his,
his edicts and commands to his foot soldiers, and that’s how
he was tracked down. So, much more involved. But at the same time, though, and this is, I think,
why we still wrestle with the challenge of al-Qaeda
today, it had already decentralized, and his command and control
over it was much more fragile or frayed
than it had been before. But nonetheless,
he at least saw himself, I think, as still the great man
pulling all the strings.>>CHANIN: Mary,
do you have a thought on what he was doing
while he was hiding?>>GALLIGAN: I think
one of the interesting things about what he was doing
when he was in hiding is that he was
with his family, right? His wife and his childrens–
his wives and his children. As opposed to being with
what a lot of people thought, you know, a bunch of warriors,
a bunch of fighters, as Bruce said,
in a cave in Afghanistan. That what he decided to do
in hiding was to be with his family.>>CHANIN: Peter?>>BERGEN: Yeah,
most fugitives don’t take their 12, you know, wives
and kids with them. (Stout chuckling)>>BERGEN: I mean,
there was three wives and nine kids
and grandkids total. At least 12 family members
with him. I mean, so that was unusual,
but in fact, as the exhibition
correctly points out, once you really look
into bin Laden as a character, he was very close
to these wives. Two of them have PhDs,
by the way; they were very
kind of committed to the cause. One of them was a younger Yemeni
who was not highly educated, but they were all…
you know, they regarded bin Laden
as a heroic figure. They wanted to be with him. At considerable risk,
one of… The oldest wife, age 62,
came from Iran to join him about a year
before the raid happened, and she’d been under some form
of house arrest in Iran. So he was living
this family life, but that is what the… The analysts who were
following bin Laden weren’t surprised by that,
as Mary said, Mary said. They, they knew,
they knew that it was likely he would be with his family,
which is why, when they, when they found a compound
with a certain signature, they… they said,
“Wow, this could be him,” because there was
this family there. But one thing on the way
that he communicated, Bruce is right. He was trying
to impose control. But imagine you’re running
a business, let’s say,
in 18th-century New York, and your businesses are
around the world in Jamaica, or… and you’re
sending messages on ships, and you know,
they may or may not arrive, and if they arrive, there may not be a message
that comes back. And it was a very– he was
trying to maintain control, but it was very hard to do, because the way
that he was communicating was through these couriers,
and it would never– you know, he was sending
messages to North Africa. Did they ever get there? Did he get a message back?>>CHANIN: Mark,
let me ask you to think back in your own intelligence
analysis experience and help us understand
a bit more about, as you understand it, the process of following
the leads to bin Laden.>>STOUT: Yeah.
>>CHANIN: You know, there, there are
obviously methods that we didn’t learn about
and that won’t be disclosed. But I’m, I’m more interested
in asking about the logic. How do you break down
this kind of a problem? What are you looking for as the key to moving
your assessment forward?>>STOUT:
Yeah, well, with the caveat that while I’ve studied this,
and I was an intelligence analyst,
that it was not a counterterrorism
intelligence analyst, but I think I’d… I’d start
by backing up a little bit and saying that, for people
who haven’t ever done it, you have no idea
how much data is out there. Uh, you know,
you sit down at your desk and there is a deluge–
and I use that word advisedly– every single day, of stuff. And the keys to the kingdom
may be in there. A tiny, you know… a flake of rust
off a key to the kingdom. Or, you know, that…
it may be all garbage that day, and, you, you don’t
a priori know. So, you know, this question of,
how do you make sense of this, is, you know, is a really,
really, really difficult one for any intelligence problem,
frankly, and this,
this in particular, where you’re looking
for a very small target that is determinedly trying
not to be found, right? And then I think the exhibit,
you know, talks about this… you know, very well, right? In this particular case, there’s not a lot
of direct evidence available to the intelligence community about where, you know,
bin Laden is. And so, you start
looking at the people and the processes
that he has to touch, right? And then you look for them,
right? So families and couriers
and communications networks and all those sorts of things. And those are the kinds of
approaches that eventually, you know, ultimately,
it’s the courier that is the biggest payoff, that leads you,
that, that leads you to the, to the… to the person. But in that process also, then, you have to have
a very, very close relationship between
your intelligence analysts– and a function
that I used to perform, again, not for
counterterrorism– right, the people
who sort of figure out what, if anything,
all this data means, and your collectors, and,
the people out there who are intercepting signals, the people who are taking,
you know, overhead imagery, the people who are
looking at open source, which can often
be very important, the clandestine collectors
at C.I.A. and elsewhere. And that has to be a really,
really tight relationship, particularly on something
very, very tactical like this, right, where it’s literally
a small target. It’s a guy and maybe
his 12 followers, hangers-on. And it’s physically small,
right? This is not like looking
for the, I don’t know, the Soviet Third Shock Army
in East Germany back in the day. You kind of know
where that’s gonna be, right? So, so very small changes in,
you know, behavior or location can go from, like,
“Well, we think he’s over here,” to no clue whatsoever,
so you need to have a really, really,
really tight relationship between analysts and collectors. Like, “Okay, you gave me this,
and I think that’s useful. “That leads me to this question. “Can you get me some of that? “Oh, okay, so, good, we’ll
orient our collection efforts “so that we’re aimed
more at getting that “and, and sort of carve off, “because everything’s
limited resources, “efforts trying to
get this other stuff over here, which you’re telling me
isn’t so useful to you.” And that just iterates
and iterates and iterates.>>CHANIN: Mary, you were
on the active side of this, in this major investigation,
which is not just, you know, in the past–
it’s forward-looking, as well. What can you tell us about
that process of the integration of not just the collection
and the analysis within one agency,
but within multiple agencies and the improvements over time
as they existed of sharing across agencies?>>GALLIGAN:
Well, to your first point about looking at
the amount of information, I think we forget very easily
what computers were like in 2001 and ’02, and what computers were like
now or in 2011. All right,
the iPhone gets invented somewhere in between there–
I think 2006, 2007. So first, you have as, um,
Mark is explaining, this incredible amount
of information, even as soon
as right after 9/11, when the raids start happening. Very little bandwidth
to analyze it from a,
from a computer perspective, from a technical perspective. And then,
as you just mentioned, how do you share this
across different agencies? So that’s where you see
the government creating the NCTC,
creating O.D.N.I., creating
the Terrorist Screening Center, where the computers
could talk to each other, because on September 11,
very few of them could, 2001. But what you did have was, you had agents and analysts
from different agencies who were already working
together with each other, whether it was on the JTTFs
in each of the offices; whether it was at the C.I.A.
at Alec Station, which was looking for bin Laden,
al-Qaeda; whether it was at the FBI. So the people would be
working together. It was, how do you get
the technology to catch up to that?>>CHANIN: Bruce, can you
talk a little bit about sort of
the institutional barriers and how they were overcome that kept the agencies
from cooperating fully. This is the pre-9/11 period,
but also post-9/11, the aspiration very quickly was
to cooperate, but the aspiration was not
always matched by the reality, because institutional barriers
exist for a reason and have to be overcome
over time.>>HOFFMAN:
Well, certainly the 2004 Intelligence Reform
and Anti-Terrorism Act had a huge role
in further knitting together the intelligence community. And I, I think, too,
that the hunt for bin Laden had an enormously important role
in providing that focus and enabling the type
of cooperation and sharing of information and
breaking down of the stove pipes that didn’t obviously
have the same priority, tragically, before 9/11.>>CHANIN: Peter, you know, we,
in meeting many of the people who worked on this,
both directly and then in a larger circle, so many of them would say
at one point or another how guilty, personally,
they felt that this had happened
on their watch, if you will. Um, you know,
what was this impact of this terrible failure
on the intelligence community and the way they went about
their business? How do you track that
from, you know, your sources in that world?>>BERGEN: Well, let’s start
with the fact this wasn’t
an intelligence failure. It was a policy failure. I mean, the C.I.A.
actually was doing its job in the summer of 2001, which is to provide
strategic warning. That– to policymakers–
that’s what it’s supposed to do. And if you look at the memos
that were coming out in the spring
and summer of 2001, all of which
are publicly available, there was great concern
at the agency– you know,
the famous blinking red thing that George Tenet talked about. What the C.I.A. did make,
a big mistake, was not telling
the FBI until August the 25th that Hazmi and
Khalid al-Mihdhar, who were the two hijackers
who went into the Pentagon, were living in San Diego
under their true names, and their names
were in the phone book, and if the FBI had known that when the C.I.A.
first discovered that, this whole thing
could have been stopped. So, the C.I.A. was
doing its job, providing strategic warning
to policymakers; the policymakers
didn’t really absorb what was being said. The famous August the 2nd PDB,
you know, saying, you know, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike
the United States.” The Bush team was new. They were
kind of Cold War warriors. They didn’t really think
bin Laden was a big deal. Their first NSC meeting
was about Iraq, but it took them nine months to have an NSC meeting
about al-Qaeda. So I mean, there were
failures on every level. But in some…
but the main thing, I think, is that the biggest failure
was by bin Laden. I mean, yes, he had
this great tactical victory and he killed 3,000 people
here where we’re sitting. But he totally misunderestimated what the…
>>STOUT: (chuckles)>>BERGEN: …what
our response would be, which was basically
to kill al-Qaeda. I mean, yes, I mean,
al-Qaeda continues to exist in some shape or form in Syria, but the best witness for the
damage we did to… to al-Qaeda is the documents that
were recovered in this raid. Bin Laden was so concerned about all the al-Qaeda leaders
killed in C.I.A. drone attacks. He was concerned, you know,
he was very concerned about his son being killed
in a drone attack. He was thinking about
changing the name of al-Qaeda. But the point is,
is that we inflicted a tremendous amount
of damage on al-Qaeda, and he completely under–
misunderstood what we would do. He thought we would just do a couple
of cruise missile attacks, as we’d done
after the embassy attacks. Not what we did, which is overthrow the
Taliban regime in seven weeks, and basically more or less
kill the organization. At the end of the day, the organization
that attacked us on 9/11 is a local jihadi group
in Pakistan with very scant abilities
to attack outside South Asia.>>CHANIN: Let’s skip ahead. Bruce Hoffman
has recently written, at the end of October,
an article titled “After Baghdadi: What Hurts the
Islamic State May Help al-Qaeda” for the Council
on Foreign Relations. I’ll just read
a sentence or two, ask Bruce to begin
the conversation about it. “The death of
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “founder and leader of the
self-proclaimed Islamic State, “is a crushing blow to the
already enfeebled organization. “The big question now is
whether his demise “will prove a boon to al-Qaeda,
reinvigorating what was once the world’s most feared
terrorist group.” Bruce, explain.>>HOFFMAN: Well,
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hasn’t been the
most effective terrorist leader. I mean, he’s dead, right? The caliphate
doesn’t exist any longer. So I think that,
among his rank and file, when they think towards
the long term, that they want someone
that may have far less pizzazz. Like al-Zawahiri
compared to al-Baghdadi, but has adopted
more of a long… a longer-term strategy. So I think that just,
you know, on merits, al-Qaeda has survived
the greatest onslaught in the history of the war,
of any war on terrorism. And that, I think,
speaks volumes for why someone might
want to hitch their fortunes to a star
that may not be rising, but at least has remained
steadily over the horizon. But what I was really
thinking of when I wrote that is, the estrangement
between al-Qaeda and ISIS, in my view,
is almost entirely personal. It’s that al-Baghdadi and
al-Zawahiri hated one another. I mean, there was this
tremendous personal rivalry, and with one of them eliminated,
one of them’s still standing, and probably, I would say,
the more mature one, let’s say. That one could, I think, easily imagine
the survivors of ISIS, in order to ensure
their survival, and particularly, you know… ISIS has spread and
has many different branches, so whether the branches
would fall into line is another question. But at least
in the kill box of Syria, and perhaps in Iraq, you could see
the remnants of ISIS, in order to ensure
their survival, re-amalgamating with al-Qaeda. After all,
they split from al-Qaeda. Their ideology is the same. They both revere bin Laden, and bin Laden
still remains, I think, a seminal figure for,
for both of them. So these reasons,
I think, suggest that, you know, al-Qaeda,
by playing the longer game, arguing that their strategy
will pay permanent dividends, may attract some of the support from existing ISIS fighters
in the future.>>CHANIN: Mark, did you look
forward that way?>>STOUT: No, I think that, I think that makes
perfect sense. I completely agree with that,
and that in some sense, the al-Qaeda brand is,
you know, is up, and the ISIS brand is down,
right? And a lot of this,
ultimately, is about attracting
individual people to come join this group
or that group or sit on, sit on the bench. So, yeah, and I think
that makes complete sense. I guess the only thing I’d say, and is not at all
by way of disagreement, just going in a slightly
different direction, is, you know, um,
al-Qaeda is still in the game. ISIS looks very seriously,
if not mortally wounded. Al-Qaeda is still in the game,
and as Bruce says, is playing the long game. But gosh, you know, I wouldn’t want to trade
strategic positions with them, right? You know, it’s, to my mind,
it’s a question of, do you lose quickly
and spectacularly, as ISIS seems to…
to have done, or do you lose
really slowly and painfully as al-Qaeda’s been–
I mean, like, if you look at what
al-Qaeda wants to have, right, you know, this
transcontinental caliphate and all the 1.7 billion Muslims
in the world finally doing Islam, you know,
“correctly,” quote-unquote, the way al-Qaeda sees it, I mean, you can’t get there
from here. Um, so in some sense, it’s… I don’t mean
a moot point exactly, but… Well, maybe it–
take a long view, it is a moot point, right?
They’re both losers. It’s just, one’s losing quickly
and one’s losing slowly.>>BERGEN: And it relates
to the question of, what does it mean
for American national security? I mean, the last time
that al-Qaeda core tried to attack the United States
was in September of 2009, which was Najibullah Zazi,
who tried to blow up multiple bombs
in the New York City subway. And it didn’t work. You have the three American
citizens, Najibullah Zazi and two confederates,
who were all American citizens. And they’d be trained
by al-Qaeda in Pakistan. And then, of course, al-Qaeda
in the Arabian Peninsula also tried to blow up Northwest flight 253 over
Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. So both of these events–
which is, of course, an al-Qaeda affiliate–
happened a decade ago. So, you know, that, I think
it’s worth remembering that our offensive-defensive
capabilities have put… You know,
our defensive capabilities are in a
completely different place than they were on 9/11,
where only 16 people were on the no-fly list, and now there are 81,000, and there’s one-and-a-half
million people on a larger tied list. And we didn’t have
TSA or DHS or the
National Counterterrorism Center or multiple
joint terrorism task forces around the country. We have put up
a huge defensive wall against these groups
we didn’t have, and then we also inflicted
a huge amount of damage on them with our offensive capabilities. So, to me, it’s not surprising. Of course,
the internet changes that, because
it inspiring people here, whether they’re jihadis,
or in some cases, extreme right-wing
domestic terrorists. And there’s really,
you know, that travel ban obviously had no impact
on that. And the people
who are getting radicalized are not going anywhere, they’re just radicalizing
in their basement. And there’s very…
you know, trying to… Trying to, you know,
what you do about that is not, it’s very complicated, because they’re regrettably not
small numbers of people. They’re not communicating
with others. So they’re not
part of a conspiracy, usually, which not so… which makes it
harder for the bureau to deal with them. And they’re coming
seemingly out of nowhere. And unfortunately,
we live in a country where you can access
semi-automatic weapons legally, including if you’re on
the no-fly list, by the way, because right after Orlando, there was an effort
by Peter King of… Since 2005, Peter King of,
of Long Island has had legislation saying,
if you’re too dangerous to fly, you can’t buy legally
a semi-automatic weapon. Well, that almost passed
after the Orlando attack. But because of the NRA, and basically a huge smokescreen
around this question, it didn’t pass. But if I–
if there was one thing I would do if I was in charge…
(chuckles) It would be that you cannot buy
a semi-automatic weapon legally if you’re on the no-fly list. Which, by the way,
many of the people involved in these attacks recently have legally purchased
semi-automatic weapons, and surely were
on the no-fly list.>>STOUT: If I could just…
>>BERGEN: Yeah.>>STOUT: …sort of follow
up on something Peter just alluded to. Folks like ISIS and al-Qaeda
and terrorists generally face a fundamental dilemma,
right? The things that you need to do
to keep yourself secure from the
U.S. intelligence community, the U.S. military, you know,
high-tech militaries and intelligence services
around the world, plus the sometimes low-tech
but extraordinarily effective and knowledgeable
local security services– the thing you need,
things you need to do to keep yourself going
and not dead or in jail are fundamentally
inconsistent… Maybe not 100 degrees,
80 degrees out, 160 degrees out from
the things that you need to do to be strategically effective and to bring about
whatever strategic, political, religious, et cetera, end,
you know, end state you want to see, right? And you see this with ISIS,
right? So, ISIS temporarily
was pretty effective at building something
that kind of started to look
like a nation-state. But you know what? There are a lot of countries
in this world who have capabilities that
are just exquisitely designed to destroy nation-states. And, so…
just was wanting to…>>CHANIN: Mary,
the law enforcement challenge that’s being described here…
>>GALLIGAN: Yes.>>CHANIN:
Which is, you know, not networks now,
domestically, at least in relation
to the Islamist threat. We may be speaking differently in relation
to the right-wing threat. But, you know, talk to us about
the law enforcement challenge of dealing with this transition
from networks to the lone wolf.>>GALLIGAN: Well,
building off what Peter said, if you think
about the internet, it gives the terrorists
unprecedented access to American citizens. It is… you can be quickly
brought into the, their mission, their beliefs,
and you can mobilize. You hear what ISIS
just said recently, within the last two years,
is, “Wherever you are, whatever you have access to,
attack.” So, from a law enforcement
inspect… perspective, excuse me– in a country where we have
the rights that we have, it is extremely difficult
to find that one person– you said he is
in his basement– who is doing
that communications. Communicating with people
and becoming radicalized. That’s part of the challenge. The second part
of that challenge is, more and more technology
is “going dark,” as law enforcement would say, where you don’t have the access
even with legal paperwork, even with subpoenas,
search warrants, et cetera, to actually access
the technology, allowing the terrorists
to communicate with each other and it can’t be intercepted. So you take that challenge, the,
how easy it is to get a weapon in the United States, a gun, but then you have
the truck attack that just– that happened in, on Halloween, here in New York City…
two years ago? And just this week, the attacker speaking
in open court about, you know,
why is he sitting here in court when so many
Muslim women and babies are being killed
by the American government? So the challenge is threefold:
the technology is there for the, for the
terrorists to communicate. At times, it’s difficult
to intercept that. And then there
is access to weapons that you can then use
for your attack.>>CHANIN:
Yeah, one of the things– and it’s in the exhibition
briefly, but we heard in the background,
as well, at greater length– this idea that over time,
the U.S. developed an effective strategy
for going after these networks. And I, I ask it
in particular in relation to the recent raid that brought
the death of al-Baghdadi. I mean, again, we don’t know
as much about that as we know about the
Abbottabad raid for bin Laden. But the methods
seemed very, very similar. I mean, the use of helicopters
and these elite forces, the intelligence gathering,
so on and so forth. I mean, these are all methods that developed well before
the raid in Abbottabad. This is in Iraq,
it’s in Afghanistan, and now going forward,
ten, 12, 15 years later, this still seems to be
the method that works when you’re reaching out
for a very particular target in a very particular place. Do you see those continuities
in terms of the way the military
and the intelligence operates under
these kinds of threats? Let me start with Peter.>>BERGEN: Not only that,
it’s a great commonality between President Obama
and President Trump. If you strip away
kind of the rhetoric around President Trump,
and you look actually at what he’s done, it’s actually very similar
to President Obama in this particular area, which is, we’re fighting
a variety of different wars in a number of Muslim countries,
we’re doing it with a very small footprint–
Special Forces. We are doing it with drones–
which, by the way, Obama, of course,
really was the drone president. And we’re doing with cyber,
offensive cyber operations. We’re not doing it
with a large footprint. There’s no demand signal from
the American people for that, and it’s not necessary. And, you know, in fact,
you know, this whole thing of what we’re doing in Syria, you know,
what our Syria policy is, it’s sort of a puzzle,
but we seem to have kind of landed back in a place
that sort of makes sense. We have 900 troops there as opposed to,
put that down to 500, then it was 2,000. But the point is, there’s been
a conflation, which… The president
is making a conflation between endless wars
and persistent presence. We’re not– no one’s–
of course, no one wants endless wars. But a persistent presence
where we actually prevent the return of al-Qaeda and ISIS
in Afghanistan at a relatively low cost,
both in blood and treasure, is… is an insurance policy
for not having another 9/11. And I think that actually
the president himself obviously changed his mind
on Afghanistan. But whoever
the future president is, whether in 2020 or 2024, he or she will face
a lot of the same decisions, and I think
he or she will make… will really, there’s a
tremendous amount of continuity between the
Republican and Democrats, there’s kind of consistent
national security policy on this issue,
which you can see even in the people
that were held over by the Trump administration,
like Nick Rasmussen, who is the head of
national counterterrorism, so that there’s
a great agreement amongst the professionals
about what actually works.>>CHANIN: Bruce, I think
somewhere in the articles I’ve read about all this, you know, there’s this analogy
with the Cold War. I mean, you know, we were
committed for the long term to the Cold War. The idea of
winning the Cold War wasn’t really the point. Enduring and coming out
eventually on the right side of that
was the point. Obviously, with active wars,
when they were as active as they were
in Afghanistan and Iraq, that’s not a good analogy. But in terms of, you know,
the forever wars, I mean, is that the wrong way
to look at it? Is this simply– simply–
is this a just a threat that needs to be dealt with
on a constant basis until, for whatever reason,
it disappears? Or is this war analogy
something that misleads that there can be
a neat and tidy conclusion at a particular moment in time?>>HOFFMAN: Well, I mean,
that’s exactly the problem, is that when you talk about
something as a war, you expect
vanquishing an enemy and marching into their capital and then resurrecting
something that prevents that particular enmity
from rising again. And this isn’t what this
is about at all, unfortunately. And listening to,
to Peter just now, I mean,
I think he’s absolutely right across the board. But what worries me
in the future is, think about it, in 2011,
we had one big enemy, and that was al-Qaeda. In 2019, we’re talking
about al-Qaeda and ISIS. Peter mentioned
violent far-right extremism, threats from
hostile foreign governments, so– great power challenges
and rivalries. So the problem is, is that,
if we look at it as wars, we’re gonna be
inevitably disappointed. We have to look at this as a new national security
environment that, unlike the Cold War, sees salient threats
from non-state entities as well state entities,
but the problem in 2019– and I don’t think this
will change in the future– is that there’s
this multiplicity of threats that threatens to, um,
not, say, overwhelm us, but certainly to challenge
lots of the capabilities we were so good at and
that we were able to preserve that are now in,
I think, the flush of success against al-Qaeda and ISIS, who are shadows
of their former selves. Of that there’s no doubt. But just as Peter was saying, is throttling back
on exactly the initiatives and the policies
and the practices that accounted for that
diminishment of these groups, while we’re distracted by many
other challenges and threats.>>CHANIN: Mary, you dealt
both with the terrorism issue and the cyber issue in the FBI,
now moved in the private sector, where cyber is
the main focus of your work. I mean, how do these things
combine? We’re talking about
multi-threats at the same time. There’s a question, I suppose,
is whether our society or any society can
actually maintain enough focus in enough directions
to protect itself. But do you see… Obviously,
there’s cyberterrorism. But how do you see
these threats combining in the current environment?>>GALLIGAN: Combining, I think,
building off of what Peter said to a point where,
where do you put your resources? So when you look
at the cyber footprint, it is so easy
to do so much more damage with very few…
very few effort. So the resources it takes
to defend against that are astronomical, right? They’re just, especially
in a country like ours, where it is
a free and open internet. So you’re looking at– there’s a threat
to the economic system, there’s a threat
to the financial systems from, as Bruce was saying,
both nation-state… And then cyberterrorism
is not at the point where people thought it would be
three or four years ago. It’s about… it’s more about,
will the nation-state, will the tools that they use
for cyber offense get into the hands of
some of these terrorist groups, and then what will they
do with them? So in summary,
in the cyber threat, there is a detente
between nation-states of, “You turn my lights off,
I’m gonna turn your lights off.” But when you walk, move
into the cyber terrorism realm, or you move
into some extremist group, they get their hands
on those tools, then I think our resources
in the United States are beyond stretched
for that threat.>>CHANIN: Let me ask the others
to comment exactly on that, in terms of the threat posed
by al-Qaeda or ISIS or any permutation of that form, are they still focused on the individual physical
violence of the attack? Or are they looking now
in the direction that Mary had set, just this vulnerability
that is systemic, rather than necessarily killing
a certain number of people in a certain number–
in a certain number of places?>>BERGEN: You know, they’re,
they’re not– I don’t think they have
great capabilities in this, in this sphere. I mean, there is
a sort of Moore’s Law here that over time, maybe they will. But I wanted to return
just briefly to what Bruce was saying. Part of the problem
we always had with what happened on 9/11 was how to describe what actions
we were going to take. And there was a debate,
whether it was a war or whether it was
something else. And we ended up
with a war metaphor. The problem about wars
is that you win them. And there’s
a surrender ceremony. But this is not like that. And so what we have to be,
we have to get away from this word “win,”
and talk about “managing.” Now, as a political matter,
it’s not very heroic to say we’re managing something,
and we’re… rather than winning. But that’s really what is
what we’re doing, if we’re being honest
about ourselves, and I think we’ve managed
this problem pretty well. If we had this conversation
collectively in 2002, then I said,
“In the next 17 years, “there will not be another
terrorist attack of any… “from a foreign terrorist
organization in New York City, or indeed the rest
of the United States,” that would have seemed
like a crazy thing to say, but that’s what has
actually happened. And so we have managed. The point is, we have to need– we need to continue
managing this.>>STOUT: Just a couple
of quick thoughts. And I’m, I’m far from
a cyber expert. I guess I also am not,
like Peter, not super-worried about
the prospect of cyber terrorism by individuals or small groups. I mean, if you look
even just among nation-states, there’s definitely some
that are in the top tier of being able to, to do all
sorts of really horrible things, and then there are others
who are sort of, you know, elsewhere. And then there’s countries
that are really not seriously in the game at all, and then there’s, you know,
all the non-state actors that exist below that,
um, uh… So I’m not super-worried
about it. I’m sure we’ll see terrorists
do bad things with cyber capabilities,
but I’m… In the scale of things,
you know, the threats, it doesn’t really bother me,
looking forward. I guess, just to comment on
this question of war, though. Um, I would argue that it’s a…
maybe not uniquely, but it’s particularly
an American idea that wars have beginnings
and they have ends. Right? That’s, that’s our, uh,
national conceit, right? For, you know,
a variety of reasons, Americans like to believe
we are either at war or we are not, and there’s
no sort of in-between part. That is not the way all countries in the world
see things. Um, uh…
there’s all sorts of examples. But… And I do think that we…
and I don’t know, you can take this
as a good thing, or you can take it
as a bad thing. (chuckling): We’re evolving
from that, I think. Right? And we’re, we’re… That evolution
is still not complete. But I think this, you know,
discussion of this phrase that you yourself used,
“the forever war,” which you hear a lot, is,
you know, maybe a step or two in the direction of Americans
coming to grip with, grips with the fact that, that was a reasonably good
construct– you’re either at war
or you’re not– for the American sort of polity
in the industrial age, against large nation-states,
but doesn’t… sort of doesn’t really
correspond to the way the world
really works anymore. To the extent that it ever did.>>HOFFMAN: Well, let me say
one thing about this war, and then I want to talk
about the cyber threat. I mean,
that’s what 9/11 changed. I mean, terrorism is a fixture of our national security posture
now, and it’s never going to change. And for exactly the reasons that terrorism
doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It feeds off of
what’s occurring in society. In the information revolution,
the digital revolution, the social media
has facilitated and enabled terrorism in unimaginable ways. I mean, that’s ISIS’s rise. But that’s exactly the point
that… What Mary was saying
made me think, and yet there’s another threat that illustrates the diversity
of the challenges out there. When it’s, when
you have a terrorist group that’s married to
a state sponsor, like Hezbollah or the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps– which is part of the state– but Hezbollah is exactly
the kind of terrorist group that does, that does
very much embrace cyber warfare, cyber terrorism,
is extremely skilled at it– and the reason is, of course,
it’s fronted and supported by the resources and assets
of a state. Whereas I would say
ISIS and al-Qaeda, the digital realm
is more useful for them as a soapbox or a vehicle to
continue to publicize themselves and their causes, and attempt
to radicalize individuals and attract support.>>CHANIN: You know,
it occurs to me, it may be a little late
to be asking this question. But, you know, we put together
this exhibition, and… You know,
to some degree or other, we take people behind the scenes
and, um, have people who don’t
speak about this normally speaking about it. And, you know,
I think from our point of view, this serves
a valuable education function. We’re in the middle of this war. This was a major event, the bin Laden raid
I’m talking about, in response to 9/11, but also it exposes the way
the agencies, the military, think about this problem
and act in it. But am I delusional in
thinking that, you know, in putting this exhibition
together, and you’re all part of it… (others laugh) We’re all delusional.
>>STOUT: Are we all deluded? Yeah.
>>CHANIN: You know, is there, is there
a broader purpose served here in helping people understand
what the stakes are, the risks,
and how these things are done? Because it’s really
quite remarkable when you actually get, you know,
any insight into that.>>BERGEN: Of course,
and, you know, secrecy is in service of policy. It is another policy
in itself. And so when President Obama
announced the raid, made some comments about it,
I mean, hey, he can declassify
whatever he wants, and President Trump did
the same thing with the Baghdadi raid. But I mean,
at the end of the day, American taxpayers
pay a lot of money for this enterprise, and if one of the kind of
chief goals is achieved, understanding
a little bit about it that doesn’t reveal, you know, anything that
shouldn’t be revealed is, I think, a very reasonable
and important exercise.>>CHANIN: Mary, do we have
the approval of the FBI? (all laugh)>>GALLIGAN: I cannot speak
on behalf of the FBI, but… (others laughing)
Um, no. Um, I absolutely
think that it does good, and because,
especially in the environment that we’re in right now, where it is so easy to criticize
the intelligence community, the FBI, law enforcement,
pick whatever noun you want, for people to be able to see
what it really took, why did it take ten years, what the intelligence community
is about working together… I think there’s
one part of the exhibit that shows it very well, where there is
the circle of the military doing the raids and then
coming back with this material– hard drives,
pocket litter, papers– and the analyst taking it
and breaking it down into data, and then the agents using it
to interview people to start that circle again. And I think
Admiral McRaven says at some point in the exhibit about how that cycle
just kept reiterating itself. People need to appreciate that, and the amount
of effort and sacrifice that goes into “managing”
or winning the war, whichever phrase we want to use,
that, the threat that we have.>>CHANIN: Let me
ask Bruce and Mark, because, you know, your work
studying this over years, and each of you,
at one point or another, coming in and out of this
a little bit in terms of the agencies
that do this, but, you know, they are not going to give away
their secrets. But are they served or not
by the public knowing better– not the details
of what they do, but what they actually do
in a large-picture sense?>>HOFFMAN:
Well, I think, absolutely. I think it’s, it’s–
it’s also, particularly
at this moment in time, it’s such an important testament
to the sacrifice and the determination
and dedication and loyalty of people
in federal law enforcement, from the intelligence agencies,
and the military, and that we should never
take that for granted and never devalue it. And that’s, I think,
what the exhibit very clearly and very persuasively and
importantly demonstrates.>>STOUT: I completely agree. I mean, as
a former intelligence officer who is now
an intelligence historian, and as the guy who
used to be the historian at the International Spy Museum, I do think that some degree of
openness and public discussion about these things are good. There are,
the U.S. intelligence community and our friends and partners have many secrets
that should remain secret, secrets that are secret
for a good reason. And we are all benefiting
from the fact that those secrets
are staying secret. That said, um, however, if
the answer is silence, right? If the answer
is always, “No comment,” then you leave
an information vacuum, and that vacuum will
be filled. And that vacuum
will be largely filled by people who don’t know
what they’re talking about. And some of those people
are going to imagine, or just simply knowingly
falsely assert things that are flat-out
dangerous and wrong. In part, you know,
some of that vacuum will be filled
by the Russians. The Russians talk about the
U.S. intelligence community. Would you rather have them
be the loudest voice, the biggest megaphone
on the block? Or have, you know,
the U.S. intelligence community speaking out for itself? Now, so I think it’s,
I think it’s an easy question. None of this should be taken
as saying that I think the U.S. intelligence community
is or should be immune from criticism. Lord knows they make mistakes. They make mistakes every day. If this were
a classified discussion, I could tell you about a couple
that I personally made. And, you know,
from time to time, they do things
I don’t approve of. But also, you know, so,
I’m taking it all into account, and also just finally,
I guess I’d say that in, in some sense,
you know, openness,
at least in terms of– certainly
in terms of malfeasance– is a good disinfectant. So I’m, within, within,
you know, reasonable bounds, I’m a big fan of, you know,
having informed public discussion about how
the intelligence community does what it does
and why it does what it does.>>CHANIN: You know,
it’s a curious thing, and having been on
the receiving end of back-and-forth
with some of the agencies in terms of what we could get
or couldn’t get, or, did we know what we could
get or couldn’t get? I mean, it’s… it is
a house of mirrors in some way. But, you know, Peter,
you live in this world, too, in terms of trying
to get things and, you know, bringing them
into the public view. I mean, I think
the agencies seem to be thinking differently
about this than they might have done
in a pre-9/11 time or ten years ago,
whenever it was.>>BERGEN: We didn’t
publicly acknowledge we had a drone program
for a long time. President Obama
first acknowledged it in 2012. We didn’t publicly acknowledge that Joint Special
Operations Command existed until relatively recently,
again. Somebody was live-tweeting
the raid. We live in a very different
kind of information environment, and it’s… it’s different,
and the idea that you can just say nothing
is, it’s not persuasive.>>CHANIN: Mary, your thoughts on just how inside these, FBI
or other agencies, you know, they, the shift in, you know,
going forward publicly in ways that might not
have been the case before?>>GALLIGAN: I know
I’m very biased, Cliff, after 25 years in the FBI,
but I believe that anything
that helps the American people understand what the FBI does,
the C.I.A. does, is beneficial to all of us. And if it helps the morale
inside any of those agencies, then I’m all for it. But I agree
that in today’s day and age, somebody will fill that vacuum,
to Mark’s point. And I think it’s better
that it’s a, it’s a place with the reputation
of the 9/11 Museum, or it’s the
intelligence community itself. But there’s that
integrity of the display that you put together
over a three-year period. When people go through it
downstairs, the thought that went into it,
I think that does the intelligence
community and the FBI very well. So thank you for that.
>>CHANIN: Yep. I think, on that note,
let’s see if we can take a question or two
from the audience, our vast audience
this evening. Right there. You’re gonna have to wait
for a mic to get to you. Just hold on a second.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi,
thank you so much for sharing all of your insights
this evening. I guess where I’m going from
and going back to some of the comments
that you made earlier. You talk about how
the death of bin Laden could bring al-Qaeda and ISIS
back together, and that… Do you have the thought
that some of that could be them responding
to the death of bin Laden, much like we responded
to the 9/11 events, where it was basically
unifying fractured elements, and as another factor
from that, with the multiplicity of effects
and the threats being bolstered, could that also be
another result from the attack? And then thinking about
what is maybe bolstering the terrorist side of the house, what can anybody do to sort of
help counteract that effect? Like, are there things
that we can do as citizens when, as other individuals,
that can help to mitigate this? Because this isn’t a fight
that should just be reliant on the intelligence community,
the military, and that, this is a worldwide fight,
so to speak. So what are
some of those tactics that we could maybe start
to employ or consider doing?>>CHANIN: Bruce?>>HOFFMAN: You’ve asked us
some very good questions. I think,
to answer the first part, whether it was
bin Laden or al-Baghdadi, the problem is that this,
this terrorist enterprise is larger than one individual,
and there’ll always be someone willing
to step up to it, which I think means
that we always have to be eternally vigilant,
especially in the 21st century, because, as I said,
that’s, I think, one unfortunate repercussion
from the 9/11 attacks we still deal with,
is that terrorism intruded upon America’s serenity,
as it were, in a way that hadn’t happened since,
since December 7, 1941. Uh, I think that as citizens,
what I go back to is, is, you know, certainly
not overreacting to terrorism. Put it into proportion. I think Peter has given
a very good example of that, is that we don’t want
to look at our enemies as somehow these, you know,
monsters that are unassailable. And that’s what’s very important
about the exhibit, is, it showed that no one
should ever underestimate the determination,
the resiliency, and the strength
of the United States, and by the same token,
I think that means that we have to put terrorism
in perspective, in context. I agree completely with Peter, and I’m generally a pessimist
on most of these things, having studied terrorism
for so long. But I think the likelihood
of a terrorist group ever perpetrating something
along the lines of 9/11 because of the successes and because of
the progress we’ve made in countering terrorism,
is very low. So we have to keep that
in proportion when we see
terrorist incidents today. And a lot of that, I think,
involves us not having this expectation
that we have to take precipitous action
immediately that may have
counterproductive effects. What we often forget
is that terrorism is a strategy of provocation. It’s trying to provoke
the terrorists’ opponents to do things
that the terrorists hope will play into their narrative, will feed their efforts
at recruitment and finance. And we have to be smarter
than the terrorists. And I think that comes
from an informed population and citizenry
that isn’t driven to embrace, let’s say,
a feel-good kinetic response when actually a longer-term
strategic response would be much more effective.>>CHANIN: Want to go?>>BERGEN: The FBI did
a very interesting study of the number of terrorism
cases, and they found that the people who know most
about a case are peers, the people who know
the second-most are family, and the who people
know the third-most are authority figures, and the people who
know the least are strangers. But the strangers are
the most likely to drop a dime, the authority figures are
slightly more likely to, the family members
are somewhat unlikely to, and the peers,
who actually know the most, are the least likely
to come forward. So if you’re thinking about– that has very important
policy implications, and this is true
of school shootings, as well. Basically, you’re trying to get
peers to come forward. And I’m not a policymaker, but since we know this
as a fact, any kind of policy needs to be
constructed around the idea that you have to get peers
to come forward, which is not an easy thing,
particularly if they themselves may have been involved in
the crime in some shape or form. But that is the policy that would stop terrorism
the most effectively, at least domestically.>>CHANIN:
Take another question. The gentleman there. Just wait– yep, just wait. Ruth is right there
with the mic.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you
all for being here. A question for Peter Bergen
and the whole panel. Mr. Bergen,
you interviewed bin Laden in the early 2000s
or late ’90s. And obviously, we can’t fight
the war on terror in an ad hominem manner. But do you remember his,
portions of his personality, that stuck with you, and…>>BERGEN: Well, he reminded me
a tiny bit of Cliff. (laughter)>>CHANIN:
I am definitely retiring now. Thank you and good night.>>BERGEN: No,
he was a very serious guy. I mean, you know, just,
the people around him were very serious…
>>GALLIGAN: And smart. (laughter)>>CHANIN: Let’s go
in that direction.>>BERGEN:
But it’s very hard to explain why the French army were
at the gates of Moscow in 1812 without Napoleon. Explaining the Holocaust
without Hitler is quite hard, also. Explaining 9/11
without bin Laden is not… He ran this al-Qaeda
as a dictatorship. There were people
inside the organization who said this might
be a bad idea, think about the blowback, and think about,
or it might be against Islam. So in fact, I think, you know,
Mark correctly said, we tend to put a person
and characterize a conflict. But in many of the conflicts,
that’s true. I mean, people make…
people in leadership positions and terrorist organizations, they’re not running a democracy. They are in charge,
and in bin Laden’s case, he was in charge. He had a set of ideas about us that were extremely naive. He thought we were
like the Russians in the ’80s in Afghanistan, or he just didn’t understand
what our likely response was, and, and there was
no one around to contradict him. Or if they contradicted him,
he didn’t take them seriously.>>CHANIN: Who else? Gentleman over there. Hang on again for the mic. Griff?
Down here.>>AUDIENCE MEMBER: So you
didn’t discuss at all the role of religion, and how that motivates people,
how it motivated bin Laden. And even today,
you have religious leadership in Saudi Arabia, in Iran,
and that seems to be a very difficult situation,
because that seems to help these groups recruit
and eventually radicalize. So, how do you see…
how do you see going forward with this whole discussion without talking
about religious conflict?>>BERGEN: That is another hour. (laughter)>>GALLIGAN: We have to
come back for another session.>>CHANIN:
We’ve got one panel here. Take a break,
come back in an hour.>>HOFFMAN: Well, there is…
there is a brief answer, and it’s a very good,
a very good question. I mean, this is why
I would argue that terrorism is a fixture of 21st-century
security, because you’re up against… If you are up
against adversaries that see this struggle as
in any way divinely ordained, it goes beyond one individual,
a mere mortal, who may be their leader. It goes beyond something that is prosecuted
to their death, but there’s an expectation
that their progeny, or that their kith and kin
will carry on the struggle. And it– and this is also why
I think it’s so dangerous to look at it as a, as a war,
because we’re talking about people that feel
driven to violence and are perfectly adept at
justifying and legitimizing it using theological texts
and treatises, and where there are clerics
involved that are encouraging them
to do so. Which means that there’s
no easy answer there, because how do you
convince someone who has this visceral,
this visceral attitude that they are serving whatever
deity is commanding them to commit this violence? How do you deter them
from this path? It’s why I’ve always been
very suspicious of what… Deradicalization. I think you could perhaps
disengage people from terrorism, but how do you,
how do you deradicalize? How do you
convince someone to change their
entire mindset or worldview? That’s a, a much more
formidable challenge.>>STOUT:
Two other quick thoughts. There is a debate out there,
and I’m blissfully, blissfully unencumbered
by an opinion on the answer, but there is a debate out there in the terrorism studies
literature on ideology,
to include religion, and the role that it plays
in terrorism, and whether, you know, violent ideologies
lead to terrorism or whether people who were
inclined to engage in violence go sort of shopping
for the ideology that will, you know, allow them
to psychologically justify it. That’s one point,
the other thing I’d say is, with, very specifically
to al-Qaeda– I know much less about ISIS–
but with regard to al-Qaeda, what you see when you look
at what they… what they say to each other,
or have said to each other, there is, year in and year out,
just consistent disappointment with the extent to which
their message is catching on, or, rather, not catching on
with other Muslims. They’re just
tremendously disappointed all of the time, like, “We’ve got
the true version of Islam. “Why is no one listening to us? Why aren’t people following it?”
Right? And I say that, then,
to suggest that I do believe that religion
is an important part of this particular
terrorism problem that we’ve largely been
talking about, and has been of many others
and will be in the future. But it’s really important
to approach those discussions with some finesse of exactly
what are we talking about and exactly what
are we not talking about. Um, uh, so, yeah,
I’ll just leave that there.>>CHANIN:
We won’t talk about it.>>BERGEN: You know,
on the right, there is a kind of view that… I mean, sort of,
that this is all about Islam. And then liberals say, “Well, it’s got nothing
to do with religion.” And of course, both are wrong
in the sense that yes, this has something
to do with religion. I mean,
just as the Crusades had something to do
with Christianity, but– there’s a huge but– if you actually start looking
into these individual cases, the kind of work that Mary did, I mean, the more you know
about this cases, particularly
domestic terrorism cases in the United States, where there’s usually
a very good court record, a lot of these guys are…
you know, they’re, as Mark said, they’re grievance-shopping,
and they’re finding an ideology that kind of lets them be a hero
in their own story. And usually they’re a zero–
Omar Mateen, for instance,
who killed 49 people in Orlando. You know, he dreamed
of being an NYPD cop, he had that T-shirt
with the NYPD slogan. He failed to get into the
New York Police Academy twice. He took further
with Hezbollah and then al-Qaeda and then ISIS,
and, you know, basically, this was a way of turning his totally,
total failure in life into some kind of heroic story
in his own mind. Is that about religion? No, it’s about
his personal failures. So the more you know
about these cases, often you find that
somebody’s grievance-shopping, finding an ideology that kind of justifies
the violence they plan to do, whether they’re
right-wing or jihadis.>>CHANIN: Mary, is that–
I mean, going to your experience in how the FBI looks at it,
I mean, the people who do these things are, are examples of failure,
not success, it seems.>>GALLIGAN: Correct. I’m still hung up, Cliff, on
him comparing you to bin Laden. (laughter)>>CHANIN: We, we’ll
let that slide for a while.>>GALLIGAN: I will say this, the FBI does not compare you
to Osama bin Laden.>>CHANIN:
That’s very good news, Mary.>>GALLIGAN: Yes,
I think all the points that have been made is
that you have to look at it as, “Are– am I shopping around
for a belief or an ideology “that will justify
my feelings, my failure, what I want to do?” And all of that
is taken into account when you look
at the behavioral aspects of the lone wolf,
the domestic terrorist, versus
the international terrorists.>>CHANIN: Well, as you can see,
we had an extraordinary time with these four people,
talking about the problems, putting the exhibition together, and tapping into these
deep wells of knowledge. We are really, really
deeply grateful. We’re going to have to do
a reunion tour of all of this, because it really
has been extraordinary. But we’re going to stop there,
but I ask you two things: I ask you first, if you’re not
a member of the museum, to think about becoming
a member of the museum, outside at the table, because you can help us
support these programs. And then I ask you to thank
Peter Bergen, Mary Galligan, Bruce Hoffman, Mark Stout. (applause)

1 thought on “Al-Qaeda Today- 11/19/19

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *